The glorious ambiance of the Red Sea deliverance is awesome: enjoy it while it lasts. The sea only parts one time! And while we relish in worship at our sin’s passed-over when the blood has been applied, the Christian life moves on to its next challenge.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that you stop singing and shouting about your salvation, nor am I belittling our celebration of the victories our God has won. What is clear, however, is that the Christian life will naturally progress us to the harder challenges of our faith.
For God’s children the way from Egypt to Canaan was via the wilderness. There was no other way for them, nor shall there be any other way for us. You cannot avoid the wilderness! God will turn you towards it. There would seemingly be an easier way, but there is no other way!
When Moses was led by God to make a late turn to encamp before Pihahiroth by the sea, the obvious outcome was that the wilderness had shut them in, for that is certainly what Pharaoh would say (Exodus 14:1-4). However, when you look at the story, as well as the story of our lives, the children were not turned towards the wilderness to be shut in to it; rather, they were turned to it so that they might be shut in with God! There, the Divine Presence awaited them. There, miraculous provision awaited them. There, the glory of God in cloud and pillar of fire would lead them. You cannot avoid the wilderness, because like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, God’s presence precedes you into it!
The wilderness shows up often in the Word of God (289 verses & 1,275 references to be exact) and God’s choicest servants did their time in it! Elijah went to the wilderness after the fire fell from Heaven on Mt. Carmel. Paul was taken to the wilderness after his conversion. John’s ministry was centered in the wilderness where he baptized Jesus before He Himself was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil for 40 days.
As opposed to a cultivated land, a wilderness is a wild field where animals graze and wild beasts live (Joel 1:19-20). It is often an uninhabited place, a land without water, that lies in desolation. It is a place of great need, where is felt a stark need for food and water.
It has been noted that there is a psychology, as well as a geography, to the wilderness, and spiritually speaking, it is a place of isolation and danger. Yet, it proves to be a place of divine deliverance and renewal. No believer loves the wilderness, but the growth we experience in God is without parallel.
This place of distress, doubt, and alienation is where we, like John Baptist, question our faith— and the God of that faith. It is the place where we think that God has forgotten about us, therefore feeling abandoned…where our past efforts are viewed as questionable wastes. It is where we feel unspiritual and unlovable. Should we return to our old life, or move forward in God?
Have you ever experienced a crisis of faith or a form of spiritual depression? Have you ever doubted the promises of God? Have you ever questioned God’s goodness? Have you ever fallen to temptation? Have you ever read your Bible and seen nothing but blank words on lifeless paper? Have you ever prayed and felt the heavens were brass? Have you ever had a dry spiritual season that followed the greatest mountaintop moment of your spiritual life? Welcome to the wilderness!
The Lord who brought us out of Egypt knows that to enjoy the pleasures, peace, and profits of Canaan we must enter the wilderness. There has to be a seven-circuit march arounds the walls of Jericho before they come tumbling down! There has to be a famine in Bethlehem-Judah to prove to doubting mothers that God is able to care of her children! There has to be a Gethsemane! There has to be the death of the Messiah to prove to fledgling disciples that Jesus is everything He said that He is! There has to be a cross before the crown!
Someone suggested that when you accept the fact that dry seasons and difficult times exist, yet God is in control of them both, you will discover a sense of divine refuge, because your hope then is in God and not in yourself. Brother, do not be discouraged: the wilderness is for you!
Why does God choose the wilderness for us?
The children of God would first need to come to know God for who He is, not what they imagined Him to be. Keep in mind they were just coming to know this God. For over 400 years their forefathers lived in the land of Egypt. They had no sacrifice— no temple— no priesthood. What do they know about Jehovah God? Little! The gods of Egypt, which they seemingly knew more, were essentially mean and onerous, but this God was loving and kind. Egyptian gods demanded your death for their pleasure, but this God deemed His Son’s death to be His pleasure for us!
