Monday, August 18, 2008

The desert... God's perscription!

If love is measured by degree of cooperation, then God must seem like an unfriendly fellow, for many times the idea He asserts is, “You will progress when I say so.” For example, when God freed the people of Israel from their slave masters in Egypt, that freedom was physical, but liberty from the chains of Egypt was only the beginning. Heart change was the second phase. We know from Deuteronomy 8:2 that it took forty years before this phase was completed -- a phase which is referred to as the wilderness wanderings. The desert was the prescription God had proposed before the Promised Land could be achieved.

Internal change precedes external change. A change of heart preceded a change of lifestyle. Instead of a short cut or temporary measure, true change would be implemented in a long torturous way. Although God’s people had already suffered four hundred years of slavery, it was not enough. The desert was necessary. Now if that process was necessary in the Old Testament, what makes the Christian believe the New Testament process could be any different? Why does modern Christianity maximize the Promised Land while minimizing the wanderings in the wilderness? Are we expecting grace in an oasis or His mercy and presence when times get tough?

Much of the teaching in the Church has been contaminated by worldly influences that demand quick, dramatic, superficial solutions. The Christian may come to believe that coming to Christ is designed to eliminate a difficult, pain-filled life – as if Christianity were a graduation. Life is going to be wonderful -- and the definition of wonderful is the numbing of pain.

Perhaps this is part of the reason Christians get so discouraged when the path gets hard and rocky. Even worse they suppress their despair and disguise it, maintaining an appearance of contentment, but their passion eventually gravitates elsewhere. They become disappointed because they expected the spiritual life to work according to human terms.

Sometimes waiting is progressWaiting is a self-controlling progress. When people are threatened, human resources come to the forefront. How could God expect people to wait so long? Dr. Lawrence Crabb recreates the scene of the wilderness wonderfully in his book, Inside-Out. He comments that perhaps a few of the Israelites had felt insensitively treated by the pace. Why? God didn’t consult his people regarding departure and arrival schedules. Where were the committees, counsels, and executives to ratify his decisions. God’s way of doing things often seems designed to frustrate us.

Sometimes progress has an indefinite time line The wilderness was a long journey, no a matter of days or months, but one that lasted forty years. Consider these years as an indefinite time line, because for the unbeliever the desert can last thirty, forty, fifty, or even an eternity. God’s mercy provides opportunities that appear to be without limit. But if the individual refuses to change, then the only progress is the progressing of years and that is all.

The most influential person in the learning process is the student himself. If mediocrity is the goal, life will provide all the excuse one needs to live like the Israelites did during their forty years in the wilderness. God has horizons for us to discover. Since the Christian is light and salt, it is a sin for him to imitate others especially the world. Some Christians feel compelled to do this out of a fear of boring their followers. People swallow the story that the Church is a boring place and that the world is the exciting place to be.

[This meditation is based upon Numbers 9: 15-23]

© TR 2007

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