Day 2 – 1 Corinthians 10:1-5
A wilderness season is usually not something we would have expected. While we know difficult seasons can come, they are generally not on our bucket list. What we usually expect is that our lives will be fun and satisfying. While we may not consciously think about it this way, this is what is often happening in our hearts. The deep work of God in the wilderness is to lead us through expectation into deepening trust.
While the people of Israel seemingly did everything but trust God in the days of their exodus from slavery in Egypt, God’s heart was to nurture trust in them. They had been shaped in particular ways in their years of bondage and the journey through the desert was the gift of being re-formed and transformed into the kind of people who would flourish in the land of promise.
Like the people of Israel, we may have idealized notions of what the promised land is like. We hear “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8) and may hold expectations that milk and honey are just there for the taking to enjoy. However, milk (coming from goats who fed on the often fickle grasses of Canaan) and honey (which would be found here and there as the environment was fruitful) are both images that represent an abundance that was dependent upon rain. Unlike a lush, tropical paradise, the weather was inconsistent and unpredictable. Truly, it was a land of promise but it was a place of deep faith and trust.
In the journey from Egypt, God took them into the wilderness where water and food were in short supply if any was to be found at all. Why would God do this? Because He loved them and was shaping them for life with Him. In many ways Egypt had shaped their hearts and minds away from trust. Being slaves, they would have had no trust in or love for their masters. In addition, they had been shaped to expect that their lives were in their own hands. If they were going to make it, it would not be because the “system” cared for them but because they knew how to work within it. Finally, as slaves, any sense of worth or identity would have been rooted in what they could accomplish and how well they could perform for the Egyptians.
Read how their wilderness journey started …
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. (1 Corinthians 10:1–5, ESV)
They had all the spiritual resources needed to experience the transformation of the wilderness just as we do. They were delivered from slavery to Egypt … we are delivered from slavery to sin. They were “baptized” into Moses … we are baptized into Christ. They were given the cloud to guide them … we are given the Holy Spirit. They had spiritual food and drink … we have the bread and wine of communion.
God had taken them out of Egypt and now he wanted to take Egypt out of them. The wilderness would have reshaped their hearts, if only they had let it. In Christ, we are given all the spiritual resources we need to experience formation into people of deepening trust, walking in love … and it is a journey. It means releasing expectations and the ways we’ve been shaped to think life works. Releasing is not easy work. It is often painful and disorienting.
Author Gerald May wrote, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” Unexamined and unseen, our expectations can lead us toward all the same resentful responses that were present for the Israelites: anger, discontent, fearfulness, and striving.
I first taught through this passage 25 years ago, and at that time, I called the teaching “Out of the Wilderness.” Now, I see more clearly that it is not about getting out, but trusting God in the wilderness. My expectations had been that God was supposed to get me out of difficult seasons and that a difficult season couldn’t be the plan. Examining our expectations is one of the first steps on the journey of deepening trust.
Questions for reflection: in what ways are you (or, have you been) in a wilderness season? What expectations might the Spirit be leading you to release? What might be the invitations to trust?
Prayer: Lord, give me the wisdom to release expectations and ways I’ve been shaped that do not lead to trust and love. I need your wisdom to know what trust looks like right now. I want to trust, and I also confess that often I don’t. Thank you for the ways you are at work in me, leading me. Amen.