I’m writing from the desert.
No, not the spiritual desert, where I’ve traveled plenty of times before—and may have even crossed paths with you.
I’m writing from “The Desert” itself. The desert of Sinai.
The past few days, as I’ve journeyed across the dreary expanse, and last night, as I sat alone in the bulwark of Sinai, I’ve been processing the journey that led one person—and later 2 million—to this very place.
I’ve realized that there are two pathways to the desert: our choices and our circumstances.
Like Moses himself, we might take a wrong turn and pay the price. Moses found himself here because he took his calling into his own hands, rather than letting God lead. Who knows: God might have been close to delivering Moses’ people (perhaps even through the princess Hatshepsut, who was about to become an unlikely pharaoh). Instead, Moses set things back 40 years.
I recently visited a young man serving an eight-year prison sentence. He said the first few minutes of prison brought the full weight of his mistakes crushing down on him. I asked his advice for young people. He said if you feel yourself headed down the road of darkness, talk to someone now. Now—before it’s too late.
The other pathway to the desert is simply our circumstances. You might be in the desert because of what someone else did. Or even this: You might be in the desert because God is patiently allowing someone else’s cup to fill up, giving them every chance possible (such as the Amorites in Canaan). This isn’t easy stuff, but the more we have a heart like Christ’s, the more we can bear the cup He gives us.
Whatever brought you to the desert, whether it was your actions or someone else’s, there are two ways you can respond: you can let it refine you, or you can let it destroy you.
Moses was willing to let the desert refine him: to grow him and prepare him for a special work. God needed to get Moses out of Egypt—and Egypt out of Moses. While Moses’ dramatic new identity in the desert might have seemed embarrassing by his former world’s measure of success, Moses stayed faithful, and he stayed busy: the two things we must do in the desert. During those 40 years, Moses humbly tended his father-in-law’s sheep—and wrote a couple of books: Genesis and Job.
One of our daughters was recently battling some disappointments in life—some things hadn’t worked out as she’d hoped. Then she realized she hadn’t read her Bible for a while, so she began a journal study of Romans. Planting gardens in her personal desert.
Most of Moses’ people didn’t allow themselves to be fully refined in the desert. This didn’t mean (necessarily) that they’d lost their salvation. But it did mean that they’d lost the abundant life that God desired for them.
As I write, the sun is setting in the desert. But tomorrow is a bright new day.
Andy Nash ([email protected]) is an author and pastor who leads biblical study tours to Israel.