Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. Exodus 23:30
We are such an impatient society. We want everything now, or better yet, we want it yesterday! It’s one of the negative side effects of fast food restaurants, digital downloads, and credit. We have been led to believe that if something is worth having, it’s worth having fast. Nothing is worth waiting for these days.If we want it now we can have it now. Even if having it now costs more in the long run.
We don’t wait well. We don’t pause much. We don’t breath deep and enjoy the moment. We are always running after what’s next. We have all but forgotten how to live with a sense of present-ness. We no longer are all that interested in embracing the moment because we are busy planning and strategizing for tomorrow.
And I fear the impact on our souls has been far worse than we realize.
As I was reading through Exodus this morning, pondering all that God had to say to the Israelite people as he sets them up for a future with himself, I was struck by something God said. I don’t know if it was hard for the Israelites to take, the Bible doesn’t really say. But I think in our day and age it would have been met with some resistance.
In Exodus 23 God is telling the Israelites how he will send an angel with them to protect them and guide them as they make their way into the Promised Land. And God explains that he will drive out before them all their enemies and help them take the land that he had set aside for them. But then God makes a startling (at least to us) statement.
This victory, this “claiming what God has for them” will not be quick. It will not be instantaneous and it will not be easy. It will take years.
In fact, God uses the term “little by little” to describe the progress towards victory that they will experience.
Little by little! I thought God moved in miraculous ways?! I thought God displaying his power meant fast and furious activity, giant waves of destruction for the enemies and easy victories for those who are God’s people?
That’s the way it’s often presented by today’s church. God moves in waves of power. God makes things happen in an instance. The only miracles are quick and obvious miracles. We don’t hear much about the subtleties of God’s moving. We don’t get much on the “slow and steady wins the race” kind of God activity.
And so all too often we feel left in the lurch by God. We feel like God isn’t doing anything because he isn’t doing anything fast. We assume that if something is little by little then more prayer and more faith will speed up the process. Apparently, that’s not always the case.
And look at why God is planning to do things this way in the promised land with his promised people:
…I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Exodus 23:29
God says he will do it little by little until they are large enough to handle the responsibilities that come with so much land; until they can handle taking care of it.
Sometimes getting an answer to pray in a fast and sweeping fashion would be a punishment more than a blessing. Ever have that “if only I knew then what I know now” feeling when looking at your past experiences? Ever wish you could have a “do over” because you know you are far more capable now than you were then and you know it could work out differently this time?
We would be well served, I think, to pray for more “little by little” gifts from God rather than the constant barrage of “now, now, now!” that often becomes our mantra.
It reminds me of a song we used to sing when I was a kid. It was a good old Music Machine song about a snail:
“Have patience, have patience, don’t be in such a hurry. When you get impatient, you only start to worry. Remember, remember that God is patient too…”
Sometimes the expression of God’s love and power is found in the slow answer to prayer; in the little by little rather than the much and the quickly.