If you were for some reason called upon today to leave your home in a hurry and could only take what you could carry in your hands, what would you grab? As the children of Israel in Egypt were being prepared by God for the great Exodus, I do not think they really had a clue how quickly they were going to have to vacate Egypt. In the famous movie “The Ten Commandments”, with Charlton Heston, people are shown herding all types of animals, leading camels loaded up with a lot of their earthly belongings and dragging handmade carts filled with whatever they could bring, as they were headed off for an unknown destination where almost none of it would do them any good – the desert!
Imagine with me for a moment that you were there. Imagine that you were one of those Israelites and you had just spent the past several weeks, three to seven theologians estimate, watching the ten plagues fall on the Egyptians. As you watched, you knew God was doing something and you also knew you could soon be freed from slavery, but you had no idea where you would be going. It is sort of like that now for us because of the COVID-19 epidemic and all the social tensions. Their whole world was being turned upside down and so it seems, is ours.
God understands that desert experiences produce something in His creation, which He desires. Three of His main Bible personalities were tested and prepared in the desert. Let us start by mentioning Jesus during His forty day fast. Next, rewind backward a couple thousand years and Moses himself spent most of his life in the desert; forty years in Midian where he fled after killing the Egyptian taskmaster and forty more years as the leader of the Exodus, totaling eighty years. Finally then fast forward back to the New Testament for the desert training of probably the third most important person in all the Bible. The newly converted Saul of Tarsus, as he was becoming the Apostle Paul, spent three years in the desert, probably in Arabia, in preparation of the incredible ministry God was about to launch through him.
During the last century the world has experienced a fast-paced hyper drive of education, innovation, and fleshly pleasures beyond description. If the lust for pleasure is the most blinding enemy of Biblical Christianity, then we have been captive of its special forces for many years. Our loving Heavenly Father knows that not only does He have to get us out of Egypt, as a matter of speaking, to save us, but He has to also get Egypt out of us. His method proven over time is to lead us into a desert experience. That desert experience may very well involve the loss of the comfortable smooth green grass from under our feet and its uncomfortable replacement becoming hot dry sand.
The only thing beautiful in the desert is God, by His design. It is in those places where God is the only positive option left in our lives. The only place left to look is up. The only place left to go is to Him!
In the past several months, due to COVID-19, many created comforts have been removed from us. Everything from being able to find our favorite brands of products in the stores, to our most common forms of entertainment have been brought to a screeching halt. Even with the hope of limited reopenings, our lives have been dramatically impacted. It all started with one tiny microorganism in China. As a result our lives, for all practical spiritual purposes, have been led into a type of desert experience.
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus stated “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” (NKJV) I believe that if we consider this instruction, as important as God does to walking out our salvation, we will clearly understand why God might be leading us into this desert experience. It is to strip us of the things that hinder us from seeking the Kingdom! If we are too busy for God, to busy for prayer, too busy for church, and too occupied with other things to seek and do His will, hello, “ding ding ding”, out of His eternal love for us, for our own good He simply has to do something drastic!
As a Revivalist, one of my main callings from the Holy Spirit is to be on the watch for false teachers, false teachings, and even whole false movements in the church. If you Google “Nolan Harkness Author”, you will find dozens of articles addressing many of today’s false teachings and movements. Most of these falsehoods feed on the “self entitlement” and “Secular Humanistic” philosophies, which so permeate our culture and have crept into our churches. If there is one thing I am certain of, it is that this desert, custom designed by our Heavenly Father, is proving that these false teachings simply do not work. Many have sincerely come into the Kingdom and truly want to follow Jesus, but have been misled into thinking that living for God is a walk in the park. This desert which we all find ourselves in the midst of, could be the refining fire which teaches them what it is to truly take up their cross and follow Him.
Whatever lies ahead in this pandemic, and all of the social unrest around the world, Jesus will be our all-sufficient provider. In this desert that lies ahead of us, He is the manna that comes down from Heaven, and He is the water, which gushes forth from the rock. He is also our constant protector and He will see us through this wilderness until we one day cross the river Jordan, into His arms and into the true promised land of His Celestial Kingdom for ever and ever, for all eternity!
Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is www.verticalsound.org.