There is a place where God routinely takes his people, his chosen and favorite people. It’s called the wilderness. As I’m writing this early on Friday morning, it LOOKS like a wilderness outside my window in Illinois. The sky is a steel curtain overhead, snow is flying sideways, and the landscape is monochromatic. Spring flowers should be concerned for their survival today.
The wilderness of the Bible is a different type of world altogether. Blue sky, burning sun, red rocks. Desolate, dry, and barren. The presence of water is spotty, and survival is tenuous. It’s to this place where God routinely takes his people.
After crossing the Red Sea, the entire nation of Israel spent a long period in the wilderness learning how to be the People of God. Naomi and Ruth spent long, barren years in the wilderness of grief before God surprised them with the grace of new life. After he was anointed, King David spent years hiding in the craggy caves of the wilderness while he grew into “a man after God’s own heart.” Jesus himself was “led by the Spirit” into the wilderness as a final, formative step before launching his public ministry as the Messiah.
God routinely takes his chosen people into the wilderness. But here’s the thing: None of us want to go there. None of us want to stay there. The wilderness means that life as we knew it is over for a period. And how long does this period last? Only God knows. We humans don’t control the curriculum or the timetable in the wilderness. Only God does.
But as our wilderness professor and timekeeper, God does indeed show up in the wilderness. That’s the whole reason he so predictably shepherds us there, to be present for us in a way that we didn’t even know that we needed.
Friends, we have entered a wilderness together. All of us. Not just Elmhurst CRC. Not just the The Church with a capital “C.” Not just the United States. All of us. The globe. Humanity. We are in the Corona-compelled wilderness of 2020 and beyond.
None of us would have chosen to be here. We do not know how long it will last. But if God is true to form, he will reveal a curriculum for us. God will have surprising gifts to share and wonders to reveal along the way. And God himself will be amazingly present. While I wouldn’t have chosen this wilderness, I do want all of these things!
God always uses a wilderness period to bring his people to the threshold of a new era where humanity flourishes and God’s glory increases. Israel’s wilderness journey ended when they entered the promised land. Ruth’s emotional wilderness ended with the birth of a baby boy, grandfather to kings and queens. King David’s wilderness ended with the dawn of Israel’s golden age. Jesus’ wilderness trials concluded with the revelation of God-in-the-flesh, Emmanuel.
Perhaps God has something amazing beyond this present wilderness that he is just beginning to prepare us for. Amongst the sparse desert flowers, hope blooms in the wilderness. May God give you signs and sparks of hope this day,