One of the first gifts my husband gave me was a suitcase. I remember unwrapping it, not knowing what it would be, even though the shape and size should have given it away. He is a pilot, so I suppose a new suitcase is a gift that a pilot’s-wife-to-be should have expected!
While it really was a nice suitcase, I immediately thought it must be my ‘carry-on bag’. It must be what I will put a few extra things in while the majority of my luggage is packed in a larger bag, checked to its final destination and traveling in the cargo compartment of the plane.
This bag was nice, brand new shiny wheels, a cool pull up handle…but it was just so small. The few times I had traveled prior to this, I had always used a bigger suitcase, one that was able to hold whatever I might need. It was easy to pack with a big suitcase. I could throw in anything I might need no matter the weather, no matter the activity, no matter the destination, a big bag could hold it all.
But with a smaller bag, I realized I had to put some thought into what I was taking with me on my journey. With limited space available, each item that went into the bag had to serve a purpose when we arrived at our destination. My packing procedures had to change!
I quickly learned how to pack according to my journey. If I was going somewhere warm, I knew exactly what I could fit in the bag. If I was headed to a cold destination, I had a specific list for that as well. There is no room for unnecessary items on the journey, so only what works for the destination is permitted in the carry-on!
When you don’t have a lot of room to carry extra baggage, you learn to pack your bag according to your journey.
Now that works when you know where you are going. When the route has been determined and disclosed, packing the carry-on is a piece of cake!
But when you don’t know where your journey will take you, when you don’t know if the road is smooth or rocky, if the temperature is hot or cold, if the climate is wet or dry, if the journey is uphill or down, packing a small bag is a bigger challenge.
What do you pack when you are not sure where your journey will take you?
Miriam was a woman on a journey. She had heard for years that the place where she had lived all of her life would not be her people’s final destination. She had heard for years that God was going to send a deliverer to save His people from the slavery they suffered under the hand of Pharaoh.
In Exodus 14, we read of the moment that God’s people in Egypt had anticipated for almost 400 years. After multiple warnings, plagues and a final heartache, Pharaoh told the people of Israel to get out, and get out NOW.
In Exodus 14 we see God also told them that their deliverance was close at hand. They would soon be leaving Egypt and they were to be prepared to leave in haste. They were to eat the first Passover meal that night ready to go, their robes tucked up in their belts and their shoes on their feet.
It was time for God’s people to be delivered and this was going to be the journey of a lifetime. They knew God was taking them to their next destination, but they had no idea of the journey ahead.
It was time to start packing.
But what do you pack for a journey when you are not sure where the road will take you?
We could come up with a hundred things we need to carry with us on our uncertain journeys in life. Each one might be useful for a day, or a minute, maybe for a specific circumstance or event. But Miriam knew there was one thing she would not leave Egypt without. There was one thing she knew she would need during the journey and at her destination, regardless of where it led, regardless of how she got there. There was one more thing she needed to pack.
Miriam packed her tambourine.
In Exodus 14 we find God’s people at the Red Sea. The Egyptians were chasing them from behind and the waters of the Red Sea were high in front. God’s people found themselves in a situation that looked impossible. If they didn’t die at the hands of the enemy, they would die in the waters of the Red Sea. Miraculously, God intervened. The waters of the Red Sea parted, God’s people walked through on dry ground and the enemy that had been chasing them was destroyed as the waters closed all around them. God had delivered His people AND defeated their enemy. They were on the other side of the river, on their way to their promise. They had no idea how they would get there or when, but God had split the sea.
And on the other side of their miracle, Miriam opened up her bag. God had delivered His people. God had destroyed their enemy. And with a song and dance…
‘…Miriam, the prophetess took out her tambourine….’ (Exodus 15:20)
Tambourines were used for one thing in the Word of God. They were used to praise! Miriam KNEW she would praise the Lord on this journey. She packed that tambourine fully confident that she would see the goodness of the Lord!
Think about it. Miriam packed a tambourine in her bag BEFORE the journey began. She packed her tambourine when she was still in her bondage, still in her chains, BEFORE she saw the answer to her prayers. She packed her tambourine before she knew what the outcome would be. Without knowing exactly where she was headed or how she would get there, she knew there would be a reason for praise and she was going to be ready!
When she got to the Red Sea and saw the enemy behind her, I wonder if she said, ‘God, I trust You, I am facing the challenge…but I have got my tambourine. There will be a reason to praise!’
When she walked through the water on dry land, perhaps in her heart she said, ‘GOD! I trust YOU! I am going through it…and I have got my tambourine! I KNOW there will be a reason to praise!’
And when she got to the other side of the challenge, in a place where she was now free, I am sure she boldly prayed out loud to the One Who set her free, ‘GOD, I TRUST YOU….I am on the other side! I HAVE GOT MY TAMBOURINE!! The road ahead is still unknown, but I am now free! I HAVE A REASON TO PRAISE!!’
On the other side of the sea, with a tambourine in her hand and a song in her heart, Miriam, a slave set free, danced before the Lord! All the women around her joined her in the song!
The road ahead was still unknown, but Miriam danced before the Lord! He had gotten her through the challenge, He was worthy of praise, and no matter where He led them now, she would always be ready to praise!
Are you, like Miriam, on an unexpected journey? Has the journey has been tougher than you thought? Maybe you anticipated this journey but you never thought this chapter, this scene, would be part of your story.
Maybe you see an enemy behind you and a challenge ahead.
Or maybe you have made it through the waters and you are out on the other side!
At every stage of our journey, there is always a reason to praise our God! Like Miriam, praise Him for Who He is and for what He has done. Anticipate victory and walk according to His promises. Trust the One Who is always faithful to see you through.
And when it comes time to step out again into the next part of your journey, when it is time again to pack your bag, get out your carry-on, put in what is required for your journey
…and don’t forget your tambourine!