Between being delivered out and delivered in…
In Deuteronomy 25:17 – 19 Yahweh said, I remember how they attacked you on the way from Egypt… He was not pleased about the nature and the timing of the attack on His people. In reading these events, we get the impression that Yahweh was particularly displeased about the Amalekites because like He said in Deuteronomy 25:18, they did not fear Yahweh! They had no respect for Him and His power or His plan. The nations, when they heard about how Yahweh delivered Israel, were generally afraid because they recognized the power and the spectacular lengths to which He would go in order to deliver His people. The nations may attack His people, but they had respect for and feared the Elohim (God) of Israel, because they recognized that their gods could not match or be compared to Him. These people (Israel) were recognized as being peculiar and they had special covering and passage because their God is Yahweh – who destroyed Pharaoh and his armies and killed their firstborn to deliver His people and set them free; the nations were a small price to pay for their freedom (Isaiah 43:3). This is the El (God) we still serve, who says, I love you so much that I gave my own son for your freedom. We should know that His love for us is protective therefore He will fight for us.
The timing of the attack was crucial to its effect on the faith of the children of Israel. This was a nation which was delivered out of Egypt after 400 years of bondage, with the guarantee of being delivered into a land promised. However, between being delivered out and delivered into their promise of becoming an established nation, there was a journey, a passage if you will, from one place to the next: from bondage to freedom, from being owned to owning their own; from limited to limitless and from being in a tight space in Goshen (because of their growth over the centuries), to being established in a large place – Canaan. This path or journey from one level to the next is a vulnerable and often treacherous experience for anyone being delivered. It is especially difficult if the length of time spent in our old “home” has been so extended that it is difficult to imagine living any other way or in another place. For example, if you have worked all your life and Father Yahweh is taking you into entrepreneurship, it is very difficult to imagine yourself not receiving a steady flow of income monthly, even if the new venture promises to be much more financially viable than your job. The unknown can be scary and intimidating and many people choose the familiar place, rather than embark on the journey into their new territory.
Thirsty in a dry place
In the first half of Exodus 17, the record shows the people were passing through a desert where there was no water (at least there was no obvious source of water), and they were thirsty. This is not the first time the Israelites had cried for thirst since their deliverance. In chapter 15, they were also thirsty and while there was water, the water was bitter. Then, as in the current story, Yahweh provided water for them. He made the bitter waters of Marah sweet and he made the rock in Massah and Meribah, bring forth water when struck by the rod of Moses. These two examples speak volumes of our trials on our passage, our journey. The needs we face may come at a stage where we are in a desert (no likely source of our needs being met) or in a place where there is ample supply, but that we cannot partake of it.
Being in a desert with no water is analogous to being jobless in a recession. You have no job, and there are no openings available because the economy is at its lowest, least productive phase. All of your job applications are met with rejection or worse, no acknowledgement or response. You may be told that you are over-qualified or not qualified enough. Another way to look at it, is being single, desiring to be married, but you are in an environment where there are no suitable partners for you, at least not that you can see. On the other hand, we could be in a stage where there are many jobs available, but not in the industry you are qualified for, it could be that the jobs being offered could interfere with our spiritual and moral pursuits, so we cannot accept these positions. The single man or woman may know quite a few eligible persons who appear to be great partners, but on closer inspection, they are not a suitable choice. So we end up crying and longing for these needs to be met – and rightly so, because they are legitimate needs. It is true that in pursuit of our greater purpose and calling, we still have to contend with our physical desires, often they become so urgent that they throw off our focus and become boulders of looming disaster over our heads. What usually happens too is we become so distracted by the things we lack, that we look back with longing at our old familiar places.
Let go of the memory; catch the vision
The fact is, just as before when Moses called to Yahweh, He provided for their needs in a miraculous way. The things we lack on our journey can also be supplied by the one who led us on this path. Before the miracles were done however, the people grumbled and they panted for the familiarity of their old captive land. They began to recall the food they had and their access to water. They remembered that their physical needs were met, but in that moment they forgot the circumstances under which they lived – terrorized by their captors, who made impossible demands on them. They had no freedom to be themselves; they did only what they were told or allowed to do and their lives were restrictive and oppressive. All their labor was being put into the building another nation’s empire. Yet, in time of testing, when they lacked what their Deliverer had provided on many other occasions, they looked back at their bondage and selected the good memories, wishing they could go back.
Our attachments to memories can limit our vision; if we are unable to envision the promise we may get stuck in our process of moving forward, and worst go back to the place we came from based on a skewed memory. The battered spouse will forget her abuse and allow a memory of the good days to keep them trapped in a relationship that may end in death or loss of limb. The fact is, when we are determined to look back and hang on to the memories, we lose sight of the beauty of the promise. It is time to let go of the memories, and catch the vision of the plans He has for us.
It would have been almost impossible to return to Egypt because of the finality with which Yahweh delivered His people. It follows that if He intended for them to go backwards, he would have left the path made in the sea open. He closed the way for a reason. When Yahweh closes doors that we thought were great opportunities or when he blocks our way from taking a path to destruction and bondage, we should leave that door closed, especially in our minds. As long as our hearts and minds are behind us, our journey will be filled with complaints, bitterness and anger channeled at the wrong people in our lives, perhaps people meant to help us along our journey.
In our past life the desires of our flesh were met but we were not free to pursue our purpose – primarily, the purpose of serving Yahweh and living with compassion in service to others. Our labor and activities served to build other people’s empires: we may have spent years working in an industry for which we had no passion. While we earned more than enough money, all the things we bought never gave us the satisfaction that we will experience while using our talents and gifts, engaging in ministry or whatever way He is leading us.
It will be difficult to completely embrace our future and purpose if we are still attached to the memories of a past life. A fetus thrives in the confined environment of its mother’s womb until delivery; after delivery the umbilical cord (the life support of that sphere) is no longer needed and must be severed in order for the child to have a meaningful life. After birth, a healthy child begins to participate in its own nourishment, not passively being fed, but instinctively goes after its food source and latches on.
Similarly, when we move into our new level of growth, it may become necessary to relinquish our dependence on the connections that have fulfilled their purpose. The new environment though unfamiliar at first, is equipped to sustain us and our ability to thrive there is formed as we adapt to our new way of life. This is the time to renew our minds as we grow and move forward. We know we are growing when we are no longer passive about how we are fed, when we seek the sustenance of His Word until our appetite expands to match our needs.