A few years back, I did a Bible study on the life of Moses. Throughout the study, I struggled with a bit of snobbery against the Israelites who seemed like the most pathetic band of “stiff-necked” people ever collected. God turns the Nile into blood, sends a variety of pests to plague the Israelites’ oppressors, and tops it off with the incredible deliverance of the firstborn sons of his people. Then He sends them off into the desert and at the first sign of trouble, they panic and say they wish they were back on the brick-making assembly line. Granted, the first sign of trouble was the entire Egyptian army herding them into the Red Sea. Nevertheless…this event does not bode well for the Israelites’ journey to the Promised Land and what might have been a quick trip there turns into a disaster that makes National Lampoon’s Family Vacation look like a dream excursion and highlights the need to consult Mapquest before setting out on any journey. This pattern of miraculous works followed by tests of faith is repeated throughout all of their sad wanderings to the point where one considers taking Moses aside and saying “Maybe you should reconsider God’s offer to, shall we say, wipe the slate clean with this lot and start afresh.” Seriously, herding cats would have to be a more rewarding vocation. But eventually they arrive in Canaan, establish the nation of Israel and begin their whole dysfunctional pattern again: miraculous deliverance, test of faith, scoring a big “F” on the test, divine discipline, repentance, miraculous deliverance, and so on. 1500 years later, enter Jesus. Sent as the ultimate Savior, foreshadowed by Moses, he collects a group of followers who seem to be direct descendants of the knuckleheads who gave Moses such a hard time. Obviously, Jesus had the whole “omniscience” thing going on, so at this point one has to begin to question God’s purpose rather than the knuckleheads’ capacity for understanding.
There is definitely a temptation to feel a sense of superiority in reading about the Israelites’ rebellion issues or the Gospels’ descriptions of the disciples’ lack of comprehension (I mean, really guys, I understand when Jesus says “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up” that there might be some room for interpretation, but when He says “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life,” did that really leave you scratching your heads and thinking “Hmmm, wonder what He means by that?) I have often wished to be among the few who traveled in the desert with Moses, waiting for that moment when he draws the line in the sand (literally) proclaiming “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me.” I am so ridiculously (and unrealistically) confident that I would be among the first to jump aboard the Moses Express to Godly Obedience. I have also fantasized, as perhaps many of you have, about being among Jesus’ disciples. Maybe not one of the twelve, but somewhere in the back row, waiting for a characteristically cryptic Jesus question, ready to raise my hand in fine Sunday School fashion and yell “Oh, oh! I know!”
Something has recently struck me though in regards to my desire to experience the stories of the Bible first hand. According to the Savior I so desire to see, I am in a better spot today. When speaking of His ascension, Jesus says He is going away so that the Holy Spirit can come. It doesn’t appear that He was giving us something second best, a sort of spiritual teddy bear to keep us company until He gets back. If we believe the doctrine of the Trinity, He is giving us something equally good. So why do I begrudgingly accept the indwelling of God as if this were a consolation prize? I suppose it has a great deal to do with the limitations of our physicality. We have a great deal of difficulty valuing the unseen over the material. And yet, perhaps the Israelites would lie in their tents at night whispering, peering over to our side of the fence, saying “If only we had God living inside our hearts rather than in the tabernacle. Then we could obey.” I suppose it is our nature to constantly suffer from the “grass is always greener” syndrome. Fortunately, however, we all will someday meet in the middle and bask in the eternal glory of God where all good things meet. In heaven, by God’s grace, I will kiss the feet of Jesus, and the Israelites, who, despite their bad sense of direction, have beaten me there by a few thousand years, will get their indwelling Spirit. Until then, I will try to be content with my allotted grass and look forward to greener pastures ahead rather than longing to be back in rocky deserts.