The children of Israel were finally home. A trip that could have been made in four days of straight walking, three weeks at a more leisurely pace following a circuitous route or 18 months, allowing for a divinely planned layover at Mt. Sinai instead took 40 years. Those who were adults at the time of the exodus had since passed away except for Joshua and Caleb. Only those with childhood memories of Egypt and those born in the desert since were at last able to feel the relief that comes from knowing one is home.
Does your family have a ritual for when everyone is under the same roof again? You may be remembering the years when your children and family dog were looking out the window as you pulled your car into the driveway after a long day at work. As soon as they saw you, their faces lit up. Seconds later, the front door flew open and you were surrounded by arms, squeals and barks. Those are great memories. You may be recalling your first weekend back home from college, boot camp or the life you recently began in another city. Then again, you may be thinking about returning to your own home after a vacation or business trip. Whatever the scenario, it usually comes as a relief finally to be home.
What do you do after you’ve arrived? My wife and I start cleaning up, reflecting back and settling in again. So it was with Israel.
Cleaning up. Those born since the exodus needed to receive the mark of the Abrahamic covenant. Only after they were circumcised would the “reproach of Egypt” be fully removed. Until then, they would remain cut off from the people God was creating (
If we hope to enjoy the contentment and security that comes with insider status within God’s covenant people, we must be cleansed. Flesh must be sacrificed to Spirit. The rags of sin’s slavery, typified by bondage in Egypt, must be put off. We cannot be fully at home in the Lord until we’re ready to separate from the world (
Reflecting back. Thirty-nine years had passed since Passover had been observed (
Don’t you look forward to sitting down to a good home-cooked meal after returning from a trip? Pretzels, peanuts and a quarter of a can of Coke aboard an airplane leave you wanting more. Fast food at the airport may fill your stomach but fails to satisfy the soul. There’s just something special about that first big meal back home.
When we partake of communion, it’s a meal at the Lord’s table. It’s a time to look back upon our own redemption and time to look ahead to the Marriage Supper in our Father’s house. That wafer and wine don’t fill the stomach, but they warm the soul.
Settling in. The day after they observed Passover, the children of Israel ate from the fruit of the land. The day after that, the manna ceased. The miraculous supply gave way to the mundane, but both depended equally on God.
It is God’s grace that sustains us in the exodus, through the wilderness, and at home; during the uncertain times and dark days of life, as well as our unremarkable, ordinary and altogether forgettable moments. We spend only a few of our days on the spiritual mountaintops. We spend most of them in mundane meadows. Life settles. We settle, but we still need that same divine grace.
Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz said it best, “There’s no place like home.” Israel at Gilgal was finally home. Down deep in your soul, do you feel yourself to be at home in the Lord’s presence today? If not, the door is unlocked, and the light is on.