God led the people around by the way of the wilderness.
(Exodus 13:18, NASB)
What Does it Say?
God led the people by way of wilderness
What Does it Mean?
This may seem like a weird topic for a blog at Christmas time, but this blog has been in the desert since last March! I believe that together we are going to stay in this desert as long as God keeps us here. Christmas in the desert may not be such a bad thing.
Surviving the Fire Swamp
Have you ever seen the movie, The Princess Bride? It is one of my favorites. In the movie, Princess Buttercup is promised to marry Prince Humperdink, but Prince Humperdink is not her true love. Buttercup’s true love is a poor farm boy named Wesley. As the heroic Wesley arrives to save Buttercup from the clutches of Humperdink, the Prince’s soldiers are in hot pursuit. Wesley takes Buttercup and runs towards the Fire Swamp, laughing as he looks back.
“Ha! Your pig fiancée is too late!” he says. “We will soon be safe in the Fire Swamp!”
Alarmed at that statement, Buttercup replies, “We will never survive!”
To which Wesley responds, “Nonsense! You’re only saying that, because no one ever has before!”
The Egyptians and the Israelites viewed the wilderness like Buttercup viewed the Fire Swamp. The wilderness was a place of chaos—a place of death, banishment and punishment. The wilderness was not a place of ease and safety, and it made no sense why God would lead His people into a place of hardship like this. Did He not know that for the Israelites the last hundred years or so in Egypt had been absolutely unbearable? Didn’t He realize that this mass of people coming out of Egypt were hurting and broken? Was God going to finish the job in a place of desolation so that there would be no trace of His people left on the face of the earth? Why?
Changing Our Focus
I sometimes think that it’s easy for me to focus on the wilderness. I mean the hardship there is staring me straight in the face. Let’s not live in denial about this; let’s call it what it is. I am not going to jump for joy when God says, “Kendra, for you I have a howling wasteland, a wilderness that you get to go and live in!” I am not cheering and saying, “Yay! HURRAH!” I am probably saying, “Well, that figures. God hates me.” Look, I’m being honest; it’s just the truth of the matter. I might as well not lie about it. Just the word, “wilderness” seems barren, harsh, and like it goes on literally FOREVER. Wilderness? “Yippee….” (Eye roll emoji).
What if instead of focusing on the destination, we focused on the journey? What if we focused on the first part of that verse? “God led the people.”
Well, I don’t like it. I don’t like that God is leading me to a place to die. That almost makes it worse, doesn’t it?
The Presence of the Shepherd
Does it really make things worse? Or does it change everything? God’s name is Jehovah Raah, which means “shepherd.” A shepherd leads from the front, he doesn’t prod from behind. A shepherd does not leave the sheep to be slaughtered or killed, but protects the sheep from all harm. The shepherd does not starve the sheep to death but finds enough food to provide the needed nourishment to continue. The shepherd does not leave the sheep, the shepherd leads the sheep. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep (John 10:11, NKJV).
You are not alone, even in the wilderness. The presence of God Himself changes everything. If all you have is God in the wilderness, and His name is Shepherd, Provider, Faithful, Deliverer, Conqueror and King, then nothing else is needed. God is #ENOUGH. Perhaps we have been led into the wilderness to learn this very thing.
He Keeps His Promises
Spurgeon told the story of an old saint who lay on her deathbed and declared that Jesus would never forsake her, because He promised to be with her wherever He led her. Someone asked her, “But suppose that He did not keep His promise and you were to be lost forever?”
She answered, “Then He would be the greater loser than I. It is true I would lose my soul, but God would lose all His honor and glory if it were not true.”
If God went to such extremes to #deliver each and every one of us from the grip of Egypt, only to allow us to die as He led us into the wilderness, then God would lose His name, His character, and His perseverance in completing every work that He undertakes.
For the Sake of His Name
God leads you and me to where He is. This season of Christmas is not the easiest season for many of us. Many of us feel we have been led to the wilderness to die a slow death alone and abandoned. That is not true. Claim the name of God in the wilderness, in the midst of the barren and empty place you find yourself, and just see if the fact of the presence of God does not change everything. For the sake of His name, He will lead you through.
Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name,
that He might make His power known.
(Psalm 106:8, NASB)
For the sake of You name, O LORD, revive me.
In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble.
(Psalm 143:11, NASB)
“For My own sake, for my own sake, I will act;
For how can My name be profaned?
And My glory I will not give to another.”
(Isaiah 48:11, NASB)
What Does it Mean to Me?
Why has God led you to where you are?
When were you in a wilderness and saw God’s presence provided in a very real and tangible way?
If you are in the wilderness now, how will you seek to see the name of God proven today? Are you even willing to look for His presence?
God promises in Jeremiah 29:13 that if we seek Him with our whole hearts we will find Him. What have you given the power to hold you back from seeking God in your wilderness? Anger? Bitterness? Frustration? Depression? Despair?
LIVE IT OUT
Today, Oh LORD, give me the strength and desire to seek You, and the perseverance to continue to seek until I find Your presence and Your glory, here in this place.
God’s presence changes everything!