At First Covenant this year, we are reading and experiencing The Story – a book that seeks to reproduce the big, overarching story-line of the Bible. Some weeks ago, as we were reading the chapter titled “Wandering” – which details the experiences of God’s people as they wandered between Egyptian slavery and Promised Land blessing – I was reading in a commentary on the biblical book Numbers. Iain Duguid teaches at Westminster Seminary in California. I especially appreciated his words from near the beginning of his book. See if this does not still present a challenge, struggle and danger in our own lives today:
What are the chief temptations of life in the wilderness? The first temptation is surely the danger of losing the plot. The people of Israel were constantly tempted to doubt that there really was a Promised Land ahead. All they could see with their eyes was the barrenness of the wilderness. All they could hear with their ears was the howling wasteland around them. All they could taste on their tongues was the hunger and thirst of the wilderness. The wilderness was very real, and the obstacles in terms of opposition and lack of resources were very visible, while the Promised Land seemed very remote. Life must often have seemed to be a succession of completely unrelated and random events that were getting them nowhere. They surely felt as if their whole lives were slipping away from them in one meaningless round of unsatisfying experiences.
Isn’t that somewhat like our lives? The surface structure of our lives often appears chaotic and random, just one frustration after another, like the surface narrative of the book of Numbers. You wake up, you go to work, you go to home, you go to bed. There is never enough time to get everything done, never enough money to meet all your commitments, never enough of you left for yourself or to give to others. Events that God could so easily have orchestrated to make your life more straightforward regularly become tangled and twisted. This life is often a chaotic wilderness.
So what is life all about? Sometimes we are tempted to believe that the wilderness we see is really all there is: that when all is said and done, there is no guiding purpose or meaning this world. Our lives appear as meaningless as the game of cricket is the uninitiated: days full of incomprehensible activity that at the end of them accomplish exactly nothing. Yet the deeper structure of the book of Numbers points us in a different direction. On the surface our lives may seem to wander from one place to the next, driven apparently off-course by our grumbling and sin and the vicissitudes of fat3e. Yet under and through and behind it all, there is a guiding hand, a divine author, who holds the whole grand narrative in his hand and brings it around to the ending he himself has written for us. There is a story line to our personal stories, an intricate plot that will, after all of life’s twists and turns, end up with him bringing us into the place he has prepared for us. That is the reality to which we need to firmly hold.”