“How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; and You give them to drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.” Psalm 36:7-9
Isn’t that passage just absolutely wonderful? There’s so much there. God’s merciful love, His protection, His abundant provision, His bountiful gifts, His life-giving presence, His holiness. It shows the Lord’s involvement in our lives, His deep care and concern for all of our needs, and His great generosity with His children. It’s enough to make you want to just jump right in, doesn’t it?
I have had a picture in my head all week that just won’t leave. It’s a picture of the priests at the Jordan River as the Israelites were ready to cross into the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering through the wilderness.
“You shall, moreover, command the priests who are carrying the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’” Joshua 3:8
Like the Israelites, I have spent some time in the wilderness, too. In the beginning, all I could focus on was getting through and getting out. Many times I cried out to the Lord, begging Him to just hurry up and get the lesson over with so I could learn it and move on. I didn’t understand then that the focus was never supposed to be on the destination, but on Who was on the journey with me.
As I attempted to navigate through that strange, unwelcomed place, I found myself reading God’s Word more and more. I spent a lot of time in the Psalms, and grabbed onto every promise I came across. I spent hours with Him daily, not necessarily because I wanted to at first, but because I had to – because it was the only way I could make it through the day.
During that time, I read a devotional by Amy Carmichael that spoke about the Lord turning our pain, our desert places, into something beautiful and useful. The verse she used was for Israel, but I knew that it was for me, too, and it gave me hope.
“Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and sound of a melody.” Isaiah 51:3
The wilderness time was finally over. The Israelites had learned to go when God said go, and stop when God said stop. The hope of the promise was soon to be a reality, as the Israelites were finally ready to cross the Jordan. The Lord required something of them first, though. It was not enough to stand there and wait for the Lord to part the water. They knew He could do it – He had done it before. No, this time they were required to literally step out in faith. As the priests stepped into the water, it parted, and like before, the Israelites walked across on dry ground.
What a picture for us!
Are you walking in the wilderness right now? May I encourage you to let the Lord comfort your waste places, too? He can take what is dry, broken and lifeless, and nurture it back to life. You will live again, you will laugh again, and you will sing again. The Lord is faithful, and He always keeps His promises. You will be able to say with Job, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”
Maybe you’ve already come out of the wilderness, feeling as if you’re standing on the bank of a swiftly moving river, wondering how you’ll ever get across. If so, pray for direction, seek wise counsel, and then step out in faith. Dip your toes in, and watch the Lord do the miraculous.
“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, as the God of Israel I will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights and springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land fountains of water.” Psalm 41:17-18