Another Word from Pastor Ken 5-7-2020 – Wilderness Part 1
Dr. David Busic, General Superintendent for the Church of the Nazarene, shared this past week about Lessons Learned in the Wilderness. I perked up because I had been thinking about our experiences of COVID-19 being like the wilderness. Dr. Busic did explain that this pandemic experience for us is not an exile (as some have been saying), but a wilderness experience.
Teal McGarvey suggests that we are indeed a wilderness people. In the pages of Scripture, the wilderness is not only a thick, mossy forest with towering trees or a sandy desert with oppressively hot days followed by frigid, windy nights. But also, it is a barren, arid, and dry place, a place where no life grows or thrives — it is a place cut off from life, a scary place; a place of chaos; a place of wandering and restlessness.
But the wilderness is also a metaphor for an in-between place, a place of trial. Dr. Busic stated that the wilderness a place of scarcity, testing, danger, and certainly a lack of comfort. Perhaps we could add that the wilderness can be a place of forgetfulness. In the Old Testament, we experience a people set free from slavery and bondage by escaping into the wilderness, only to forget that the God who set them free also was with them in that wilderness to guide and provide.
Jesus also experienced the wilderness, as Matthew, Mark, and Luke share with us. The newly baptized Jesus experienced the wilderness where he would encounter testing, loneliness, hunger, and Satan himself. It was there that He knew desperation and the temptation to give up on God altogether.
No doubt, many of us feel that this pandemic has been a wilderness experience. We even find ourselves asking individually and collectively, Can God spread a table in this wilderness, as Psalm 23 would indicate? Can He provide for my financial needs? Can He meet me in a place of loneliness, chaos, and fear?
Though the wilderness is a place of darkness and at times despair, it is also a place where God is. When the Israelites left Egypt and entered the wilderness — God accompanied them for all forty years! When Jesus experienced the temptations of the evil one in the wilderness, God did not abandon or forsake Him.
I agree the wilderness is not a picnic nor a pleasant oasis, but it is an ideal setting for God’s presence and provision to be displayed. Because God is the One who guides and provides; He is with us.
The Old Testament book of Lamentations is a lament over the loss of the city of Jerusalem. The author of this book reminisces in Chapter 3 about his condition. He writes:
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:19–24 (NIV)
It certainly may feel like the wilderness, but the Lord is with us…
We are NOT consumed
Great is His faithfulness
Therefore, we will wait for Him