I hiked in the desert yesterday with my husband, just outside of Palm Springs, California. Not only was it beautiful, it was hot! We went in the morning around 8:30 to escape the heat that was sure to come as the day progressed. But even at 9:00 in the morning, the sun was blazing down on us, making us sweat. We were so thankful we had water bottles with us.
It wasn’t a long hike, just a little over a mile. The reward at the end was a tranquil oasis, right in the middle of the desert. It was so calm and peaceful. The water was so still that it acted like a gigantic mirror for all the palms and tall green grass surrounding it. You could feel the cooling effect of the pond just standing at its edge. We didn’t have time to linger, but it was worth the hot trek through the sand and dry bush to gaze on its unexpected splendor.
I have never really been hiking in the desert before. I have a new appreciation for what it must have been like for the Israelites wandering in the desert. I hiked one mile, they hiked for 40 years. I have been very critical of the Israelites in the past for their grumbling and complaining.
They experienced so many miracles as God rescued them from Egypt. How could they not trust him? But as they traveled further and further away from Egypt, and the memory of their slavery grew dimmer and dimmer, they began to grumble. It couldn’t have been easy trekking through the desert with all those people, not knowing where their food and water would come from. I can image being extremely hot and tired from walking all day. I would have been prone to grumbling and complaining myself.
Let’s face it, the Israelites didn’t understand God’s character that well. Yes, he had delivered them, but was he trustworthy? Would God always take care of them? It probably seemed like God forgot about them while they were in slavery all those years. Would he forget them again?
Listen to them, “Give us water to drink!”, they demanded. “Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the LORD?” But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17:2b-3 NLT) I used to point my finger at them in judgement for not trusting God.
Yet, I know that as I have walked through “desert times” in my life, I have done a lot of grumbling and complaining myself. I have doubted God’s care for me and his trustworthiness. I have asked God what he was trying to do to me. I have behaved in the same way as the Israelites.
Yet, unlike the Israelites, I now have Jesus who intercedes for me. I no longer have to face God’s wrath like the Israelites did when they complained. I have the Holy Spirit living in me, God’s guarantee of my eternal destination. I have God’s word to teach me about his character and his ways. I have the history of the Israelites to learn from. These precious gifts were given to me as a result of the gospel.
The message of the gospel is my oasis in the desert, my place of refuge and coolness from the heat when life gets hard. Whenever you are wandering in the desert, remember you have an oasis in the promises of God. “But he also turns deserts into pools of water, the dry land into springs of water.” (Psalm 107:35 NLT)