Next year, I’m going to be doing a lot of preaching being the sole pastor of Waratah. One of the ways I’ve been prepping for this is making sure I’m pretty much ready to go with a 25 part series on the life of Moses.
Man, it has been amazing going super in depth, writing hundreds of pages of notes and I’m really looking forward to preaching thru it. So maybe this is a bit of preview for next year, but some of the things I’m learning, I just can’t hold in anymore.
Here’s one of my fave texts:
“And sure enough, Pharaoh heard what had happened, and he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian. When Moses arrived in Midian, he sat down beside a well.” Ex 2:15
This is of course right after Moses has totally blown it. He tried to ‘be the saviour’ but in his way, bopping the Egyptian guard on the head…or stabbing him, we’re not told. But he’s found out to be a murderer. Now begins 40 long years of instruction by God.
It has struck me more and more reading Moses’ story that the desert is the place of instruction. In fact, you don’t get out of the desert, until you’ve learned what God wants you to learn. Maybe you’re in a spiritual desert right now? No one get’s out until they’ve learned the lesson God’s wanting to teach them in there.
But it’s the place of instruction for Moses not least because it’s the only place where he can get a break from his enemies. In a desert, the tables are turned; one man can outlast an army. It’s the place endurance is learned. Maybe that is why no one ever really learns the skills of spiritual leadership without having to go through a desert.
I was talking to a friend of mine today who mentioned how amazing (in a bad way) it is to see so many people that we studied with no longer in ministry. I pondered that and wondered if it may because one thing they don’t teach you in a seminary is to expect a desert experience, before you get any real authority. I don’t mean a few weeks or months, I mean years. Years strung end to end. It took me years to learn something that Moses realised in the text above; there’s one thing in a desert that isn’t in a palace, where all things are given to you on a platter. (Or at least you, don’t notice it.)
When you’ve had everything handed to you on a platter, you never learn how to draw your own water. When you find yourself in a spiritual desert, you can either complain about it, or realise that it’s an opportunity to learn how to draw water.
And we need to learn how to draw. Richard Foster famously said in his classic book ‘the Celebration of Discipline’ that ‘what the world needs so desperately today are not more gifted people, nor more smart people but more deep people.’ I realised that quoting other people was only going to get me so far, I had to learn how to ‘draw water’ for myself. You never learn that, you never even notice the well, until you’re in the desert.
I am convinced that when Moses finally sits down at that well, in that moment, the salvation of Israel out of Egypt really begins.
I wonder how many people in our lives will receive salvation from God through something we do or say…only because we learned how to draw our own water. Someone’s salvation, or someone’s answer to prayer may be contingent upon God’s leading me to finally learn how to sit still.
If I was Satan, I would want to fill as many ministries and churches with as many people who have not learned what it is to draw from the well of their own prayer life.
In the background of all this I see a great irony, Moses caught a break from his enemies because it wasn’t worth risking an army by marching it into a desert for the sake of one man. But of course later the very thing that Moses does is lead an army, indeed a nation into and around a desert.
Moses knew better than anyone that only God can allow an army to survive in a desert. Israel survived where Egypt feared to tread because they had God. Which brings me to a very simple application: you know you’re really God’s people when you can survive in the desert.
And the desert is coming. As has been documented by so many. Our culture is more and more a context of wilderness for the church. Only the communities of people who know how to rely upon God, who ‘to a man’ know how to sit still and draw their own water from their own spiritual wells are going to survive.
So, embrace the desert, the place of preparation.