When we were in Israel, I asked our tour guide, “in all the places that you go on this tour of the Holy Land, what is your favorite?”
Without thinking, he said, “the desert.”
I find that absolutely profound. This weekend I taught on Deuteronomy 8 which is a reflection of Israel’s time in the desert. While their time in the desert was marked with the hardship of wandering around in a harsh land without a permanent home, it was also marked by God’s provision (8:3,4,15,16).
For the people of Israel the desert was necessary because while “in an instant God can take Israel out of slavery, it’s going to be a process to take the slavery out of Israel”… it was a process in which God’s people became the people of God. There seems to be something about that specific wilderness experience that tested the very things in which the people placed their trust (8:2).
I’ve recently found a lot of encouragement in this passage because it tells me a few things:
- We all will go through a wilderness experience – I think it comes with life. I also think that sometimes these experiences are necessary so that we can grow.
- When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we find ourselves in good company – I need to remind myself from time to time that these experiences are not unique to me, but rather the experience of many faithful characters in the Bible (i.e. Moses, Elijah, David, Job, Jesus, Paul).
- While God’s promise is not necessarily that He will keep us from the wilderness, He does promise to be faithful – I think the desert teaches us something about ourselves and about our faith. One commentator writes, “the wilderness makes or breaks a [person]; it provides strength of will and character. The strength provided by the wilderness, however, was not the strength of self-sufficiency, but the strength that comes from a knowledge of the living God.” – Peter Craigie
- Finally, “remembering” what God has done in the past allows us to take a step into an unknown future – The word “remember” is one of the most powerful words in Scripture because it reminds us of the reality that God has brought us this far, He’s not going to let us down now.
Sometimes when I preach sermons, they are directed right at me. I was talking with my mentor last week and I asked him, “why is God leading me down this road again?”
He responded, “sometimes God leads us back into the wilderness because each time He brings us back, He wants to bring deeper healing.”
I guess since we can’t avoid it and sometimes God might lead us to these desolate places, we might as well enjoy the scenery. It was exactly what I needed and I hope you were encouraged along the way.