As the Israelite’s wandered in the wilderness for 40 years looking for God and His will, I have constantly tried to understand what motivated the Israelite’s to go in circles for all these years in an environment that was trying to kill them with every step. I would think they would have grown tired of constantly moving and getting nowhere. As a Christian, I find that at times I also take to wandering. Why do I do the things I do? I think there is a direct relationship between the wandering by the Israelite’s when they were trying to find their purpose and following a Godly leadership, with my own Christian walk today. I would think that there are four ways to understand the motivation of Christians in today’s modernistic world: Gizmos, pathways, rebels, and stubborn fatalism.
Israel in the wilderness was called
to follow an external device of smoke and fire.
True they had a leader. Yet even Moses was guided by these heavenly
prompts. When the manifestation of God moved so did the Israelite’s. It did not matter what the path these prompts
pointed toward, there was an inner belief that these manifestations knew where
they were going. They were guided every mile, every year to following the
presence of God. When the smoke moved, they moved. Following as they were
pointed, may well be characterized as a mechanical device or Gizmo we find in
most cars: the GPS. When we want to go somewhere, we simply punch in a
destination and there is a turn by turn guide to grandma’s house. It tells us
when we will get there and even if there is any delay on our path. We listen carefully to a voice, usually a
woman’s voice, telling us where to turn, what road or exit to take, even the
name and number of the street or highway which is on our path.
When our GPS Gizmo tells me to
turn, I make every effort to follow and fully expecting she knows better than
any path I could figure out. But there are times when I may well think “That’s
not right”, or “I want to make my own path” or “I know better than this,” or I want to stop
along the way to get a Diet Pepsi.” But
when I do, my loyal GPS gleefully reports, “Recalculating.”
That little disembodied voice say
does not say, “this is not what I told you to do.” Instead, this tiny Gizmo
realizes the place you are and plans a new path. Recalculating is saying, “I
will start from when you have gone astray and I will map you a new path to your
destination. I will set you straight. Trust me I will get you want to go.”
Sometimes I question this seemingly
blind faith in the displayed path. I
know for a fact there are two routes from the church to my house and they both
get me there. The problem is my GPS
GIZMO randomly chooses one path over the other because they both are the same
distance and duration. To the Israelites
God was their heavenly GIZMO. God gave
them a turn by turn directions and the first type of Israelite and consequently
many blessed Christians will find their way to the promised land.
The second way we can look at the
wandering at the wilderness and also our Christian walks in our wandering is
characterized by the ant. The total purpose of an individual ant is to serve
the whole. To follow the rules of searching
to find a source of sustaining resources is the entirety of one class of
ants. Some stay home and take care of
the young. Some receive the bounty
provided by the wanderers. The wanderers
provide for the rest of the ants. Each
ant has a responsibility to do their job and not to stray in the least. The
philosophy of an ant is to survive the journey.
And they do this by sending out individual ants in search of a new
source of food and bring it back the report to the nest. To find their way back to the nest they
produce tiny scent trails wherever they go.
They spread out as far as their scent will allow them to go. If they don’t find anything they simply
die. Wandering along looking for some
choice morsel or better yet a large source of choice morsels like a dollop dropped
from my peanut and butter sandwich. If
they find the gooey mess, they follow their own scent trail back and tell
everyone. In rapid succession, hundreds
of ants follow blindly the previously laid down path. All the while, the additional scent is laid
down to reinforce the path. Every ant in this parade simply follows the ant in
front of them. Every time a new path is
found a group of ants will follow. Every
time there is a new source of plenty there are followers. Each Ant following dutifully the ant in front
A problem arises when the lead ant loses the scent for a moment and doesn’t know which way to go. When the scent is lost the lead ant turns abruptly looking for the scent again and all the while, every ant behind follows. The lead ant repeats this turning until it finds the scent. What often happens is they run across their own scent line and turn to follow it and in doing so they make a giant circle and they go around and around and around each of the succeeding circles. Every ant following in step following the ant front of them. The mindset of every ant in the parade is to constantly follow the ant in front, “he must know where he’s going.” Every ant following believes and accepts the, “follow the one in front” idea and is fully convinced that they are going the right way. And every trip in the grand circle it increases the scent and they can’t stop. They go around and around and around and ultimately, they simply die of exhaustion. A catastrophic end. Again the Hebrews followed until most of them who had experienced Egypt died. In the Christian walk we must keep the cloud in mind not the person in front.
The 3rd characteristic of those who would find themselves in the wilderness trying to find God’s will is the rebel. The rebel mindset says to himself, “there must be something more in my divine destiny of life.” In the Hebrews in the wilderness, they were characterized as the “Grumblers”. They grumbled about the quality of water, they grumbled with the lack of food, they grumbled with the lack of variety of provided food and they complained because there was not enough water. Dissatisfied with Moses on the mountain they were the first ones to, “make a god for ourselves.” This rebel belief reveals itself with trying and changing everything. A complaint of “we have always done it this way” is confronted with “we have never done it this way.” Let me be first.
These rebel firsts keep saying, “I
have to go faster, fly higher, explore everywhere, to boldly go where no one
has gone before.” “I am the creator of my destiny.” Or “I can do anything I
want.” The rules of sanity and common sense simply doesn’t mean anything to me.
It doesn’t matter if I crash and burn; at least I can be an example of what not
to do. It is a modern self-description. It is a mindset that says, “I have
emerged from the cave where man created God, created faith and created religion
and I no longer will follow blindly. It is an attitude of personal
self-responsibility. “I know who I am and I don’t need or want some old sage to
dictate my life.”
The rebel is plastered all over
YouTube. Riding bicycles off of a roof
into a swimming pool, or trying to jump over a car while it is coming at you at
20 miles an hour are examples of this rebel attitude.
It is the rebels who have stretched
the common beliefs of the church. “Let’s have a church in a deserted drive-in
theater,” or “we don’t need pews” or “let’s get tables and coffee” were all
once thought of rebellious ideas. “Let me be the first, at least I will be cool
They live by their own rules because everyone else seems stuck in a pattern and that pattern is I can’t live with. This rebel spirit believes and is willing to die for that belief. Columbus was going somewhere and if he died along the way so be it. Alan Shepard strapped himself onto the back of a rocket to prove something not only to himself but everyone who was going to follow him. It is not a question of, “lead or follow” but just stay out my way. And like Evil Knievel and all his copies, more often than not they crashed and crashed hard.
The last group of wanderers is
those who simply give up: the fatalists.
“If we keep going, day after day, we will ultimately die, so why go
on.” To the fatalist, any path is a path
to destruction. The Egyptians wanted to
kill them, the people in the destination wanted to kill them, the desert wanted
to kill them, all the new laws set by Moses are all filled with death and
punishment, I might as well just dig a hole and climb in. When the Christian
does not see that perfect path before them like a heavenly GPS, or another ant
in front of them, or there is no unction in your gumption to change the path,
the fatalist simply sits down and dies. “If I don’t know where I am to be, this
spot is good enough.” These fatalists
die alone because they find no responsibility to follow anyone or conform to
Follow the presence of God, follow the other ants in front of you, rebel
and do your own thing, or give up. As we walk the walk that is Christianity, it
is my choice and it is your choice.