"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying….'Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.'"
Exodus 14: 1-3
King James Version
"Entangled in the Wilderness"
"No words can express how much the world owes to sorrow. Most of the Psalms were born in a wilderness. Most of the Epistles were written in a prison. The greatest thoughts of the greatest thinkers have all passed through fire. The greatest poets have 'learned in suffering what they taught in song.' In bonds Bunyan lived the allegory that he afterwards wrote, and we may thank Bedford Jail for the Pilgrim's Progress. Take comfort, afflicted Christian! When God is about to make pre-eminent use of a person, He puts them in the fire."
What problem is entangling my life today making me feel caught in the wilderness?
"Though our private desires are ever so confused, though our private requests are ever so broken, and though our private groanings are ever so hidden from men, yet God eyes them, records them, and puts them upon the file of heaven, and will one day crown them with glorious answers and returns."
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
II Corinthinas 4: 17
King James Version
This past week we had a terrible wind storm at our house that tore all my vines on the patio off the posts and left them in a tangled heap on the ground. Even the strong nylon cords that attached the vines to the large wooden beams were shredded.
In order to try to save as much of the greenery and foliage as possible, I went to the garage cupboard to find another rope that was, hopefully, more durable. What I found was a used rope hopelessly in knots. However, since I had no other option, I began the laborious task of trying to unravel the knotted mess. As I pulled on pieces of the rope, I found my frustration level escalating. The harder I tugged, the bigger the mess. What I soon noticed was that by my impatient pulling in one area, some other place, which I was unaware of, became more tightly knotted. Yanking to undo a knot in one place was actually creating a bigger problem in another. Because I could not see the entire piece of rope clearly from one end to the other, my futile attempts at remedying the mess were unsuccessful. I wanted to hurry and have a perfect piece of rope. But my knotted pile of cord needed patience and a long-term view in order for the knots to be removed.
You and I are an awful lot like that knotted rope. It takes someone with patience, and lots of it, along with a long-term view, to get us unwound so we can be useful again.
I don't know what trials and problems have you in knots. But as I read the prayer requests each day, I can recognize there are plenty of tragedies that turn us upside-down and inside out! Unexpected illness. Job loss. Housing foreclosures. Death of a loved one. Problems with a child. Betrayal by a spouse. Or as so many of our Transformation Garden friends have told me, you may live in a country where there is terrible political upheaval. Or you may be the victim of an earthquake, cyclone, tornado or fire. Right now you may be a knotted mess. You long desperately to have things immediately straightened out. No more knots!
This is exactly what happened to the children of Israel. Four hundred years they had been knotted in the chains of slavery. Bound and burdened. Afflicted in adversity. Then God sent a deliverer---Moses. And what the children of Israel wanted was to get out of Egypt and into Canaan as fast as they could. Wouldn't you, too? After being at the end of Pharaoh's whips for 400 years, wouldn't you want to head out of town with all the speed you could muster? I know I would.
When deliverance came, however, this over 1 million crowd of men, women, and children wanted to head immediately toward Canaan. However, God stepped in with directions. He informed Moses that He wanted the children of Israel to turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea over against Baalzephon. Just in case you are like me and not familiar with this obscure location, Canaan lay to the northeast of Egypt, yet God instructed Moses to lead the people in a southwesterly direction when they reached the eastern border of Egypt.
When word of this strange travel behavior reached Pharaoh, God warned Moses that Pharaoh would think the Israelites were crazy and had lost their way and were totally confused and lost in the desert.
Does this sound like your life right now? Confused? Lost? Alone? Wandering in a place you don't recognize? Wondering why God would lead you into the wilderness and then forget about you?
I love these words penned by Frank C. Laubach for perhaps they will help you and me understand that in the moments of entanglement in our lives, God is at work. In fact, He may be doing His most incredible work in our lives if only we'll be patient and watch for His long-term view of our situation: "There is a deep peace that grows out of illness and loneliness and a sense of failure. God cannot get close when everything is delightful. He seems to need these darker hours, those empty-hearted hours, to mean the most to people."
What we find in this wilderness entanglement is that not only did God have something to show the children of Israel, but He had something to show Pharaoh, too. In your life, there may be a Pharaoh whom God has something to show about His love; His power; and His leading. And in the wilderness of your life and mine, His guiding power will be truly revealed.
I want to close our devotional today with a quote from one of my favorite theologians, C.S. Lewis, who himself was not immune to the pain, suffering and desperation of life's wilderness:
"God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain, but without stain."
C. S. Lewis
"I asked the Lord that I might grow.
In faith and love and every grace,
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face.
It was He who taught me thus to pray,
And He I trust has answered prayer.
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He'd answer my request.
And by His love's constraining power,
Subdue my sins and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel,
The hidden evils of my heart.
And let the angry powers of hell,
Assault my soul in every part.
Yes, more with His own hand, He seemed,
Intent to aggravate my woe.
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my goals, and laid me low.
"Lord, why is this?" I trembling cried.
"Will You pursue this worm to death?"
"This is the way," the Lord replied,
"I answer prayer for grace and strength."
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus