Saturday, January 16, 2021

From the Desert to the Battle Ground

I would like to return to seeing how the story of Exodus is a beautiful metaphor for what we go through as Christians.  

We are slaves under a ruthless Pharaoh when we first cry out.  Pharaoh (Satan) and our sin nature have enslaved us.  These two work together to bring us a life that is not fulfilling and not focused on what really matters:  God Himself.  We are lost amongst the monuments of the world's values:  bigger is better; whoever has the gold makes the rules; don't question life because the idols you ask will remain eerily silent.  Your job, your President, your politics and your entertainment can't tell you who you are and what your purpose in life truly is.  

But what about that Goshen? We have times in our lives where life is good; we may not be completely  happy, but at least we are not totally unhappy either.  Then something or someone in our lives changes and our slavery becomes apparent.  We feel the rough edge of the society, our family or our conscience.  We romanticize the good old days--basking in the soft glow of our selective memory.  But Goshen is not the Promised Land.  We settled for second best or third best or tenth best--it doesn't really  matter.  We've settled.

Then comes our cry.  Our slavery stings, our emptiness hurts and the meaninglessness of it all makes us wonder, "Why am I here?"

Then God sends the Deliverer--our condition, our state and our bondage cannot be made better in any way.  Religion can't do it:  We can never be good enough to assuage our sullied and unsettled conscience.  Political activism cannot do it:  Our leaders, our system, our fellow activists will let us down in one way or another.  Our friends and family cannot do it: Our children, parents, or those we admire and enjoy are all too human, and like us, will blow it or disappoint us to the core.

So we cry out and God hears.  His Son is our Moses:  He sacrificed Himself to lead us out of bondage to the very Land we were supposed to be in:  The Land of Continuous Fellowship with God.  The Land where we are His people and He is our God.  No monuments, no kings, no works--just the beautiful whisper of His voice and the knowledge that we are loved beyond all measure.

So, we ask this Deliverer into our hearts and He resides as Savior (cleansed by His blood, we are forgiven and given a new life in Him) and Lord (He is our King, our Friend and the One to Whom we owe our life, love and obedience).

As we are delivered out of bondage, we watch our "gods" fall under His heavy hand of judgement.  There is nothing like our God.  Period.  The sea closes over the last hurrah of the world to drag us back and we stand on the far shore, amazed at how much this God is willing to do to lead His children out of slavery.

Next stop:  the character-building desert!  Yahoo!  

What?  You mean that I must depend on God for absolutely everything now that I am in Him?

Yes.  That's it exactly.

But think of it this way:  That was God's intention all along.  Trek back into time for a brief moment to Adam and Eve.  God's provision was everywhere in the Garden of Eden.  He gave Adam and Eve the supreme choice:  You can eat from the Tree of Life or you can eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  You can choose a life in Me or a life in you.  Knowledge from Me or knowledge from you.  A personal relationship with Me or an alienated one in you. Utter dependence on Me, or prideful dependence on you.  

Choose they did.

That's why, when Jesus comes to us, we are in Egypt.

So having chosen a life in us, knowledge derived from us, an alienated existence from God and a prideful dependence on ourselves, we need a Deliverer.  But, once we are delivered, we need our character to be re-molded and conformed to the image of Jesus:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-29)

How so? 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2) 

That's why He put the children of Israel in the desert and why we go in as well:  We must learn that this new life is lived in Christ alone.  We try to sometimes take over Jesus' Lordship (but our flesh will sabotage us every time) and we can't save ourselves (we wouldn't be in perpetual Egypt if we could).  So, every aspect of the Christian life is relying on Jesus for His sustenance, saving and security:

  • He is the Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) to forgive our sins
  • He is our Manna (John 6:35) to fed and nourish us
  • He is the stricken Rock that gives us water (1 Cor. 10:4) to quench our spiritual thirst
  • He is our Prophet (Deut. 18:15) to guide us through a difficult terrain

Done.  But here's where the suffering comes in.  The desert was harsh, to be sure, for the children of Israel, but they were safe from real battle.  Yes, they were attacked by the Amalekites, but those guys were defeated by Joshua (whose name in Hebrew is the same as Jesus'...coincidence?  I think not.)  

But, that attack was a foretaste of what was to come.  The Promised Land, where we dwell in the place God has chosen for us, is not empty.  It is not Heaven on earth--free of suffering, disease, pain or hurt.  Quite the opposite:  It is filled with all of these challenges and more.  It is filled with suffering.  It is filled with battles.  Constant battles.  Formidable enemies.  Skirmishes.  Theft.  Massacre.  


Our life in Christ is not free of suffering as long as we dwell in the Promised Land on this earth.  We will suffer.  A lot.  

But so did Jesus.  

Next stop:  The Promised Land.  It is here that we rely on God to go before us, but He draws us deeper into a relationship with Him to go and enter into battle with Him.   If we partner with Jesus on this planet, we are partnering for warfare.  

Jesus is our Joshua.  But we never enter the war alone.  That is what we will explore next.

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