My personality and constitution resists change. And that shows itself in me even more as I age. But our God doesn’t suffer from such a condition and He invites us always to find our only REAL permanence in Him – in His character, being, purposes and plans.
So it is the Christian life, just as all life, has many many stages to it. In Numbers 33, we are shown that during their 40 years in Wilderness, Israel had to break camp no less than 41 times. Is it any surprise then that both individual Christians and the Church too will undergo changes along our route to the Heavenly Zion?
Some of those changes are and will be exciting. And some will be filled with danger. Some are times of rest, and others times of attack. Some are times of peace and some times of raging war. There are pleasant places, dry places and seemingly empty places. Places where God meets with us, and places where He seems silent. Places of revelation like Sinai. Places of chastening. Places where we, like the Israelites tarry long and places where we like they move on quickly.
Childhood. Adolescence. Adulthood. Middle age. Old age. Singleness. Marriage. Bereavement. Joy. Career. Retirement. Perhaps divorce. Loss. Riches or poverty. And yes, massive interruptions to business or life as usual – like the advent of the Corona virus.
We will be living interrupted lives for a season – individually, and as a Church.
And so Numbers 33 offers us much to consider in our present season of uncertainty.
1. Our gracious God leads and attends us every step, and in every place. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. And His Church remains His Church every step. Though it may need to respond in new ways to new challenges.
2. It is a good reminder that we ought never to imagine the Christian life will be one of simple ease and rootedness. For this world is not our home. This is the wilderness, wrought by the Fall. Change is not just inevitable, it is sovereignly appointed – AND, attended.
3. No stage is the entire journey. We can easily begin to think where we are at this moment is the way it will always be. Not so. Some things may return to normal, or we may need to adjust to a “new normal” – temporarily or permanently in some ways. The never-changing normal is to be found in our never-changing God, and His every faithful care and Word.
4. Our Canaan is still the other side of Jordan. And we will have no permanent place until then. But we will “break camp” and re-camp together as His People and His Church as need be, until then.
5. At every stage in Israel’s Wilderness journey, there was God’s presence; God’s provision; and the reality that every step was part of God’s plan in bringing them home. That has not changed. It is just as much a reality for us – even as it was foreshadowed in passages like this one.
Travel in faith Christian. You are on the way to the celestial city. “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (Heb. 13:14) “[T]o the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Heb. 11:10)
The only thing that is constant is change. Except for one. Thankfully, we serve a God who never changes. A Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever.