Acts 17:11 Archives

The Risk of Wandering in the Desert

A sermon by Dean VanDruff.

I will tell you what has been a lot on my mind of late... is the Israelites being "delivered" from the bondage of Egypt, but later really irritating God for not entering into the promised land; as detail in New Testament commentary in Heb chapters 3-4.

Consider that it took guts to leave Egypt and to walk out in the desert without weapons, water, or food. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, for they persisted in unbelief to walk the short distance (a few days or weeks?) required to inherit the blessings. This was the whole point of leaving Egypt: to enter into the promised land; not to wander around in the desert for 40 years!

The spiritual point of this is driven home to us, "in our faces" in Hebrews 3 and 4. Leaving Egypt is like breaking with the bondage of sin. Yes, there are attractive spices, but there is the "possession" of being a slave; and the whip. Still, it takes courage to walk out into the desert. Yet this is only half of what is needed, for we must cross the desert and go where God says. Entering the promised land is walking in the fullness of the Spirit, believing the "great and precious promises", gaining the giant fruit, milk, and honey of the Spirit. Why leave, if you don't go all the way?

God got really mad when they did not complete the mission, when they "fell short" of entering in. So mad, in fact, that He "swore in His wrath... they will never enter in!" Is this just a dramatic little episode for those horrible Israelites back then, or is this a real and present danger in the here and now?

Heb 3:6-4:11 (NIV) ...And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.' So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion." Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.... It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

In case this is so well developed and detailed that the mind might drift from the central point, Jude puts it succinctly:

Jude 1:5 (NIV) Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.

Oddly, in modern Christianity few have even bothered to leave Egypt! They think they can be saved "in theory" and with "mere words" and nothing need change in their lives. Yet, sadly, those very few who do renounce and get freedom from sin are only halfway to the Kingdom. For we must enter into the fullness of what He has promised. Yes, we must leave sin, but we must also "fill our house" with God's Name... or else we risk really getting slammed seven times worse than before. (Mt 12:45) For those convinced they are saved because they say so, even pointing out the words of Jesus or John or Paul or Peter of James will not convince; but these are a lost cause from honesty in any case. It is indeed sad to have people show the daring to leave Egypt and yet have their bodies eaten in the desert after all, when it is just a few days or weeks away...

Ps 106:24 (NIV) Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe his promise. They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the Lord. So he swore to them with uplifted hand that he would make them fall in the desert.

1Co 10:9-11 (NIV) We should not test the Lord, as some of them did--and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did--and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.

It is not enough to be forgiven. We must become "like" Him, or we risk really making Him angry... after all. If we don't enter in, then our state is worse off than before we started. "Turn him over to the jailers to be tortured, until the entire debt is paid back." (Mt 18:23-35)

Heb 6:9 (NRS) Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation.

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