Sunday, April 22, 2012

Desert and Death

Desert and Death
April 23, 2012
Josh 5:4  ". . . All those who came out of Egypt—all the men of military age—died in the wilderness on the way after leaving Egypt."

The Israelites were God's chosen people right from the start.  The Lord put His mark upon the people, making it clear they belonged to Him.  They were His children, and He was their father and God, an entire nation dedicated to Him.  The Israelites first became an actual nation of people while under slavery in Egypt.  You know the Bible story well; shortly after the horrible plagues, Moses led the people out of Egypt, just before wandering in the desert.  And they wandered in that desert for forty years.

Forty years!  Can you imagine wandering around in a desert land, walking circles past the same few mountains time and time again?  They had little change of scenery, the variety of food was almost zero, and there were no vacations or simple luxuries.  There was just sand, sand, and more sand.  They walked and walked, without a plan, a path, or a purpose.  It seemed they were lost out there, destined to wander in a wasteland forever.  But they weren't lost; the Lord was leading them to nowhere.

That's right, the Lord was leading His people out in the desert to NOWHERE.  God did not have a destination in mind; He had a purpose.  It was all part of His master plan.  The Lord was teaching His nation how to follow Him, how to depend upon Him.  The Lord was making His nation into a people that would serve and trust Him.  The desert wasn't a pleasant place; it was a place of discipleship and a place of death.  Throughout the story of the Israelites in the desert there is a word that appears repeatedly.  It is the word "test."  The Lord was testing His children to see if they were the right consistency, to see if they were worthy of being called His children.  The hot desert was a place of refinement for that process and a place of death, to kill off all that wasn't pure, all that wasn't worthy of Him.  Then He would test them again, to see if He had gotten rid of all that was rotten among the Israelites.

The Lord allowed many of the Israelites to die for various reasons; those who came up lacking when weighed in His eyes were often snuffed out.  He wanted an entire nation who could represent Him.  Everyone that didn't represent Him well was killed off.  The Lord put many to death in the desert; they were the parts of the nation that did not bring honor to Him.  It may sound harsh but the Lord gave them their opportunities for spiritual success.  Those who refused to be successful in following Him wholeheartedly were no longer welcomed in His nation of people.  The Lord used the desert as part of His process; death was necessary in the desert.

In the New Testament, the verbiage seems a little bit more appealing for this refinement process.  The Bible uses the word "pruning."  The Lord prunes us into the fruit-bearing vine that He needs us to become, useful for His glory.  But the word for "prune" is no less harsh than what the Lord did to those Israelites in the desert; the word "prune" means to cut off.  This is just as harsh and final as death.  The Lord doesn't just want to get rid of all the things in your life that aren't appealing.  The Lord wants to cut it off, to kill it.  The Lord used the desert and death for the Israelites to get it through their thick heads, all the things He needed them to learn and become.  The Lord will use that same process in your life today.

If you find yourself in a circumstance that seems like a desert, where you are walking in circles, getting nowhere, then it is time for you to get a clue.  It is time to understand the Lord is killing off all that isn't righteous in your life, all that isn't pure.  He is pruning you.  He wants you to be worthy of wearing His name, but you must submit to His process, whatever method He is using to refine you and change you into the man or woman of God that He needs you to become.  The sooner you are refined, the sooner you can leave the desert.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Exodus 16:4, Deut 1:32-33, Deut 13:5, Josh 5:3-5, John 15:1-3

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