All the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron, and all the people said to them, “We wish we had died in Egypt or in this desert. [Numbers 14:2 (NCV)]
A severely ill 12-year old girl’s wish was to be a singing star and, thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, last Sunday her dream came true. Over a year’s worth of planning went into creating a full concert experience for her. The flashing lights of a police car announced her arrival and, when the professionally made-up, coifed, and gowned star exited her limo, we joined hundreds of others and screamed like adoring fans. While her security team (complete with dark glasses and earpieces) cleared the way, she and her entourage walked down the red carpet to the theater. The crowd cheered, took photos, waved banners and begged for autographs. Once in the theater, backed up by the choir from her school, she sang to an auditorium filled with 300 admiring fans.
While being a pop star is not an unusual wish for a tween, if someone offered to fulfill one wish for you, what would it be? Some of us may have exotic trips on our bucket list. At $76,950, however, that 24-day “Around the World by Private Jet” tour sponsored by National Geographic will probably remain just a fantasy. Others of us might wish to complete a major feat—hike the Appalachian Trail, bike across America, get a book published or have 600 species of birds on our Life List. It certainly isn’t wrong to wish big dreams; after all, wishes often become goals and goals can become reality. Good wishes are ones that center on God and His desires for us: wisdom, peace, spiritual gifts, the coming of God’s kingdom, or the salvation of others. On the other hand, our wishes should never lead us to sin, be for more material goods than needed, harm others, erase what God has already given us or try to circumvent His plan for our lives.
The behavior of the Israelites on their trek to the Promised Land is a perfect example of wrongful wishing. Tired of God’s generous provision of manna and desiring more than necessary, they cried “We want meat!” That wish certainly didn’t turn out well for them. Although they got what they wanted—60 bushels of quail apiece—they also got something extra. Before the quail had been eaten, God sent a plague and thousands died. Unfortunately, the Israelites were slow learners. Ready to enter the Promised Land but afraid of the Canaanites, they expressed their dissatisfaction with God’s plan. “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this desert!” Again, God accommodated them. Over the next forty years, all of those faithless people got exactly what they wanted and died in the desert. Although Moses lived long enough to see Canaan again, only Caleb and Joshua and the Israelites who’d been under twenty at the time of the rebellion entered the Promised Land.
Their experience should teach us to be careful what we wish for—we just might get it!
A prayer in its simplest definition is merely a wish turned Godward. [Phillips Brooks]