This fall we are following the footsteps of Moses with the Children of Israel through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. The focal point of the study is a series of videos produced many years ago in the wilderness of the Sinai by Jamie Buckingham. Jamie was a noted pastor and author of over fifty-five books. He was editor of Charisma magazine when he went home to be with the Lord. I had the privilege of being one of twelve pastors who would annually gather for a week in Sedona, Arizona, with Jamie for a time of fellowship, study, and worship. Sedona certainly is not “wilderness” compared to the Sinai, but it was a time to get quiet before the Lord; a time to hear from him. What he says in his book A Way Through the Wilderness is not just a looking back, but applicable for us today.
“Although very few of us will ever spend time in a desert, and almost none of us will ever wander in one as the Children of Israel did, wilderness experiences are common to all of us. The conflicts faced by those early Israelites some 3,500 years ago, as they left Egypt on their trek through the Sinai toward a Promised Land, still beset us all. Fear. Uncertainty. Grief. Anger. Doubt. Temptation. Discouragement. These are constant companions of all of us on our pilgrim journey from the bondage of sin (or the bondage of dead religion) to the freedom of spiritual maturity.
“There is a tendency, when we come to the end of ourselves, to accuse others - and sometimes accuse God - for our problems. Yet, if we remain in the wilderness long enough, we eventually realize God allowed us to wander in order to purge us of all our yesterdays and prepare us for the wonderful things in store for us tomorrow. That is the purpose of the wilderness: to purge and to prepare. And to allow us to get quiet enough to meet and have fellowship with God.”
In our grief, confusion, faltering faith, sin or adversity, we may wander as the lost Children of Israel. Or we may discover that the wilderness is the point of our true beginning with God. Even as with the Children of Israel, the choice is ours - to wander, or to faithfully follow God’s leading into the promised new life of spiritual maturity.
By Pastor Paul Johnson, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. Sermon Notes is a column by local religious leaders.