During Lent we recall Jesus’ 40 days in the desert where He is tempted by the Devil. Yet Jesus was recapitulating the 40 years that Israel spent wandering in the desert. What are some lessons that we can learn from Israel’s time in the desert?
The first thing that should be pointed out is the language that is used to describe Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea.
Exodus 14:21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
So waters were parted and dry land appeared. This is the same language used in Genesis during the Creation.
Genesis 1:9 God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear."
The use of the creation language lets us know that when Israel was crossing through the Red Sea, they were becoming a new creation. The same language is being used in both the creation and the exodus of Israel from Egypt.
Here is what St. Paul says actually happened in the crossing of the Red Sea:
1 Corinthians 10:1-2 I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud. The glory cloud represented the Holy Spirit and the waters of baptism. Israel got baptized and became a new creation.
That same thing happens with us when we are baptized.
Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” and 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.
This is why we need the Holy Water fonts filled with Holy Water during this time and not with sand. We need to Holy Water to remind us of the life we left behind, the sinful life that was washed away in baptism, and the new creation that we have become.
Now that we are a new creation, will we commit the same sins that Israel committed in the desert? We could focus on any number of topics at this point, but I want to hone in on some of the blessings that Israel had before the Exodus and how they squandered them during their desert journey.
God told Moses that when the Israelites would leave Egypt, they would find favor in their Egyptian neighbor's sight, and the Egyptians would give them gold and jewels and riches. You can also imagine that after experiencing 9 of the 10 plagues the Egyptians would also fear the God of the Israelites.
Exodus 11:2-3 Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor, jewelry of silver and of gold." And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh's servants and in the sight of the people.
Israel left Egypt with plenty of gold and jewels.
Next, something to note is that when they left Egypt they also had a lot of livestock.
Exodus 12:38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very many cattle, both flocks and herds.
Finally, the Book of Numbers sort of spoils the story, but you should know that the original plan was that the firstborn male from every family would become priests of Israel.
Now what do they do with the gold? They worship Baal with it when they make the golden calf.
- They were suppose to use it to worship God.
When they get out into the desert they say, "We have nothing to eat." What about those flocks and herds that they had with them? They worshipped those because they didn’t want to offend those false Egyptian gods.
- They were suppose to use these for food.
As far as the priesthood goes, all of the firstborn sons lost that and the priesthood was restricted to the tribe of Levi.
- This would have better prefigured the firstborn priesthood of Christ and our priests today.
Here is what I was hoping could be meditated on during Lent:
Do you have gifts and talents that have been given to you by God, yet they are squandered on the TV god? Or the facebook god? Time is a gift given to us by God. We are to use this time to prepare ourselves for the promised land of Heaven.
What if instead of going to blockbuster for a movie, you went to your local Catholic bookstore and got a movie about a saint that you could see, cheer on, and then imitate?
What if instead of spending too much time reading the newspaper about current events, you read your Bible about eternal events?
What if instead of calling your friend and talking about the weather, you talked about one of the great saints that you just read and were blown away by their holiness you so desired to imitate?
We have been given lots of gifts, let's use this time in the desert wanderings of this world to strive to make them serve the next.