The metaphor of a journey for the life of faith is all through the Bible. When Jesus called his disciples, he said, “Follow me.” Before the moniker Christian, the followers of Christ were the people of “the Way” (Acts 9:2). Paul later wrote about walking out our faith, step by step (Ephesians 4:1). For those of us who have walked this path for some time, we can look back and see how far we’ve come.
In our journey of faith, we follow a set path, a system of beliefs found in God’s word. We also have a set of daily practices – reading God’s word, prayer, worship, service, witness, meditation, and others. David Benner writes, “Much more than adopting a set of beliefs, a path is a practice or set of practices that will characterize our whole life. Following this path is the way we participate in our transformation.” (The Gift of Being Yourself). As we journey through this life, we find we never arrive. Each day we travel on toward the prize of being more like Jesus. He is our promised land of rest
We can learn so much from putting ourselves in the dusty sandals of the Israelites. Their trip was much more than a relocation. Looking back on it all, Moses said this in Deuteronomy 8:2, “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”
Reading through Exodus and Numbers, we find ourselves pulling for the Israelites. After 400 years of slavery, we want them to have a peaceful, positive, happy trip. Back at Mount Sinai, with the golden calf incident out of the way, the Israelites strung together a few productive months. Moses came down the mountain with God’s plan for a portable tabernacle for worship. They gave generously and worked together to make the dream a reality. More laws were instituted to guide their relations with one another and God. They took a census for each tribe. They even established processes for setting up and tearing down their camp.
After sitting at the foot of Sinai for about two years, the cloud of God’s guiding presence began to move. As they followed the cloud led them into another wilderness, the wilderness of Paran. The terrain of Paran is a lot like the moon. The ground is dusty, covered with stones and gravel. Dried shrubs dot the landscape. If any topsoil forms it is quickly scattered by the wind. While this was more of the same, it was an exciting moment. This was the final leg of their trip to Canaan.