Often, as I feel dry and distant or frustrated with myself or current situations, I consider these times as "desert" experiences. This is both a vivid metaphor and a reality in terms of this walk with Christ. Well, I have always been intrigued by what God does in these desert times, and I was reminded again through a look at the Israelites in the wilderness on Sunday...thanks, Dad!
First, God doesn't always take the shortest path. Exodus 13:17-18 shows us that though there was a quicker way to the Land of Milk and Honey--the land promised to the Israelites--it was not best for the people. I am really taking this lesson to heart as I wait at least four "extra" months before heading to Hungary. I wanted the shortest path, the quickest way to Budapest: raise support in a week, enjoy training in the summer, head out in August. Instead, I am waiting to raise support at the request of my missions agency, attending another training in September, then facing the wonderful and difficult task of Ministry Partner Development. God has other plans, better plans, though I can't see the benefits yet and may never see them in this life. This lesson links directly into the second lesson from the desert.
Second, God provides at just the right time. Exodus 16:4-5 explains God's care for the Children of Israel as well as His testing of them. As the Father led them into the desert--even as they wandered because of disobedience--He provided food each day in the form of manna or "what is it?" from the sky. They were to gather only enough for that day. Any more and it would rot before tomorrow. On Fridays, they were to gather enough for two days in order to have sustenance and rest for the Sabbath. Some people, accustomed to getting manna each day, did not gather twice as much, and they were hungry. There is much more to this lesson, but the bottom line is that if we trust and obey in the desert time, God will supply at just the right time. If I grasp for resources ahead of His plan or through the wrong means, it will "rot" or do me no good. If I take advantage of His provision and do not work as I should, I will "go hungry", not Hungary. (Okay, bad pun.)
The third lesson is that HOW God leads testifies to the world at large. This is not hard to believe since I spoke of this concept on July 16 from Joshua 1 and 2. Rehab and all of Jericho knew that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the God of Heaven and earth because they had heard of what He had done for His people! In Numbers 14:14, news of the goodness of God and how He met with and cared for His people spread throughout the land. In the same way, how God chooses to execute His plan and meet my needs will spread and He will get glory for His good work. If I got the easy way, I probably--and unfortunately--would not speak of it as much.
Finally, I must not forget that God is watching over us through it all. I get to peek behind the curtain, if you will, and see the wizard. Through Scripture, I get the hindsight to see that God was with His people through it all. He has a marvelous plan that began before the creation of the world, continued through the desert times of Abraham, of Moses and the Israelites, of Jesus, was finished on the cross as God accepted Christ's righteousness for unrighteous people, and will be made known completely in glory when all things are brought under One Head. God has cared for and watched over His loved creation through it all. "The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:24 I am not alone in these desert times. Thank you, Lord.
P.S. "Dad" is Wes, teaching pastor at Community Bible Fellowship