40 Years in the Desert
When I was in seminary in my preaching class I learned that a sermon series is best at four weeks. It was communicated that six weeks would work, but anything longer than that, people would get bored and loose interest in your topic. Your best bet was to keep things short and concise to maintain the attention of your intended audience. This year’s lectionary (they rotate every 3 years) includes 10 weeks on Moses. This leaves preachers with several options. One could break it up into chunks of Moses or the Israelites story; skip the Old Testament focus all together; or choose one half or the other pre/post the Exodus. I am breaking all of the rules and spending the whole 10 weeks with Moses and the Israelites.
Why would I choose to do this? After all, I am not really the rule breaking type. The answer is simple; 2020 has thrown out all of the rules. As we find ourselves wishing the pandemic and civil unrest will be over tomorrow, yesterday really, the reality is that we could be dealing with this for years. Yes, you read that right, years – There is seldom an easy answer, and it almost never comes in our desired timeline. So, back to our Israelite friends. Their journey is going to take us 10 weeks, but it took them 40 years. That was long enough for an entire generation to die off.
You may be asking, “Pastor, if their story is so miserable, why are you talking so much about them? The Bible is full of hope; can’t we talk about that?” We are focusing on the “miserable” Israelites because their story is not unlike our own. Their story may seem depressing and hopeless, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The entire time their story is taking place, from Moses’ birth to their entrance in the promised land, God is performing miracles all around them. Incredible things are happening, but it is so far outside of their expectations that they can’t even see how miraculous it is. I am choosing to focus on the Israelites to help encourage us to find the miracles that God is performing in the midst of our suffering. None of us would have chosen our current reality, but its nowhere near as bad as the Israelites. Think about it; they were three million people tent camping in the desert. If God worked miracles for them, doesn’t it stand to reason that God would work miracles for us?
Friends, we are sticking with the Israelites, because just as they needed to be reminded that God was with them, we need that reminder as well. The Creator could have spoken the words and turned their desert into paradise, but he had different plans for them, just as he has different plans for us. Our unfortunate reality is that we live in a broken creation. Fortunately for us the Creator continues to walk along side of us and promises to meet all of our needs. Like the Israelites, we need to take a step back and consider what God is doing in our lives in this season, and choose to be thankful rather than filled with fear. It took them 40 years (Oh how I pray ours is shorter!), but the Israelites did in fact
reach the Promised Land. God delivered them, and he will deliver us as well. Stay faithful and I know that we will see God do some incredible things in the midst of our tragedy; we simply have to choose to trust and be thankful!