Monday, January 05, 2015

The Wilderness

The wilderness is the desolate place where we sometimes find ourselves--the place where nothing grows and water is scarce.  Jesus was led by Spirit into the wilderness where He was tempted without food for 40 days (Luke 4:1-13).  The prophet Elijah spent some time in the wilderness when he fled for his life from Jezebel (1 Kings 19:1-18).  It seems that many of those whom God used spent some time wandering in the wilderness: Moses, David, and more.

Genesis 16 tells us about Hagar's time in the wilderness.  The story goes that Abraham and Sarai had no children together even though God had promised descendents numbering like the stars in the heavens.    Sarai suggested that Abram sleep with her servant Hagar in order to obtain offspring.  When Hagar conceived, Sarai began to despise Hagar and started treating her harshly.  The result was that Hagar fled into the wilderness.

"Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.  He said, 'Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from and where are you going?'  And she said, 'I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.'  Then the angel of the Lord said to her, 'Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.'  Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, 'I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count'" (Genesis 16:7-10).

A couple of things jump out of the text. #1--The angel of the Lord found her.  Let me suggest that we cannot go so far into the wilderness that we are out of God's sight.  The angel found her and he will find us too.  You may feel lonely, but you are not alone. 

#2--The angel asks, "Where have you come from and where are you going?"  God is interested in your past and your future.  And, most likely, your past and future are connected.  Understand where you come from and you will have insight into where you are going.

#3--Hagar is to return to the source of her pain (Sarai) and submit to her authority.  God's purpose is not necessarily to release us from pain--but to release us from fear and frustration.  God uses pain and sometimes bitter people to ground us and grow us.

#4--God promises blessing to Hagar.  She wasn't going to feel blessed submitting to Sarai but God had promised it nonetheless.  It's not about "feeling" but "faithing". 

"Father in Heaven, bless my fellow wilderness-wanderers.  May today be a a day of love and life.  Open our hearts and minds to receive your Word.  Bless us today to be blessings to others.  In Jesus' name--Amen!"

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