Devotion for the Week...
We seem to be on a new shoe kick here lately, and we haven't even started school shopping yet. Three weeks ago I shared a devotion prompted by my new sandals. Two weeks ago I had to take Zachary and buy him new sneakers because the front of his had come apart. Then, while we were camping, one of Aiden's sneakers developed a gaping hole in the bottom. He's not sure, but he thinks stepping on a branch during one of our hikes may have been to blame (?). Whatever the reason, back to the shoe store we went for yet another new pair of sneakers. As for Nathan, I expect he'll need new sneakers any day now as I've never seen anyone destroy sneakers as fast as he does. I'm not quite sure what he does when he's outside playing, but his sneakers never last more than a couple of months, and it's not because he's outgrowing them.
During their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Isrealites did not have this problem with their shoes. "Yet the Lord says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet" (Deuteronomy 29:5). 40 years without needing new sandals! At this point, I'd be amazed if I could go 40 weeks without needing to buy shoes for someone. It is interesting to note that He did this after the Isrealites chose not to trust Him.
The story is in the book of Numbers, chapters 13 and 14. The Isrealites stood on the border of the land God had promised them, waiting for the spies Moses had sent into the land. When the spies returned, 10 of them said, in my paraphrase, "There's no way we should go in there! Those people are huge. There's no way we can win against them." The remaining 2 spies said, again in my paraphrase, "God said He'd help us, so let's do this!" Stupidly, the Isrealites listened to the 10 who were scared, and threatened to stone the 2 who encouraged them to trust God. Then "all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, 'Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?' So they said to one another, 'Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt'” (Numbers 14:2-4). They had been slaves in Egypt, but they wanted to return to that miserable life rather than trust that God would deliver the land into their hands as He had promised.
Was God angry with them? You bet. Because of their unbelief, not one of them aged 20 years or older would see the land God had promised them, except the two spies who encouraged them to take the land immediately. For 40 years all of the Isrealites would wander in the wilderness, until those who refused to enter the land had died. Then their children would enter the land, possessing it just as God had promised. All through those 40 years of wandering, God provided for their every need. Their food was provided daily, their clothes and their shoes didn't wear out and God Himself led them through the wilderness.
We all have moments of being stupid, of choosing not to trust God even though we should know better. We may never know what blessings those moments of stupidity cost us, as it cost the Isrealites the chance to enter the Promised Land, but we can be sure that God will not abandon us. God's love and grace are not dependent on what we do. Caring for the Isrealites during their years in the wilderness is one example, but the most amazing example of God's love and grace given to those who don't deserve them is Jesus.
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). God didn't wait for humankind to turn wholeheartedly to Him before He sent Jesus to be our salvation. He doesn't offer that salvation only to those who have lived perfect lives. He doesn't even offer it only to those who will be perfect after they come to know Jesus. In fact, Jesus came for a people who hated and mocked Him. He prayed that God would forgive those who nailed Him to the cross, even though the men hadn't asked for that forgiveness. His offer of salvation is still open today, available to anyone, no matter how ugly their past, because it is based solely on His love for us, not on what we do.
It was God's love for the Isrealites that caused Him to continue to provide for them even after they refused to trust Him and follow Him. It was His love for every person who will ever live that caused Him to provide the means of our salvation through Jesus.