His Voice Shakes the Desert (Part 1)
Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness. The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders; the LORD is heard over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD strikes with flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the desert …
On September 27th, we hosted a special event for the ladies of our church and region. The Lord clearly spoke to me regarding the sermon theme for the night, which was based on the passage of scripture cited above—“His Voice Shakes the Desert”. I spent weeks preparing and felt the Lord profoundly near as I did. When the day of the event came and I was making final preparations on the message, I started to panic because I felt a shift in direction. It was as though the Lord waited to fully reveal His intent for the night, and I was beginning to understand that the message of divine encouragement was also to include a warning. The Lord began to speak to me about my own heart and my need to prepare for a coming wilderness. He also began to speak to me about the preparation needed for His people. With a trembling, I shared my stirrings with the intercessors gathered for pre-service prayer that night and, together, we submitted ourselves to His leadership.
Little did I know that I was about to step into a painful and personal wilderness, and that the Lord was leading me to a place where I would discover things I didn’t already know—things about Him … things about myself … and things about the wilderness season. It felt like I preached myself into the desert that evening as I spoke things into the atmosphere that would later become water for my soul. Over these next few paragraphs and in my next blog (this is a two-part message), I will endeavor to share some of the things I have learned …
The wilderness serves a great purpose. The influence of the desert in the Bible is clear.
After Jesus submitted himself and was baptized in the Jordan River (which was a symbol of consecration for God’s purposes), the dove descended and the voice of God was audibly heard by all who gathered there. The next stop was not ministry … or the working of miracles … or supernatural healings. The next stop was the desert and a season of great testing. It was in the desert that Jesus was separated and empowered for the work of God. The wilderness is not a place to be avoided, but it is a place to be understood. The wilderness is a remote place. It is a place that is devoid of all outward appeal. It is seemingly empty of all stimulation, hope, and comfort. Yet, it is the place we must walk through before reaching any land of promise.
Following the deliverance of God’s people from captivity (in Egypt), they were led into a three-day journey into the wilderness (where they made sacrifices unto God). If I am honest, I have always equated the wilderness experience (for the Israelites) with their wandering disobedience. In reality, this passageway through the desert was always part of God’s stratagem for the Hebrew nation. It was part of their preparation to pass through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land (although God never intended for them to stay as long as they did).
The wilderness is necessary for our preparation. But, why?
The wilderness is where our flesh is cut away. For the Israelites, it was a physical circumcision. For us, it is the place where our hearts are circumcised. It is the place of our consecration. The voice of John the Baptist was first heard in the wilderness. It was there that he was trained. It was there that the word of God came into his heart. It was there that the power of God came upon him to confront an entire backslidden religious system. In the book of Hosea, we read about a bride (Gomer) who was diverted and seeking material things. In His mercy, God led her into the wilderness to remove everything from her that had gripped her heart (those things that did not come from His hand). It was in the desert place that she learned the tender voice of her Bridegroom King. In Song of Solomon 8:5, we encounter the Bride coming out of the wilderness leaning on her Beloved. This wilderness is the place where we discover our destiny, which is utter dependence on God.
The wilderness is where the miraculous power of God is displayed (remember the Red Sea). The wilderness is where supernatural provision is discovered (remember the manna from heaven). The wilderness is where supernatural men begin to walk on a path that natural men can’t follow.
The wilderness is where the enemy is destroyed. Pharaoh and his army were convinced that the desert had shut in the people of God and that their destruction was inevitable. But it was in the wilderness that the supernatural pathways of God were revealed. If we avoid the wilderness, we will never fully understand that He can open up before us the pathways of impossibility.
In 1 Samuel 17, David’s brother accused him of pride and weakness because he was living in the desert only tending to a few sheep—‘Who have you left those few sheep in the wilderness with?’ It was like he was saying, ‘you haven’t had the training we’ve had; you don’t have the armor we have.’ But David had found something in the wilderness that his brothers hadn’t. 1 Samuel 23 tells us that for David and his men to become mighty, they had to live in the wilderness where there were no other resources besides the resource of God. Those warriors, who were initially discontented and in distress, came out and were able to fight against the powers of darkness. Psalm 74:14 encourages us in the revelation that the spoils of victory (the crushing of the head of Leviathan) will be given as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness. The triumph of victory is given to those who dwell in the desert.
The wilderness is the place where we discover the deep things of God and it is where we discover the deep of our own souls. This was true of Jesus’ wilderness experience—which serves as not only our example, but as our university. We will examine this in the next blog entry.
For now, here are some takeaways …
To enter into the place of promise, we must first go through the wilderness. It is part of our preparation.
The wilderness is not a place to be avoided, but it is a place that must be understood and embraced
The wilderness is the place where our flesh dies and is cut away; the place where our destiny is discovered; and the place where the enemy is destroyed
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her. I will give her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. And it shall be, in that day, says the Lord, that you will call Me ‘My Husband’, and no longer call Me ‘My Master’. For I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, and they shall be remembered by their name no more.