ON DAYS I feel old, I remind myself that it might be because—to date—I’ve moved twice as often as the average American will in their entire lifetime. Though I am from a non-military background, where nomadic life is more common, I have clocked up 25 different homes so far.
All that packing and unpacking includes two international moves. So you might understand that I get a bit twitchy when I see a removal van. Except for the last two moves, I have done all the loading and unloading, with some welcome help. That’s a lot of boxes (okay, mostly my books, I admit) to haul up and down a lot of stairs.
I’ve also lent hands to a bunch of friends as they have moved home through the years, too. I am all too familiar with the mixed sense of excitement and sadness that comes when you’re locking the latest door behind you for the last time and heading onto the new place.
But spare a thought for the Israelites of old. According to the Book of Numbers, on their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, the Israelites clocked up at least 41 moves.
They knew that their ultimate destination was somewhere special. They were headed to a land filled with milk and honey, a place of goodness promised just for them. But, along the way, they surely must have wondered if and when that was going to happen.
Maybe each time they “set out” again, as we read repeatedly in the account of their journey in Numbers 33, they dreamed that this might be the time they would finally make it. Yet, once again they found themselves “camped,” as we read time and again, at the latest stop.
At least when we move, it’s typically with a clearer, more immediate sense of direction and progress—you know where you’re going and why. On the positive side, to a bigger house for a growing family or a job move. On the less happy end, relocating nearer to a dependent family member or downsizing because of financial challenges.
Either way, at least there’s some sense of arrival, of being where you need to be next, for good or ill. Not so much for the Israelites and their extended limbo: just another leg in a seemingly endless trek.
If that happens to be your situation right now, and it feels like you are being led aimlessly, take some comfort from the Israelites’ experience. Though they may have felt God had forgotten, the opposite was true. He was remembering.
You see, He was keeping His word, spoken after the people of Israel first shrank back from claiming the land. Even though the other side of the Jordan had been given to them, most of the spies who went out to reconnoiter came back with a fearful report of giants that would make the task impossible (Numbers 14). As a result, God swore, “Not one shall come into the land where I swore I would make you dwell” (verse 14).
Something—in this case, actually, many someones—had to die out before God could fulfill His promise. In a similar way, maybe something needs to come to an end in your life before you can step into your future.
I’m not suggesting that delay is because of sin, like with the Israelites—although we should always be open to hearing God’s correction. Disobedience can cause a logjam.
But be encouraged from the Israelites’ experience that the stop-start is more a question of God’s timing, rather than His forgetfulness or inability. What may seem like just another lurch forward is part of His process of bringing you closer to where He wants you to be.