Tag Archives: desert

Let’s Go Back

After spending 430 years in Egypt, the Israelites were finally freed — and one of the first things they did was complain and ask to go back to Egypt.

Then they spent 40 years in the desert. When they finally crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land, one of the first things they did was become discouraged and pine for the desert.

It is human nature to want to stick with what we know and remain in the familiar. But that is not how we grow and not the way of progress.

God often asks us to do the uncomfortable, to take risks, and do what we would rather not do. But it is when we leave behind what is known that real growth can occur; it is when we are outside our comfort zone, depending on God, that our relationship with him deepens.

Yes, we can remain in our own Egypt or own desert, but staying where we don’t belong is being stuck in something less than God’s best plan for us.

When God says to go, do it — and don’t think about going back.

[Numbers 14:3, Joshua 7:5, 7]

Let’s go to Egypt

In earlier posts, I noted that after the Israelites left Egypt, they spent 40 years in the desert before entering the land God promised for them. I also observed that Moses waited 40 years before leading them out of Egypt. This makes for an unnecessary delay of 80 years.

However, why were they in Egypt in the first place?

God told Abram (later called Abraham) to “go to the land I will show you,” which he promised to give to Abram’s offspring. Abram went. His son Isaac and grandson Jacob were born there. Jacob had 12 sons. Joseph, his favorite, ended up in Egypt in a position of power. When a severe famine hit the entire region, Joseph invited his whole family to Egypt, where he had stockpiled plenty of food.

The famine lasted seven years. After which you would think that Jacob’s family would go home. But instead, they stayed in Egypt for 430 years — which God likely did not intend — eventually becoming slaves and suffering greatly. This all could have been avoided had Jacob remembered God’s promise to Abraham and returned to the place God intended them to be.

Instead, they spent 430 years as slaves in Egypt, when they could have been in the Promised Land the whole time.

[Genesis 12:1, 7, Joshua 24:4, Exodus 12:40]

Forty Years – Times Two

The Israelites left Egypt for what should have been an eleven-day trek across the desert to the “promised land.” However, because of their disobedience, God gave them a 40-year timeout in the desert.

This, however, may not have been the first delay. Prior to that, Moses sensed that his place was to rescue his people, but when initial opposition occurred to his leadership, he high-tailed it out of there, only to spend 40 years hiding in the desert. Imagine that. Moses spent a total of 80 years of his life in the desert.

Now Moses’ initial 40-year desert retreat could have been a needed time of preparation, but I think not. God could have worked through him at any time — then or later. I think Moses shirked his initial call. He needed 40 years of alone time, tending to his sheep, before he would be ready to hear God and obey.

So, had Moses not procrastinated for 40 years and had the people of Israel not been disobedient, earning another 40-year delay, they could have arrived in the land God promised them 80 years sooner.

[Numbers 14:33, Acts 7:30]

Bookends to the Desert Experience

After the Israelites left Egypt, God gave them a 40-year timeout in the desert. This was because of their lack of trust in his pledge to provide for them as they entered into the land he promised. This meant that what should have been an eleven day journey, ended up being a 40-year desert experience — which for most, literally lasted a lifetime.

While their desert sojourn was marked by complaining and disobedience, there were a couple of significant bookend events to their time of waiting.

First, they celebrated Passover for the first time just before they left Egypt to head to the desert. Then they celebrate it again, 40 years later after they leave the desert. The first Passover was marked by God’s provision for them to leave Egypt, while the subsequent ones were intended as a reminder of the first.

Second, two miracles occurred, allowing them to enter and later leave the desert. After leaving Egypt, and being pursued by its army, God parted the sea so they could escape attack and enter into the desert. Forty years later, when it was time to leave the desert, God parted the Jordan River — at flood stage — allowing them to leave.

So their desert experience began with Passover and the parting of the sea; it ended with the parting of another body of water and another Passover celebration.

[Leviticus 23, Joshua 5:10, Exodus 14:21, Joshua 4:18]

The Third Time’s a Charm

In Jude’s short letter, he often writes in triads, listing three items or offering three examples.  He does this with such regularity that when he deviates from this in verse 12, I thought I had misread the text.  Consider the following triplets:

  • three actions of God: called, loved, and kept (and if you implicitly see the Holy Spirit in doing the calling, then the Trinity is implied here as well: Holy Spirit, Father, and Jesus); verse 1.
  • three blessings: mercy, peace, and love; verse 2.
  • three historic warnings: leaving Egypt, deserting angels, and Sodom and Gomorrah; verses 5-7.
  • three negative actions: pollute their bodies, reject authority, and slander angels; verse 8.
  • three bad examples: Cain, Balaam, and Korah; verse 11.
  • five negative allusions: shepherds who feed only themselves, clouds without rain, dead autumn trees, wild waves, wandering stars; verse 12.
  • three characteristics of ungodly men in the church: cause division, follow natural instincts, and do not have the Spirit; verse 19.
  • three prescriptions: build up your faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, and stay in God’s love; verses 20-21.
  • three ways to show mercy: help doubters, save others from destruction, and carefully rescue others without being taken down; verse 22.
  • three attributes of God: keeps us from falling, presents us without fault, and has great joy; verse 24.
  • four praises for God: glory, majesty, power, and authority; verse 25.

As someone who also has a propensity of writing in threes, Jude’s style is especially appealing to me.

[read Jude 1]

Demas, the Deserter

Whereas John-Mark had an early collapse and then made a comeback, Demas started strong but ended in failure.

Demas began well.  In Paul’s letter to Philemon, Demas is called a co-worker and in Paul’s letter to the Colossians, Demas sends his greetings.  Clearly he was involved with Paul’s ministry in a helpful and supportive role.

However, in one of Paul’s darker moments, he sadly laments that Demas “loved the world” and “deserted me.”  Despite his one-time standing as a co-laborer of Paul, Demas did not finish well.

Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  Demas first looked back and then he went back, turning his back on Paul, on ministry, and on God.

Unlike John/Mark who started poorly and finished strong, Demas started well and finished poorly.

Looking on our past, we see both successes and failures.  Today we stand at a crossroads.  What will our future look like?  Will we turn our back on our faith like Demas or finish well like John-Mark?

[Philemon 1:24, Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:10, Luke 9:62]

Our Daily Bread

When the Israelites left Egypt, they spent 40 years in the desert before proceeding on to the land God had promised them.  During this time, God miraculously gave them food each day, which they called manna.  All they needed to do was go out in the morning and pick it up off the ground.

What is interesting is that they were told not to stockpile it and save it for the next day (except on the sixth day, when they were to gather enough for the seventh day, as well).  Regardless of how much each person gathered, he or she had enough to eat.  However, if they tried to save some for the next day it would spoil.  [Exodus 16:14-21]

Does this daily provision of food sound a bit familiar?

When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, one of phrases was “Give us today our daily bread.”  [Matthew 6:11 or Luke 11:3]

Of course, for most of us, the daily provision of food is something that we give little thought to.  However, on a spiritual level, we do stand in need of other things on a daily basis.  This might be making God-honoring decisions, using our time wisely, not wasting money and using it for good and not selfish purposes, or making sure we spend time with God.

Regardless of the situation, be our need physical or spiritual, the lesson to be learned is to rely on God for what we need each day.

Rather it be a literal plea or a figurative request, we all need to say, “Give us today our daily bread.”