Every single day in the wilderness God provided evidence of His sustaining grace. After having seen the Lord move over each of their homes in approbation to the blood on their lentils, and after having seen the mighty hand of God part the mighty waters of the Sea, one can only imagine what they assumed awaited them on the other side of sweet deliverance! Surely there were trees, lakes, lush vales, teeming forests, and growing gardens! There, they would find built cities, with terraced landscapes, and pleasures a-plenty!
There was nothing there. Few trees. No water. Vast emptiness. The exclamation points of their assumptions of goodness turned quickly into question marks aimed like sharp arrows at the heart of Moses and Aaron. “This is not a place of life! This is a place to die!”
Their assumptions about God quickly changed. Everything thus far had been easy and occurred in moments. Forty-five days later, however, Exodus sixteen declares that this part of their salvation, also known as sanctification, was not so immediate.
Their false assumption was that God was easily predictable and that His love and provision would exceed their expectations! Yet, now, they say, “How can God do this to us? He is not at all what we expected! We don’t want this kind of God! We want a molten calf! We want visible proof! We want a God that we can predict!” What if God’s goodness, grace, and mercy does not come to you in the ways in which you expected it. Would you still say, “God is good!”?
What they were learning, however, is that the wilderness is where you come to know this great God. It is the place where He strips all pretenses and peripheral things away. The wilderness is where all extenuating criteria are removed, and we come to a desperate need of God. If we are to eat, He must provide bread! If we are to drink, He must send forth rivers of water! If we are to walk, He must stretch our shoes and deepen the “souls” of our shoes! If we are to be warmed, His fire must envelope us! If we are to know the way home, we must follow His cloud! If we are to be forgiven, we must seek His tabernacle! If we are to live peaceably with Him, ourselves, and others, we must follow His law!
Even today, people do not go to the city to see the stars; they go to the desert. In a remarkable way you can see Heaven clearer from the desert places, because God removes all of your distractions. Sure, the people will learn much about themselves. They will learn how to properly worship. They will learn how to properly eat and drink. They will learn how to govern, how to marry, how to be intimate, and how to be clean. Yet, all this self-knowledge proceeds from the knowledge of knowing God!
The wilderness is where you find yourself in Him…like Moses and Paul and David and John. Removed from the city life of distractions, there is no place like the wilderness to see Heaven and Him!
Everyone wants worship but few want the wilderness. Learn to sing in the wilderness. Embrace it as your friend. If you learn to be patient and to wait upon the Lord, you will sing upon Zion, too, but do not waste the wilderness. It is your friend—- for there, God for you awaits. Selah.
You are guaranteed to live the rest of your life with someone-- yourself!
Those of us who are married made such a commitment to a special someone, to have and to hold from this day forward, yet the person that we bring to that marriage union is inextricably connected to us for time and eternity. How are you caring for the real you?
John the Beloved spoke unto Gaius, his well beloved friend, and gave him what might be the highest compliment paid in all of the New Testament writings: Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. (III John 2) Gaius had a healthy soul, and John prayed that the other facets of Gaius' life might be as blessed and whole as was his friend in the inner man.
The real you is the offering you will make to God someday: not all of your doing but all of your being! As we plan our days, budget our time, and manage our affairs let us be quite sure to be at peace in the inner man. We are guaranteed to be with this someone for the rest of our days. May the Holy Spirit this day guide us into caring for the needs of our souls!
Written by: Dr. Scott Pauley | www.ScottPauley.org
All over the country young people are returning to school. Our own children start back this week. New beginnings are a wonderful opportunity to set so many things in motion.
Regardless of what school your children are in, parents are always key to the education of their own children. Little things can make a big difference. What can you do to encourage your children to make the most of every day? (Read More)
Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. (James 3:9-10)
Man’s fiery member is a two-edged sword— it can bless or curse. It goes from “amen” to “Oh, man!”…. from ”Glory” to “Gory” in mere minutes! Oh, what a fire this little member kindleth!
