Summary: A look at 3 different scenes from desert living. Three scenes that show us how God uses the desert to form his people, to call his people to himself. By the time we’re done, maybe you will want to go out to the desert too…
LIVING IN THE DESERT
Have you spent much time in the desert? I have. For over 30 years I lived in Southern California, which is basically one big desert – with lots of sprinklers! We traveled, camped, and explored the desert. As a youth pastor, we took kids on desert motorcycle and ATV trips. Anne lived in the desert during her years at U of A. There’s something about the desert. It has its own beauty, its life, its ecosystem. But it’s subtle. Not like the mountains or forests, where you go “Wow, check out that tree, that mountain, that water. The desert’s beauty is subtle. Its still feels empty. There are few distractions. That must be why God uses the desert so much in his people’s lives. That must be why the desert is so significant in our spiritual lives, journeys.
PREV: Today, we are going to look at 3 different scenes from desert living. Three scenes that show us how God uses the desert to form his people, to call his people to himself. By the time we’re done, maybe you will want to go out to the desert too…
Our first desert scene begins over 1400 years before Christ.
A. God called his people to himself in the desert
It was in the desert that God called a man named Moses, a hideout-Hebrew, and commissioned him to free the people of Israel from slavery to Pharaoh in Egypt. God was going to establish a relationship with the nation of Israel like a father to a son. Notice this as I read Exod. 4:22-23.
Sure enough, that’s just how it happened. God brought a series of massive plagues upon Egypt, bringing this powerful nation to its knees. But Pharaoh would not let the Israelites go. God’s final plague caused the death of every firstborn son in Egypt. Finally, Israel was set free.
Now, notice where it is God took them to establish them as his son. Look at Exod. 15:22. There it is – the desert. Your Bible may say wilderness. Desert is better because it conveys the desolation of the place. For us, “wilderness” can be someplace nice.
The desert would dominate Israel’s life for the next 40 years. Here in the desert Israel would learn what it meant to be like a son to God. Only when he was convinced they had this relationship down did God move them from the desert into the promised land.
When God wanted to make Israel a son, he called them into the desert to do it.
B. God promised a future calling into the desert
Well, the son rebelled against the father many times in future centuries, even forsaking the relationship at some points. But God never forgot the relationship. Look with me at Hosea 11:1-3.
In Jeremiah God changes the analogy from father-son to husband-wife, but notice the importance again of the desert as I read Jer. 2:2-3.
Because God longed to restore this relationship with his people, he promised a future reconciliation. Guess where it would take place? Look with me at Hosea 2:14-15.
One day I will call you out to the desert again, just like at first, when things were good! Hear the words of Isaiah as I read Isaiah 40:1-3.
Here it gets more specific. One day, God says, I will send you a messenger. He will call out in the desert to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord – a messianic text.
Not only did God use the desert to shape his people initially, he promised to call them back to the desert to renew his relationship with them.
I. THE DESERT IS THE PLACE GOD USES TO FORM HIS PEOPLE
When God wants to do something big, he always seems to do it in the desert.
Trans: That brings us to the Gospel of Mark, where we will be spending a lot of time in the coming months. Mark is one of 4 gospels that relate the life story of Jesus Christ and the good news he brings. Having 4 gospels is like having 4 different stations to watch NBA highlights on: they all cover the same events, but with different slants, emphasis.
If the gospels were movies, Matthew and Luke would be epics – “Gone with the Wind” & “Ghandi” & “Dances with Wolves.” Long stories, long speeches, lots of character development. John would be a love story – “Sleepless in Seattle”, “Dr. Zhivago,” or “Titanic.” A strong focus on love and its impact. But Mark would be “Terminator 4” or Enemy of the State or Armegeddon – action films! Not much on flowery speech, but long on action and adventure. A vivid, succinct account that emphasizes what Jesus did more than what he said. The cutaways and scene changes are fast and furious, action scenes pile up one after another until you go “Wow!” and reel from the impact.