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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Build Your Altars - The Altar of the Wilderness

I'm going to go a little different route today in my altars series. Actually God sent me a different route. I had fully intended to speak on the altar of love today, but He showed me so much last night that I decided to change my topic.
Today I'm going to talk about the altar of the wilderness. I know that so far in this series I've been talking about character traits, things that each of us should have. Obviously "the wilderness" isn't a character trait, but it is a place that builds character.
Now, if you're like me, when you think of the wilderness you think of the children of Israel. It's so easy to judge those people. I mean look at all God did for them, yet they chose to remain in the wilderness rather than claiming His promise.
But though it's easy to judge them, I find myself in the same rut so many times. And God has carried me through so much, but as I said here it's often easy to take our eyes off of God's goodness and focus instead on our circumstances.
If there were ever to be a Biblical book about my life, I'm sure that the people reading it would find it very easy to judge me as well.
But the point is that some of the children of Israel made it through the wilderness while others did not. Some saw the promised land while others died on the edge of promise.
What was the difference? They had all seen the same miracles. They had all heard the same promises. They had all eaten the same manna. The difference was their focus. Those who focused on God and His promises made it through.
Look at Deuteronomy 8:18:

"But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day."

Moses was telling the children of Israel who were about to enter the land to remember the LORD because He was the reason they were entering the land of promise. He was the one that had brought them through the wilderness. He's the only one who can completely change the situation we are in.
The psalmist talks a bit about this in Psalm 107:35:

"He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings."

Did you catch what it said there? He will turn the wilderness into standing water. It doesn't say He always removes us from the wilderness. He makes the wilderness bearable. He changes the way we view our circumstances.
I've said before that I used to wonder as a child why God didn't just pick the children of Israel up in Egypt and place them in the promised land with their enemies soundly defeated. But since that time in my youth, God has shown me that the children of Israel needed to go through the wilderness because they needed to learn that He would provide for them even in the hardest times of life. And they needed to learn to praise Him during those times.
After all, it was in the wilderness when God first introduced the tabernacle and gave specifics for the sacrafices the children of Israel were to make. The wilderness is a place for us to grow.
Jesus faced a wilderness as well. He faced the wilderness of temptation. In Luke 4, Jesus went alone into the wilderness to fast and to pray. Satan came to Jesus during this time because he felt Jesus would be weak.
However, Jesus was prepared for the wilderness. He was ready to give an answer to Satan's every temptation.
We must prepare for the temptations of our life as well. We must focus on learning and knowing God's Word during the best times of life so that we can use His Word as a stronghold during the harder times of life when Satan is fighting us on every side.
If we trust in the Lord and focus on His Word during the wilderness times, He will send us just what we need when we need it.
In Acts 8, the Ethiopian Eunuch was in a desert, literally. He was in the middle of nowhere, but he was reading God's Word, and he needed someone to help him understand it. God sent Philip by the Ethiopian Eunuch's way at just the right time, and Philip explained God's Word to the man.
Just like the Eunuch we will face times in our life when we just don't understand, but if we will focus on God's Word, He will send the right answer at the right time. We just have to know that He is there with us even in the wilderness.



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