Everything we say and do is an act of blessing or cursing. We have all been given the Baptist blessing! Have you ever said, “He just blessed me out!” If you are from the south or have ever visited, you, too, have been blessed. When either you cannot find your way, lose your keys, struggle with your children, or such like, you will inevitably hear, “Bless your heart!” That is not a real blessing— just a kinder form of cursing!
Words. So powerful.
They can crush a heart, or heal it.
They can shame a soul, or liberate it.
They can shatter dreams, or energize them.
They can construct connection, or invite it.
They can create defenses, or melt them.
We have to use words wisely!
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. (Proverbs 18:21). Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24).
Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad. (Proverbs 12:25).
When is the last time we purposefully blessed with our words?
The Apostle Paul was so intentional with his blessing that he transcribed private and personal prayers for his beloved Ephesians, saying in one sentence, Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:15-23)
Blessing occurs when soul meets soul and heart meets heart. Blessings are words spoken from my soul, and they involve my deepest interest in my brother’s well-being. Blessing involves God, because when you hope for the good of another person, you realize that only God is capable of bringing that to pass. So we naturally say, "God bless you.” We are saying, “I am believing that God, who is the source of all blessing, will in these specific ways bless you!”
When thinking of blessing how can we not consider the Lord Jesus Christ? His birth was announced by angels who shouted, Peace on earth, good will toward men! His first sermon was a sermon about blessing. His kingdom is a jurisdiction of blessings!
At meal times He blessed them! Do you remember when the two Emmaus’ Road disciples figured out just who He was? It was when those nail-pierced hands took the bread, as was His custom, and blessed and break it in their sight? Oh, yes, He is a God of blessing!
Jesus tenderly blessed the little ones. The Lord Jesus Christ said, Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:15-16)
And, His final earthly act was to bless them! And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:50-51) Brother, He went out on a blessing, and He is coming back on a blessing! And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (Revelation 22:12)
When is the last time we purposefully blessed with our words like the Lord Jesus did?
The classic passage of blessing is found in Numbers chapter six. After the copious rules of the Nazarite were given, God gave these words to Aaron.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them. (Numbers 6:22-27) emphasis added
Notice three truths regarding this blessing:
the design of the blessing
The design of the blessing is God. It is God imparting to man what he himself cannot earn for himself! It was for His name’s sake (6:27)
Easily outlined into a trinity of truths, each truth speaks powerfully to the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is the author of blessings and the preserver of our lives. The Son is the express image of the Father’s person, bestowing upon us grace and mercy. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, granting us illumination and peace. The blessing is all about God! No wonder James said, Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17)
the deacons of the blessing
Who were the servants of this ministry? The text says, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons. The priests were responsible for this ministry! It was the responsibility of the representatives of God to speak a blessing to the people. Again, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (I Peter 2:5)
It is the responsibility of the believer-priest to speak words of blessing! Our great High Priest walked among us, and He spoke grace! Of this union we have in Jesus, Paul says, Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. (II Corinthians 3:6) We ought to be men of blessing!
the daily requirement of the blessing
Every day after the offering of the morning sacrifice in the Temple, the priest would bless the people. Every. Day. You could set your clock to it— every day, the national hopes and aspirations of the nation of Israel were perched upon the lips of one of the sons of Aaron. The Lord bless thee!
We live in a world under the curse of sin and death. Romans chapter eight declares that even the creation groans in birthing pains until now for the coming of the Redeemer. Dear preacher friend, some of your brethren feel the curse today. The searing pain of congregational loss or inward temptation curses him. The furtive and painful cry of prayers unanswered waft desperately from the lips of our parishioners. The moral failures of men and women lay like cursed dew upon each brow. The addict on the street corner, or the functioning addict on the church pew alike agree— the curse is upon us.
Yet, Jesus Christ God’s precious Son came to be a curse for us, and dying on the tree He took the curse away! As you go about your daily life, please consider the power of blessing!
Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. Greet one another with an holy kiss. All the saints salute you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen. (II Corinthians 13:12-14)