Photo by Eddie & Carolina Stigson on Unsplash
One of the most famous episodes from the Old Testament is the wandering of Israel in the wilderness. The descendants of Abraham—who had received God’s promise of land for his descendants—end up wandering for 40 years before they enter the land. A time of great miracles, to be certain, such as the manna in the wilderness and the rock that gushed forth water. But also a time of great hardship and death, including many battles that were lost and plagues that came upon the people. All of which is why the wilderness— the desert—is associated with a time of great testing in the Scriptures.
What is also interesting is what Saint Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:1–11, speaking of Israel’s wilderness wanderings:
“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, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless with most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things are warnings for us, not to desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to dance.’ We must not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come.”
Events of the Old Testament from thousands of years ago serving as instruction for us today… And wouldn’t you know it, but our day today seems like a time of great testing: a virus, an economic disaster, unemployment issues for millions, rioting and looting, and all in an election year! So much that can cause anxiety and stress, as came upon Israel in the wilderness. We may seem like we are in our own wilderness today, aimlessly wandering without a sense of where this is all going.
Know that we all, as your teachers, intimately feel this great testing ourselves. For the first time ever, we are having online classes. Not by choice—we do not believe our mission is best served by online teaching/learning. Nor by student desire—students agree with us that they want to be with their teachers and fellow students. But rather by sheer force of circumstance with being unable to logistically manage classes in 70 different parishes in a world of coronavirus restrictions. So in many ways, we feel our own desert wandering right now: unable to see students in person, unable to have normal interactions with students, lecturing to a little dot on a computer screen, seeing black screens with everybody muted, with no idea if you’re smiling, laughing, crying, sleeping, or whatever else may be! This is, in many respects, wandering in the wilderness as a school.
So what is it that we can learn from Israel’s wilderness wanderings, as Paul speaks of? Well, the one thing that we can say is certain is that all of this falls under God’s infinitely wise, lovingly providential hand. It’s not merely cliché to say that God will bring good out of evil, but a true statement. And so we trust. We may not know if the end is in sight—who knows if coronavirus is going away anytime soon, who knows how things may or may not change by the time we wake up on November 4th. But God knows, and God takes care of all those who are faithful. And God works all things for good for those who trust in Him.
And so we persist, remembering full well the reason why Israel wandered in the wilderness: because they refused to take the land by trusting in God when they first had the opportunity. Let us not make the same mistake by failing to trust in God ourselves in this day of testing.
We thank you for joining us for another year of study. May the Lord richly bless our faculty, staff, and students with many fruits in this time of testing!