Caleb. I liked him from the very beginning of her story. He was the outsider. He was a slave. He observed the plagues in Egypt and he saw an awesome God in them. So he believed. Once he believed, he never looked back. He just couldn’t. Not after all he had seen. He was the one to lead the charge. He was “all in”. He was Joshua’s biggest advocate. He could not look away when wrong was done. I know this story by heart. My heart.
The desert is hot and dry. But mostly it is discouraging in its expanse and in its monotony of sameness. Mean sun beating down burns through the hope. Day after day…the struggle to wade through the wilderness. Sand-walking makes for progress so slow that it feels like going nowhere. They were going nowhere because their destination was not a place, but a time, 40 years.
The never “getting there” was Caleb’s whole life. It seemed like forever before he would gain their acceptance, before he could get there. Even after that, he couldn’t sway the people to see God’s power. He and Joshua saw what God could do for them, the others saw what men could do to them. The other voices were louder and birthed a fear and a disbelief that ripped the Promise right from the children of Israel. No, they would not enter His rest. They had looked the Promise in the eye and turned away. Instead, they would wander and plod along, 40 years. 40 years of walking in sand and getting nowhere. They would die and be buried, but the march would go on. Only two who had seen Egypt would taste the milk and honey – Joshua and Caleb. They had believed God’s Word. They trusted that His Promise was true and that He would make good on it. In spite of the odds against them, they knew that God is the one who decides. And yet even when Joshua and Caleb finally got “there”, they did not completely enter a rest. Rather, it was a struggle they entered. First to fight the inhabitants of the land, “For the Lord!” Then to fight the disobedience and waywardness of their own people. It was another kind of wilderness.
The new wilderness of war and of falling away was more discouraging than the desert had been. In the desert they had come to depend on the Lord. Those who did not obey or believe were weeded out along the way. Some fell by plagues, some by stoning, some by fire and some were swallowed up by the Earth. And the others walked a long death march. Those who remained had learned to depend on God for everything. Just before they entered the Promised Land, Moses declared, “He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord”. Deut 8:3.
Francine Rivers draws a picture of what it was like to follow closely after the pillar of cloud and fire.
Everyone worked and prepared with practiced precision. The years in the wilderness, of watching the cloud rise up, move, and settle, had trained the people to move quickly when so commanded p. 225
That sort of obedience is the result of true submission. It comes when your pride has been stripped and your will has been broken. And day after day you have no other choice but to yield. This desert is hot and dry. Mean sun beating down wears me out. Day after day…the struggle to wade through this wilderness. Sand-walking makes for progress so slow that it feels like going nowhere. But this is a training ground. And on this Earth, whatever looks like the Promise to me will still require the same discipline as the wilderness demands. That He might make [me] know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord”. Deut 8:3.
justAgirl…just like you
God really likes to turn things upside down! How many unlikely heroes fill the pages of His Word? Francine Rivers’ account of Aaron’s story reminds us that God calls ordinary people to do great things. Moses, who wasn’t enough of an Egyptian to stay in the Palace; nor enough of a Hebrew to be accepted in their culture (p.17); he relied on his older brother Aaron to help him carry out God’s plan. Aaron, a slave, probably brick-maker/bricklayer, was thrust before Pharaoh, the diety-king of the great country of Egypt to make outrageous demands. In addition, he brought Moses’ message to the Hebrew leaders and people who did not receive him favorably either. But our story suggests that Aaron’s role was not only to be his brother’s mouthpiece. Aaron was a trustworthy companion. Francine Rivers draws him as An Encourager. Moses, who was called a “friend of God”, leaned on Aaron from the beginning of the book of Exodus, through the desert, on the way consecrating him as high priest (in the picture above), until Aaron breathed his last breath. What a journey! This is a wonderful story, so rich in detail. Rivers “fills in the blanks” for us. She uses scriptures as a basis for her fictional account and adds in cultural and historical detail while bringing the characters to life. Rivers’ close friend Peggy Lynch writes, “This finely woven tale by Francine Rivers is meant to whet your appetite. Francine’s first and foremost desire is to take you back to God’s Word…” (p.135).
Reading Aaron’s story did take me back to God’s Word, to Exodus. I can’t remember where I first heard the comparison between (1) the Hebrews’ Exodus from Egypt and journey to the promised land and (2) a sinner’s redemption and Christian walk. But I cannot read Exodus without thinking of it; and this story had the same effect on me. About two-thirds of the way through, something dawned on me. The parallels between the Exodus and man’s Redemption are deep and multi-layered. Here are a few that I noticed:
- God sends the Hebrew people a long-awaited deliverer to lead them from captivity…and they rejected him: They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Ex 14:11-12).
- God sent Jesus to be the long-awaited deliverer to free His people from the bondage of sin and death and they rejected Him: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then [Jesus] rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. (Luke 4:18-21). When His life was hanging in the balance, people did not believe He was who He had said He was, and they despised Him. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at Him. They said, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If You are the king of the Jews, save Yourself.” There was a written notice above Him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!” (Luke 23:35-39).
- God, Himself, spoke His Word to them at Mt. Sinai and they rejected Him and refused to listen: When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (Ex 20:18-19).
- Jesus is the Word, the Good News, but many refused to listen; they rejected Him: He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:10-14)
- God gave Himself, to be their God, but they rejected Him and fashioned for themselves a Golden Calf to worship: I am the LORD Your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments (Ex 20:2-6)…Later, when the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” (Ex 32:1).
- Jesus gave Himself, to be their God, but they rejected Him, and went their own way: [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:8-11). He was ”in very nature, God” (Phil 2:6). Yet at the end of His life, they not acknowledged that He was Lord. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against Him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising (John 18:36-40)..“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered (John 19:14-15).
I see how we are so much like the Israelites. Even once our Deliverer has rescued us, we doubt. Even when He written His Word on our hearts, we falter. Even when He has given Himself to us, we do not acknowledge His authority; we do not make Him Lord or put Him first in our hearts. But He does not give up on us, and continues to lead, whether we follow or not, because God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change his mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? (Num 23:19).
I could write so much more about this topic – I may do a series on “Deliverance” once we have time. So, if you had to pick one thing, what was your favorite thing about the story?
JustAgirl…just like you
Funny…I was an English major in college (that was before I became a dental hygienist). I loved reading and analyzing literature. But that was like twenty years (and two kids) ago! I have some friends who kept reading voraciously, all through the pre-baby/working years, and the baby and preschool years, but not me. Nowadays as often as I can, I tend to read non-fiction. But fiction or non-fiction, I have trouble making time for the stack of books waiting for me in the corner of my bedroom. In fact, it mocks me constantly (still on page 100 of Les Miserables!). So one of my goals for this year was to be a better steward of my intellect, by reading more. I decided the best way to make sure I followed through on this goal was to build in some accountability by starting a book club. Now the day has finally come…and I am really going to have to do it! I love how this goal dovetails with this week’s lesson on Intellectual Strength. Dovetail: I have been totally overusing that word lately! Anyway, what I don’t know is if any of you will want to join me in this goal or not. But really, once you take a look at our selection – I think you will definitely be tempted!
The book is (drum roll, please)…Sons of Encouragement by Francine Rivers – yay! Here is an author I have actually read before. We did her Lineage of Grace in a ladies bible study a few years ago and it was just beautiful. The format for both books is the same. They are historical fiction/Biblical storytelling, where she examines the lives of familiar chracters from the Bible, starting with the Biblical account, and filling in the cultural and historical details based on painstaking research. Here is the editorial review on our book, from Amazon: Sons of Encouragement ”illuminates the lives of five Biblical men who stood behind the heroes of the faith and quietly changed eternity. Aaron, Caleb, Jonathan, Amos, and Silas each faithfully sought after God in the shadows of His chosen leaders. They answered God’s call to serve without recognition or fame. And they gave everything, knowing their reward might not come until the next life.” The book actually breaks down into five smaller stories, or novellas (only about 150 pages each). I am committing to read just one novella per month – I know, this sets the bar kind of low to fulfill my reading goal…but it’s a start! :) We will read the first story, The Priest, and I will post about it and hopefully generate discussion on February 17. Today, please post a comment below and tell me if you would like to join my reading challenge. As I have been trying to do lately, I have picked a do-able goal, yet one that will enrich my life – I think this definitely qualifies as both Inspired Living and Abundant Living! Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). I know it is part of God’s plan for me: to thrive intellectually, in spite of all my busyness. I am sure He wants the same for you.
One novella (about 150 pages long) per month for the next five months:
JustAgirl…just like you!