There are some things that I’ve learned about God that puzzle me. I’ve learned that God doesn’t feel the same way about time that I do. He isn’t sitting in heaven doing His very best to make sure that I live a trouble-free, “tip-toe through the tulips” life, and He isn’t always concerned with stilling every storm. I’ve also learned that He allows His children to walk through some pretty desolate places. Not only does He allow it, but He directs it more often than not. And I’m learning to be just as thankful for the wilderness, as I am for the well-watered places. Allow me to explain.
When Father God led His children out of Egypt, the Word tells us in Exodus 13:18 that He led them the long way around on purpose. He didn’t want them to be exposed to the fierce Philistines so early on because they would change their mind and decide that Egypt, slavery, and death would be better than facing whatever the Philistines could dish out to them. Let that sink in…HE LED THEM…the long way around…through the wilderness…ON PURPOSE. When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we immediately begin to wonder what we have done wrong. We think that God must be punishing us for some sin that we have committed. Maybe we should have said “yes” instead of “no”, or was it the other way around? Maybe we are afraid that we have disappointed Him too many times and now our fate is to inhabit this dry and barren place for the rest of our days.
Then again, maybe, just maybe, the wilderness is for us the same as it was for them…a greater purpose. Maybe He wants to bring us into a place where the other voices fade away and where we lose sight of all other lovers. Maybe He wants to reveal Himself as “I AM” so that we can remember who we are. Maybe He has actually created a place that feels desolate to our soul, yet, it is the place that we will finally be able to hear Him speak.
The Hebrew word for wilderness in Exodus 13:18 is, “midbar” and it means “wilderness, uninhabited land” but the second meaning of the word is “mouth – as an organ of speech”. It also translates as “speech”. As I have studied the scriptures about the wilderness, or the desolate place, and the people who traveled through them, I’ve found myself very encouraged.
The Word of God is filled with people who went through some difficult times from Genesis to Revelation, and there is a principle that rings true throughout the Word; the wilderness is not for our destruction, but to receive His direction, for our protection, and for a greater revelation of Who He is. In Genesis 16, there is a beautiful story of God showing up in a wilderness for an Egyptian slave named Hagar, who was carrying the seed of Abram on the inside of her. She had been put out by her mistress, Sarai, after conceiving a child. Even though it was Sarai’s idea to help God’s plan along, she was infuriated when Hagar realized that she had conceived and she no longer esteemed Sarai as her mistress. Instead, Hagar gave Sarai the “nanny nanny boo boo … look who can conceive a child and look who can’t.” Sarai went to Abram about it and Abram told her that this was all her idea and now she would have to deal with it. So, she did. She put Hagar, pregnant with the seed of Abram, out of her home. The Word of God tells us that she stopped off at a well on the way to Shur, and by the direction she was taking, it appeared that she was trying to get back to Egypt, her home country. The only problem was that it was 150 miles of desert between where she had come from and where she was going. Needless to say, Hagar was in a difficult place. She was a woman, alone and pregnant and facing a desert. If the elements didn’t claim her life, it would likely be the wild animals or the thieves and robbers along the way. It is very unlikely that she would have ever made it home. But there, in that difficult, dry, and barren place, in that wilderness, the Word of God tells us that the Lord appeared to her. He gave her direction in her next step and He prophesied to her concerning the child that was living within her, and as a result, she did something that I find truly amazing…she gave God a new name.
Genesis 16:13 And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said , Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?
Did you catch that? SHE called the name of the Lord that spoke to her… She called Him El Roi – The God Who Sees Me! In her hard place, He came and she saw Him in a way that she had never seen Him before. She knew that He not only saw Abram, she now knew that He saw her as well. So she gave Him a name specific to her circumstance… El Roi!
Now let’s be honest, when we find ourselves in a hard, dry place, a wilderness, if you will, we are only looking for one thing; the way out. But throughout the scriptures, God has showed up in the wilderness and directed and provided and revealed Himself. I am convinced that we will miss the beauty of His face and the strength of His saving arm if we are only looking for the exit sign.
If you look around at this moment and find yourself in a difficult place, don’t automatically assume that it’s punishment to teach you a lesson of some kind. Instead, begin to look for Him to step into the middle of it and reveal Himself to you in a brand new way. Be encouraged, and get ready to give God a new name.