When you stay in the desert for several days, as we did while on our recent trip to Egypt and the Sinai Desert, it leaves you with some distinct impressions. I want to write this little short faith lesson separately, because it applies to every desert lesson.
When you go to the desert, at least 2 things hit you quickly. As you step out of the green of the Nile and into the harshness of the desert, the contrast is overwhelming. You want to immediately turn back – the desert is not a place you really want to be. Also, as you get farther into it, you are overwhelmed by the fact that it is everywhere you look. It kind of smothers you, as it is everywhere you look and there is no relief in sight.
The faith lesson is this- we have left the impression, somehow, that when you join the Jesus movement, you get to stay in Egypt. Life is going to be okay, even better now that you are a Christ follower. In fact, if the biblical story is our example, just the opposite happens. We have to leave Egypt, and go to the desert!
We set people up for a faith crisis and a disaster, when we make following Christ like the Garden of Eden, instead of the desert. If we are supposed to be “looking good” and having it all together as Christians, then we have to fake it when the heat from the desert is killing you. We try to leave the impression that we never need help. We’re glad to give help, but we don’t want to ever show ourselves, where we’re actually in need ourselves. The desert puts you in the spot where you are forced to say, “I need help”.
When you think about the nation of Israel, its identity and character are formed from the wilderness. All the founding fathers were desert people, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David, etc. They lived in and were shaped by their environment, the wilderness. God’s people understood the desert. So many biblical images come out of the desert. The desert becomes a picture of our walk through life. As we experientially walk out our life situations, we learn to trust God to take care of us. We have both big ” T” tests, and little “t” tests that are God’s teaching moments where he says “trust me.”. When the heat is intense and trying to consume us and we are wondering how much more we can take, these are the moments where we meet God. These teaching moments change us into people who know we can’t do it on our own strength, that we must have our daily sustenance from God.
You wish you could tell people that if they join the Christian movement that their problems would be less and less until we went to heaven, but that’s not going to happen. Until we go to heaven, the desert experiences are where God meets with us and gets to know us intimately. As we walk it out, we begin to know ourselves more intimately, also, and discover what’s in our heart.
“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.”