You Have To Walk Through The Desert To Get To The Promised Land

In my bed tonight, my wife, four year old daughter, and two small dogs softly slumber, and somewhere in the house is a fifteen-year-old collie who loves everybody and everything.  Looking at all these blessings, I realize that like the old hymn “I Am Feasting on the Manna of the Bountiful Supply for I am Dwelling in Beluah Land”.  The truth is, my life is very blessed with a lot of love both surrounding me and in my heart.  However, it wasn’t so many years ago that my life and my heart were very empty.  I, like most Christian men, wanted to be a father and husband and live God's planned purpose.  I wanted to live in my promised land.  What I did not know is that I was not ready to live there.

Like everyone, I wanted to get there and enjoy all of its benefits.  What I didn’t realize is that even the children of Israel had to cross the desert to get to the promised land.  What I have come to realize is that God wanted the Israelites to cross the desert to mold them into the people of the promised land.

After the Israelites fled Egypt and crossed the Red Sea they lived in the Sinai dessert for 40 years.  There they lived a nomadic life, living off the land and the resources that God gave them.  It wasn’t easy and they made a lot of mistakes.  It seems to me that maybe one of the reasons they spent so many years in the desert was to learn a few simple lessons like living by God's code, keeping the faith. and that the purpose of living in the promised land is not serving yourself but serving God.

The first lesson was given to Moses when he went up to Mount Sanai, the Ten Commandments.  It's God's code and every successful nation and every successful man that has ever lived in harmony with God has made it their code as well.  It can’t be amended or abbreviated.  None of us except His son, Jesus, has ever mastered this code or lived by it perfectly.  Yet if we are not committed to it in our heart and in our deeds, we have missed the first lesson in the journey.  We are left to wander about the desert aimlessly until our lives end.

Although the first lesson was easy to learn but hard to keep, the second lesson is both hard to learn and hard to keep.  Although God has told us repeatedly since the beginning of time that he loves us and he will provide for us, our faith in God is often easy to lose.  The faith that he will provide for us or keep us in his promise, not whether we believed in God or if we believed that God exists.  Jesus reminds us to consider the lilies of the field - they neither toil nor spin, but even Solomon in all his glory was not adorned as beautifully as these.  If God who is your father in heaven will care so much for them, how much more will he care for you, his child.

The children of Israel were no different.  Like us, they had the lessons of their forefathers, from Noah to Abraham, Isaac, Israel and Joseph.  They had Moses and Aaron to lead them.  They saw the miracles in Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea.  They had the Ten Commandments and were given manna from heaven to eat every day, and yet they still grumbled and complained.  They still believed Moses was misleading them.  They won every battle with warring tribes and still believed that they were too weak to take the land across the Jordan River.  Therefore, they wandered until they could wander no more.  So often I have felt so overwhelmed by the circumstances of life that I could not see God was sustaining me all the time.  If I had prayed instead of worrying, if I had believed instead of crying, I may have experienced God's blessing more abundantly.  Most certainly would have known that he was sustaining my life through all its trials.  I think of all the world's children and how many fatherless and parentless children we see every year.  I think of all the people who have quit and walked out on their wives and children because times were hard.  Then I think that the tough times would have passed but the damage of quitting will affect their families into the next generation.  If they had traded their doubt for faith, they may have seen their own promised land.

The final lesson that the children of Israel had to learn is who they were serving.  After the last battle was fought and it was time to settle into the promised land, Joshua called all the tribes together and told them “Choose this day who you will serve.  As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”  After all the times that God sustained them and performed miracles for them, there was still some question as to who they would serve.  I think of our own world and how we often seek to serve the P gods:  power, possessions and popularity.  I realize that even at the end of deserts of my life, the temptations to serve myself is still very strong.

Tonight as I go to sleep and am surrounded by the blessing that God has given me.  I contemplate the promised land that surrounds my life and blesses my soul.  I realize that I, too, must cross the deserts of my life to get to the promised land.  I, too, must live by God's command, keep the faith, and above all I must serve the Lord.


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