If you’ve known me long, you probably already know I have a deep interest in the desert…the wanderings of Israel through forty years of heat, the purifying of hearts and the faith lessons that come only from a desert experience. But I was wondering what prompted my mind’s return to the desert at this time of year…and I realized what it was after reading Billy Coffey’s post over at High Calling Blogs.
I’ve been thinking about the laws, the rules that Israel received while living in the desert. So many laws! Over six-hundred rules and regulations governing everything from worship to where they were to pitch their tents. Why so many laws? What was God thinking?
Part of the answer lies in where they came from. Slavery! For so many years, God’s people knew nothing but slavery. And being enslaved leaves you with scars, leaves you with deficits that make it difficult to live as free people. In short, it takes awhile to get over living in slavery. It takes re-training, and it takes a lot of direction. To live free! It sounds so simple, but in so many ways it is much more difficult than to remain a slave.
The Israelites needed those six-hundred laws. They needed structure. Their years in slavery had knocked the leadership out of them, had left them without the ability to recognize and raise up people to lead and form a society, to live on their own as a free people. How do you build a nation, when you’ve known nothing but repression and neglect? They needed a framework on which to build their freedom, some tools and structure to begin their new life as a free nation.
Above all, they needed to know who their ultimate Authority was, and to build trust in Him to care for and lead them flawlessly.
And so, the desert laws were written…and followed, and in the years to come added to.
And so many years later, when the laws of Moses’ day that had helped to lead them out of slavery had become slave masters in themselves…then God sent His people a new Savior!
In many ways, advent is like the years in the desert. Waiting for the Promise to come, anticipating a complete release from slavery and deliverance into freedom. Waiting for Christ, for God Himself to come and free us! And in that tiny baby, that little child…the deliverance of all the nations from the bondage of sin, from the slavery of law, from the despair of death. A slave follows rules out of fear and obligation…a free man follows rules out of Love. All this desert wandering…the advent of history…the voice crying out in the desert….all were moving toward a Love that frees like nothing else.