Thursday, November 12, 2015

Finding Place In The Desert

In 1971, America released their song "A Horse With No Name" (originally entitled "Desert Song") in which the chorus goes, "I've been through the desert on a horse with no name . . ." Other than aging myself with this classic, I couldn't help but think of that song when I read Psalm 68 and it said, " . . . lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the Lord . . ."

But as I really thought about this verse, what really struck me was this image of Jesus riding through an arid desert. I pictured him in flowing white robes, majestically riding his horse through the desert like Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. I can visualize the great sweep of desert with its mounds of sand and nothing but the desert and sky as far as the eye could see. It's a majestic image worthy of David Lean epic on an Imax movie screen with a grand, sweeping score by Maurice Jarre.

But the question remains: Why would He be there? Why is the Lord riding through the desert?

Searching for those who are solitary and alone (two of those mentioned are orphans and widows). He is in search for those who most need Him to, for those who have no one else to look for them, especially in the bleakness of the desert landscape.

Imagine being alone in such a desert, with nothing to provide shelter for you, or to meet your basic needs (such as water or food), and you are not only vulnerable to the elements and the creatures that inhabit a desert (jackals, scorpions, snakes) but you are already the most vulnerable: widows and orphans. You already couldn't provide for yourself. Imagine how desperate, terrified, and overwhelmed you would feel and thinking that the only future ahead of you is death.

Then imagine being that widow or orphan who has given up and suddenly sees something small off on the horizon.

What is it?

Friend of foe?

Life or death?

There would be that mixture of fear and hope.

You long to cry out by your voice is too weak from the lack of water and from the sand that has gotten in your throat and nostrils.

What must it be like to see a royal figure riding up over the dunes with confidence, majesty, and assuredness of power?

He comes right to you.

And you look up, with fear and reverence, and His eyes are filled with such compassion, mercy, and love that you have never seen in someone's eyes before towards you. Then He speaks and says, "I was looking for you."

Imagine what would be running through your head as you hear those words: He was looking for me?  No one looks for me. No one even cares about me.

Seeing the tenderness He has for you, you would weep if you could but the desert has even dried up your tears. Instead, you fall onto the sand before him. Christ has found you and now tells you that He will settle you in a home. He is giving you place.

John Sowers, president of The Mentoring Project, said, "We find place through the love of Christ and give place by loving others."

A home for someone who had no home. With the loss of a spouse or parents, identity was taken from you. You were no one. You were nothing, owning nothing. You had no value or worth. You could easily be taken advantage of. But now you are no longer alone, no longer a wandering nomad lost in this bleak environment. He is giving you a home, an identity, and rootedness. He is giving you all that you lack and more. You are no longer a widow or an orphan, but His family. You who were worthless in the eyes of the world, cast out, and abandoned are now being brought into royalty.

Verse thirty-one of this Psalm says, "He hears the voice of the needy . . ." Even when we could not speak, he heard the secret cries of our hearts and Jesus came to the desert to claim us. "You," He says, "You are mine."

Jesus gets down from his horse and tends to you. He gives you drink, this "father to the fatherless, defender of widows" (68:5). It goes on to say that He "daily bears our burdens" (68:19). To have Him take those burdens that you carried through this barren wilderness. The shame, the sorrow, the guilt, the hurt, and the anger are now being lifted off of you. "These are no longer yours to carry," He says, "They are mine." Just as Christ says in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." He is taking you to a place where you will finally know rest, repose, and peace. As Jeremiah 31:25 says, "I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint."  Those burdens that made you wished you had never been born aer now gone. He is now your shelter from the wind and the storms.

He lifts you up onto His horse, climbs on and holds you close to Him.  For the first time, you now feel joy, and love, and peace. There is also something you have had not had in a long time: hope. Jesus takes the reigns in hand and speaks. The horse responds and you ride out of that dry and parched desert and from Him "comes escape from death" (68:20). He is making a way "straight in the desert" and a "highway for our God" (Isaiah 40:3).

In the desert of your need, the Lord will come.

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