Memorial Day, COVID-19, and Numbers Chapter 11

Memorial Day – the solemn day we honor and remember those who wore the uniform and never saw the day they could retire it and enjoy the freedoms they gave their lives to defend.

Memorial Day in the United States is often also associated with the beginning of summer. In 2021, Memorial Day weekend is also associated with the emergence of the nation from the pandemic that started over a year ago and changed our lives is many ways we are still continuing to discover.

As we approach these changes, there are so many thoughts to think, so many feeling to process, so many events to experience. Are we ready to burst out of the stalls into the fresh pastures in front of us, kicking up our heels and celebrating the fresh air? Or are we more timid, needing a bit of a push from a friend to venture out of our safe places, squinting as we encounter the long-lost sunshine?

One common sentiment I have heard expressed over and over is the desire for life to return to normal, and that life would go back to the way it was pre-pandemic. As I consider those thoughts, I have to ask myself what I want or desire at this point in time, and what the Lord may be calling me to be and to do.

As have pondered these thoughts in the days leading up to Memorial Day weekend, I have been drawn to Numbers chapter 11, where the nation of Israel was in the wilderness, on its way to the Promised Land. God was preparing them to be dependent on Him, teaching them humility and gratitude, and meeting their every need.

And yet, the people complained and whined:

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

(Numbers 11:4-6, ESV)

How easy it is to remember the good, and forget the pain and heartache that accompanied it. Yes, there were many good things to eat in Egypt – and they were abundant and free for the taking. But the price that they paid was slavery to the Egyptians, through back-breaking, unending labor and sacrifice of their very lives under the cruel whip of their taskmasters.

Like the ancient Israelites, we also know life under a cruel taskmaster – and it name is sin. But thankfully, the story does not end there. Just as God sent Moses to free the Israelites from the physical tyranny of the Egyptians, God sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to free us from an eternity of separation from Himself, to redeem us and make a way for us.

Does that mean that the road to freedom ahead is easy or without pain?

Not at all.

In fact, Jesus promised that we would have troubles in this life. But He also promised that He has already won the victory and goes before us.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. 
In the world you will have tribulation.
But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

(John 16:33, ESV)

May we remember to be thankful to those who laid down their life for us – the soldiers who died for our freedom, and Jesus, who laid down His life to break the stronghold of sin and offer us freedom of eternal life with God.