In 1986, as a young associate of an investment banking firm, I was asked to take some documents – including a very large check – from 2 World Trade Center to 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza. Although I worked for a Wall Street firm, I was 22 years old and I worked in our firm’s Dallas office. This was my first trip to New York. Those who have visited New York before will laugh at what I’m going to say next. It’s okay, I laugh about it now too. I just didn’t know any better at the time. I took a cab. (1 Chase Manhattan Plaza is just a few blocks away on Liberty Street from where the South Tower used to stand at West and Liberty.) It was about 4 PM and I needed to meet our banker from Chase Manhattan by 5. In New York traffic, that trip of about 5 blocks took forever! I will never forget how ignorant I felt when that errand was over. (I should have known by the look on the cab driver’s face how stupid my request must have sounded. The cabbie could have simply pointed me to it from where he sat in his cab. 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza is a 60-story building that literally stood in the shadow of the twin towers. Nevertheless, he was happy to take my money and drive me around downtown a little bit before dropping me off a few blocks away from where I started.)
I recall that story every time I read Deuteronomy 1:2-3. The trip from Mt. Sinai (Horeb) to the southern entrance to the promised land at Kadesh-barnea by way of the Mount Seir Road took 11 days. It took the nation of Israel 40 years! 40 years! Numbers 14 tells us why. The people did not trust the Lord. They grumbled and complained, saying that they wished God would have just let them die in Egypt or in the wilderness rather than face what they believed would be certain death in Canaan (Numbers 14:1-4). Be careful what you ask God for! He granted their request. Every Israelite over 20 years old, except for Joshua and Caleb, would die in the wilderness (Numbers 14:20-35). God is absolutely passionate about one thing – His glory. He had revealed his glory to this generation of Israelites in numerous ways in the rescue from Egypt and the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai, yet they refused to glorify him and trust him. Therefore, he gave them what they wanted and looked to the next generation to declare His glory to future generations.
May we not settle for the status quo of stubbornness and rebellion against God in our time, but declare his glory to our generation and “tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” (Psalm 78:4)