Tag Archives: desert

Are You One of God’s Chosen People?

Isaiah tells the people that God will choose them again, but did he ever stop?

Are You One of God’s Chosen People?One phrase jumps out from today’s passage in Isaiah’s prophecy to God’s people: “once again he will choose Israel,” (Isaiah 14:1, NIV). God, through Isaiah, gives his people hope for a better tomorrow.

At this particular time, however, God’s people are discouraged; they feel he has abandoned them. They have no reason to celebrate; they have no cause for joy. God, it seems, has turned his back on them; it feels like he has left.

In reality he’s giving them a timeout, a deserved punishment to get their attention over their repeated disobedience. He wants to remind them of who he is and how they should act.

Yet they despair. They call out for him, desperate for a response.

But God delays.

Yet as he tarries he offers them hope for a better tomorrow. He promises he will choose them once again.

He chose them in the past, and he will choose them in the future. And though they don’t realize it, he chooses them now. But they don’t see it; they don’t feel chosen.We are God’s chosen people: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Click To Tweet

We all have times when God feels distant, when it’s hard to pray, when his voice remains silent, when faith falters. Some people call these the dry times or their desert experience. Yet God will choose us again.

The reality is that God never un-chose us. We remain chosen by him – even when we don’t feel like it. We are his chosen people. May we remember to act like it.

Do you feel chosen by God? Are you in a desert place waiting for him to choose you again? 

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Isaiah 14-17, and today’s post is on Isaiah 14:1.]

Have You Had A Desert Experience?

From time to time, I’ve heard people say they’re “in the desert.” They are speaking figuratively, of course, but nevertheless it is a dry place, a barren wilderness, an unhappy situation to be sure.

Their desert experience is not a literal place of residence, but a spiritual condition, a state of being. For them, the desert is an apt metaphor for the angst of their soul. They can’t wait to get out of the desert and often wonder why God has left them there. Sometimes their plaint against the almighty is angry or even bitter. Why is he ignoring them?

The desert is also a reoccurring theme in the Bible, but there it is mostly literal. Many of the biblical characters who find themselves in the desert do so because they are running away from something or someone. They are in the desert by their own doing. Moses was one such individual.

Others find themselves in the desert because they are being punished or need time to learn something. Consider the people of Israel, who had a 40-year timeout because of their disobedience.

A few people are in the desert because they seek solitude and a place to pray without distraction. Jesus would be a prime example. He went there intentionally and left when he was finished.

When we find ourselves in the midst of a desert experience, instead of lamenting our situation, a little introspection might be in order. Perhaps we are in the desert because we are on the run or have been given a timeout. It’s not God’s fault at all, but our own doing.

Let’s Go Back To Egypt

After spending 430 years in Egypt, the Israelites are finally free. They head out for the Promised Land and one of the first things they do is complain. They beg to go back to Egypt.

Then they spend forty years in the desert. When they finally cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land, one of the first things they do is become discouraged and pine for the desert where no one was trying to attack them. They want to go back.

It’s human nature to want to stick with what we know and remain firmly mired in the familiar. But that is not how we grow and not the way of progress.

God often asks us to do the uncomfortable, to take risks, and do what we would rather not do. But it is when we leave behind what is known that real growth can occur; it is when we are outside our comfort zone, depending on God, that our relationship with him deepens.

Yes, we can remain in our own Egypt or own desert, but staying where we don’t belong is being stuck in something less than God’s best plan for us.

When God says to go, we need do it – and not think about going back.

[Numbers 14:3, Joshua 7:5, 7]

They Went to Egypt for Food – and Forgot to Return Home

In earlier posts, I noted that after the Israelites left Egypt, they spent 40 years in the desert before entering the land God promised for them. I also observed that Moses waited 40 years before leading them out of Egypt. This makes for an unnecessary delay of 80 years.

However, why were they in Egypt in the first place?

God told Abram (later called Abraham) to “go to the land I will show you,” which he promised to give to Abram’s offspring. Abram went. His son Isaac and grandson Jacob were born there. Jacob had 12 sons. Joseph, his favorite, ended up in Egypt in a position of power. When a severe famine hit the entire region, Joseph invited his whole family to Egypt, where he had stockpiled plenty of food.

The famine lasted seven years. After which you would think that Jacob’s family would go home. But instead, they stayed in Egypt for 430 years — which God likely did not intend — eventually becoming slaves and suffering greatly. This all could have been avoided had Jacob remembered God’s promise to Abraham and returned to the place God intended them to be.

