Stuck in the Wilderness on the Way to the Promised Land

Around and around and around they went. They weren’t riding on a carousel, but they sure were stuck in a limbo.

I can see it in my head: the Israelites who were taken out of Egypt refused to allow God to take Egypt out of their hearts and so a journey that was supposed to take only 11 days took them a whole 40 years. They were walking around the same old mountains and the same old obstacles with the same old grumbling, the same old entitlement, and the same old bitterness.

Although, when you think about it, doesn’t that metaphorically represent a lot of us these days? 40 years later and it’s the same old anger, the same old gossip, the same old slander, the same old lust, the same old unbelief – the same old issue. And because we’re going around the same old circles, we end up being stuck in the same old place.

I’ve always liked telling people that we’re all in the process, but the reason why it’s a process is because it’s supposed to get us to the promise. The problem is that these days, we tend to romanticize the process and what we could journey in 11 days would end up taking us 40 years if we’re not careful. Most of us seem to have forgotten that the Lord brought us out of our own personal Egypts because He wants to bring us into our promised lands. We were never meant to be stuck in the wilderness. The last thing we want to do is miss out on God’s promises because of our preferences. If we want to move forward, we have to let Him take the Egypts out of our hearts. We cannot continue on being the same old us.

And we have to understand, us attending church and doing ministry doesn’t mean we are already in our promised lands. There’s so much more to it than that. Think about it: these people were journeying with the ark of the covenant. The presence of God was right there with them. They even had the provision of God as they were sent manna every single day without fail and none of the clothes and shoes they were wearing ever ran thin. But still, even then, they didn’t get to enter the promised land.

I will put it this way: you may be around the presence of God and you may have the provision of God, but that does not mean you are in the promise of God. He is kind and gracious and He will give you enough just to get by where you are at but goodness, He has so much more for you than that.

Do not think that just because you have come out from where you were that you are already where you need to be. It’s not enough that you are delivered from Egypt, you would want to experience the freedom of the promised land. That usually entails a journey through the wilderness – and you’d be surprised how comfortable you can get there.

We like to tell ourselves that we can stay in a certain place for as long as we want to and to take our sweet time walking through our issues, but the apostle Paul tells us this:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”
-Hebrews 12:1-2a

Let. Us. See, here’s the thing. It is completely within your realm of capability not to let your fingers type out that website and not to let your eyes feast on what is being shown on your screen. It is completely within your realm of capability to stop replying to that boy that has been flirting with your emotions all year long. It is completely within your realm of capability to bite your tongue and control the words that go out of your mouth. You, even more empowered by the grace of God, can throw off the sin that so easily entangles.

And the truth is, more often than not you’re going to have to keep on throwing all these things off day in and day out because they’ll go creeping back up on you. That’s fine, as long as you keep throwing them off each and every time until they no longer have a hold on you.

After the generation of Moses died without stepping into the promised land, Joshua was commanded to circumcise all the Israelites. Why? Because they had to be consecrated before the Lord, and consecration usually means there has to be a major cutting off. It was painful, and they stayed there until they recovered, but they marched straight on after they healed.

In the same way, God will cut off certain things in our lives and we have to let Him. To enter the promised land, there has to be a circumcision in our hearts – it’s the whole point of the wilderness! And we will be given time to heal, but I reiterate: we cannot stay in that place longer than we should. Paul said we were to run (not stroll) after all.

Some of us are being told to wait on the Lord and that’s completely fine. It’s one thing to wait for God to give you the promise and another for Him to wait for you to get the promise. I’m talking to the people who are in the latter category.

If you’re in a place right now that is complacent, if you feel like you have reached a plateau, then maybe there’s something that needs to be done.

When the Israelites were walking into the promised land, they ran into a wall. Not a figurative one, but a very literal one. History tells us that the wall of Jericho was 34 inches thick and so fortified that no one came in and no one came out.

I’m pretty sure this has happened to a lot of us when we were on our way to our own personal promised lands. The things that should have happened did not happen and we got hit by a wall. This is the point people shake their fists at God, hurl their disappointments over failed expectations at Him, and some just walk away.

But Joshua did not walk away. Rather, he came to the Lord and was given instructions that did not make sense; instructions that seemed like they had completely nothing to do with the breakthrough they were waiting for. So even if they felt silly and did not understand, they obeyed anyway. Every day, they walked and did their laps around the wall in complete silence – because nothing speaks louder than faithfulness even when things are not going your way.

And after 7 days, the walls came crashing down and the Israelites took hold of the territory God had for them. Before they did, they rescued a prostitute named Rahab, who hid their spies, and her family. Rahab then became the mother of Boaz, who was the grandfather of Jesse, who was the father of King David. They may not have known it, but their small acts of obedience in the moment set the story up for the generations that were to come after.

That and they finally got their promised land.

It’s amazing to see how we don’t just fight to get to the promised land for ourselves, but we also do it for the world around us. In stepping into your destiny, you place yourself in a position that would help others step into theirs.

And while I could tell you that it doesn’t matter how long it takes as long as you get out of there, I wouldn’t. The time it takes for you to get there actually matters. I pray that you never overstay a season – not for a single second – and may you fight for and step into all your promised lands.

We don’t want to rush on ahead, but we don’t want to fall behind either.

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