How long this drought has been running, I guess, depends on when you started counting. Some say months, others say years, yet some argue for a decade. Even with a decent spring, we in Kansas are still way behind in rain and droughtmonitor.com has us at D1 level meaning a moderate. But many others have it worse. John Erickson, the author of Hank the Cowdog, wrote a fascinating piece for American Cowboy at the beginning of April about the drought as it affects his ranch in Perryton, West Texas.
“I hate this drought—the spirit-killing wind, the dust, the dying things…the land has a way of trimming people down to size. I feel trimmed. But I know it will pass. It always has, and I can’t help loving this poor, wind-thrashed ranch.”
Mr. Erickson has a way with words that challenge and inspire. The bond he has with his ranch, the land, is convey in every word. His words describe in narrative, better than I ever could, how droughts are devastating to ranchers, farmers, and landowners. The parched land pants for water, crying of course would waste water. Yet the rain does not come for days, weeks, months, and even years, but still the ranchers hold on.
As detrimental a physical drought can be to the land, how much greater then is a spiritual drought to the soul. In reading through the books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), Numbers is the book that portrays Israel in the midst of testing, a drought to put it more precisely.
The newness has worn off on their little journey. They left Egypt with the plunder of the Egyptians in the knapsacks (Exodus 12.36). They marched to the sea and with the choice of drowning ahead and slaughter behind, God provided option 3 and they saw God’s work in parting the sea (Ex. 14.21-22). This journey started out with excitement and newness. Everyone was getting along and ready for the next chapter of their lives. One without slavery and bondage.
Once they got going, however, there were a few bumps in the road. They were thirsty (Ex 15.24) and hungry (Ex 16.3). Like a car trip with a million middle schoolers with Moses playing the stress out youth minister in the drivers seat of the largest minivan ever. At the beginning of the trip, as your pulling out of your church or getting on the highway, quarreling is tolerated because the future plan is still new, still fresh. At this stage of the trip, Moses sill has his stuff together. Moses hasn’t yet snapped and he keeps the people moving until they reach Sinai after 3 months of marching.
The book of Numbers starts at the base of Mt. Sinai. The same place where Exodus 19 began. This has turned into the world’s longest potty break a people on the move. But God has been at work in Moses and the people giving them the law, building the tabernacle, and preparing them for their future home at the end of this journey. God is still leading them by cloud and pillar of fire (Ex. 40.36-38), its just that He wasn’t going anywhere. After 9 months at the base of the mountain, the cloud lifted and they set out (Num. 10.11) and headed toward the Promised Land. A few set backs, but the trip is still going well.
But when the spies are sent out, the trip takes a sour turn. In Numbers 13, spies are sent out from the Desert of Paran and after looking over the land, came back with a disasterous and sinful report. They don’t think they can take the land. The people rebel because now their whole trip has been worthless, like Family Vacation when Wally World is closed. God is furious to the point that he just wants to strike them all down (Num. 14.10-12). God instead chooses (after talking it over with Moses [14.13-19]) to have the Hebrews wander the desert for 40 years as punishment (Num.14.29-35). That’s how many more renditions of father Abraham?
For the next 40 years, the Hebrews would complain, argue, quarrel, disobey, and fall by disease. Their lives for 40 years would be the long drought spiritually. The word used best for this time of testing, this drought, would be “complaining” (Complaints during the life of Moses). They complained to God, to Moses, to Aaron and to each other. Each time revealing the severity of the drought they were living through.
The Hebrews were in their drought because of their sin. Others experience drought because of others sin. Still others because of circumstances of life connected to Adam’s sin. One way or another we will experience a drought.
In the midst of a drought there is little that can be done. We cant produce rain, can’t make water from where there is none. But we can wait, hope, and persevere. Erickson writes about his attitude toward the drought:
“I know it will pass. It always has…I wont quit, Im too stubborn. It runs in the family.”
John has relegated himself to waiting and hoping. The Hebrews were responsible for bringing on this drought…and now the book of Numbers would be their story of waiting and hoping.
Maybe you know someone in the midst of a drought? Maybe its you? My spiritual drought is still very real. There are times when it feels like years since I connected to God so well that my thoughts were in line with His. Sometimes it feels so long ago that I don’t remember what it feels like to have the Spirit guide my steps. I, like the Hebrews and John Erickson, am waiting, hoping, and trying to persevere. Let your rain come, Lord God, let it come!