I like road trips. My childhood is lined with memories of road trips to places like Niagara Falls and Maine. I also have good memories of a road trip I took with three buddies when I was at Harding Graduate School from Memphis to California and back in 10 days hitting the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Malibu, and Denver. We covered over 3,000 miles during that trip. Our family of 4 has taken many road trips to visit family in Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Florida. One of our favorite road trips was a trip to San Antonio.
Taking road trips are fun as long as you have 5 things going for you:
- You know where you’re going. This is crucial obviously. What would we do without GPS? I guess that was just 10 years ago we didn’t have it. Hard to believe.
- Having good food and drinks on a road trip is a must. Something you immediately crave on a trip. That’s why gas stations have totally unnecessary food you crave. They know what they’re doing.
- A successful road trip can be a good hike but should not be too long. When road trips drag on people get grumpy and start turning on each other. Children echo from the back seat “are we there yet.” Spouses argue about the most trivial things…so I’ve heard.
- A good road trip with kids means that you have at your disposal good means of keeping your children entertained. If the DVD players aren’t working or the iPad loses power we have trials and tribulations in the Custer-mobile.
- A road trip can only be fun if you have a good place to stay on the other end of the trip. Knowing that you have good lodging, or family, or a great experience on the other side helps keep it bearable.
If any of these things are not met on a road trip guess what happens? A lot of complaining. This may come from the kids, your spouse, or yourself. I myself engage the “grumpy traveler sequence” if the trip gets uncomfortable.
Do you remember Israel’s road trip of the ages in the book of Numbers? Were the ingredients for a good, fun, successful road trip met? Let’s think about that for a sec:
1. Do they know where they are going? Yes, they have GPS: God Positioning System.
“I AM” is leading them in a cloud during the day. And do you know how your GPS turns to night mode when it starts to get dark? God had that too. The divine GPS went into “fire cloud mode” at night. They knew where they were going but didn’t always want to follow.
2. Did they have good food and drink for the trek? Uh Oh.
God provided manna but they complained about the lack of meat. They cried, “Man doesn’t live on bread alone give us meat” (that’s my interpretation of their food grumblings). They said something to the effect, “Remember back in Egypt when we ate good meat. Remember the melons, cucumbers, onions and garlic. We should have stayed there. This constant diet of bread that we’re making out of these flakes that God is sending us is getting real old.” Then God sends them quail and they get stuffed on quail drumsticks. But God also sends a plague to punish those who complained. The group of complainers were buried there and they called it Kibroth Hatavah – “graves of craving.”
Israel complained about their lack of drink several times too. One time they said, “If only we could have fallen dead with the complainers who wanted meat. You remember the good stuff we had to drink in Egypt…Pyramid Cola and Desert Dew. Now God has lead us out here to kill us of thirst.” The lack of quality food and drink made for a challenging road trip to say the least.
3. Their road trip took a long time.
That’s an understatement of biblical proportions. It took 40 years. The trip takes this long because the Israelites doubt their ability, or really it’s God’s ability, to take the land for them to settle. Their lack of faith is punished by having them wander around for 40 years until they all die off. Only their children will be able to enter the land.
Because it take so long they all start getting short with each other. A short while into this 40 year-long nightmare trip Miriam and Aaron turn on Moses and his wife and they get into it. They question Moses leadership. So God gives Miriam temporary leprosy to set them straight.
4. Did the Israelites have good means of keeping their children entertained? Hmmm.
They must have been entertained by the whining and complaining of their parents because there was a lot of that. They must of enjoyed swimming in the water from the rock or playing with the livestock along the way. I bet the children had manna picking duty too.
An important mention of children is in a very important passage about the character of God. Moses reveals something significant God said about himself, “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” We learn some important things about God: He is patient, he is loving, and he is forgiving. But he is also just in that he punishes the guilty. The children for 40 years get to think about how they are stuck in the wilderness due to the sin of their parents. Thanks mom and dad.
5. Did they have something to look forward to on the other end of the road trip? Yes, the Promised Land.
They had already seen, thanks to the twelve spies, that the Promised Land is flowing with milk and honey…and fruit. But because of their doubt they will just have to be patient in getting there. Many of them will not get there in their lifetime but they still choose to follow God where he was leading them.
Why did God take the Israelites on this road trip? The reason is given in Deuteronomy 8:1-5:
“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. 2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.”
The short answer is that God led them in this wilderness trek because he wanted to humble them and test them to see if they would obey God. At the beginning of Genesis, mankind was cast out of the presence of God because they were disobedient and rebellious. God is now trying to raise up a nation that will obey him and follow his will. But they continually complain as we have already seen. I think we can gather that we are not very humble or very obedient when we are also a complainer.
I heard Kyle Idleman say last week, “Your idols are revealed by what you complain about.” I think it is true that our complaining reveals what we treasure more than God. Complaining reveals areas of our life that we are not submitting to God to be in control of. If you are dissatisfied with life because you cannot be in control…you complain. But God wants people to trust him. The fruit of trusting God is peace in our life now.
One could say that all of life is a journey in the wilderness…a road trip. We Christians are looking forward to a day when we will reach the Promised Land. This land will not come while living in this world though. While we are on this journey we will suffer, we will be tempted, we will be tested, and we will be thirsty and hungry. Will we test God or will we trust in him? Will we rebel or will we obey? Will we look to our own strength or will we look to Christ for healing? Will we complain or will live on every word that comes from his mouth?