going forward/looking back


I was listening to a podcast on the way to work this morning (look up the Greenbelt podcasts on iTunes and select faith in a failing church)

Thanks to Alastair for pointing me in the direction of it. I have listened to about the first 15 minutes and am quite impressed by what the speaker has to say.

Here are a few thoughts from the first 15 minutes (and a little scriptural context)

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. Number 13:30-32

and then turning the page to Number 14:1-4

That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

The chant had started, ‘back to Egypt, back to Egypt!’

Is there a back to Egypt group in your church? Are there people who believe the good old days are better than anything the future can bring?

God has an interesting judgement on the ‘back to Egypt people’.

Moses had to deal with complainers from the moment he left Egypt and here we have a make or break point. What sort of memory did the people have of Egypt? Whatever it was, in the face of a future they were scared to walk into, what they had come from seemed more attractive.

Moses has a prayer which is something like ‘I know that you are not going to let them go forward, but please do not let them go back’ and in this case, God’s solution is I am not going to let them go to the land I have promised, and I am not going to let them go back into Egypt where they were in slavery. I am going to get them to wander in the desert for 40 years until the complainers die off.

Their time in the wilderness was not a spiritual journey, but rather ended up being a time of waiting until they died off and a new generation came through who would enter the land and carry on God’s work.

We have to ask ourselves are we failing to accept the future which God has in store for us? Are we instead, retreating to the safety of our past? Do we think of our past as kind of pristine experience (when which is more a myth than a reality)?

Such important questions and insight and such a powerful story from the Exodus. I hope I am able to hear God amongst all the noise and walk in the future He has for me.

Grace and peace


5 Responses to “going forward/looking back”

  1. 1 Matthew

    I have seen examples where church is often run like a business, because, and this has been said to me, the business world has shown us how we can operate effectively. I have sat through a presentation where a christian brother proposed a business model for the church, dividing members into roles such as HR (pastoral care), marketing (preaching), service (cleaning), etc.

    If we see parallels between our church organisation and business, it is only because we are looking to Egypt for inspiration. We should let God lead us away from this kind of thinking. We are, after all, his family, not his corporation.

  2. 2 SB

    However, isn’t that what happened in Acts 6: “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor.” Thereby setting up the Hall Committee, Welfare, Bible Class committee, etc. All work that needs doing but not necessarily by the same people, and if left alone it tends to be the ones who are already rushed off their feet that do the work. Being able to rely on others in the “same boat” shares the load and uses all the fellows in the ship – improving the fellowship.

    Structure within an organisation needn’t be a bad thing, honest.

  3. 3 ben

    Thanks for this.

    I’d argue that many many entities, be they churches or corporations, and of course individuals, are memory-led, i.e. they spend today repeating what they did yesterday, and putting in systems or processes to ensure they can do the same tomorrow. Think of it as a quality management system which assures the quality of your output. Being memory-led often leads to the binary notion of the past=safe, to be preserved or returned to, and change=bad, scary etc.

    But true Jesus-people are future-led, living Jesus-values and continually adapting to their environment. Sure, they live in the moment, but they are headed somewhere. They recognise that stability [in this world] is a myth, and that life is a process of adaptation. Their vision is oneness with Jesus (Jn 17) and that is the source of their spiritual stability…

    More to say than time to type; would love to have a voice-conversation about this some time

  4. 4 L

    I think we will always be memory led to some extent, after all, the past is our experience. Our problems arise when we cannot leave it and reach for the future. What made Joshua and Caleb different? It seems to me they used their experience to reach towards a future they could see God was offering them. But their past grounded their faith, the past that had proved over and over that God is a faithful God, through the story of Abraham, their rescue from Egypt and the constant provision and the outstanding faith that God would continue to provide. The kind of faith that kept Joshua faithfully following Moses up the mountain and wanting to stay in the presence of God in the Tent of Meeting. If we are living in the light and the presence of God and truly abiding in Him we will not be fooled by the rumours that Egypt was better, however convincing they might sound

  5. 5 tobit

    SB I kinda agree – as long as the structure doesn’t dominate and become so rigid that new things cannot happen.

    Ben do you have some theory links for ‘being memory-led’

    L – the past is our experience, but we do need to be careful in how it might defines us

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