Read: Numbers 13:31-33; Numbers 14:26-35; Proverbs 17
It has been longer than a year now since life changed and we began to hear the words pandemic, social distancing and curbside service. I have proven over and over again that I am not a prophet. Each time I have guessed when we might turn a corner concerning this pandemic, I have been wrong; so, learning from that mistake, I no longer try to predict what might happen next. This makes we ponder a question. Would it be better to know the exact time when certain things would change, even if it is way down the road, or is it preferable to live with uncertainty?
We do know of a people who were told how many years they would walk through a set of circumstances they would have never chosen. God's people, the Israelites. We read about this time in their history in Numbers 13-14. Let's remind ourselves of a bit of what happened prior to these two life changing chapters when the Children of Israel were told how long they would wander in the wilderness because of their unbelief. In Genesis 15, God had promised His people that He would, one day way in the future, bring them into a beautiful land that would be their own. After a long period of slavery, He would bring them out with His mighty power. They would be victorious at a specific time of God's choosing. God did it. They were finally free from their enslavement, and they rejoiced greatly. However, it was not long before they began to complain and accuse God falsely. Their joy was short-lived.
Even so, in Numbers 13, after a bit more than a year had passed since they had marched boldly out of Egypt, it was time to go triumphantly into the land God had promised. Sadly, there was a problem of their own making. Unbelief. Though those who had been sent to look at the land that God had promised saw that it was lush, ten out of the twelve spies discouraged the people, telling them that they could never be victorious over those who inhabited the land. The people believed that the lies spoken by the majority were correct. They said that their wives and children would perish if they trusted in what God had said. As a result, they even spoke of returning to their slavery in Egypt, rather than trusting and obeying God. Because they refused to trust in God's promises, He told them that they would walk in the wilderness until each of the 603,550 men registered in the census in Numbers 1:46, who were 20 years of age and older had died. It would be 38 years before the rest of the people would be permitted to enter the land. The children would take possession of God's gift, but only after all of the unbelieving men had died in the wilderness.
They waited for 38 years. They knew when the end of their waiting would come, but I wonder? Was it easier to walk those years out just because the people knew when they would end? I don't know that answer, but I do know that whether we are waiting because of a pandemic or any number of circumstances that cause us to wait, we don't like it. Have you ever wondered what The Children of Israel might have done to make those years of waiting and walking in the wilderness more pleasant? What can we do to make our times of waiting, whether long or short, more fruitful? Obedience is the key to having joy. What if we look into Proverbs 17 for every-day reminders of what we can do as we wait?
Proverbs 17:1-Contentment. Being satisfied with what we have today. It can be challenging, can't it? Enjoying what we presently have rather than concentrating on what isn't presently part of our lives. Can we ask God to help us find joy in the provisions right in front of us, knowing that in His time, He might give us something different?
Proverbs 17:6-Enjoying the loved ones around us. How easy is it, while we are waiting, to so concentrate on what we want God to do that we miss the beauty of interacting with our family members? What joy do we miss when we don't listen to our loved ones' dreams and enjoy their gifts because we are so distracted by what we're waiting for?
Proverbs 17:9-Letting go of offenses. Does anything make a wait more difficult than carrying around an offense? It is like adding a weight to a wait. If we think of what was done to us and repeat it to others, it is like carrying around a heavy pack rather than removing it from our tired shoulders. We have a choice. When we choose to give the offense to God, letting Him handle it, we have freedom and much more rest during the wait. In addition, we demonstrate what our Savior is like and obey Him. After all, how many of our offenses has He forgiven, Colossians 3:13?
Proverbs 17:10-Listening to a needed rebuke. We all know that there are people whose spiritual gift seems to be correcting others. They seem to look for small flaws so they can point them out. However, even in times of waiting, we might need a course correction, and someone who loves us might truly want to help us do just that. If the Holy Spirit is speaking through our friend, listening to the direction given can bring joy. The correction a friend offers might lessen the weariness we often feel as we wait.
Proverbs 17:14-Refusing the temptation to quarrel. How easy it is to get into a fruitless quarrel, especially while we wait. Dropping a matter rather than ruining a day with foolish words can be a door opener for joy.
Proverbs 17:22--Having a happy heart. How do we do this as we wait? Sometimes the "what ifs" invade our thinking, sending the happy heart right out the door. It isn't that we ignore the sadness that often accompanies waiting, pretending it doesn't exist. Instead, we look at how big God is and that He has a purpose for what we are dealing with. Just how big is the God Who loves us? He made everything out of what we can't even see, Hebrews 11:3. He showed His love for us by taking the penalty for our sins upon Himself even while we were sinners who weren't seeking Him, Romans 5:8. He is big enough to take what man means for evil and orchestrate it for our good and His glory, Genesis 50:20. Continuing to fix our eyes on Who God is and His unfathomable love for us can produce the joy of a happy heart even when we sometimes wait with tears in our eyes for Him to work.
Proverbs 17:27-28-Don't talk too much. I heard of a man whose grandma told him to speak everything that came to mind. That was the way to live. However, God says to use restraint concerning what we say. Even good words have a time and a place. Sometimes as we wait, it might be tempting to speak too much on too many occasions. How much better it might be that we talk with God more and lean on Him to know when we should share both our hurts and our wisdom.
Lord, as we wait and obey, please renew our strength. You never grow weary as we do, and You give strength to those of us who are worn out. You have said that we will soar as eagles do and that we won't faint because of Your power which You freely give us, Isaiah 40:28-31.