In Deuteronomy Chapter 1, verse 2-8 tells us that it is eleven days journey from Horeb (Mt Sinai) to Kadesh-barnea by way of Mt. Seir, and that in the 40th year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, expounding on God’s law, telling them that God had kept his pledge, had placed the “promised” land before them and that they should go in and possess it. I’m struck by the fact that it took the children of Israel 40 years to make an 11 day journey. 40 YEARS! Two whole generations have passed before they are even in sight of the “promised” land.
Even God’s people can get side-tracked. An inadvertent decision can change the direction of our lives so profoundly that a new course must be charted to get us to the intended goal. In the blink of an eye, everything changes, and we can feel that change in our hearts. We know, and it’s too late to turn around and choose differently, as if we, in our willfulness, mired in the situation, could even remotely comprehend the master plan. But, there it is, that streak of arrogance that sets into motion a whole new game plan, and God says to us, “OK, you want to go down that road? We can do that. I can do that, but know this; it is the road of your choosing, not mine, and if you insist on your 40 years in the desert, we can do that, but you will have a time of it. ”
Sometimes our journey requires a detour, a side trip, a scenic route that’s designed to hone us into the kind of person who is ready to take on the challenges of the “promised” land. A seemingly insignificant choice has affected a thousand other choices – our own as well as those of others – and now we must live by our choice. We have already set into motion a chain reaction that will not only impact us, but also countless others, too, and so the wandering begins, our time of drifting, our season of testing.
It’s not God who loses faith, it is us. We are the breakers of promises, the destroyers of covenant, and the seekers after “other” gods, like money, fame, praise, and all manner of material things. We are the faithless ones, and how long our detour takes, the scope of its width depends on us, on our action, or lack thereof, and sometimes it can take a lifetime to circle back to where we belong. And once we have returned, we are to “go in and possess” that place that God has set aside for us.