There's a scene at the beginning of Kung Fu Panda where Oogway the turtle has a vision of Tai Lung (the bad guy) escaping from prison.  When he relates this vision to Shifu, his former-student-turned-Kung-Fu-master, Shifu immediately sends a messenger goose to double the guard at the prison.  At this point, Oogway turns and says in a low voice that none but the audience can hear, "One often finds one's destiny on the road he takes to avoid it." This is of course what happens.  It is a feather from that messenger goose that Tai Lung eventually uses to escape the prison.

I get the same sense of ironic destiny from the people of Israel as they are leaving Egypt heading toward their encounter with God in the wilderness.  At one point in Exodus chapter 14, just moments before they will witness what still stands as one of the greatest wonders that God has ever wrought in the view of human beings - the parting of the Red Sea - and just days after God has brought wondrous plagues on the Egyptians while sparing the Hebrews, the Israelites actually have the gall to ask, "Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?" (Exodus 14:11)

Well, if they didn't want to die in the wilderness, they are sure going about it in the wrong way!  I don't think that I would want to mess with the God who could rain hundred-pound-hailstones on His enemies, turn a river to blood, or supernaturally kill every firstborn son of every family of the strongest nation on earth in a single night.  But this is exactly what the Israelites do over and over again during the Exodus: they complain against God's leadership.  They show their unbelievable capacity for faithlessness at every turn.  They complain about no food, they complain about the food they're given, they complain about stinky water, they complain about Moses and Aaron.  And one time, when Moses is gone for about a month - while they are standing in full view of a mountain on fire with God's glory - they decide they will make their own god to replace the one that they haven't heard from in a few days.

They are so terrified of dying in the wilderness that, ultimately, that becomes their fate.  God was bringing them to a land that was unbelievably fruitful.  The land was inhabited and they were to dispossess the inhabitants, the result being that they wouldn't even have to build houses or cities for themselves.  The only thing they had to do was trust their God to fight for them.  This He had already done right in front of their faces time and time again.  He completely broke the back of the Egyptians and allowed His people to plunder them on their way out.  If that wasn't enough, He drowned the entire military might of Egypt in the heart of the Red Sea.  God had conquered the greatest kingdom on earth and His people hadn't even lifted a finger.

But when they came to Kadesh-barnea and the spies saw the physical might of those whom they were to dispossess, Israel was once again faithless.  God promised them that He would fight their enemies, but they couldn't imagine themselves fighting the giants of the land and winning.  It seems that this was their problem all along.  They never considered what God would be able to do in their circumstances, they just looked to blame Him when they found themselves in a tough situation.  They never seemed to get it that the tough situations were there so that they could see the glory of God displayed and so that they could emerge victorious and stronger than before on the other side.

So, God finally gave them what they had so long feared and sought to avoid: death in the wilderness.  Kadesh was the last straw.  What would follow was to be a forty-year funeral where all the faithless were to be buried in the sands of the wilderness.

This leads me to wonder: how do I face tough situations?  Does my mind jump first to a complaining question, "Why, God, have you brought this on me?" or to a hopeful expectation, "I can't wait to see how you're going to gloriously show yourself in this!"?

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)