Forty years the Israelites wandered through the desert, fully dependent on God to meet their every need. Daily He sent food from heaven, water from rocks, clothes that didn't wear or tear. He guided their every step, cloud by day, pillar of fire by night. He was ever present. Ever providing.
Forty long years later they entered the land of Promise. On that day the cloud disappeared, and the manna ceased. Why? Because they simply didn't need it anymore. They were no longer to wander through wilderness places; instead it was time to dwell in a land of safety. They no longer needed miraculous food to fall from the sky because they now dwelt in a land filled with food and provision.
Their season of daily dependence in God had come to an end and their season of rest had come.
I too have had my wilderness seasons. Seasons where the way was unknown to me. Seasons where every day was filled with manna from God or nothing. Seasons where if it hadn't been for His strong arms carrying me, I simply wouldn't have survived the day. 2012 was a wilderness wandering year for me.
Now that the crisis of the last year is behind me I find myself, much like the Israelites, in a new place. A land flowing with milk and honey and safe dwelling places.
The problem is... I miss the cloud. I miss the closeness that comes from desert wanderings alone with my Savior. I miss the dependence. I miss the intimacy. (I don't miss the desert!)
So how do we return to a place of intimacy without returning to desert places? Can we cling close to Jesus in the joyful, abundant Promised Land? How do we depend on Jesus when we don't need Him desperately? (yes, I know that we always need Jesus, but there are seasons where we are more self-sufficient than others simply because our circumstances aren't as demanding)
This last weekend I snuck away for a few days to be alone with Him. Day after day, hour after hour I heard Him whisper to my heart "dwell" "delight".
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Dwell makes sense. I understand my need to abide in Christ, to settle down in Him and be still. Delight, however, is a foreign concept to this girl whose natural bent leads towards melancholy and solemnness. I get dependence. I get desperation. I wrestle with delight.
I would imagine it would be hard after forty years of wilderness wandering to settle in and set up a dwelling place. When all you had ever known before was how to be a nomad. Change is hard on us creatures of habit, even when the change is good for us. If the Israelites taught us anything it's that. After all, who would want to go back to slavery after being set free? But don't we all? Don't we all long for the familiar, even if the familiar hurts?
Taking delight in the Lord is tough stuff. It requires thought and intentionality. It demands our time and affection. It means intimacy, and attachment. It's easy for me to cling to Jesus when the battle is raging and He's the only place of safety in sight. But when the flaming arrows cease flying, and the desert places bloom, I find myself easily distracted by the things of this world.
And then I realize how much I miss Him. And I strangely find myself wishing for circumstances that would make me need Him just a bit more than I do right now.
Which would be fine, if the Promised Land wasn't part of His plan too. But it is. He leads us through wilderness places and lands flowing with milk and honey. If both places are part of His plan then; wherever He leads me am I dwelling there and whatever surrounds me am I delighting in Him?
Dependence is based on need.
Dwell and delight have nothing to do with need. They have only to do with desire.
Just as wilderness places teach us to trust and depend on the Lord, Promised Lands teach us to dwell and delight in Christ. Both lessons are invaluable. Both lessons are hard. Both lessons lead to Christ.
I don't know where you are on your journey, dessert or Promised Land, but wherever you are can I encourage you? Depend! Dwell! Delight! Christ is near!