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WILDERNESS: The Reason for the Wilderness

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Exodus 19:1-8 (NIV)

1 On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day’they came to the Desert of Sinai. 2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain.

3 Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

7 So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. 8 The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.

CONSIDER THIS

We come to a major new chapter in the Story of God and the story of us. We come to Mount Sinai.

If we are narrating the storyline of Scripture (so far) at a high level we might frame it like this: Creation. Fall. Flood. Babel. Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. Joseph. Egypt. Moses. Plagues. Passover. Red Sea. Sinai. While every one of those words denotes an entire world in and of itself, all of them together tell the grand story of God. Our great aspiration must be to know the story inside out and upside down; not so we can be bible experts but because this is our story. In order for us to live out our chapter of the story we must know the story that has come before. Our memory determines our imagination. The people of God remember their way into the future.

Mount Sinai is shorthand for the Ten Commandments, which is shorthand for the giving of the Law to Moses for the people of God. Few events are more pivotal in the history of the world than this one. Though a lot has happened since leaving Egypt, we are only three months into the journey when we come to this mountain of monumental magnitude. To kick off this next season in the wilderness, God sent the people a message through Moses.

‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.

First observation: This is about God. And because this is about God this is about love. God delivered the Israelites from Egypt for himself; for a relationship. He says, I “carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself,” so that you might “be my treasured possession.” This is who God is, what God is like; carrying us on eagles’ wings . . . bringing us to himself . . . as his treasure . . . as his possession.

God carries me on eagles wings and brings me to himself as his treasured possession. Full stop.

This is the reason’the whole point. We want to say, “Of course God loves us, but he also has a wonderful plan for our lives.” He wants us to do something for him. He wants us to behave. The truth is God loves us and that is the wonderful plan for our lives. He loves us. He loves us—not because of who we are, but because of who he is. This is not about behaving but becoming. And because God loves his people, we get this next bit:

Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’

God’s plan is to make himself known to the rest of the world through the way he loves and lives in relationship with this particular people. This was the plan all along and it will be the plan going forward; a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. If we fast forward to the closing sections of the Scriptures, we see virtually this same language again spoken about the Church:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

In order for us to become the fullness of his presence in the world he will transform our sin-sick broken nature to become like his love-filled holy nature. This is the point of Mount Sinai. This is why the Law is revealed. And the gateway into this gifted life is simple loving obedience: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant . . .”

The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.”

I guess you could say it’s a start. There’s just a lot more to it.

This is the reason for the wilderness.

THE PRAYER

Father, reveal to me the deeper wisdom of your will and ways in the wilderness. You know I have a lot more “want to” than I have “can do” when it comes to obeying you, Lord. Thank you for giving me the desire to desire your nature. Train me in this kind of obedience, not mere behavior but whole-heartedness. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

THE QUESTION

What do you see afresh and anew about God from today’s text?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com