“I take back everything bad I ever said about the Israelites!”
I love reading in the Old Testament.
As a kid, I loved hearing stories from the Old Testament. You’ve got your classics like: the Creation story, Abraham & Isaac, Noah’s Ark, Moses & the burning bush, Joshua fighting the battle of Jericho, Joseph and the coat of many colors, David and Goliath, Daniel and the lions den, Jonah and the whale. All the songs and motions and felt story boards – do you remember those?!
Then there were others I can vaguely recall from children’s Bible books my mom would read to us like Elijah, Samson, Esther, Samuel, and Solomon.
My teenage years were filled with way more stories from the New Testament, which is when I also encountered Jesus in a very real and personal way. In those years, my church going began to move from religious ritual or responsibility to understanding what it meant to walk in personal relationship with Jesus.
One of my favorite OT books to camp out in has always been Exodus.
I love reading the journey of the Israelites. The hand of God is evident all throughout their walk. First they were slaves in Egypt, then God sent them a leader from Pharaoh’s palace, then the people watched God protect them from these crazy plagues He sent, then He led them out of Egypt thru the Red Sea – on dry ground! Then, even in their wandering thru the desert, He gave them water from a rock, bread from heaven, and plenty of other crazy things! Things that should be hard to forget. Things that should remind you that God is with you and for you. Things that should give you confidence in His faithfulness.
But for all of that, for everything they had seen God do, they grumbled and complained against the Lord. They built a giant golden statue while Moses was up on the mountain with God. They forgot time and time again how the Lord was with them.
And that part of the story would get me so frustrated.
How can you forget the incredible things God has done? How can you forget what it felt like the moment you walked through the Red Sea on dry ground as the waters were parted before you? How can you forget the sound of the waves crashing back together and swallowing up the Egyptian army that was pursuing you? How can you forget?
I was sitting at a coffee shop recently with my friend Kate, talking about the journey we’ve been on with this writing project we’re doing, and agonizing over the fears and insecurities it’s been stirring up within me. Through exhausted tears I began speaking out everything I’m afraid of, everything I’m wrestling through. And then in a moment of catching my breath, it was like the Lord played a movie right in front of my eyes of moments in my life where He’s been so faithful, where He’s met me at every point, where He’s been true to His word. Images and conversations played in my mind.
Looking up at my friend through my tears I said, “I take back everything bad I ever said about the Israelites!”
Maybe the reason I love the book of Exodus so much, is not simply for the miraculous things the Lord does and the incredible journey He takes His people on, but because I relate so much to the Israelites. Because I too, like them, forget. I too complain and put my trust in the wrong places because I so easily forget how faithful the Lord has been. Because when things are hard, it’s so much easier for me to look for someone to blame or get frustrated at, to help give me an excuse for why I can’t push through.
As I sat there lamenting about my personal struggles on this journey, I realized just how much I am like the Israelites, often wandering and missing the point of the journey, forgetting what the Lord has done every time the next obstacle or tough moment comes my way.
It makes sense to me why the Lord was so intent on His people building altars and writing things down. All throughout these Old Testament stories, He asks them to mark the moments, to remember it because He knows someday they’ll need the reminder.
It’s why I’ve worked to make a habit of journaling and writing things down, because I know I need to remember. I need to have a place that I can look back to and be reminded of the struggles I’ve found myself up against and the things I’ve seen God do and speak in their midst.
This journey for me is just as much about the places I’ve been as it is about the place that I’m headed next. It’s a journey that begs me to remember where I’ve found myself and to recall what I have seen the Lord do.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”–Søren Kierkegaard
Here’s to looking back so I can keep moving forward.