On the Move
To the untrained eye, this portion like so many appears to be a humdrum list of places and movements with some arcane references to cities of refuge. In the middle of this we find that Moshe is commanded to recap the journey so far, mentioning in detail the 42 places or stages of the journey that has unfolded before them as we wandered in the wilderness. How quick we are to forget that each step taken was only done as the Lord led us to move on, the pillar of cloud and fire by night marking out the route we were to walk. Putting it another way, each step we took, each slot of time we spent in each place was allocated, pre-planned and determined by G-d. How often do we read in the Scriptures that ‘in due season…’, just as with Mashiach’s birth and death. How quick we are to forget right now today that this is true for us too. What may appear as a life out of control to you is nothing other than a difficult navigation around a rocky outcrop in the wilderness. Yes you might have a few bruises and cuts to the knee but when the open vista appears before you once more the legs are stronger and the trust greater. Our lives are in His hands so we need not fear. His Spirit guides us each and every day, if we can be bothered at times to look up from the terrain we’re walking on.
Recounting the past journey is core to our own spiritual development. Here the Lord wanted to reiterate the facts of His guidance and leading, but also His judgement on the Egyptians. We so quickly forget what He has done in the past! Frail human memory coupled with the pounding insistence of present reality corrupts memory and leads us to question our view of past events. When the serpent challenged Adam and Chava’s memory he knew that doubt could be sown.. ‘did G-d say…?’. Sadly we had as a nation begun to forget what life had been like (because let’s not forget that the vast majority of the generation who had left Egypt were now dead…). Most had never known it and so doubt could be sown too. The corporate memory of a nation is born, the narrative of walking with and trusting G-d starts to form us as His people, we believe and trust what has been told to us by those who were there.
Memories and the life walked to date is critical in building our confidence and trust in what is yet to come. And what is yet to come will almost certainly be more challenging than what has gone before! Our previous track record of a life lived in faith needs to be reviewed and pondered afresh to be in a place where you can move on to fresh spiritual challenges. Will we personally feel inadequate? Yes. That is good because in our weakness He alone can be our strength.
Yet in our modern world we are told to have self-belief. We have bought into the Eastern lies of self – inner strength and power, of finding oneself within and knowing that you possess all the power you need to self-actualise and fulfil your potential. Well, those things are not true. And if you read it carefully, the Lord doesn’t say those things either. Thankfully it’s not about us digging up unknown or undiscovered wells of inner ability, the Lord says ‘I am with you’. Our ability to go and fulfil what G-d has called us to do is built upon the unchanging and eternal, solid foundation of the nature and character of G-d. If He is with us, who can be against us? Can any situation or event, person or unclean spirit ever have the power or authority to override such promises and sure foundations? No. We are instead directed to trust in G-d once more, to turn our eyes to Him who CAN deliver and release, set free and bring us to the point of freedom. You don’t have the inner ability to overcome things, you have more than that, you have the living G-d of Israel with you every day, second and step you take. In a target driven culture where self-motivation and willpower achieves results, this message of reliance upon G-d seems out of step with reality, but actually it is this world that is out of step.
Remind yourself of what G-d has done for you, recap the route taken as here today in the portion. Then, don’t give excuses as to why you think you’re not ready for the next step, trust G-d for it. Fear Him, not the situation. His ability is far larger than your own, so lean on Him.