Except

I’m fighting down fears right now. But that “except” is there, holding me on the Rock.

I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. Joshua 24:4

This unassuming sentence is tucked into a long account of the history of God’s people at the end of Joshua’s life. But the verse jumped out at me this last time I read it. At first it would seem that Esau got the better end of this deal. God gave Esau the hill country of Seir, but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt – and we know what happened to them there.

Esau missed out on 400 years of slavery and 40 more years in the desert wilderness. He became very rich and great, with many chiefs. Genesis 36 is the account of Esau and his greatness, his many descendants, and their many chiefs. Esau had “kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king ruled over the Israelites” (Genesis 36:31).

A commentary on Genesis 36 notes, “As F. Delitzsch says[i], ‘secular greatness in general grows up far more rapidly than spiritual greatness.’ In other words, the progress of the world far out distances the progress of the righteous who are waiting for the promise.”[ii]

Yes, it would seem that Esau got the better deal. Except. Except Esau also missed out on:

  • Deliverance from slavery
  • Redemption by the blood of the Passover lamb
  • Miraculous rescue from the enemy
  • Pure water from the Rock
  • Bread from Heaven
  • Hearing God’s voice from the mountain
  • Comfort and protection of the cloud and the pillar of fire
  • The giving of the Word of God
  • The refining as silver
  • The testing as gold
  • Learning dependence on God alone

I know that I would have been right there with the panicked Israelites heart and soul as they grumbled against Moses saying, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” (Exodus 17:3) … “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” (Numbers 20:5).

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I would have been with them because I’m fighting down similar fears right now. But that “except” is there, holding me on the Rock. Except, I want to be part of the Story.

Esau didn’t just miss out on the hunger and the thirst, the fear and uncertainty, the hardship and the trials. He also missed out on being part of the great Story of Salvation. Esau missed out on being part of Jesus’ story. The Story of the Savior.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Matthew 2:15

Lord, bring me out. Bring me through. Bring me into the wilderness with you. Write me into your great Story of Salvation.

Jesus
Write me into Your story
Whisper it to me
And let me know I’m Yours

–Rich Mullins

 

Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. Hebrews 12:16 (MSG)

[i] Franz Delitzsch. New Commentary on Genesis, 2:238.

[ii] NetBible Study Notes

Image by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

The Desert

Our dry, gasping, desperate wilderness experiences are meant to lead us from the cacophony of this world to a place where we can hear God speak to us, commune with us, teach us, name us.

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor [Valley of Trouble] a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. Hosea 2:14-15 (NIV)

That phrase translated “speak tenderly to her” is literally in the Hebrew “speak to her heart.”

God wants to speak to our hearts. The Hebrew word translated desert is midbar (מִדְבָּר). It means desert, uninhabited land, wilderness. But is also means mouth. It comes from the word dabar (דָבָר) “to speak, commune, talk, name, teach.” It was in the wilderness where God spoke to Moses and taught the Israelites.

So I took them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. I gave them My statutes and informed them of My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live. Ezekiel 20:10-11 (NASB)

Our dry, gasping, desperate wilderness experiences are meant to lead us from the cacophony of this world to a place where we can hear God speak to us, commune with us, teach us, name us. The place we can remember who and whose we are. The place where we can return to our first love. The place where we can look up and see again the door of hope.

The amazing thing is that the word midbar also means pasture, in the sense of a place where cattle are driven for grazing. Jesus said:

I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10:9 (NLT)

Jesus the door of hope. Jesus our salvation. Jesus the Word of God speaking to us. Jesus our pasture or sustenance.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 (NIV)

Lord, may my Valley of Trouble become for me a Door of Hope. Open my ears that I may hear you speaking to me here in this desolate, wilderness place. Feed me, teach me, woo me, name me again.

Yours

Child of God

Lamb of your flock

Bride

Beloved

But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food. Job 36:15-16 (NIV)

Sharon will become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a resting place for herds, for my people who seek me. Isaiah 65:10 (NIV)

 

For more about the wilderness see Highway to Your City

Image of sheep in pasture by Sheila Bair