God Takes Us to the Edge
Corpus Christi 2017
“Remember how for forty years now the Lord, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments.”
When the Israelites were wandering around in the desert of Sinai for forty years, it must have seemed like anything but a honeymoon to them. They complained constantly and, frankly, it appears they had some reason to complain! For example, when Pharaoh was about to slaughter them and they appeared trapped by the Red Sea, it was only when they were desperate, without any hope, that God opened a path in the water to rescue them.
Later they complained about a lack of water. In fact, they were all dying of thirst! It was only when things got really desperate that God came through for them and water literally poured out of a rock! They also complained about not having food; really, the Israelites were starving! It was only after many complaints that God seems to come through for them. Does this sound familiar to you?
We later see this same pattern with Jesus. I have an icon in my chapel at home that I love. Jesus is in a boat with disciples. The water is pouring in, and they are about to drown, and what is Jesus doing? He is, of course, asleep on a pillow. Only when the disciples get desperate enough to arouse Jesus from sleep does he intervene.
Yet the scriptures are quite clear: far from being neglectful, even in the midst of all these close calls and near-disasters, “the Lord your God has directed all your journeying in the desert”. God has arranged everything for the benefit of his people. Indeed, God does often wait before answering prayer. At times, things really do seem to get worse before they get better, for we too are in Egypt, journeying to the Promised Land and depending on the Lord for everything. So this same pattern regularly shows up in our lives too. Why is this?
Here is the answer: “…so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments”. In other words, as we have heard so often in the past, life is a big test. The afflictions we go through are meant to strengthen our relationship of trust in the Lord. Even though he makes us wait, even though we go through disasters, even though he doesn’t always explain himself now, everything is meant, ultimately, to help us get to the Promised Land, heaven. It is comforting to know that in our lives, too, the Lord is directing all our journeying in the desert of this world so that we may reach the Promised Land.