A couple weeks ago during our visit to the Poděbrady church, I had the opportunity to preach for the Sunday service. When I had worked with Poděbrady two years ago, I had the same honor, and was thrilled to get to stand before the congregation again.
This time, however, I wanted to preach in Czech, rather than in English with translation. Although my language skills have somewhat deteriorated after being away from the country for so long, I knew it would be worth it to try. God has given me a great passion for communicating God’s word – but would that passion translate into Czech?
With the help of Petra, our Czech intern, I translated word for word my English manuscript, and was able to deliver a 25 minute sermon to the church in Poděbrady on June 23rd. I was so encouraged by the whole process, and incredibly blessed to have been able to preach on the Old Testament here in Czech.
I spoke on a topic very dear to my heart – the presence of God.
Numbers 14 describes the Israelites wandering in the wilderness toward the land of promise. Two separate reports come back from the spying out of the land, and the majority of the people align themselves with the report of fear and despair. This event causes God to sentence Israel to wander for another 38 years, while the entire quarrelsome generation dies out.
Caleb and Joshua, however, discern God’s presence by fully facing wilderness in the assurance of God’s promises. They trust in the God who provides and who is present. The don’t shy away from the difficulty of their task, but move forward convinced that God will be with them. The quarrelsome generation could only see the options of slavery and death as their way to escape the wilderness. Caleb and Joshua trusted in the promises of God to be present no matter what the circumstance, and to faithfully bring them into the Land.
But in the end we discover that it was never about reaching the destination of the promised land. It was never about the security of “the land flowing with milk and honey.” It was and always has been about God’s presence. And if God’s people are in the desert, that is where Yahweh will be. Perhaps God is peculiarly present to the landless, in ways not understandable by those rooted and secure. To those in the wilderness, God provides. Never too much, never too little. But always enough for life.
Wilderness experiences will come in our lives. Peace and security are not apart of God’s promises for our life. But the assurance of God’s provision and unique presence is indeed a promise, although it often comes in ways we don’t expect. Our role is to fully face wilderness, expecting God to reveal himself in a special way, and to provide for life.
Let us fully embrace this life of sojourning, this journey in the wilderness, trusting God to make good of his promises, and walking in his presence in this life, here and now.