191. Deserts, darkness and the sea


Well, look around you.  How would you describe the world today?  Does it give you hope and fill you with energy for the future or does your view drain the last little bit of courage from your bones?  There is no doubt that 2020 will go down in history as a year of turmoil and disruption, confusion, uncertainty and distress.  If it were only one thing, but it is so much more.  The knock-on effect of the virus on the economy, the anger in the streets, the underlying fear and anxiety that affect so many people, has an effect on the children in such a way that their lives may forever be defined by this year.  We can only describe it with the beautiful words of Corinthians.

 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! (The Message)

Sure, in death we will see Jesus.  When He comes again, we will have that magnificent knowledge in the fullness of his glory.  We will live in other dimensions with complete, perfect insight.

But what about now?  How do we cope with our world?  We are the church, the New Jerusalem.  We push back evil with our presence in this world.  While we resist destruction and death, we overcome by love and the supernatural force of salvation unleashed by the Cross of Jesus.  That is the holy purpose of God for his church.  We preach healing and redemption by the Cross.  We are sealed by God (Revelation 7:2,3) on our foreheads, symbolic of our thinking and actions flowing forth from our mind, our worldview, attitude and beliefs, that bring healing to the nations who groan in the hopeless pain and poverty that evil and destruction work in our world.

In the Bible we often read about people, God’s people in the wilderness or desert.  It is a place of physical survival, where hunger and thirst, the most basic needs, become the highest priority.  Hagar fled into the wilderness when Sarah so cruelly drove her out.  When she was almost at the point of succumbing to thirst and has already abandoned her child not to witness his last, agonizing cries, God opened her eyes to see the well of her rescue.  In her bitterness she was blind.  I am convinced that God did not create the well in that instant when she needed it.  The well was there.  Hagar did not see it.  She was a slave to begin with, used and abused into having a baby for her master, and then driven away in a rage of jealousy and anger.  Sarah treated her cruelly.  Hagar was fully justified to feel bitter and outraged.  God heard her prayers, probably tearful, angry prayers and provided her salvation.  Hagar names the well – Lahai Roï – I see the God who sees me.

Is it possible that our solution stares us right in the face?  Could it be that our anger over politics, corruption and injustice blinds us to the glorious inheritance that God plans for us amidst the turmoil of our world?  He has already answered our prayers.  We have to “see” with the revelation knowledge of the Holy Spirit.

It would be impossible to list all the desert experiences of the faith heroes of the Bible.  The wilderness is a beauty treatment.  For sure!

Who is this coming out of the wilderness
Like pillars of smoke,
Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,
With all the merchant’s fragrant powders?
  (Song of Solomon 3:6)

Elijah had the amazing experience that an angel served him and let him sleep.  He walked for forty nights and forty days to the mountain of God on the heavenly provision and rest.  (1 Kings 19:5-8)  He had to return by way of the wilderness of Damascus, again for protection.

He was so utterly exhausted after his confrontation with the Baal priests that he felt depleted, depressed and full of fear for Jezebel’s threat, that he complained of his solitary state of faith in the land of Israel.  God reveals to him the remnant.  Seven thousand is reserved who has not bowed to Baal, nor kissed his face.  They are sealed by God for himself (1 Kings 19:18).

This number is repeated in Romans (11:4) and finds its way right into the chapters in Revelation when the Beast is revealed to John.  Ezekiel also seals the remnant.  (Ezekiel 9:4-6). Look around you and see the faithful church.  They are there, but not always so visible.

I read an amazing little fact sheet on an olive tree one day on a menu of an Italian restaurant.  An olive tree can survive the harshest conditions.  It thrives in desert-like conditions growing in rocky ground where many other trees would wither.  The bitter, stone-hard fruit is individually pierced and cured in saltwater over weeks to be bottled and then fill the delicatessens of the world.  The oil is pressed in a special process to produce the golden richness for consumption.  The trees grow old and provide shade in the wilderness.

It was consecrated olive oil that kept the lamp burning in the Tabernacle and later the Temple of Solomon.  The oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit that also fills our lamps.  (The lampstand is the church – Revelation 1)  When we are filled with the oil of the Spirit, we are ready for whatever this life can throw at us.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
Hide me under the shadow of Your wings
(Psalms 17:8)

Our world could also be described with darkness, hidden truth and secret sin.  Jesus said: I am the Light of the world.  Sure, where God is, there is no darkness and still He is omnipresent.  He is absolutely everywhere, even in the darkness.

So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:21)

 “Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness(Deuteronomy 4:11 and 5:22)

That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness. (Zephaniah 1:15)

The day of the Lord, is a day of rejoicing for God’s people. For us, there are treasures in the darkness, to be discovered with the help of our Lord who brings outcome and victory in all and every situation.

I will give you the treasures of darkness

And hidden riches of secret places, (Isaiah 45:3)

There is promise in the darkness.  Darkness is not to be feared.

In ancient times the sea was a symbol of chaos and evil.  It was mysterious and scary.  One can imagine in the times of limited technology the depths could not be established and the gigantic sea creatures filled the people with fear and superstition.

In Revelation 13 when John introduces the Beast, he comes out of the sea, emphasizing his frightening origins.

The Euphrates was the huge river that flowed through the city of Babylon.  The walls of this city were one of the wonders of the ancient world.  Between 605 BC and 562 BC three walls were built, forty feet high and so wide that chariots raced on top.  Inside the walls were cultivated land to provide food and livestock for all the inhabitants almost indefinitely, making a siege almost impossible.  The Babylonians were very proud of their defences and relaxed about any possible onslaught.  The Persians diverted the river into a man-made lake and when the water flowed shallow enough, the whole Persian army simply walked into the city and overcame the Babylonians while they partied.

When the water stops flowing, the enemy enters.

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.  (John 7:38)

In the history of Israel, God established his command over the waters and the sea.  The sea parted for the slaves fleeing Egypt and God decisively dealt with their enemy in the same sea.

Arriving in the Promised Land, the Jordan parted in full flood so that the people could cross.  It was a miracle to boost their faith for the struggle that lies ahead, but it also put the fear of God into their enemies.

Everything that is difficult or dark, chaotic and confusing, brings you to a place of miracles.  God is in the storm and He will turn the storm to your advantage.  He will never leave you and never fail you.

Please read the whole of Isaiah 43.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea
And a path through the mighty waters,

Lift the level of your expectation…

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