At the end of the fall semester, 2010 I spent 8 days in Egypt. I haven’t yet had the chance to share those adventures with you. So, over the next week my goal is to post an overview of that time in Egypt here. I am glad I was able to visit and tour Egypt in December before the efforts to overthrow Mubarak began.
Day 1, December 4, 2010
I’m riding along the bumpy road across the Sinai. It was here that the Children of Israel wandered for 40 years. The ground of this central plateau is covered in dark limestone sands and on the edges of the plateau rise desolate white rock formations. This would be an awful place to be lost. UNESCO classifies this region as hyper-arid, which means this is one extremely dry desert!
It is not as though the Israelites were geographically lost. They were never further than a weeks march from the east or west side of the Sinai Peninsula. There certainly was no way they could have remained geographically lost and when wandering this area for 40 years (Numbers 32:13). In that span of time they would have known every mountain and plain on the peninsula better than you or I know our own neighborhood!
The Israelites were not geographically lost. They could not have been. The ways across the Sinai Peninsula were well known from the constant trade which took place across it. The Israelites were lost in the sense that they had lost their identity. They had forgotten who they were, God’s chosen people. They were living in the middle ground between the bondage of Egypt and the freedom of the Promised Land.
Returning to Egypt was an attractive option to some. Yet Moses knew that to do that would be completely rejecting God’s promise and plan. Thus returning was not an option. However, they heard that the people inhabiting the Promised Land were powerful and lived in large fortified cities (Numbers 13:26-33) and they allowed themselves to be afraid. The task of conquering the Land seemed insurmountable to those who had grown up in a life of slavery and who saw things with the eyes of a person used to being beaten down and ordered around. They were mentally and spiritually lost. They had to be firmly convinced of their identity as God’s chosen people whom He loved and protected before they could confidently enter the Promised Land and face its giants through placing 100% of their trust in Him.
The process of adjusting the mindset of the Israelites from one of bondage to one that trusted God to be in control took 40 years. At that time Joshua and Caleb were finally able to lead the Israelites out of the in-between land of the Sinai into the Promised Land.
How often have I settled for the ‘in-between land’? There have been many times when I have tried to straddle the fence because going back to the side I came from was not an option, but looking at the other side, the side that required me to trust God with everything, terrified me. I knew what God had prepared and planned was better than the alternative. But, I remembered all the times I had failed and those memories squelched any part of me that thought I could survive if I trusted God with all things. The problem was I was looking at my life through the eyes of a beaten down, discouraged human. Like the Israelites, I did not realize that God had set me totally free from bondage. My eyes failed not see that God is always for me and that He never intended for this in-between land to be a permanent residence.