The Road of the Wilderness

Mar 1, 2020

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*The following is part of a series called “A Changed Perspective” to challenge the way in which we view the world, culture, people, and places from a biblical perspective. Undoubtedly, for Christ followers to live in the world but not be of the world is a challenging task, but with humble spirits, teachable hearts, the Word of God, and His Spirit that lives within to guide and lead us, He allows us to be part of His redemptive work in the world around us.

This particular blog was written by a dear friend (and former staff of CLDI) who now lives and works in Central Asia with her husband. While I cannot disclose her location, I invite you to imagine yourself in her world, one very different from life in the States. May we be challenged in our perspective to behold the “mysterious beauty” in the midst of hardship, the road of the wilderness.

“When Pharaoh let the Israelites go, God did not lead them along the road to the land of the Philistines, even though it was nearby; for God said, ‘The people will change their minds and return to Egypt if they face war.’ So he led the people around toward the Red Sea along the road of the wilderness.” Exodus 13:17-18 (CSB)

It was early in the morning and the sun was just beginning to stream in and warm the cold, mudbrick walls of our house. The vendors that often line the street outside our gate had yet to break the silence of the night with their shouts of, “Potato! Potato! Potato!” As a seeker of silence and solitude that morning, I was grateful for their delay. I made my way to the coveted corner of our couch, also known as the fluffy, oversized pillows that line the walls of our living room. There, I began to read the familiar story of God rescuing the Israelites from the mighty hand of Pharaoh. But when I arrived at this particular set of verses, my eyes filled with tears that proceeded to fall through the remainder of the story.

What struck me most that morning was the intentionality of God in choosing to lead His people along the road of the wilderness. The wilderness road wasn’t the most direct route to the Israelites destination, and the way was unknown and foreign to them. By my standards, that’s not a very strategic or efficient way to go. Yet we see God confidently divert them away from the nearby road and send them along the roundabout way. But the beauty of our God is that He is present with us. Not because of anything we’ve done, but simply because He delights in us, He loves us, and He longs to show us His glory by actively and miraculously participating in our lives. As He led the Israelites, Scripture says that, “the Lord went ahead of them,” guiding the way, and never departing from before His people.

God knew the wilderness road would lead the Israelites to the shores of the Red Sea. He knew the hardened heart of Pharaoh, and it was no surprise to Him when Pharaoh changed his mind, gathered his army, and fiercely pursued the people of Israel. Caught between a merciless Pharaoh and the depths of the sea, the Israelites were trapped between two overwhelming circumstances, neither of which they were capable of navigating on their own. And it’s there, at the edge of the water, we see the intentionality of God in leading them along that route.

For the first time since their departure from Egypt, God moves in behind His people, filling the space between them and Pharaoh’s army. And it’s in that sacred space, found along the wilderness road, that God fights on behalf of His people; a fight only He could win. We know the rest of the story. God miraculously parts the depths of the Red Sea, creating a spacious place for His people to walk through.

“They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” Psalm 18:18-19 (CSB)

Today, I find my own heart navigating what feels like a wilderness road. Deep, heartfelt longings seem deferred, loving my neighbor can be challenging and complicated, and quite frankly, I can’t follow the commands of Jesus on my own. But as we see in this story of Israel’s rescue, there is a mysterious beauty we behold along the road of the wilderness. Because it’s often in that holy place, when the way becomes unknown and foreign to us, that we encounter the faithfulness of our God; the God who promises His presence, who fights on our behalf, and offers freedom and rest to a weary traveler.Maybe you’re somewhere along that road today? There is no denying it’s difficult, disheartening, and even lonely. But be encouraged that Jesus can be found in those kinds of places. A confident Guide, He’s capable of taking us further than we thought we could go. And as He looks upon us with much delight, leading us toward a long-awaited spacious place, may we have eyes to see the glory He’ll reveal to us…along the wild, beautiful, sacred road of the wilderness.

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