Monday, July 25, 2016

Lessons from the Wilderness :: The Final Chapter

Welcome back to my wilderness story. If you are just joining us, you can catch part one here, and part two here. If you're in the middle of the valley - in the wilderness - I pray that the story He is building in me gives you hope for today!

Let's do a quick recap - we've discussed what a wilderness season might look like in your life. We've seen how the Isrealites (like myself) tend to turn back to Egypt while walking through the dry seasons. Today we are going to end with the HOPE that comes from deciding to stop turning around when it gets hard, but keep going!

Today we are going to pick up in Isaiah right after God tells the people He will break them like a potter's jar where not one shard will be recognizable. (Isaiah 30:12-14)

"For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said: 
In repentance and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength.”
But you were not willing,
And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses,”
Therefore you shall flee!" (Isaiah 30:15, 16)

Did you catch that???? Repentance and rest will be our saving grace. Our strength will come from quietness and trusting in Him. I had not been willing! So often I am not willing, y'all.

This has me thinking, why is rest and quiet so hard? Perhaps it's because I idolize busy. People who are busy seem to be important or at least have a lot to offer. I tend to think I need to say yes to everything because that might make me a “good Christian”, anybody there with me? I don’t trust Him to choose the best for us, so I choose all of the good things, hoping one might be the best thing. But then when the BEST thing finally comes along, I don’t have time - or I can’t even hear the call because my mind is cluttered and chaotic.

Verse 18.

“Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound o four cry; when he hears it, He will answer you. Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, our Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left. And you will defile your graven images overlaid with silver and your molten images plated with gold. You will scatter them as an impure things and say to them, “Be gone!”

Reading this passage is like taking a deep exhale, right? If you find yourself in this wilderness season of life, looking back toward Egypt - please feel this message of hope today.

This has become my promised land, y’all. I want so badly to hear a voice behind me saying, “this is the way, walk in it.” This is my ultimate goal.This is purpose.

But what is required from me to accomplish that? Repentance. Rest. Quietness & Trust.

God wants my compassion, my obedience, my trust… not just my sacrifice. He wants my heart, not my check in the box. He desires me to, like Mary, choose the better part - Him.

He doesn’t need our service. He simply wants us.

The wilderness is our opportunity - welcomed or not - to be still before Him. It’s our chance to press into Him, to depend on Him ALONE. It is the place He brings us to so we have no other choice. Think about all of the miracles that the Israelites saw because of the wilderness:

The parting of the Red Sea which included walking on DRY LAND and the drowning of all of Pharoah’s chariots, horses and men.

Being led by a pillar of fire and a cloud.

Bread raining from heaven. (Can we stop right there and talk about this? Eventually they begin complaining about the bread and begging for quail. Who, in their right mind, would ever complain about eating bread every single day???? I WISH I could eat bread that rained from heaven every day, y’all. They’re crazy!!!)

Sweet water from a rock.

The supernatural writing of the ten commandments.

And that's just a few.

Miracles, y’all. Because of the wilderness, not just in spite of the wilderness.

Did you know that most scholars suggest that the journey from Egypt to Canaan was 30 days - at most?!

Exodus 13: 17 says “Now when Pharaoh had led the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, ‘The people might change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’ Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea”. (Emphasis mine).

God saw that they might change their minds when they see war! So he took them through the wilderness to protect them both mentally and physically. His desire wasn't to slow them down, but to build up their faith, preparing them for the war that was definitely coming, but in His timing which, unfortunately, is often not ours. 

In other words, He taught them things in the wilderness that He wouldn’t have been able to if they had simply gone from point A to point B. If we went straight from mountaintop to mountaintop there wouldn’t be much time for reflection, gratitude or refinement. But for some reason, I still find myself fighting the valley between instead of embracing it. Do you?

I have found that it takes a lot of discipline to be still and yield to the unwanted seasons of life. It takes a lot of faith to hang on and believe that God will do what He says He will. We are not alone in that struggle. Even after building up the Israelites' faith in the wilderness, only 2 out of 12 leaders ended up believing that God would do what He said that He would. Only two, y’all.

We have to remember that the wilderness wasn't the consequence. WANDERING in the wilderness was the consequence. The wilderness was the way taken out of protection, provision and preparation - all in Gods sovereignty.

We fight the wilderness like it is somewhere we shouldn't be. But God takes us that way to show us miracles that we otherwise wouldn't see. To still our hearts and provide for us the BEST parts of Himself. To prepare us to trust Him when we get to the banks of the Jordan when we can't see any way through, around or across.

The Israelites could have avoided 40 YEARS wandering around if they would have just trusted God to come through on His promises. If they would have simply remembered all that he had done for them and promised to do for them, they might have avoided it all. They gave up forty years in a land of milk and honey because they put God in a box and said that this fight was too big for Him.

So what is up ahead for you? What do you need to believe Him for today? What thing seems impossible for Him - the thing that you wonder if He even remembers you are waiting on?

Turn back to that page between the Old Testament and the New Testament and grab hold of it tightly.

Do you feel forgotten? Do you feel lonely? Do you seek God but feel silence? Think about those 400 years of silence and what that must have felt like. How dark and deserted it must have been. Perhaps that is how you're feeling now. Let the weight of that sink in for just a moment.

Now turn the page to Matthew 1:1.

“Now here is the genealogy  of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.”

Not only did He show up, He gave them JESUS.

He always shows up.

He showed up for the Israelites time and time again. Even in the wilderness, even in their disobedience, even in their complaining. He showed up. Even after 400 years of silence, when they felt like they had been completely abandoned and forgotten. He showed up and He sent the Messiah! That was a wait worth having!

“For the Lord your God has blessed you in all that you have done; He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord you God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing.Deuteronomy 2:7 (emphasis mine)

We have not lacked one thing.

Even in the wilderness.

If you are in the wilderness with me today, let us all take time to look for the Manna that is raining from Heaven. We can decide to keep our focus on the promises, not just the Promised Land. Let's intentionally remember what He has done and is doing in the waiting.

It won’t be easy, but God never promises easy, does He? Or quick timing.

"Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
“Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert. " (Isaiah 43:18,19)

Will you not BE AWARE OF IT?

I guarantee He’s showing up if you just look for His faithfulness. Trust Him to do it. To walk with you. To guide you. To be that sometimes still and small voice behind you saying THIS is the WAY.  

But we must be aware of it. 

What is your wilderness story? What is He doing for you in the deserted and dry places of your life? I pray that if you find yourself covered with the dust of the wilderness journey, that you'll find hope in His words today. Praying that we each walk well... baby step by baby step today. Thank you for allowing me to share with you!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your story with such eloquence, honesty, and grace. It ministered to me today and know that I will be praying for you.



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