When Israel came out of Egypt,
Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,
Judah became God’s sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled,
the Jordan turned back;
the mountains leaped like rams,
the hills like lambs.
Why was it, sea, that you fled?
Why, Jordan, did you turn back?
Why, mountains, did you leap like rams,
you hills, like lambs?
Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord,New International Version
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turned the rock into a pool,
the hard rock into springs of water.
God’s promises to Moses and Abraham’s enslaved descendants were fulfilled as Joshua and the Israelites entered the Promised Land. This psalmist describes the rivers and seas, representing evil, as fleeing from God’s people, and this imagery was inspired by the parting of the Jordan River in Joshua chapter 4 so the Israelites could cross over. The psalmist also describes the hills and mountains, representing good, as dancing for joy. It’s like the old saying, everyone loves a happy ending!
But the psalmist kept a “zinger” for the last verse of this psalm. The true message of this psalm is that God brings blessings in the wilderness. The Promised Land became home to the Israelites only because God had been nurturing them and preparing them tirelessly in the wilderness. Without God providing sustaining water to the people in the desert, they would have quickly died. Without the Israelites learning to depend on God, worship God, and listen to God, they could not have followed God into the Promised Land. The amazing miracle of their new homeland only came after daily faithful blessings from God that continued for decades.
The wilderness isn’t a gap in the timeline between fleeing from the Egyptians and entering into the Promised Land. The wilderness is essential to the miracle.
I feel like I’m in a wilderness right now in my Christian Walk. I stepped away a few months ago from several areas of service I had been doing for years, and this left a hole in my life. I re-started this blog for the disciplines of studying, praying, and writing as I wait to see what God has for me next. This is not fun. I miss what I’ve given up. I don’t know what will come next, and, worse for me, I don’t know when that “next” will come. Those are the reasons we call times like this a “wilderness.”
But when I (temporarily) stop feeling sorry for myself, I can see how God is still blessing me and nurturing me. When I (temporarily) stop trying to figure out what comes next and how I can speed the process up, I know that God is faithful, and that God’s timing is always perfect. I know this is true because the Bible is packed with stories of God’s faithfulness, and because I can point to other times in my life where God worked the pieces of my life in wonderful ways.
There are blessings in the wilderness. Like with the Israelites, there are blessings that sustain us, that prepare us, and that lead us to new blessings. Our responsibility — and our joy — is to see, to experience, and to offer our thanks for these blessings!
Scripture passages from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.