“Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over.”Joshua 3:1
A couple years ago, my kids were taking a flight to see my dad in Florida. Papa Chuck had made all the arrangements. I planned ahead, gave us plenty of time to check the one bag for three kids for a week, and stroll to the terminal. Just as we get to the TSA line the overhead comes on. Final boarding for Flight blah, blah, blah to Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
They had just announced the final boarding of my kids flight. I checked the time, check the tickets, checked the time, checked the tickets. Only to uncover we still had an hour til take off.
Shoes off, wallet,keys, phone in hand the overhead comes on again. Same announcement. Same routine…time, tickets, time tickets. Still have 55 minutes.
We bustle through the TSA line. Scanned, patted down, frowned at. Grab shoes and belt with one hand. Hold my pants up with the other and start sprinting down to the gate. Get all three kids boarded on the plane and sit for take off. And sit. And sit.
Finally, after 40 minutes of sitting and three more final boarding calls I ask the attendant at the desk. “What time is this flight taking off?” Her response “as soon as everyone is boarded.”
Welcome to Shittim.
After 40 years of the same shoes and same clothes. 40 years of wandering and waiting. 40 years of deaths in order to move to a new place in life. At the end of 40 years, Israel finds themselves in Shittim. Shittim was a valley plain in the land of Moab.
It becomes tough to tell how long the people of God camped there. It is clear that the wait was long enough for the men of Israel find trouble. They began to “indulge” themselves with the women of Moab and take on their gods as their own. Moab was the place of Moses death. It was also the place from where Joshua repeated the process of Moses sending spies to Jericho to get a report.
Shittim would be the last place the children of God would camp before reaching the Jordan River. If we were to poll the people, I wonder if would have been the place they would have stayed.
To get perspective Shittim only sat a short distance from the river Jordan. Maybe just a few miles. So why pick up camp, move a million people just 3 miles to set up camp again? This would seem to be a logistical nightmare.
Yet, it seems Joshua knew the people had to leave their Shittim behind. Simply because Shittim was short of the promise of God. They people had began to settle short of the promise.
The Jordan crossing seems to gets all the fanfare with the parted waters and people crossing. No doubt God does a miracle to get his people into the promise land. The dry ground, the priests in the middle standing holding the Ark of the Covenant. It is the stuff of Pure Flix movies. But it was what happened after the crossing that was so critical to the people.
Joshua does two things post Jordan crossing: he first builds a memorial to remember what God did at the Jordan. Second Josh renews the covenant between God and God’s people through circumcision. The second even more significant than the first, because it is at that moment the Lord “rolled away the shame of Egypt.”
Even in Shittim, they were still slaves.
Not something I am proud of, but reality of my life. I spent a lot of my life living out of moving boxes. From my earliest memories up to middle school, we were constantly moving. We were not a military family, sort of a ministry family, but most of the moves in the mind of child made little sense. With each move came the opportunity to re-invent myself, but what I found out is that I was same me, not matter where the moving truck stopped.
Each new town came the opportunity to create a new me. Yet, what I found is not matter the location, I was still the same. I fought the internal struggle of identity and acceptance. With every move to the next Shittim of my life, I remained a slave. My identity never changed.
It is funny to me, we can walk out of places of bondage, live in a complete different space, but still see ourselves as the same person. Location does not necessary change perspective on how you see yourself. You can leave Egypt, camp in Shittim and still be see yourself as a slave.
Shame is a powerful emotion. While guilt tells you that you did wrong, shame tells you that who you are is wrong or not enough. Shame researcher Brene Brown defines it this way: shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.
A million people camped in Shittim still caught in Egypt’s shame. Shittim is short of the promise.
The promise was more than a piece of land, though significant. The promise was that God would be there God and they would be his people. At a place called Gilgal, the identity of Israel was no longer that of a slave, but that of his people.
The prophet Micah gave this reminder: Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.”
Your situation may currently be Shittim, but God wants to get you to Gilgal. God has a place of promise for you where your identity is no longer that of a slave of shame but a son.
At the place of promise God rolls away our shame. God renews us in right relationship and places the identity of son and daughter on us. You don’t have to stay in Shittim. Leave your Shittim behind.