“Is it possible for God to prepare a table in the desert?”

In Scripture, the desert is a place of temptation, testing, solitude, prayer, and discipline. Jesus and John the Baptist both prepared for their ministries in the desert. Both Jesus and the Israelites were lead into the desert by God early in their histories and Jesus often went into the wilderness to be alone with the Father.

In today’s Office of Readings one of the verses that caught my attention says: “Is it possible for God to prepare a table in the desert?” Psalm 78:19.

The Desert

We all have a basic understanding of what a desert is from a scientific perspective, but what is the significance of the desert, also known as the wilderness, in Scripture?

In Scripture, the desert is a place of temptation, testing, solitude, prayer, and discipline. Jesus and John the Baptist both prepared for their ministries in the desert. Both Jesus and the Israelites were lead into the desert by God early in their histories and Jesus often went into the wilderness to be alone with his Father.

Therefore, we can enter the desert intentionally to be with God or to prepare for something, and God can lead us into the desert for those same reasons and also to allow us to be tested.

The Question is an Expression of the Heart

The psalmist says of the Israelites’ seemingly innocent question, “[t]hey even spoke against God” and “[w]hen he heard this the Lord was angry.” Does that mean that their asking a simple question was sinful?

A simple question on its own is probably not sinful. However, the Israelites’ question was really an expression of what existed in their hearts, a lack of trust in God, which they exhibited not only by asking the question, but also by being ungrateful about what God had done for them, complaining about their circumstances, and despairing about the future. This was even though God had protected them during the Passover, lead them out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, guided them through the desert, provided them with water from a rock, gave them manna to eat, and when they complained about a lack of meat, provided them with so much quail meat that it “… [came] out of … [their] very nostrils.” Numbers 11:20.

Even though God had shown Israel his power and favor, the Israelites still did not trust him, which lead them to ask “[i]s it possible for God to prepare a table in the desert?” It was the Israelites’ lack of trust in God which was sinful; their question was an expression of that.

Reflection

Today, while I read the Psalms, I thought about a certain “desert” area of my life. I did not enter the desert on my own, so I believe that God lead me there. For what reason, I am not totally sure, though I have some ideas. I will continue to patiently pray and seek to discern the answer.

Have I ever asked the question “[i]s it possible for God to prepare a table in the desert?” I realized that a lack of complete trust in God in that certain “desert” area of my life can manifest as complaining and worry which, like the Israelites, is an expression of what is in my heart. If I find myself worrying or complaining, then I need to think about how I can come to completely trust God with that “desert” area.

Questions to consider

(1) Are you in the “desert” in any area of your life? (2) If so, did you go there intentionally or has God lead you there? (3) If God lead you there, why did he do so? (4) Do you trust God completely with your “desert” area? (5) What is your behavior like with respect to your “desert” area? Are you complaining or worried about it? Are you praying about it?

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