I don’t know about you, but I tend to want things to fall into place quickly. I like to have the situations where, as one door closes there are at least two others standing open from which I can choose to move ahead. But, life doesn’t always happen like I would like for it to. I was reading today in Exodus 23 when something jumped out for me to notice, that I’ve read many times before, but for some reason it had never meant much to me. God was talking with Moses about the Children of Israel entering the Promised Land, land that now was occupied by the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jubusites. God promised Moses He would send terror ahead of them and throw the nations they confronted into confusion. He promised to send the hornet ahead of you to drive out the people who lived there.
It is then that he made the statement that was moving to me. “But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land” (Exodus 23:29-30). Notice, as God was planning what would happen He made no mention of them going in as a mighty army to destroy the people or there being a great conquest of the land. Instead, His plan was to send the Hornet into the land ahead of the Nation of Israel. This was sometime before the people rebelled against God and refused to enter the land as God commanded. They would, because of the rebellion have to wander in the wilderness for 40 years for a whole generation to die so their children could enter the Promised Land. I don’t know if their sin led God to change his mind about their entrance into Canaan or what happened. But, when Joshua led the Israelites into the land, God doesn’t mention the hornets going before them but has them to march around Jericho for seven days before the walls came crushing down and they conquered the city. From there it became a massive conquest of the land but they were never able to drive the enemies completely out of their new home.
What stands out is God’s plan was one that would take care of the land and would lead to them being over the land and working it for the good of the whole nation. I wonder how much His plan for their entering the Promised Land illustrates the way God works in our lives and in the life of His spiritual kingdom today. Jesus told us to pray for His kingdom to come, his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. But his kingdom spread in the world wasn’t intended to be as a conquering army going out to destroy the enemies of His reign. Even when Jesus was giving the apostles instructions on how they were to proceed in spreading his kingdom in Acts 1:8 it was for them to WAIT in Jerusalem until they received power from on high. Then they were to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. It involved beginning where you are and having the circle to spread out just a little more all the time. In Jesus parables about the kingdom he gave two powerful illustrations of the spread of the kingdom. One was that the kingdom was like a grain of mustard seed that was the smallest of the seeds but when planted it grew large enough for the birds to make their nest in the branches. The other was that the kingdom was like a women who put her yeast into the flour until it spread through the whole batch. This first illustrates how the kingdom begins small and grows whether we are talking about in our personal lives, the life of a congregation of the Lord’s people or of the church as a whole. The other describes the nature of the growth of his kingdom. It spreads as influence quietly into the whole batch of flour. It isn’t like an army in conquest. It is more like the hornet driving the devil out, little by little.
In our spiritual life, we don’t go from new birth to maturity in short order. Instead we grow little by little as we take on the image of Jesus more and more in life. We should become stronger, closer to Jesus and more like him with every step. We don’t overcome sins and addictions in life over night. But as we yield to the Holy Spirit’s lead in us, little by little we overcome the pull of sin and Satan and grow to be the spiritually minded person God longs for us to be. Often, as we look at our growth for God, it seems to us that we are growing so slowly, surely something must be wrong. I suspect it would be good for all of us to do like we did with our children as they were growing up. We would put marks on the wall or doorway to show their growth from one year to the next. Imagine, keeping the spiritual marks in our life to demonstrate our growth toward Jesus. What are some things you might use as a measuring mark?
We could look at the fruit of the Spirit and see how we are developing in them. We could check to see how we are doing in overcoming bad habits that tend to pull us away from God. We could ask a spiritual mentor to help us see how we are growing in our faith and service to God. We could ask God to help us see ourselves as he sees us so we can tell how we are developing. However we judge the matter, growth should come little by little as we take on more and more the heart of Jesus.