In Deuteronomy, Moses is giving his final instructions to the children of Israel. They’re on the edge, on the brink, of going into the promised land. Almost there – but not quite. They’ve been 40 years in the parched desert and they’re about to enter a land of flowing streams and vines, of pomegranates and figs, of olives and honey.
Moses is dying. He’s looking into the faces of all those that he’s loved and cared for and he’s telling them everything that he thinks is important. And he’s scared. Not scared of death but scared of what will become of those in front of him. Scared that they will forget.
Scared that they will forget that God took them out of Egypt and delivered them from slavery. And scared that when they have all those good things in the land that they’ve been promised that they’ll soon forget that it’s God who gives it to them.
In the desert they’d been taught to be reliant on God. It took them a long time to learn that lesson. In places where there were no flowing streams, God brought water from the rock. And in all the years where there were no vines or figs or olives or honey – it was God who turned up every day with manna and quail.
God showed up – and if he didn’t, they perished. But people soon forget. They did then – and we do now.
They encountered God in the wilderness. Indeed, our verse says that God led them in the wilderness for a purpose. If you think about it, Jacob, Moses and Elijah all met with God in the wilderness. All had turning points. New chapters in their lives after those encounters.
And Jesus did too. Jesus was led there after his baptism and it launched him into his mission and ministry. One of the verses that he quotes to Satan is from this very chapter: “One does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
So, I have a request and a question. The request is: don’t forget. As we’re almost, but not quite, coming out of the wilderness of lock-down, don’t forget how God has looked after you and led you in the past. And maybe your own wilderness has been for longer than lock-down? Perhaps it’s been years? But, whether you realise it or not, God showed up.
And the question is: where will God take you next? Like the children of Israel, are you on the brink of receiving a promise? Or like Jacob, Moses, Elijah and Jesus, has the wilderness taught you something? Is this a turning point, a new direction, a fresh start? Amen