June 15, 2014
TODAY’S STUDY TEXT:
“And they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Hear me, O Judah, and you inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God and you shall be established; believe and remain steadfast to His prophets and you shall prosper.”
II Chronicles 20: 20
“Learning to Believe in the Wilderness”
“Let us seek blessing for our journey through the wilderness. May we be held in the palm of God’s hand as we meet our Saviour may we keep the light before us.”
Seasons of Prayer
What is the “wilderness place” in my life right now?
Do I believe God is with me as I journey through this barren, dry place?
“There is a voice that cries in the wilderness, the prophet word demanding change: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; fill in the gullies, level the ridges, straighten the crooked, move the mountains. God’s glory shall be revealed and every eye shall see it.’”
“Over the frontier, in the wilderness, it can seem as if the world is falling to pieces…and yet the call keeps coming, a call, I think, which is not so much to power as to community with all those others who are wounded, whose worlds or lives also seem to be falling apart, yet who are actually – we must believe – giving birth to something new.”
In my husband Jim’s younger years, he was quite a traveler. He enjoyed seeing unusually remote parts of the world and one area he spent time in was the Middle East, especially around the desert areas of this region of the planet. One of his most striking experiences was traveling in the Sinai Desert with a group, and as Jim described the scene, he concluded that the word “barren” was not strong enough to portray the desolation he witnessed. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a woman came from behind a rock with a small herd of goats. Jim said he looked everywhere in the rock-filled terrain to try and see some type of tent where the lady might reside but to no avail. With a piercingly hot, desert sun penetrating the earth, Jim said that for him, it was one of the most isolated places he had ever been. And his feeling of aloneness was greater than he had ever experienced in his life.
When you and I think about what a “wilderness” is, probably these words, found in the dictionary, are the ones that come to our minds: “An uninhabited region. Barren. Empty. Wasteland. A wild region of bewildering vastness.” Does this sound like what a “wilderness” is? And furthermore, does this description paint an accurate picture of how a wilderness area feels in your own life right now? Is your personal wilderness a bewildering place that is so vast you feel like you can’t make your way out of it?
All through the Bible, we find stories of God’s children entering wilderness experiences – some for safety, some for refuge, and some for instruction.
Think of Moses, who after he killed an Egyptian, found the desert of Midian a place of safety. Then there were the children of Israel who were instructed by God in the wilderness experience of their lives. And this week, we looked at the time the prophet Elijah fled to the wilderness in desperation only to find the shelter of his Father’s refuge.
Wilderness experiences are not uncommon events in the lives of God’s children on earth. And most likely, not a one of us will leave this planet without experiencing a time when the parched dryness of the desert, or the loneliness of isolation, or the barrenness of the wasteland doesn’t make us not only question the route of our journey but also the Guide whom we feel has brought us into a place of such desolation.
This is why I’m so thankful the Bible is such a complete book, with story after story about the way other people, just like you and I, have battled through those times of abandonment, when a wilderness experience nearly saps every drop of your energy and leaves you feeling lost and forgotten.
I’m so grateful God doesn’t leave His children in a wasteland. And to highlight exactly how He comes to our rescue, God inserts an experience like that of King Jehoshaphat into a book of records, like Chronicles. If we will take the time to uncover the gold that is buried in the Wilderness of Tekoa, we will come away from our own wilderness experience with an even deeper belief in our Father and His tender care for us.
The thoughtful author and speaker, Kathy Galloway, describes personal wilderness experiences as those times when we are given the opportunity, “to explore the inner geography of our lives for areas of dead wood, thorns or tangled knots. Twisted relationships, the dead wood of old hurts or habits, the confusion that sometimes comes when we feel we can’t see the wood for the trees – all these are wilderness areas, and they need to be cleared away before growth and new life is possible. Or perhaps there are desert patches – arid, dry areas where nothing can grow or blossom, parts of us which have almost withered away from not being used or tended or tested – some tenderness, some care, some talent, some forgiveness, some humour – that need the water of life to bring them bursting into flower.”
In II Chronicles 20: 20, early in the morning, before the activities of the day had begun, the king and people of Judah went out into the wilderness. As they journeyed into this desolate place, King Jehoshaphat stood and from this barren wasteland, long before victory had been won, declared these words: “Believe in the Lord your God and you will be established – believe and you will remain steadfast.” In the midst of a desert place, trust in God became the bedrock of victory. What a wonderful voice of encouragement Jehoshaphat was to his people, for out of this time of apparent abandonment and fear, came a refreshing that watered the barren and brought forth life from the desolate.
“The desert waits,
ready for those who come,
who come obedient to the Spirit’s leading;
or who are driven,
because they will not come any other way.
The desert always waits,
ready to let us know who we are –
the place of self-discovery.
And whilst we fear, and rightly,
the loneliness and emptiness and harshness
we forget the angels,
whom we cannot see for our blindness,
but who come when God decides
that we need their help;
when we are ready
for what they can give us.”
Ruth Burgess, in Bread of Tomorrow, ed. Janet Morley
“Your God is the dawn, and later He is full daylight, and later still high noon. You are the land that waits for the light, the blackboard that waits for the white chalk of the draughtsman who walks towards you with that chalk in his hand. Sit down and try to be still; sit still and try to hope.
Look beyond yourself, beyond helplessness and your limitations, and wait.
Your heart has been tried by suffering and darkness. Let your tears flow, to water the arid land of your faith.
Do not think of anything else. God is before you.
God is coming to you…
And if He is watching you, He loves you, and in loving you, He gives what you are looking for: Himself.
What other gift could there be for one who had searched so hard.
Our heart is so hard to satisfy.
God alone can fill it.
Things never can.”
In Search of the Beyond
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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