THE WAY OF THE DESERT(Pt. 1)

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom”(Isaiah 35:1)

According to the scriptures, there are some things that can only be gained by way of the desert. For example Israel’s deliverance from Egypt came as they passed through the desert. Actually, it began with God calling a man,Moses, from the backside of the desert.

MOSES IN THE DESERT

Moses found himself on the backside of the desert after he had fallen out of favor with Pharaoh. He had been raised in Pharaoh’s house, being trained and groomed for greatness. But when he had come to maturity he discovered his true identity. He in fact was the son of a Hebrew slave woman. Further, he realized that the people that the Egyptian government was oppressing and mistreating were in fact his people. He took it upon himself to deliver them, killing a cruel Egyptian seen mistreating one of his people. Having killed him, he then buried him in the sand.  This of course was a mistake(Sand dunes don’t hide dead bodies for long!). Word got back to Pharaoh of this and suddenly Moses’ own life was in jeopardy. Hence his flight to the desert where for the next forty years of his life he lived, tending his father in law’s sheep. This was quite a stoop down for Moses, leaving the  mighty prestigious courts of Pharaoh to be left in the desert, with only the troubling memories of what might have been.

But the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not forget Moses while he was so to speak “in dry dock”. The backside of the desert was where God would reveal Himself to Moses and give him his life mission. Out of a burning bush he heard the Angel of the LORD call him by name saying, “Deliver My people, the children of Israel from the house of bondage in Egypt…Bring them out to worship Me on this mountain”(See Exodus 3). Like Moses we must understand that the ultimate purpose of the wilderness experience was not to encounter the burning sands of a bleak desert existence. Rather it was to encounter the burning bush of revelation. Not to endure  the hot desert sun but to know the living flame of God’s love in our hearts. Like Moses we must learn through humility it only takes a spark of God’s love and power to get a fire going.  In the mystery of God’s ways we discover  that He can use any “shrub of a bush” that is available for His all consuming fire.

ISRAEL IN THE DESERT

God used Moses to lead His people out of Egypt through the Red Sea and into the wilderness. In this place they too, like Moses, were given further understanding as to their purpose. They were brought to the Mount of God and given a new identity as well as “marching orders” (Exodus 19:3-6 & 31,34).  From this mountain they received several things from LORD God.

(1) An understanding of their new identity. They were called by God to be a special people unto Him, a priestly nation; a blessing to the nations of the earth (Exo. 19:1-3). Peter will take up the language of this new identity in the New Covenant writing, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”(1 Pet. 2:9 NIV).

(2) They were given the Two Tablets of the Law (The Ten Commandments), enumerating God’s relation to them and their relationship to their fellowman. Again, Jesus confirms God’s original intent, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Your neighbor as thyself’ “(Luke 10:27 NIV).

(3) Moses  was also given a token of the LORD God’s manifest glory. This was a foreshadowing of the future, an abiding glory which would rest upon His people. Paul wrote,”We are not like Moses, who veiled his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it (God’s glory) while the radiance was fading away…We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”(2 Co. 3:13,18 NIV).

SHADOW OF GOOD THINGS TO COME

All that Israel went through in the desert was for our instruction(Ro. 15:4).  Their history must be understood as our event as well.  Israel’s journey through the desert was foreshadowing the birthday of a new community (Ekkesia),the Church (Jesus’ Bride) on the Day of Pentecost.(Read Acts 2; Acts 7:38). The wilderness was not to lead them into a place of wandering but into a place of trust and confident hope, ultimately into the Land of promise. 

The desert is not the end but the beginning of goods things to come. God has an end goal in mind for His people. As He said to Moses so He speaks to our hearts saying, “I brought you out of the house of bondage to bring you into the land of promise”(Exodus 3:8?). The way of the desert leads TO the land of your inheritance. Some things can only be gained by way of the desert. You can’t go around this experience you must go through it if you want to get to the other side.

Copyright © Walter Fletcher Jr., 2011. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

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