We are exploring suffering in its larger context of our salvation. The Prosperity Gospel, with its "heaven on earth now" mentality, is quite appealing. Who wants to suffer?
But we follow Jesus, and Jesus suffered. So, how do we reconcile the "God wants you to live your best life" with the life Jesus lived? He would not be the poster child for the megachurch with its rock star pastor, huge budget and a lifestyle that includes celebrities, jet planes and thousands of followers, who ride on every word coming from the pulpit.
In fact, He really had very little:
When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matt.8:18-20)
Even after three years of ministry, His worldly possessions were negligible:
After they had nailed him to the cross, the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. (Matt. 8:35)
His only possessions helped to pass the time for the soldiers who presided over His death.
Using the Exodus as our model--the single greatest event in Jewish history--I am equating these events with our redemption from sin and death.
So, we dwell in Egypt as slaves before our Deliverer appears. Egypt is not all bad; every sin has a Goshen side to it--it's peaceful, lush and makes us forget how much in bondage we truly are. But when that sin demands we make bricks without straw (sin's sting is now unmistakable and the consequences are unavoidable) we cry to God and He comes.
We watch God lead us out, having provided the Passover Lamb's blood to save us from death, and we stand on the far shore, watching Satan's attempt to drag us back drown in the mightiness of God.
God: From start to finish, our Exodus story is of His works, His sacrifice and His love for us, while we stand amazed and blessed. Then, into the desert we go. We are a little disappointed at that, for we thought the Promised Land lies just yonder. (The Prosperity Gospel, says in essence, "Pshaw on that desert! God wants us to fast track into that land of milk and honey. Deserts only exist if you don't have faith.") Yonder seems so close.
Is the desert with its challenges only ours if we lack faith?
God with His chosen children didn't think so. Because it was in the desert He demonstrated that:
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deut. 8:3)
Jesus gave those scriptures an amen when He quoted them to Satan during His desert trial. Oh, wait. Jesus went into the desert, too, huh? Right after His Father affirms Him as His beloved Son, and how Jesus being the Son meant that His words carried the authority and weight of God Himself.
Jesus learned the lesson of the desert: He must depend on God every day for every thing. As we all know, in our flesh, (and Jesus was encased in our flesh) that is a difficult row to hoe. Yes, Jesus is God, and no, He did not sin, but His temptations were a hard cross to bear:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Heb. 4:15)
He glorified God every day of His time on earth: He made God manifest and showed that the heavenly Father wants to walk alongside us. So, Jesus left the desert and entered our world: the world of battles, enemies, failures, fears and victories, when we put God first.
We find our Joshua in Jesus. He is our Commander of the Lord's Army, and we stand on solid ground with Him:
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Josh. 5:13-15)
It is no coincidence that this encounter occurred after Joshua and the people celebrated Passover with the produce of Canaan. The manna ceased, but God's provision did not. God's provision took on a new emphasis: He would lead His people in the battles to secure the Promised Land.
Yes, it was theirs, as is our salvation.
Yes, it was given to them because the blood of the Passover lamb saved them from death and destruction, as does our Lamb, and God honors His covenant to be our God, and we His people.
But, as we will see as we peruse the book of Joshua, the Promised Land is filled with enemies. While we dwell on this planet, the Land will need subduing and sin must be pushed back as far as we can. And always, Jesus must be in the lead.
Join me as we cross the Jordan into the real world--with fortified cities and enemies that would bring us again into slavery, if we let them.