Through the Desert Week 2: What’s In Our Desert

desert 2Have you ever moved? Who am I kidding, of course you have. My family’s moved several times, and it always works the same way. We get the keys to the new place, move everything in, and assess which boxes need to be unpacked right away vs what can wait until later. (And yes, if we’re honest, a year or two can pass until the last few boxes are unpacked.) A few days of putting the immediate needs away, and we’re in the car, driving around the neighborhood to see where the nearest pizza place, grocery store, and gas station are.

Now imagine you’re an Israelite. You’ve just moved from Egypt, where things were less than ideal. You were enslaved, mistreated, abused, and your offspring has had a death warrant. You hitch your wagon up to a man named Moses, who, with his God, promised to free you from all of this and bring you to the Promised Land, where you would want for nothing! Now you’re here, with Moses. Not quite in the PL, but pretty close, right? You’ve wandered through the wilderness already, doubled back, and now are trapped! Miraculously, you’re able to cross the Red Sea, which split wide open so you could hurry across, Egyptians in chariots hot on your heels. But the Sea is closed up, and now you look around and what do you see?
A whole lotta’ nothing. The first thing in their desert was nothing! No promised land, no place of refuge. There is no opportunity for them to hop in the car and find the nearest refueling station, pizza place, or grocery store. To one direction, there was the sea. To another, barren desert wilderness, and further in, barren mountainous wilderness. Three days of walking without food or water led them to Marah, where the only source of water was bitter!
And it’s here we find the second thing in their desert: grumbling and complaining.

24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” (Exodus 15:24)

Moses wasn’t sure what to do, so he sought God, who in loving mercy for the entire people group, came to his rescue, and brings us the third thing we find in the desert: Blessings!

“…the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink. There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test.(BS) 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep(BT) all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” 27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.”

Have you ever had a rough month? Not just in sales, but in life in general? Where you look around, and see a place that doesn’t look at all like you imagined it would. You struggle for a while, and send prayers that sound a lot like complaining, up to God. He answers with a blessing that we don’t even deserve, it’s just a gift, but soon, it seems like we’re back right where we started!
These Israelites did just what we would do – they filled up on thirst-quenching water and blessings, and headed on their way. They were still in the desert, of course, but they knew they had to keep going, and felt that everything was better. Unfortunately, the cycle had just started, and in their travels, we find a fourth thing in the desert: forgetfulness. Exodus 16 tells us:

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Weren’t these the same people who’d just witnessed miracles? Didn’t God just open a sea for them so they could walk away from the very people who wanted to kill them? And didn’t God just make bitter water clean? Where was their thankfulness? Not only had the people forgotten what God had done for them, they doubted His provision, doubted His plan, and desired an empty life of immediate self-gratification rather than patiently waiting for the next step in their mission. It doesn’t sound at all like anyone we know, does it?

But it is here, in this moment, that God sends down an amazing blessing and miracle every single day. 

It rains food. 

11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”
13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lordhas commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer (*about 9 cups) for each person you have in your tent.’” 17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. 19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”

20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.

And that’s where we find the fifth thing in the desert: half-hearted obedience, tinged with provisional doubt. You see, God promised them each morning, he would provide for them. Every single morning. Every single evening. But they had to do something in return for His provision – have faith that He would provide every day. If they gathered more than they needed for ONE day, it would spoil. But there were still those who didn’t believe! No doubt some of them felt God wouldn’t provide, while some of them just plain didn’t listen to the entire command from The Lord. 

27 Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. 28 Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? 29 Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.”

Now I know that’s not the case with you and I, right? We would never hear the first part of God’s commands for us, and run off to take immediate action while God’s still giving the rest of the direction, now would we? We would never take matters into our own hands, assuming we already know the rest of the plan while God is still telling it to us… or would we?

Have you ever truly thought about who really provides your business with manna? Is it your company? Is it your leads? Is it your advertising, your personal practices, your contacts? Or is it God that needs the credit for helping your business flourish? Here’s an even harder question: whom are you praising instead of God?

For the Israelites, they still hadn’t learned that God would provide for them. Another leg of the trip led them to Rephidim to camp, but there was no water there. God had provided for them before, so the camp as a whole, got together to praise God for his past provisions, and to ask for His blessings again! Oh wait, that didn’t happen, did it? Here’s what happened instead:

So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

It’s déjà vu, all over again. Not only were they displaying a lack of faith that God would provide, but they were still looking to Moses as their provider, not God! Yes, Moses was God’s chosen leader for them. But when they came to Moses, they demanded that Moses give them water, and food. They demanded that Moses lead them out. never did they recognize that it was God! They would continue the cycle – grumbling, blessings, forgetfulness… grumbling, blessings, forgetfulness for forty years! A trip that shouldn’t have taken but a few weeks went on for so long because of the Israelites.

The last thing in the desert – the very last thing, but the most important of all – the last thing in the desert with the Israelites? It was God! You see, when they started their journey, God promised to go with them.

21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13: 21-22)

20 “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. (Exodus 23:20)

During their quarrels, their provisions, miracles, forgetfulness, grumblings, half-hearted obedience, complete disobedience, and blessings, God was there all along!  God never gave up on the Israelites. The eyes of the people were never on HIM though, their eyes were on themselves, on Moses, and on their circumstances. How sobering. This entire time, the pillars had been there. The angel had been there. The burning bush, smoke and fire… it was all there, and still the Israelites doubted God’s plan for them!

In your desert, you can look around and see a whole lot of nothing. You may want to turn back, you may even forget that God rescued your business last month, when all you see this month is an empty calendar while everyone else walks off into their personal promised land.

But remember, if God is a part of your life, He is a part of your business too! Rather than look around for Moses and everyone else to rescue you, look to the only One who can, and realize that just like He was with the Israelites, He is in your desert with you too! God brought you here on purpose – for something better! We are just like those Israelites – hanging out in the desert with our friends named Forgetfulness, Grumbling, Half-hearted obedience, and complete Disobedience! Stop. Take a breath. Look around your desert. Block out grumbling, block out disobedience, block out forgetfulness.

Instead, see the desert as God intended. Recognize blessings – it’s hard at first, but after you start, it gets easier. Recognize the flower in the desert. Recognize provision and miracles. It is there, amongst all of those, you’ll see the most important thing of all in your desert with you: God.

~ She is Free… To Praise.



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