Wednesday, March 08, 2017

"Start Small and Finish Strong"

Numbers 33.3b-4a NASU

“…on the next day after the Passover the sons of Israel started out boldly in the sight of all the Egyptians, while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn whom the Lord had struck down among them.”

This was a glorious day in the history of Israel. After centuries of slavery, the Hebrew nation made its mass exodus from the land of bondage. Over 600,000 men, plus their wives and children and livestock, “started out boldly in the sight of all the Egyptians.” On the day following the first Passover, while “the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn,” Israel stood up to their captors and proudly marched out out of Egypt. This was an historic event of unimaginable magnitude.

Like the ancient Israelites, many of us “started out boldly,” but we have not finished as boldly as we began. Our wilderness journeys knocked off the rough edges of hope and left us distrustful of the future. If we’re lucky, our idealism mellows and we learn to accept life on its own terms. Those less pliable continue to resist reality and eventually grow cynical and bitter. Life never takes us precisely in the direction anticipated. Things often work out, but usually not the way we expect. Our original optimism turns to disappointment. Our disappointment fosters regret and disillusionment hovers like a dark and persistent cloud.

“The Message” version of the Bible states the sons of Israel “marched out heads high and confident,” while King James translates the passage quite literally from the Hebrew: “The children of Israel went out with an high hand.” Israel “left defiantly,” according to the New Living Translation. They started strong, but certainly did not finish that way. An entire generation of Israelites died in the wilderness.

It’s easy to bow to idealism’s pressure and make glorious and unrealistic projections. With a spirit of defiance we begin at a pace we cannot possibly sustain and virtually assure our future collapse. When the inevitable occurs we act surprised. but we shouldn’t be. If we had started small we could have built toward a strong finish.

Remember the apparently insignificant way Jesus entered the world and the glorious way He left it? Jesus knew how to start small and finish strong. Take a warning cue from the prophet Zechariah:

“Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings?”
Zechariah 4.10

I dare not “despise this day of small beginnings.” It’s better to start small and finish strong. ---

1 comment:

Kelly L said...

Great post -thank you - this is inspiring.
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