Sometimes, we feel like we’re in a wilderness – and we can’t get out of it!
The first half of the book of Exodus tells of the deliverance of the people of Israel from their time of bondage in the land of Egypt.
Things were looking up! Surely, there were better days ahead for them. Nothing could be as bad as slavery. So they thought!
Then, there was the wilderness – and it went on and on … for years … forty years!
Did they have any idea that their time in the wilderness would last for forty years?
Was there no end to this wilderness?
They had heard about the promised land – but they were not there yet.
There was nothing but wilderness … wilderness … wilderness …
There seemed to be no end in sight.
Were they getting closer to the promised land? or Were they just lost in the wilderness – with no idea where they were going and no way of knowing how they were going to get to the promised land?
Sometimes, we can feel like the people of Israel. We wonder if there’s any way out of the wilderness.
Sometimes, our time in the wilderness seems to go on and on and on …
Really? – The people of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years!
For almost all of Israel’s older generation (including their leader, Moses), there was no way out of the wilderness. Of the older generation, only Caleb and Joshua received the blessing of entering the promised land.
When Joshua led the younger generation into the promised land, was life any easier than it had been in the wilderness?
In the wilderness, there had been hard times. In the promised land, there were many battles to be fought.
What are we to do when we feel that our heads are going down?
Here are a few thoughts from the Old Testament books, which tell us about Israel’s journey from the land of slavery to the land of blessing.
“The Lord is my strength and song, and he has become my salvation” (Exodus 15:2).
When we become deeply aware of our own weakness, we look to the Lord and we find that our true strength is in him.
When we don’t feel like singing, he gives us a song to sing. It’s the song of salvation. It’s not a song that tells us to “always look on the bright side of life.” When we can’t see the bright side of life, we need something more than this. We need the Good News that God loves us, the Good News that tells us that the Lord has done great things for us, the Good News that creates in us ths song of praise, which says, “To God be the glory!”
When we move into the book of Leviticus, we find, as early as the fourth verse of the first chapter a word that is rich in meaning. It is the word, “atonement.” This word points us forward to Jesus Christ, “the Lam of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). When we’re going through a hard time, let us remember that Jesus was crucified for us – and let us, also, remember that he was raised from the dead for us. When we feel like everything is getting too much for us, may the bright shining light of Christ’s resurrection lead us to say, from the heart, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
From the book of Leviticus, we move on to the book of Numbers, where we find these wonderful words: “The Lord bless you and keep you” (6:24). There are many times when we don’t feel very blessed. These are the times when we need to be reminded of God’s love for us. God keeps on loving us in the hard times as well as the happy times.
Moving on into the book of Deuteronomy, we learn that we are to “live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (8:3). As we travel through the wilderness of our life, we are not left to live in our own strength. We receive strength from the Word of the Lord. Let us listen to the Word of the Lord. Let us read the Word of the Lord. Let us study the Word of the Lord. Let us build our lives on the Word of the Lord. The wilderness will not seem such a terrifying place when we’re “letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly” (Colossians 3:16).
The book of Joshua takes us beyond the wilderness. It takes us into the promised land. It may have been the promised land – but it wasn’t heaven on earth. There were battles to be fought. There were victories to be won. In the opening chapter of Joshua, there are some wonderful words of encouragement: ““Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (verses 7-9).
Where does our strength and courage come from? It comes from the Word of the Lord. We feed upon the Word of the Lord, and we grow strong. We feed upon the Word of the Lord, and we receive the courage that we need to step into the future, trusting in the promise of God: “the Lord your God will be with you” – in the bad times as well as the good times.