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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - The Desert Places

Allen Jackson - The Desert Places

Allen Jackson - The Desert Places

This weekend we're gonna talk about the desert places. I've spent a bit of time in the desert, predominantly in Israel, and initially it was not a comfortable place for me. It was hot and I have the spiritual gift of perspiration. I sweat like a sprinkler. I can watch you work and I'll sweat. So the desert is kind of an awkward place, but I have come to love the desert. I truly do. I love the landscape. The deserts in Israel are rocky deserts, they're not sandy. It's not Lawrence of Arabia. There are rocks and hills and canyons and nothing's level and it's a difficult place. But I have come to understand it as a beautiful place. And the desert is a place where God consistently in the Scripture moves in the lives of his people.

So I wanna walk through some of those passages with you this weekend if you'll allow me. I also wanna use the imagery of that, that our lives sometimes take us through desert places, not physically but spiritually: dry places, barren places, minimal places. Times when the resources seem to be minimal, whether it's time or energy or effort or even money, whatever it may be. The lesson from Scripture is that in those desert places the Spirit of God is present to help. I've learned some things, physically being in the desert, that you can't fight the desert. You have to work with it. You can't outwork the desert. You have to yield to it. It dictates the pace, and oftentimes the pathway.

The desert is a place where you have to learn to cooperate and if you're walking through a desert season, it's a place where you have a different kind of an opportunity to cooperate with God, or not. The desert in Scripture is a place where God does remarkable things. I gave you a sampling of a list. It's by no means an inclusive list, but the desert in Scripture is very much a useful place. It's not a barren place. A few years ago we were with a video crew in Israel. We were working on some curriculum. We had 2 days to get 9 different locations, so we were busy. And the first day we were shooting was the hottest day of the year in the deserts of Israel.

A little bit after noon, the Israeli that was helping us with it came up to me and he said, "Pastor, it's so hot the Israeli military has shut down their operations". And I said, "Well, I'm sorry they're quitters but we can't. We've got a day and a half and we've got nine locations," and so we prayed. He just shook his head. But our last stop was about a day's drive south of Jerusalem. It's a place called Makhtesh Ramon. It's a gash in the floor of the Negev Desert. It's a huge canyon. They call it a mini version of our Grand Canyon. And we did a little piece on the edge of that canyon and I talked about the desert and the way that God interacted with his people in the desert, and the Israelis that were on the crew helping us move stuff around, they weren't believers.

When I got done with that, they came up and they said, "You got that one right," meaning the previous seven not so much. They said the desert is our friend. The desert is where we get stronger, not weaker. And they started spouting back at me their Scriptures and their memories and their verses. So the Bible tells us that the desert is a useful place. It's a place of renewal, a place of revelation, a place of deliverance, a place of provision, a place of refuge, a place of preparation. That may be true in the history of the Hebrew people, but it's true in our life journey as well. And I wanna invite you to walk with me through some biblical passages. I hope the characters will be somewhat familiar to you, but I want you to watch their location and what happens in that location. And watch how they got to those places. We'll start with Moses and the Hebrew people.

You know a good deal about Moses. Hollywood has helped us with him. His story's so good they can't leave it alone. Moses is born into a Hebrew slave family, but he's found by Pharaoh's daughter and he grows up in the palace of Egypt and lives as a prince of Egypt until, as a young adult, he murders an Egyptian slave master and he forfeits everything he has, and he has to flee, the Bible says, to the back side of the desert. That's the middle of nowhere. I think that's just past La Vergne. No, no, no, do not send me a letter. We love La Vergne, and Shirley. And on the back side of the desert God speaks to Moses from a bush, and he gives him an assignment, and he sends him back to Egypt. And Moses doesn't wanna go. In fact, he puts forth every argument he can imagine and, when he runs out of arguments, God gets mad at him. But he goes. He goes back this time armed with a shepherd's staff that God says at the end, "That's my staff, Moses". And he goes to Pharaoh and he says, "We need to negotiate".

The Hebrews were leaving Egypt, and Pharaoh says, "No". And you know the story, that God begins to do the plagues. You may not remember that the Egyptian magicians duplicated the plagues, the first few times. Now we're talking about unleashing the power of the Holy Spirit, and an important part of this learning for us is learning to recognize the Holy Spirit so that you are aware and have the discernment to recognize unholy spirits. The only spiritual forces in the world are not good ones. God has an enemy, an opponent, in the earth. He's referred to as Satan, but beneath the authority of Satan there's a spiritual kingdom of darkness. It's not just the stuff of goofy people.

If Jesus believed it, I would submit to you, you should as well. It's important because the season ahead of us is gonna have some high spiritual drama and you'll need to know the difference between the true and the false. Satan is an imitator. He's seen the kingdom of God and its fullness. He rebelled. He rebelled against the authority of God and lost his place in God's kingdom. And in the earth, he imitates it. He tries to duplicate it. But he's not infinite, he's not almighty. So the best he does is a poor imitation. And the Egyptian magicians could imitate the first few plagues but they couldn't continue, but still Pharaoh would harden his heart.

You know, in the season ahead of us, the Bible says there'll be an Antichrist, a false Christ, someone that will want the world to worship him. He'll wanna stand in the place that the true Christ will ultimately stand. Do you know, he'll be a religious man. Be a highly religious man, with religious language and a recognition of religious activity. In fact, one of his most trusted, one of his most powerful allies, will be a prophet. The Bible refers to him as a false prophet, because he is the advocate for the false Christ. And there'll be, it says there'll be signs and wonders and spiritual power at their display. We need to know the difference between the true and the false. And the last of the plagues in Egypt is the Passover. The spirit of death comes through the land and the firstborn in every household dies, except in the households where the blood of the Lamb is on the doorpost.

