Do you know that the wilderness is not your final destination? God may use a wilderness experience in your life to provide for, protect, or prepare you, but God does not want to leave you in the wilderness! His intention from the beginning has been to lead you through the wilderness to the Promised Land.
Well, we are almost there! This Mindful Monday is the eighth week of THE WAY OF THE WILDERNESS blog series that we began the first week of September. Hard to believe, right? Eight weeks of wandering, wondering, walking, watching, and working our way through the wilderness together and we have arrived at our final destination. Or have we?
Because all of our wilderness journeys look different, you may or may not be close to the other side. And that is okay! We can get into trouble when we start comparing our experiences in the desert because the timing and purpose are unique to each individual. However, as we conclude, it is an appropriate time to reflect on where we have been, have far we have come, and how close we are to reaching the Promised Land.
ASSESSING YOUR TIME WITH GOD IN THE WILDERNESS
In the first post, The Way of the Wilderness, I asked you to go through the process of identifying your particular wilderness. Do you remember this exercise? Let’s take some time to review and reflect.
NAME IT: Has identifying and naming your wilderness helped you? Why or why not? How has this helped you come to terms with this challenging time?
FRAME IT: How have you been able to frame your time the desert regarding your faith journey? Think about at least one connection God has revealed to you.
TAME IT: How has your relationship with God changed during this time? Have you been able to tame your time in the desert by watching for God, waiting on God, and walking towards him?
LEAVING THE WILDERNESS: BE STRONG & COURAGEOUS
I recently had to read the entire book of Joshua for a Bible study I am taking. At first, I groaned about reading twenty-four chapters, but soon saw the wisdom of reading the story from beginning to end. Don’t worry…I am not going to make you read the entire book of Joshua, but I do highly recommend doing so because it has a lot of good stuff about making our way through the wilderness to the Promised Land.
The book of Joshua starts with the death of Moses and God commissioning Joshua as the person who will lead Israelites into the Promised Land (Joshua 1:9). You may have heard the words “be strong and courageous” often quoted from the Bible. The book of Joshua is where they come from! God tells Joshua several times throughout this story to not be afraid and to be strong and courageous (see Joshua 1:6, 7, 9) and Joshua passes on this encouragement to the people. However, the Israelites had been wandering in the desert for forty years (let that number sink in a minute), so they are weary, wary, and wondering if God will fulfill his promises. Sound familiar?
In Chapters 1-5, Joshua prepares the people to take the land, and their first step is to cross another raging body of water. Isn’t interesting that both their exodus and entrance involve God miraculously holding back the waters so that the people could walk through on dry land? This time, it is the Jordan River that the Israelites cross to leave the wilderness and enter the land flowing with milk and honey. In the next seven chapters (6-12), Joshua needs to get the Israelite army ready to begin the battle to gain their Promised Land. Wait, you may be asking…God didn’t just give it to them? They had to fight for it? Absolutely. Remember the battle of Jericho (“and the walls came a-tumbling down”)? That victory was one of several that began Israel’s conquest of the land that took close to seven years to complete. The remainder of the book of Joshua (Chapters 13-22) is how God divides the land among the people.
The book ends in Chapter 24 with Joshua gathering all of the tribes of Israel together and challenging them to continue following the Lord.
“‘So now: Fear God. Worship him in total commitment. Get rid of the gods your ancestors worshiped on the far side of The River (the Euphrates) and in Egypt. You, worship God.
If you decide that it’s a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you’d rather serve—and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country beyond The River, or one of the gods of the Amorites, on whose land you’re now living. As for me and my family, we’ll worship God.’
~Joshua 24:14-15 (The Message)
GOD’S ULTIMATE PLAN: FROM WILDERNESS TO PROMISED LAND
I hope you can see the lessons from the life and story of Joshua. God’s plan for the Israelites was to bring them out of bondage in Egypt so he could bring them in to the land of plenty. “And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers” (Deut. 6:23). The wandering in the wilderness was a part of their story, but not the end of it. So it is with you and me. The wilderness is not our final destination.
The goal of any wilderness journey is to remove those things in our life that may be keeping us from totally relying on God. Does that make sense? Frank Viola calls it “a place of religious detox” where God sifts us, reduces us, and strips us down to Christ alone (https://frankviola.org/2009/04/27/are-you-in-the-wilderness/ ).
But God does not free us from bondage only to leave us in the wilderness to waste and wither away. He desires to bring us to the Promised Land…if we are willing to go. He does not give us a free pass to leave the wilderness just to go our own way. Think of not only the Israelites but Elijah, John the Baptist, and even Jesus. The time they spent in the wilderness was to draw near to God, listen to his voice, and follow his leading. It was a time to prepare them for a new beginning. God had something for them to do once they reached the Promised Land.
God does his part in leading us from the wilderness to the Promised Land, and along the way, he promises to protect, provide for, and prepare us for what is ahead. So, what is our role? How do we cooperate with God in taking those steps that require strength and courage?
On this Mindful Monday, many of us are standing at the banks of the rushing waters of the Jordan River waiting to enter the land of plenty, but we must step out in faith. How? Do you really want to reach the other side? Please pray about it, and if so, don’t miss the conclusion of The Way of the Wilderness series next Monday!
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