Moses continues his pump up speech by imploring the Israelites, “Should you say to yourselves, ‘these nations are more numerous than we; how can we dispossess them?’ You need have no fear of them. You have but to bear in mind what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and the Egyptians” (Devarim 7:17-18).
Beyond encouraging their faith in God, how is remembering the wondrous acts and miracles God performed in Egypt supposed to help the Israelites conquer the Land?
I think the key lies in what Moses says a few sentences later, “The Lord your God will dislodge those peoples before you little by little” (Devarim 7:22).
God’s miraculousness in Egypt was not that She overwhelmed the power of man, but rather that She did it little by little. God could have easily overcome the Egyptians in one fell swoop. Instead, She showed restraint and sent ten plagues – giving the opportunity for repentance in between each wondrous act. This was more than an opportunity given to the Egyptians, but also a lesson taught to the Israelites.
If we want to overcome that which seems insurmountable, we must take it one step at a time.
One of the most powerful things about taking teens on backpacking trips, is the ‘we did it moment’ upon summiting a peak. Sitting in the valley far below a mere few hours prior, many of the kids despair, feeling that there is no way they could ever reach the top. Yet, as they push themselves and support each other, they set off – one foot after the other. It is amazing how after only fifteen minutes of climbing, they look back and see how far they have come. With the exhilaration of progress, they continue forward and upward. Taking it little by little, the peak steadily draws nearer until eventually they achieve their goal.
Backcountry education is so powerful because, with proper guidance, the lesson of breaking large goals into achievable sections is translated into all aspects of life. In this way, the work we do in the wilderness transcends the physical and enters the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and social spheres of our lives.
Hence Moses urges us to, “remember the entire path that the Lord your God made you travel” (Devarim 8:2). By holding in mind how we made progress little by little, the next time we are ‘sitting in the valley,’ we will not despair. Anguish and distress are replaced with the confidence that, no matter their stature, we will again achieve our goals.
In this way, remembering the exodus from Egypt, by remembering the entire journey, we remember how seemingly insurmountable tasks are easily overcome so long as we focus on moving forward – one step at a time.
I hope we all remember that life’s obstacles are not too great to conquer should we take them little by little. And I pray that life provides us with many mountains – because the view from the top is truly unequaled.