WHERE ARE ALL MY INTROVERTS AT?!
At home. Chilling. Social distancing. Yeah. Me too.
Introverts sometimes get a bad rap, but I’m proud to be one. I like that I can have fun all by myself. It makes me feel self-sufficient. I heard one introvert say that they find it easy to “do life on their own”, and I feel that. It feels good.
It makes me feel sorry for Biblical introverts, though, especially Israelite ones. It must have been so hard. When were they ever alone?
Certainly not now, as they all gather together to listen to one man – Moses. He’s very old. It’s almost time for him to die. Moses knows this because he knows that because of his sin in Numbers 20, he can’t enter the Promised Land. So right at its border, Moses settles down and…gives a sermon that is 30+ chapters long. Hurray?
Although our introverted Israelites probably weren’t thrilled about spending the next eight hours in a huge crowd, our extroverted Israelites were overjoyed. This was like TV before TV.
And us? What do we have to learn from the book of Deuteronomy?
Most embarrassing moments
The best sermons start with stories, and Moses’s is no different. He starts with an embarrassing story – a recap of Numbers 13–14, when the Israelites got cold feet before facing the first enemy standing between them and the Promised Land.
Long story short, spies were sent to check out the land and they came back with glowing reports of the land but scary reports of the people. The Israelites lost all confidence and lashed out at God, but when He punished them for it, they changed their minds and went up to fight anyway.
Only they did it alone. No prayer, no blessing from God or Moses. They just went.
And they failed miserably.
Moses pulls no punches recounting this story. You’d almost think he was mocking them if you didn’t know how much he loved them. He reminds them of how the Amorites they had gone up against “beat you down”. He goes back over how they “wept before the Lord, but he paid no attention to your weeping” (verses 44-45). Harsh, right?
It was definitely harsh, but it was also definitely needed. The Israelites needed a reminder of how badly things went when they strayed from God, when they struck out on their own. They needed Him, especially for the huge task of driving out the wicked nations from the land of Canaan.
This wasn’t something they could handle by themselves. We’ll see later if they got the message.
Footsteps in the sand
But do we get the message? That little trip down memory lane was more than just a suggestion on how to live a happy life in the future, it was a revelation of the past and a warning for the present.
It’s a revelation of the past because our hindsight is not as 20/20 as we think it is. Looking back on our lives, we talk a lot about what we did. “I left that job.” “I graduated from high school.” “I moved to another state.” “I met my husband.” “I had a breakthrough.” “I started treating my body better.” We think and talk and act like we have been doing life on our own. We feel self-sufficient. We talk about what we’ve gotten through, how we’ve gotten stronger, how we’ve discovered ourselves.
But we didn’t do life alone. None of us have. We have always, always been empowered and enabled and allowed by the Master of the universe. Nothing in our life happens without His helping hand. Nothing we do takes place without Him allowing it.
It’s like that well-known modern proverb. Looking back, we see Jesus’s footsteps in the sand. Alongside the good times and the bad times, He was there.
And herein lies our warning for the present: we can’t take it for granted much longer.
That’s what the Israelites did. They did it because they had it all wrong. They had the audacity to blame God for their “problems”, problems that sprouted from their own sins and lack of faith. At the same time, they wanted to trust themselves to come up with their own solutions.
And we do the same thing. We blame God for the bad but assume that all of the good came from us. And if we’re really fed up, we charge forward without Him, convinced that we can’t trust anyone but ourselves.
But that kind of attitude leads to defeat. It leads to embarrassment. It leads to a beat down, and a divine ear that turns from our belated cries.
We can’t do this alone. We can’t do this alone. And we have to understand this before God steps back and shows us how alone alone truly is.
“You need Me more than anything.”
But God won’t show us alone just to get back at us. He didn’t show the Israelites alone so He could laugh at them running away from the Amorites.
He’ll show us what being without Him is really like because it’s the only way we’ll listen. It’s the only way we’ll understand that we cannot do life without Him.
The pain of Israel’s defeat was inflicted by a heart filled with love. It came from a heart that knows that at our core, we are God’s and we cannot be happy or fulfilled apart from Him. It came from a heart that wants more than anything to see our faces filled with joy and peace, a heart that knows exactly how to do that, a heart that only wants you to let Him.
We are not alone now. But we will be if we don’t turn our eyes and our hearts fully to Jesus. That’s the only way to survive.
Not survive, thrive. It’s the only way we’ll truly be free.
What do you think? Will you take the warning God gives us through the Israelites’ story? Comment below and share this with someone.