The story of the Israelites wandering through the desert for 40 years is one most folks are familiar with. They lived a nomadic life while they waited for God to fulfill his word that he would lead them into the “promised land.” I’ve understood (some of) the spiritual significance that’s implied in that story for years — but it wasn’t until this past month that I truly began to understand how it’s still happening even today.
Much of what happened with Israel was indicative of a greater spiritual truth. After all, God chose the Israelites not because they were better than anyone else, but because he desired to reveal himself to the world. They were charged not with being pious and self-righteous, but with echoing his character to the people around them. Their mission was to introduce God into a world that desperately needed him. Now as we know, eventually the picture of Israel went dark in anticipation of Christ’s imminent appearance — the truth behind the picture.
But my mind has kept returning to that desert period the past few weeks. And finally it hit me. Our lives go through the same cycle that national Israel experienced so many years ago.
When I was first led into a new life with the Lord, a lot changed. Many of my desires, hopes, dreams, fears, etc, were altered. Some more than others, but I think it’s fair to say that my life changed in an irreversible way when you consider the sum of the many combined parts. I was still human though, and many of my old habits were still there. I would teeter back and forth, torn between the new life I knew to be true, and the old life I was hesitant to leave behind.
Just like Israel.
I had left the bondage of Egypt in the rear-view mirror, but that didn’t mean I was in the promised land yet. The Lord had to allow time for a completely new generation of Israelites to be born, a generation devoid of any time spent in Egypt. Only then could he allow them to pass into the new land they would inhabit. I’ve begun to realize that there is an amazing picture found in that concept. The parts of us that know and have grown accustomed to bondage will never be able to truly embrace the promised land with the richness that our Lord intends for us too. I believe that much of my last 10 years has been spent in a spiritual wilderness, as the Lord has been surgically removing the portion of my former man that knew nothing but bondage and slavery.
Moses, the unquestioned leader of the Israelites, and the most righteous in the eyes of the Lord among them, was only allowed to see a glimpse of the promised land. Despite everything Moses did, and all his faith to the Lord, he was still a man who had been born into the old way of life. In the years after Christ’s death and resurrection, the apostle Paul would speak of a new man that would be born as the result of the death of the old man. I believe this great mystery was forecast in the life of Moses, as he was shown and given a glimpse of the goodness that God would bring his people into, but was unable to experience it himself.
I feel like that’s where I am now. There’s a portion of Moses that lives inside of me, a portion that has seen the goodness of what God has in store. That portion was still born in the land of bondage though. No matter how aware the part of me that represents the old man is of God’s glory, it can never enter into the new life because of who it is. Only the new man can fully experience the new life that God has set aside for us.
For now I’ve got my apartment on the edge of the desert. I see in the distance what I’m being led towards, and I’m content with allowing the old man to die a little more every day. Wandering in the wilderness isn’t a bad thing, it’s essential to being born into a new life.