Do you ever wonder why God led the children of Israel out into a desert, of all places, to reveal Himself for the first time to them as a nation?
Believe it or not, I sense this is more than just an interesting historical question; I think it has relevance to our personal spiritual journeys in the present day.
I don’t think it was an accident that the great revelations of HIs Name (“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God….”) and of His Commandments occur in a mountainous desert, as far from civilization and all its busy distractions as possible. If God was to speak to human beings and if there was any possibility of their hearing Him, it could only happen in a place stripped of all cultural reference points, all familiar routines, every non-God influence, where even nature would not draw their attention away. Perhaps it was only under a relentless sun, in a desolate place devoid of life, that the living God could break through all the cultural filters that normally protect people from Him.
You and I are not much different that this band of nomads. We are tempted to grab on to anything and anyone in an attempt find comfort, resolve our issues or find our identity. And sometimes we must arrive at a desolate place before we hear from God.
When couples (married, engaged or dating) come for ministry, it is not unusual for one of them to be surprised by the appearance of a powerful emotion and associated response, one that negatively affects the relationship. If the person is willing, we will explore the roots of the emotion right there in that session. There is often crying, even sobbing, as an individual connects to painful or uncomfortable places in his or her life. Typically the person who came with them, who is watching their loved one in obvious discomfort, begins to reach over with the intention of giving a reassuring touch. Over the years I know I have upset many such people by not allowing them to make contact — I silently but firmly wave them off. While those folks do not understand, most comply, sit back down and continue to pray. Eventually the one who was in turmoil makes a connection with the Lord and receives exactly what they need from Him to find peace and calm.
Afterward I explain my unexpected actions. Effective ministry depends on keeping the person available and dependent on Jesus. I am aware that the moment a husband (for example) takes his wife’s hand or places his hand on her arm, she will immediately shift her trust and dependance to her husband and stop searching for the truth from the Lord. While the touch of a loved one may bring comfort in the moment, it is only good for the moment. Lasting peace and calm only comes from receiving the healing truth of Jesus — and sometimes that will mean arriving at a desolate place so we can hear from God.
On the day we celebrate His glorious resurrection, perhaps you will find Him as you come alone to a desolate place only to discover His empty tomb. He is risen! Happy Easter!