Have you ever endured a desert season?
Can God spread a table in the wilderness? Ps 78:19
Things get dry and unsatisfying, frustrating, or just boring. If you are a leader, maybe people around you start to grumble or even blame you for leading them to this arid place where God seems absent. You get tired and wonder where the next refreshment will come from.
There is nothing new under the hot desert sun!
God’s people have found themselves here time and time again. The Scripture is full of stories of people in the literal desert who must have felt much like us in our metaphorical deserts. David spent a frustrating season in the desert before he walked into his identity as king. Jesus spent over a month in the desert before He began the bulk of the ministry that He came to do on this earth. Paul spent three years in the desert after his dramatic conversion and before he began his ministry to others. And of course, Moses spent decades in the desert leading God’s people to understand God in a deeper way than they ever would have if they took the shortcut to their promised land.
The desert is a place of facing our enemy.
But, our enemy is not just Satan. It is the world, the flesh and the devil. Ironically, the literal desert might be the place we flee to get away from the world and the pressures of it. But we suddenly find ourselves face to face with the enemy of our own flesh in that quiet sparse place. What comes out of our hearts in literal and metaphorical deserts might not be pretty. We find the limit to our faith and our resolve to trust in God’s ways. We can resort to grumbling, blaming or just sitting down to quit. Unfortunately, the devil is right there in the desert too, to tempt us just as he did Jesus. He will tempt us to trust our own limited insight, to give in to our flesh, to take the quick way out of this hard spot, or to doubt who we are and the promises we can claim because of Jesus’ work on the cross. Most of all, I think he will temp us to mistrust God’s goodness and ability to provide for us in any and all circumstances.
Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
If we look around with our physical eyes and human emotions our answer might be as sarcastic as the context this scripture comes from.
They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, "Can God spread a table in the wilderness? He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?" (v18-20)
Their hearts seemed to be purging bitterness and selfishness as abundantly as the rock had gushed forth waters of provision.
He split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as form the deep (v15)
He struck the rock so water gushed out and streams overflowed (v20)
He commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. (v23-24)
He rained meat on them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas (v27)
God had provided so much for them in this wild place, not to mention that His very presence had dwelt among them, never leaving or forsaking them! But…
Their heart was not steadfast toward Him. (v37)
How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! (v40)
Lord, protect my heart from doing the same!
Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
May this question remind me how quickly my heart can turn to doubt and grumbling. May it also be a declaration of faith and trust in a dry place.
Yes! My God CAN spread a table in the wilderness!
He does. In fact, He prepares a table for me right in the presence of my enemies! (Ps 23:5)
Right in the presence of my sinful flesh, He still prepares a table for me. He doesn’t wait for me to get my act together. His provisions draw me, humble me and inspire me to come to Him for cleansing before I sit down and feast.
He prepares a table for me right in the presence of the world. They look on in disbelief, as I feast in this wasteland, wondering where I could possibly get this much nourishment and delight.
He prepares a table for me in the presence of Satan. A gossamer curtain of protection surrounds me. While I feast, Satan watches and rages, unable to touch or taint the bounty.
Oh, that my heart was as steadfast toward God as His love is toward me! May I never rebel against Him or grieve Him in my desert places, but instead find it a place to see His wonders and provisions and to deepen my faith and trust.
God, I believe you. I believe that you can spread a table in the desert. You can provide all that I need and more in this dry and thirsty land where there is little water to quench my thirst and few things to satisfy my soul. You can provide everything I truly need for this day and this season. You can literally bring water from a rock, bread and meat from the skies and honey to sweeten it all. You are good and you delight in providing for your children. May I be patient in waiting on your timing but diligent in seeking after You. Keep my heart as steadfast as your love. I ask and wait for you to spread a table of provision, nourishment and delight in the presence of the world, my own frail flesh, and the devil. May you be glorified!