Instead, they spent 430 years as slaves in Egypt, when they could have been in the Promised Land the whole time.

[Genesis 12:1, 7, Joshua 24:4, Exodus 12:40]

Forty Years – Times Two

The Israelites left Egypt for what should have been an eleven-day trek across the desert to the “promised land.” However, because of their disobedience, God gave them a 40-year timeout in the desert.

This, however, may not have been the first delay. Prior to that, Moses sensed that his place was to rescue his people, but when initial opposition occurred to his leadership, he high-tailed it out of there, only to spend 40 years hiding in the desert. Imagine that. Moses spent a total of 80 years of his life in the desert.

Now Moses’ initial 40-year desert retreat could have been a needed time of preparation, but I think not. God could have worked through him at any time — then or later. I think Moses shirked his initial call. He needed 40 years of alone time, tending to his sheep, before he would be ready to hear God and obey.

So, had Moses not procrastinated for 40 years and had the people of Israel not been disobedient, earning another 40-year delay, they could have arrived in the land God promised them 80 years sooner.

[Numbers 14:33, Acts 7:30]

Bookends to the Desert Experience

After the Israelites left Egypt, God gave them a 40-year timeout in the desert. This was because of their lack of trust in his pledge to provide for them as they entered into the land he promised. This meant that what should have been an eleven day journey, ended up being a 40-year desert experience — which for most, literally lasted a lifetime.

While their desert sojourn was marked by complaining and disobedience, there were a couple of significant bookend events to their time of waiting.

First, they celebrated Passover for the first time just before they left Egypt to head to the desert. Then they celebrate it again, 40 years later after they leave the desert. The first Passover was marked by God’s provision for them to leave Egypt, while the subsequent ones were intended as a reminder of the first.

Second, two miracles occurred, allowing them to enter and later leave the desert. After leaving Egypt, and being pursued by its army, God parted the sea so they could escape attack and enter into the desert. Forty years later, when it was time to leave the desert, God parted the Jordan River — at flood stage — allowing them to leave.

So their desert experience began with Passover and the parting of the sea; it ended with the parting of another body of water and another Passover celebration.

[Leviticus 23, Joshua 5:10, Exodus 14:21, Joshua 4:18]

A Desert Experience Results in a Spiritual Smack Down

A Desert Experience Results in a Spiritual Smack DownI enjoy reading the spiritual exploits of those from an earlier era, a time when the spiritual journey was more gritty, vibrant, and real. It was dangerous—often with life or death ramifications. These experiences are far different from most modern-day followers, whose journeys usually pale in comparison, where risk is small and reward, minimal.

One such enlightening book is The New Mystics by John Crowder. Another is Patron Saints for Postmoderns by Chris R. Armstrong. Sharing the story of ten who have gone before us, Armstrong first tells of Antony of Egypt.

Antony removed himself to the hot and barren desert in order to hone his spiritual disciplines.

Notably, Jesus did the same thing before he began his ministry. Both encountered trials and testing in their desert experience, emerging stronger as a result.

Antony chose a place reputed to be inhabited only by demons. Of his experience there, Armstrong writes:

“There he indeed encountered demons, who took on the forms of wild beasts, sent by the devil into his cell to intimidate him. But Antony mocked them, reminding them that Christ had robbed them of any authority and cast them down. Not being able to withstand his scornful ridicule, they disappeared.”

It was a spiritual smack down if ever there was one.

Antony’s life is far different from mine, and that gives me much to ponder.

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Praying For Our Daily Bread

When the Israelites left Egypt, they spent 40 years in the desert before proceeding on to the land God had promised them.  During this time, God miraculously gave them food each day, which they called manna.  All they needed to do was go out in the morning and pick it up off the ground.

What is interesting is that they were told not to stockpile it and save it for the next day (except on the sixth day, when they were to gather enough for the seventh day, as well).  Regardless of how much each person gathered, he or she had enough to eat.  However, if they tried to save some for the next day it would spoil.  [Exodus 16:14-21]

Does this daily provision of food sound a bit familiar?

When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, one of phrases was “Give us today our daily bread.”  [Matthew 6:11 or Luke 11:3]

Of course, for most of us, the daily provision of food is something that we give little thought to.  However, on a spiritual level, we do stand in need of other things on a daily basis.  This might be making God-honoring decisions, using our time wisely, not wasting money and using it for good and not selfish purposes, or making sure we spend time with God.

Regardless of the situation, be our need physical or spiritual, the lesson to be learned is to rely on God for what we need each day.

Rather it be a literal plea or a figurative request, we all need to say, “Give us today our daily bread.”