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So Close and Yet so Far
“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, 
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in
the desert,  where your fathers tested Me, tried [Me], and saw My works
 for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with this generation and said,
‘They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways.’
 So I swore in My anger, ‘They will not enter My rest.’  Watch
out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving
heart that departs from the living God.  But encourage each other daily,
while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s
deception.  For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold
firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start.  As it is
said: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the
rebellion.  For who heard and rebelled? Wasn’t it really all who came
out of Egypt under Moses?  And with whom was He ‘provoked for 40 years’?
Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 
And to whom did He ‘swear that they would not enter His rest,’ if not those
who disobeyed?  So we see that they were unable to enter because of
Recently I was reading a passage from one of my favorite authors
that struck a chord with me. He wrote, “The thing to remember when
traveling is that the trail is the thing, not the end of the trail.
Travel too fast and you will miss all you are traveling for.” (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
OK, I can agree, with Louie L’Amour that the journey is important,
but what if it never leads anywhere? What if we spend our whole lives
walking in circles and never arrive at our destination? That’s exactly
what happened to the Children of Israel.
Life was tough in Egypt. What started out as a blessing,
quickly turned into a curse. Joseph called his family into Egypt
during the 7 years of famine that followed the 7 years of abundant harvest.
For years, God used the Egyptians to harbor his people and provide for
them, but then a day came when Egypt had a Pharaoh who didn’t know Joseph.
The large number of foreigners who were living in Egypt intimidated him,
so he chose to enslave them lest they became powerful enough to pose a
real threat to his throne.
Times were harsh for the Children of Israel. When they complained
about having to make bricks, Pharaoh took away their straw, resulting in
making their work even more difficult. When God blessed them with
children, Pharaoh killed their sons. Times were brutal. But
God provided Moses—a deliverer for His people.
When the time was right, God appeared to Moses from a burning
bush to invite Moses to join Him in the work He planned on doing with His
people. At first, Moses hesitated, but God convinced Moses to submit to
His plan. Moses returned to his former home--the palace--to ask Pharaoh
to release the people and allow to Moses to lead them into their destinies,
but Pharaoh wasn't convinced it was what he wanted to do. Even after Moses
demonstrated the power of God before Pharaoh, he didn't cooperate, so God
unleashed the plagues and pestilence upon all of Egypt.
A recent BBC documentary claimed fresh evidence claiming that
these events weren’t myths, but neither did they say they were miracles,
rather, they said they were caused by natural events. The program entitled,
“Moses” suggested that much of the Biblical story can be explained by a
single natural disaster, a volcanic eruption, a thousand times more powerful
than a nuclear weapon, on the Greek Island of Santorini in the 16th century
Computer simulations showed that a cloud released by the volcano
reduced rainfall over the area, turned the Nile red, and subsequently produced
the remaining plagues ranging from frogs and lice, to the death of cattle,
and boils, and even the parting of the Red Sea. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
The Bible never says what methods God used to bring His plagues
and free the Hebrew nation from bondage. He could have used a volcano,
or any other means—He controls the natural as well as the supernatural.
In my opinion, while trying to show the plagues weren’t miracles, the researchers
actually provided more evidence for believing the Biblical account, by
documenting the events.
These were historic catastrophes of Biblical proportions. They
were miraculous, no doubt, but not because they weren't natural. Each of
the plagues sprung from things that happen in nature, but to a greater
extent than you'd expect. The plagues came out of nature, but they were
more than natural-they came as a result of Divine activity.
But even after viewing the movement of God, Pharaoh’s heart was
hard. Repeatedly in the narrative, the scripture says that Pharaoh
hardened his heart or that God hardened his heart. After seeing the
hand of God in these powerful miracles, how could Pharaoh have a hard heart?
Wouldn’t you think he would respond to the hand of God with faith?
The same way the children of Israel could reach the edge of the
Promised Land and not enter in. They got so close—so close that they
could touch it, and yet they were so far.
Numbers 13:30-31 records a portion of the spy’s report, it says,
“Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘We should by all
means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.’
 But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go
up against the people, for they are too strong for us.’” (NASB) Unfortunately,
the people ignored the minority report and chose to listen to those who
focused on the size of their opponents instead of the size of their God.
Even after seeing God’s power revealed in the plagues and the parting of
the Red Sea, their sin hardened their hearts toward God.
As a result, they wandered around in the desert for forty years
until all the unbelieving souls died off, never reaching their rest—the
Promised Land. The writer of Hebrews said, “So we see that
they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” One thing kept the children
of Israel in the desert and out of the Promised Land—their unbelief.
And only one thing will keep you from entering into heaven—the rest that
is promised for you—unbelief.
Matthew 7:21-23 says, “Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,'
shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father
who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did
we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do
many mighty works in your name?'  And then will I declare to them,
`I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'” (RSV)
Good deeds don’t save us. But believing in God and being
obedient to Him, does. Yeah, there is nothing wrong with the journey—in
fact, I’m enjoying the ride, but then again, all of this would be a waste
if I never crossed over into my ultimate destination—God’s rest.
Where are you going? Have you mapped out a final destination?
Or like the children of Israel are you just wandering around waiting to
Enjoy the journey, but arrive safely to your final destination.