On the face of it, this seems a strange couple of verses. These three places all held special significance for the people of Israel, as they were sacred landmarks in their spiritual journey.
Bethel was where Jacob had a life-changing dream, and made a vow to God. Gilgal was where the Israelites camped after God miraculously parted the Jordan River and they finally stepped into the Promised Land. Beersheba was where Isaac dug a well and built an altar. All were places where God met His people and did the miraculous. All were places that carried wonderful memories of the power of God. All were places that the people of Israel would be tempted to revisit, to pilgrimage to and remind themselves of all that God had done.
So what could possibly be so wrong that God should specifically tell them not to go there to seek Him? The answer is actually very simple. We won’t find God in the past, not even our own past experiences of God’s power. When God revealed to Moses His name, it wasn’t ‘the Great I Was’, but ‘the Great I Am’. The danger that we can face is to rely on past blessings and victories, instead of moving on.
The failure to move on from past blessings is not just confined to the spiritual realm. The business world is littered with famous companies that refused to change, adapt and refocus. Many of us can remember Blockbuster, Kodak, Polaroid and Woolworths, all once at the forefront of their fields, and now gone, stores closed, staff dismissed, because they thought the past would be their present and future.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t remember past blessings, and times where God did miraculous things in our lives. They are milestones in our Christian life. However, milestones are not places to set up camp and stay near; not places we keep revisiting because the present or future seems too uncertain.
In Psalm 46:1, the Psalmist says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” He is ‘ever-present’. When we cling too tightly to what God did last, we can often miss what God wants us to do next. He is at work in our lives right here, right now. He is always doing something new. The memories of past blessings should not be to lock us into the past, but to remind us of God’s faithfulness, so that we can trust Him, and use them as a springboard for the future.
When I first ran a 200m race at school, I was so surprised at being ahead of the others that I kept looking back. The coach told me that I couldn’t keep doing that or I would never run to my full potential. I applied that in my next race and ran much faster than before. I stopped focussing on what was behind and concentrated on the finishing line, exactly what Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13-14. ‘Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus’. So the word for you today is press ahead!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for Your many past blessings. I rejoice in Your faithfulness and goodness to me. Thank You for reminding me today that I need to press ahead, to step out into new things, knowing that You go before me and walk beside me. I turn my attention now to what You are showing me and leading me into. I ask You to help me to be ready to change, adapt and refocus. Amen.