Deserts. Just look at that word for a moment. I don’t know about you but when I look at the word desert, my mind automatically pulls up images of dry, barren landscapes. A person wandering aimlessly for days, maybe even weeks with sand or dust tearing at their eyes. Their last ration of water running low or completely gone. The hot sun bearing down mercilessly on them, causing them to imagine things that aren’t there. Not to mention, this word is plural, meaning more than one. Somebody load up the van with all the water jugs you can find. This is going to be quite the journey.
Last night, the verse of the day in my Bible app was Psalm 68:19, which says, “Blessed be the Lord! Day after day he bears our burdens; God is our salvation.” As happens quite often, the verse of the day was something I needed to hear so, I opened the Bible portion of the app and searched for Psalm 68 so I could read the whole chapter. The first few verses, David reflects on how God will arise and vanquish his enemies and he extols the people of Israel to sing praises to God. Pretty typical Psalms of David, right? When I got to verse 4, this phrase popped out at me. “Lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts.” Wait, what? Pause. Reread. “Lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts.”
We have been studying the life of Moses in our Sunday School class and right now we are in the section where he was in the wilderness for 40 years. I hadn’t really thought about it until I read the verse about God riding through the deserts, but He uses the image of a wilderness multiple times throughout Scripture. And if you think about it, God never sees the wilderness or desert as a bad thing. In fact, it seems to be sort of a testing ground for His children to see where their faith lies.
Moses had to be led into the wilderness for 40 years so he could learn how to shepherd God’s people. Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days to fast and pray before God before He allowed His earthly ministry to begin. The Israelites on the other hand needed to keep being led into the wilderness, and even then had a hard time delving into the goodness of God in the desert. I think for those who have willing hearts, there is a spiritual intimacy born into their souls during the desert seasons of their lives. It may not be the easiest time in their lives. I know for me, my times in the desert are usually the hardest times of my life. I feel abandoned and lost and frustrated and dried up. Moses didn’t willingly go into the wilderness either. God definitely has to be the one to push us out there sometimes, but He does it because He wants us to experience the fullness of His glory and presence. Where else can you get all of that Big God to yourself?
The rest of Psalm 68 talks about God being Father to the fatherless, Protector of widows, settling the solitary in a home, leading out prisoners to prosperity. It shows how He goes out before His people, He marches through the wilderness causing the earth to quake and the heavens to Pour Down Rain. The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them.
If you haven’t realized it, our God is a BIG God. He is everything we ever need. He rides through the deserts and marches through the wilderness. He is protector, father, sustainer, redeemer. He is GOD.
Whatever season you are going through, whether it be an extended stay in the desert, a deluge of problems that are wiping out everything you hold dear, or a calm season where everything is going just right for once in your life, remember, God is with you. He has always been with you and He will continue to be with you. He is the God who rides through the deserts. And He is not about to leave you alone in the middle of one of them. He is going to draw you up out of the desert place and pour out an abundance of blessings in your life if you let Him. Let Him use this time to draw you close and plunge your roots deep into the well of His love and mercy so He can raise you up and let His glory shine beautifully within you. Fill your heart with His Word and let Him revitalize you from the inside out, that you might once again pour into others the everlasting well of life found in the Father. Lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts.