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These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went out of the land of Egypt by their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron. Now Moses wrote down the starting points of their journeys at the command of the Lord. (Numbers 33:1-2)

Presumably, God directed Moses to record the different stages of the journeys of Israel from Egypt to plains of Moab. In all, there were forty-two encampments: fourteen before the mission of the spies; twenty until the death of Aaron and eight after Aaron’s death until they arrived at Moab (all these in the 40th year). Thus, we have a complete historical record of their journey through the wilderness, but in addition — at least according to rabbinical thought — great spiritual secrets are contained within each of them.

The Hebrew root word for “journeys” means, “a departure,” but its’ root, נסע nasa’ implies more than a short, one day journey — it denotes a departure from one “stage” or “station” to the next one. In other words, once the purpose for the current station has been fulfilled, we must pull up our tent pegs and travel to a more appropriate place in order that the next phase of our journey may have an opportunity to come to fruition.

Interestingly, this root word is related to a term used in Genesis 22 translated as “test, or prove” — “Now it came to pass … that God tested Abraham (Genesis 22:1). The relationship between these two words hints that these journeys were intended to “test or prove” Israel. Later, Moses would tell them: “The LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness in order to humble you, to prove you, to know what is in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deuteronomy 8:2).

From this we learn that we, too, have stages we must experience in order to grow into the people God has called us to be. Sometimes it feels as if we are camped out in the same place for too long but it might be that its’ purpose has not yet been accomplished. It is also possible that some components for the next “camp” have to be in place before God moves us or else the purpose would be compromised. In short, there is a reason God has us in certain places at certain times and it is critical that we learn to be content while in that stage of the journey.

Also, we shouldn’t be so focused on the next campsite that we lose site of what we are supposed to learn in the current one. As they say, “Patience is a virtue” and unless we learn to trust Him completely, we might have to wander for a bit. On the other hand, when we embrace the current stage and learn its’ lessons, it hastens the day when we go to the next point on His path for us.

Blessings and Shalom,  




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