Psalm 105—The Long Journey through the Wilderness

Psalm 105—The Long Journey through the Wilderness

Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
So He led forth His people with joy, His chosen ones with singing. And He gave them the lands of the nations; and they took possession of the fruit of the people’s toil, to the end that they should keep His statutes, and observe His laws. Praise the Lord!
Psalm 105: 43-45
It’s been just over six months since the pandemic really hit us full force. In my parish in Tampa, March 20 was the first service where the church was closed to the public. Six months later, we are at limited capacity, with masks and social distancing required. We are “in a groove” so to speak in our parish and in the city in which I live (I recognize that many parts of our country are a lot more austere when it comes to quarantine measures). But even this relative calm and predictable “normal” has people anxious. We all keep thinking “when is it all going to end?” Is there going to be a new normal? Is there a “promised land” at the end of this long journey. And it’s only been six months.
The children of Israel walked in the desert from Egypt to the land of Canaan for 40 years. 40 years! Our six months journey is 1.25% of theirs. They didn’t know how their journey would end up. They didn’t know where they would end up. They didn’t know how long they had to go. And then they had more immediate concerns about sustenance. Where would they get food? How about water? And what about illness that seemed to run rampant through their group?
I read recently that historians believed about 2.4 million people followed Moses out of Egypt. That was a LOT of people to organize and move. Communications must have been difficult. Decision-making must have been chaotic. I can’t imagine wandering for forty years with a group of trusted friends, let alone 2.4 million strangers.
Yet God was faithful to His people, even when they weren’t always faithful to Him. He caused manna to fall from heaven, in other words, He provided them with food to eat that coated the ground every morning when they got up. 2.4 million people had enough food to eat. When they ran out of water, God told Moses to tap his staff against a rock and a torrent of water came out of the rock, enough to satisfy the thirst of 2.4 million people. God provided a cloud to lead the people during the day, and fire to lead them at night. And when they finally reached the promised land, God made all the inhabitants of the land fall to the might of His people, so that they could take possession of the land.
In many ways I feel like one of the Israelites in the desert. The journey is long, even if it is becoming predictable. The journey is uncertain, even in the times it doesn’t feel dangerous. (And yes, sometimes the journey feels dangerous). There is concern about food and water, the necessities. I don’t feel that concern today necessarily, but in a bad economy, no job is immune from being eliminated, the ability of anyone to provide for their family can be put in jeopardy at any moment. Like the Israelites, who argued consistently with their leaders, I also don’t see eye to eye with many leaders over how the pandemic should be handled.
But like the faithful Israelites (not all of them were faithful), I trust God in this journey. We will eventually get to a place that is beyond where we are right now. When that will happen and what that will look like I do not know. I trust that God will ultimately provide whatever I am needing so that I have food to eat and a roof over my head. That doesn’t mean that God will provide a great lifestyle or financial security. Remember the manna that fell from heaven. It was enough to satisfy the hunger of God’s people on a particular day. He told them not to collect more than they needed or hoard it for the future. They had to trust each day when they got up that God would provide their sustenance for another day. Likewise, we have to trust God even in the midst of this crisis that He is going to lead us through it.
There have been more instances than we can count of people who throughout history have had their faith tested, through pandemic, war, famine, and all kinds of societal and personal suffering. And there have been more instances than we can count of people who throughout history have had their faith rewarded by God. This reward sometimes was not during their earthly life. It didn’t mean riches and a smooth road. Even Moses only got a glimpse of the promised land and didn’t even get to enter into it. However, what Moses and the other righteous people who have pleased God throughout the ages have obtained is salvation, eternal life, eternal blessedness in the Kingdom of Heaven. I don’t know what that looks like. But I believe that God will eternally reward those who have been faithful to Him.
Today’s encouragement is to think like the faithful Israelites on the journey between Egypt and the promised land and just keep walking. We don’t know if we are almost there, halfway there, or hardly any of the way there. All we know is that we can take steps in the journey on any given day. I believe there will be a “promised land” at the end of the pandemic, and the more careful we are, the quicker we can make it there. But even if this journey is long and the end isn’t what we hope for, there is still a “Promised Land” to journey toward. And it’s not the resumption of life at the end of the pandemic. It is the entrance into Eternal Life at the end of our lives on earth. Regardless of how hard the earthly journey may get at times, especially this year, God wants us to keep walking, keep moving forward, inching closer to His Kingdom.
O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name, make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him, tell of all His wonderful works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and His strength, seek his presence continually! Remember the wonderful works that He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He uttered, O offspring of Abraham His servant, sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth. He is mindful of His covenant forever. Psalm 105: 1-8
Make sure you take at least some small steps in your journey towards God’s Promised Land (salvation and eternal life) today and every day!

The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.


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About author

Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “ and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”