Month: February 2021

Life in the Wilderness

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The identity of the Israelites is forged in the wilderness.  When God delivers them from slavery in Egypt, they must travel through the wilderness to reach the Promised Land.  Wilderness can be a scary place.  It is a place where we must face our own vulnerabilities, even our inner “wild beasts,” and learn to rely on God.

Sunset Crater volcanic remains in Arizona

Exodus 16:9-12: Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’ ” 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ” [1]

Each year, Lent begins with the story of Jesus in the wilderness.  According to the gospel of Mark, in the wilderness, Jesus must face “wild beasts.”  Yet, even as he is facing the wild beasts, angels are serving him or ministering to him.

Grab a sheet of paper.  Take a moment to depict your “wilderness” either through a sketch or doodle or through a “word stew” (placing words on the page that, in your mind, are synonymous with “wilderness”).  What “wild beasts” do you encounter in your wilderness? 

When the Israelites are in the wilderness, they consistently grumble and panic, despite the fact that God cares for them and provides for them consistently.  Jesus, however, reveals a different way of living in the wilderness.  It doesn’t involve ignoring the wild beasts.  But Jesus can endure the wilderness because he trusts that, even amongst the wild beasts, God will watch over him.  Being a Christian doesn’t mean we will never find ourselves in the wilderness.  It does mean that, in the wilderness, we are never alone and can trust and watch for signs of God’s care and God’s messengers of grace. Can you name a wilderness you’ve been through? 

The word “angel” simply means “messenger.”  Who did God send as an angel to help you when you were in your wilderness? 

Prayer from the United Methodist hymnal:  O God our deliver, you led your people of old through the wilderness and brought them to the Promised Land.  Guide us, the people of your Church, that, following our Savior, we may walk through the wilderness of this world toward the glory of the world to come, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.  Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ex 16:9–12.