MANNA FROM MY FATHER’S HAND # 19
(Originally posted 9/8/2023)
THE WILDERNESS WALK (Part 6)
Derailments, Diversions, Distractions and Disillusionment
Wow, FINALLY, we’re getting to the point that I had planned to make WEEKS ago … before the One-Who-leads-this-Wilderness-Walk led in so many unexpected ways.
For true believers in Jesus Christ, the evil one cannot cause the “curse” to come upon us (much to his chagrin), because Jesus BECAME the curse for us as He hung on that tree (the cross), and we are now set free, HALLELUJAH!
“Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’–so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”
(Galatians 3:11-14 ESV)
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
(2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
(Colossians 2:13-15 ESV)
So, the Lord won’t LET the evil one curse one of His chosen ones as we traverse our journey toward eternal life. However, our enemy is wily and deceptive, and can potentially cause US to veer off the path willingly if we are not “wise as serpents and gentle (innocent) as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
The Old Testament’s account of Israel being delivered from Egypt and making their way to the Promised Land so often foreshadows the way that Christians make the journey from being originally delivered from sin, and then sojourning through life in this world, while heading toward the eternal Promised Land. The journey is much the same.
A Bible character that serves as a vivid example related to this is the story of Balaam, found primarily in Numbers chapter 22 to 24. Later in the Bible however he is mentioned in several other parts of scripture, in a very negative light.
If you haven’t read his story, or need a refresher (he’s the one whose donkey ended up talking to him when an angel nearly killed Balaam…) by all means, read that passage above. It’s quite interesting, entertaining and even somewhat ironic and humorous at times.
To summarize, as the Israelites were making their journey to the Promised Land, there were many enemies who didn’t want them to be successful in doing so. One was a king named Balak (from Moab). He sent for a prophet named Balaam to come and curse the people of Israel. But God would not let Balaam do so, because Israel was blessed.
Three times, Balaam went up to sacrifice and overlook the encampments of Israel, and although Balak’s desire was to have him curse Israel, the Lord continued to have him BLESS them. The king was NOT happy, to say the least and finally sent Balaam away.
The story seems to end there. However, the next few verses say:
“While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.”
The Israelites had often been told that if they obeyed the law, they would be blessed, but if they disobeyed, they would be cursed. Although this passage only implies it, it appears that somehow Balaam let the people of Moab know that the way to hinder God’s blessing upon Israel was to cause them to disobey, and to go after other gods.
So often, people perceive of God as being an “angry” God in the Old Testament. In virtually every case I can remember, that anger was stirred up by Israel being unfaithful to God, and being corrupted in going after idols by becoming like the nations around them. Rather than giving their worship totally to God, they bowed their hearts to idols, people and gods of the surrounding nations.
He calls Himself a “jealous” God, not because he’s envious of us, but because we are rightfully HIS, and other “gods” or “idols” have stolen our hearts (as a husband would righteously be jealous if someone stole away the heart of his beloved wife). His desire is for us to be with HIM. How often are our hearts enticed to go after the things around us that are in some way “idols”, taking the attention off the One Who loves us and trusting in and bowing our hearts before some other person or thing?
Besides Balaam (and the Baal of Peor) being mentioned several times in later parts of the Old Testament, he infamously is mentioned in the New Testament as well in the following places: 2 Peter 2:15, Jude 11, and Revelation 2:14 (ESV), in which Jesus says to the church at Pergamum, “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.”
As we walk along the Path that Jesus has laid out before us as His children, the evil one often tries to put such “stumbling blocks” in our way as well. His ways are crafty, and although he really has little control over whether the Lord will “bless” His children (because He already HAS done so in Jesus Christ, and will always do so); yet he will do whatever he can to derail, divert, distract, dissuade, dishearten and disillusion us along the way, in order to make us ineffective. And by the way, if we have actually fallen into grave sin, it would be a prudent time to examine our faith to be sure we truly HAVE a relationship with Jesus in the first place (and if we find that relationship lacking, it’s a good time to humbly come before His feet, repent and come to Him, seeking His forgiveness and salvation).
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
(2 Corinthians 13:5)
To sum up, the Lord has us on a journey to the eternal Promised Land. The evil one wants as many of us NOT to get there as possible, and will even corrupt or distract believers in order to keep us from being effective. His desire is to see all of us in the sorry state of a dead snake that lay on the road the other day, being consumed by flies–a simple picture of Satan’s desire for each of us. The attached video only shows a part of the picture, since the stench was also breath-holdingly horrible.
On yesterday morning’s walk, there was a tree that looked like it had seen better days, possibly clinging to life, hopefully on the mend…. Through the branches, I could see the beautiful morning star shining, steady, unmoving as the faithful presence of the Lord in the midst of our struggles.
The evil one would have us overwhelmed and defeated by those very challenges, but God’s desire is that we have close, intimate relationships with Him, filled to the brim with His presence, life and grace.
As you walk “in Christ”, by His grace, stay focused, at peace, confident in HIM alone, turning neither to the right nor the left, but following closely behind Him. Follow as eagerly and readily as the ducklings in the accompanying video immediately follow their parents when the ducks begin to set off. Don’t be resistant, by pushing back on His expressions of love.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
(Matthew 23:37-39 ESV)
“For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ But you were unwilling, and you said, ‘No! We will flee upon horses’; therefore you shall flee away; and ‘We will ride upon swift steeds’; therefore your pursuers shall be swift. A thousand shall flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left like a flagstaff on top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill.
Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.”
(Isaiah 30:15-18 ESV)
Wait for Him. Rest in Him. He will keep you from pitfalls, and if you stumble, surely, He will lift you back up and cause you to walk in His ways. If that all sounds like gibberish to you, might I encourage you to seek after Him, in order to find Him.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
He will lead you along His gracious path in the wilderness, often in an unexpected way. Sometimes it will seem like He’s hiding you among the reeds (like the ducklings in the video), which is probably His way of protecting you. He is not interested in you being stuck desperately in the desert of destruction. His ultimate goal will cause you to walk on the path to Paradise.