View from the Back Side of the Desert
There are three classes of people: those who have been in the desert, those still in the desert, and those who have your day coming in the desert! If you have been there, you need no explanation from me. If you haven't been there, no words of mine will explain it to you. It is not a popular topic, and God's people perish for lack of knowledge.
Being "on the backside of the desert" is not a self-inflicted inconvenience or a detour because of our spiritual slackness. It is one of God's major destinations for those He wants to take deeper. He is deliberate in leading us into the desert of hard places to speak tenderly to us and to make our trouble a gateway of hope. God says, "Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope" (Hosea 2:14-15). There we give ourselves to Him in a new way, and He affirms to us that we are bound to Him forever in righteousness, justice, unfailing love, and compassion (Hosea 2:19-20).
God has purposes and blessings for us in the desert and afterward. From there, we will know Him as Lord more deeply. He wants to sharpen our listening skills to His voice alone. He wants us to know that the only proper response when there is nothing we can control is to trust that He is in control, and He can't get it wrong. He wants to show us that there are only two places to go: down and out, or right up into His lap. He gets us where we can't move in our flesh, because He must do everything of eternal significance by His Spirit. In the heat of the desert, He burns up or blows away all the wood, hay, and stubble of our pride, confidence, and striving.
The Bible says that John the Baptist grew strong in spirit in the desert (Luke 1:80). There, he preached the message of the new entrance of God into the affairs of earth (Matt. 3:1). The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert (Matt. 4:1, Luke 4:1). Luke 4:14 tells us that Jesus came out of the desert in the power of the Spirit and preached his first public sermon: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19). This was His mission statement for the three years of His earthly ministry and His ultimate ministry to us and for us.
What lies ahead? Based on the experience of the Israelites, we can expect more giant obstacles, more resistance by the pagan and hell itself, fiercer battles, and more confrontation with the forces of darkness. That is the bad news. The good news is that there are great things to come: more positioning ourselves in Christ, more victories, more blessings, more light, more power in the Holy Spirit, more of His presence, and more of His glory made manifest in our world. For the joy set before us... !
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