You will not clear them away all at once

Deuteronomy has a good word for missionaries. You’re familiar with the setting, the Israelites were finally getting ready to enter the Promised Land after 40 long years.

In part, God said:

“No, do not be afraid of those nations, for the Lord your God is among you, and he is a great and awesome God. The Lord your God will drive those nations out ahead of you little by little. You will not clear them away all at once, otherwise the wild animals would multiply too quickly for you. But the Lord your God will hand them over to you. He will throw them into complete confusion until they are destroyed.” Deuteronomy 7:21-23

The wilderness was an in-between place for the Israelites. No longer in Egypt, God used their time in the desert to prepare them for what’s next. While you might not be in an in-between place right now, this passage contains reminders that are good to revisit.

1. Do not be afraid for the Lord your God is among you. 

God doesn’t start with the details, instead he starts at the deep heart level: do not be afraid. Why does he say not to fear? Not because what you’re facing isn’t scary, it may be very scary! You don’t need to fear because God offers the gift of his presence. You will not be alone.

2. The Lord your God will drive those nations out ahead of you. 

When you’re in an in-between place and getting ready for a new or next stage, it’s good to be reminded that you don’t have to do anything at first. Too often I think I have to go first and then God will come along once he sees that I’m “willing to do my part.” This is backwards.

3. Little by little. 

What? Little by little? What happened to great and awesome? But little by little rings true to my life and ministry. Far more true than the Hollywood version of change where there is one big, life changing moment and then the credits roll. Even for situations that seem more clear cut—I now pronounce you husband and wife, It’s a boy!, Welcome to your new cubicle—they do not, in fact come all at once. Instead they are little by little until deep roots are extended and the change has taken place.

When you enter the new phase, remember that at first, it all may feel overwhelming, unfamiliar, and even slow. But something is happening, little by little.

4. You will not clear them away all at once. 

Isn’t this phrase a relief? When we face an old temptation or think we “should” be further along than we are, God holds the long view in mind.

Why not move faster? (I’m a “faster is better person.”) Otherwise the wild animals would multiply too quickly for you. Who knows what wild animals God is protecting you from I admit that I can grow weary of a slow process, but when I think of the wild animals I am clueless about, I can lean into the slow pace with more gratitude.

This passage ends with two sentences using the word will. It will happen. You will enter a promised land. What is not promised is the how or the timing

If you’re in an in between phase, may these four reminders prepare you for the time after the in-between:

—God will be with you in the new unknown.
—God will go before you.
—The process in the new phase most likely will be little by little.
—The process may be slower than you would like.

What other scripture passages have helped prepare for what’s next when you are in a waiting phase?

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Amy Young

Life enthusiast. Author. Sports lover. Jesus follower. Equipper of cross-cultural worker. Amy is the founder of Global Trellis, co-founder of Velvet Ashes, hosts reading challenges at The Messy Middle, and is the author of five books (Looming TransitionsLove, AmyEnjoying NewslettersGetting Started, and Connected.)

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