Desert Places: Finding God’s Presence Amidst the Noise
There are many times in our lives we struggle with feeling God’s presence in our lives. It can also be difficult to hear His voice in the traffic of the noise of today. We tend to leave God consistently out of our daily decisions, go our own way, and wonder where He’s at. We have a bend toward our own goals, wills, and desires rather than God’s. Even when we have the best of intentions and are hearing God the clearest we can choose to go against His commands.
The Bible is filled with stories of people falling away from or disobeying God, in fact the whole Gospel is that very story. God gave us one command and we disobeyed creating chaos and bringing sin into the very foundations of God’s creation. Everything within what God created for us is a broken reflection of the perfection God had intended for us. Unfortunately with most cracks the longer they remain the bigger they tend to become until the whole thing is shattered.
We see Adam and Eve walked with God and disobeyed God’s command, we see Cain disobeying God’s heart for life, we even see Moses striking a rock instead of speaking to it. Another consistent theme throughout the Bible in these stories is one of restoration and God meeting His people in a desert place and next to a well. I know in another article I’ve written I talk more about this theme, but one of these stories I want to focus on is found in Genesis 16.
Abram and Sarai are having trouble conceiving and in chapter 15 God had promised Abram his descendants would be numbered more than the stars in the sky. This was a bit perplexing as Sarai was around seventy-something at the time and Abram was in his eighties. Nevertheless, Abram believed in God but Sarai began to concoct a plan to make this thing happen. This was according to her flesh as per Galatians 4.
This story serves us as an example of trying to force God’s will or allowing God to fulfill His own promises, just as he had fulfilled His own covenant promise with Abram. This led to another nation being built who waged wars against Israel and bitterness between Sarai and Haggar.
But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her. The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.”
– Genesis 16:6-11
Haggar, who was misguided by Sarai, now runs away but God comes and meets with her. And they have this conversation and after this God states she will birth this new nation. After this Haggar speaks to God at this well and states God sees her. So the well is named after this encounter with God. A selfish motive to seek after a promise of God which led to the abuse of a slave and future turmoil instead of just leaning on God and having faith He would complete His will. A slave with a baby on the run in the desert stopping by a well, exhausted from the journey, upset from the events which had just transpired, ready to give up but yet God comes and meets with her.
Why would the God of the Israelites come to the mother of the Ishmaelites? Why would a God of freedom come to the beginning of the slave nation? Even though this line would bring forth death the future law would bring a curse and only Christ could break through both with life and freedom. This all comes through our faith in His works, in His glory, in His greatness. Paul speaks to this in Galatians 4.
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.
But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.”
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
– Galatians 4:21-31
So let us today live in the freedom God has given us. Let us remember God is a living God who sees us through our troubles, in our afflictions, and comes to give us life and free us from the slavery we were in. Continue to surrender our lives, let us march on to God’s beat bringing the good news to those who will hear.
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