Normally it takes only eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, going by way of Mount Seir. But forty years after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses addressed the people of Israel. (Deuteronomy 1:2-3, NLT)
Last summer I was on a freeway somewhere on the border of Idaho, Washington and nowhere . . . and I missed my exit. Frustrating!! I had to drive miles and miles before I could cross over to the other side of the freeway, retrace my steps, and get back on my desired path. It added 90 minutes to my trip!
But adding an extra hour and a half to a trip is nothing compared to what the children of Israel did. They spent 40 years on a journey that should have lasted 11 days!
On the day they followed Moses out of Egypt they were only 11 days away from the Promised Land, but it took them 40 years to get there, and the crazy thing is, that it wasn't the distance or difficulty of the journey that delayed their arrival—it was the path they chose to take.
My excuse for missing the freeway exit last summer was because I was listening to music and not paying attention to the signs. But what were the Israelites doing (or not doing) that delayed them by 40 years?
I found the answer in Psalm 78. It says that God rescued the Israelites from bondage and slavery in Egypt, saved them from Pharaoh’s army by parting the Red Sea, guided them by cloud and by fire, gave them water to drink and food to eat (which is essentially saying that God gave them life), and yet . . . they kept on sinning. They failed to trust God. They complained, they rebelled and they did not remember Him, His ways, nor His Presence in their lives.
They spent 40 years on a journey that should have lasted 11 days because of worry, grumbling, whining, a bad attitude, an ungrateful spirit and . . . sin. Now that’s an exit you don’t want to take. It will lead you down a road that will strip you of hope, leave you with regret and rob you of precious years—even entire seasons—of your life.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to lose 90 minutes of time, let alone 40 years, and I suspect that Moses and the Israelites didn't either. In fact, most of the folks that started out on that 11-day journey to the Promised Land were dead and gone 40 years later. They never made it.
But please note that not everyone missed the exit to the Promised Land. Joshua made it, and may we all pay attention to his words:
"Choose today whom you will serve, . . . as for me and my family we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15, NLT)
40 years or 11 days . . . you choose.
I choose Jesus.