It isn't about being religious or keeping rules or what neighborhood you live in. It's about the blood of the Lamb in your life. It was true in Egypt and it's true today. And the next morning, there's such a cry in Egypt, such grief, such fear. They say, "Get the Hebrews out of here. We don't want the sun to set with the Hebrews still in town". And God set the slaves free. They'd been there hundreds of years. They leave with the gold and silver of Egypt. And God's taking them out of Egypt. He's promised to take them into a land that flows with milk and honey. It's a very important component of deliverance. God delivers you from something to take you into something better. If you're crying out to God for deliverance, ask him to begin to give you an insight into what he's going to take you into. You're not just delivered from something. You're delivered for a purpose.

Exodus chapter 13 and verse 21 says: "By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night a pillar of fire to give them light, so they could travel by day or night. Neither pillar of cloud by day nor pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people". God programmed their GPS. After all, it was his power that delivered them and when it was time to leave, he led them out. He led them intentionally into the desert, hundreds of thousands of people, into one of the most brutal wildernesses on all of planet Earth. And their first camping spot was on the beach. They came to the shores of the Red Sea. It's a beautiful place. There are resorts all along the Red Sea today.

Although in this case, it seemed to be something of a strategic blunder because the Egyptian Army changed their mind and they chased their slaves. And now they're trapped between the beach and the Egyptian Army, and the people panic. And Moses takes that shepherd staff and stretches it out over the water. You know the story. Then the sea parts. Israeli, the Hebrews escape and the Egyptians chase after them and are drowned in the water. It's one of the greatest victory celebrations in all of the Bible. It's in Exodus chapter 15. Says that the women gathered on the the distant shore of the Red Sea and sang out loud, "God has thrown the horse and the rider into the sea". They had no military, they had no weaponry, they had no resistance, and God delivered them.

In Nehemiah chapter 9, Nehemiah references this season of Israelite history. I put it in your notes because I want you to hear the way Nehemiah described it. But let me take just a minute. Nehemiah lives hundreds of years after Moses. We meet Moses in the book of Exodus, right on the heels of Egyptian slavery. In fact, he's born into the slave families of Egypt. Nehemiah fits in the timeline of the Bible much, much later. He's after the exodus, he's after the book of Judges, he's after the king, he's after David and Solomon, he's after the united monarchy. In fact, Nehemiah doesn't show up until Jerusalem has been destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC. He's hundreds of years after Moses.

Nehemiah is a slave in another nation, the Persian nation, modern-day Iran. He's a cup-bearer to the king, he's got a good job, he eats well, he drinks well. And he hears that Jerusalem is in disarray. And he feels the prompt to go back and rebuild the wall around the city. And he accepts it. He's a man of some organizational ability and leadership skills, and so he puts together the team and the resources and the permissions and he goes back to Jerusalem to repair the defenses of the city. But the enemies are more determined than he imagined and the task was bigger than he understood, and his team is exhausted. And Nehemiah is really out of resources. And he goes back to the exodus narrative to encourage himself and to encourage the people on his team of what God will do.

There's a principle there for you and me. It is most appropriate. In fact, we're instructed by the pattern of Scripture to take the narratives from the generations that had preceded us to inform our life responses today. Nehemiah was hundreds of years removed from Moses and his crew, but he used their God event to help fuel his faith in his need in his generation. We can do the same. But listen to how Nehemiah describes it. You have it in your notes. Nehemiah 9 and verse 19: "Because of your great compassion you didn't abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud didn't cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them". I love that sentence. "You gave your good Spirit to instruct them". Our theme is "Unleashing the Power of the Holy Spirit".

Increasingly, I want to encourage you to think of the Holy Spirit and his involvement in your life as a good thing, positive, for you remember the scenario when those slaves were dumped out into the desert. For hundreds of years, they had not had autonomy. They've been in Egypt now for hundreds of years. The Egyptians worshiped gods with the heads of animals and the bodies of human beings. After hundreds of years in Egypt do you think there's any chance the Hebrews had been influenced by Egyptian worship? I promise you, they spoke like Egyptians, they ate Egyptian food, they celebrated Egyptian holidays, they'd watched Egyptian worship.

And all of a sudden, Moses shows up and says, "Get ready, we're moving". And hundreds of thousands of people dumped into the desert. No social infrastructure, no memory of taking care of themselves, no sense of autonomy. And God fashions them into a nation. They went into Egypt as a family and they come out a group of slaves, and God fashions them into a nation. How did he do it? Nehemiah just reminded him: he said, "You gave your good Spirit to instruct them". Listen to what Nehemiah says. "You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna for their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing".

Nothing. I'm telling you, if I'm making a day trip into the desert, I look like a parent with their first child. I got more paraphernalia and buggies and junk and bottles and snacks and you're prepared for every eventuality 'cause there is nothing out there. And for 40 years, it says, they lacked nothing. I fed them every day for 40 years. Says even their clothes didn't wear out. And I love the last bit: "Nor did their feet become swollen". To be truthful, I read that whole passage to you for that last line. For 40 years, God said, I watched over them; their feet didn't even swell. It's a statement on the character of God, the ability of God. He led them into the desert to have a time with them, a training time with them, a preparation time for them. And he met their needs.

If he's brought you into the desert, he'll take care of you. And somebody will say to me, "Yes, Pastor, but that's in the Old Testament, and I'm a New Testament person". I appreciate you, Obi-Wan, I'm glad you're here. So let's look at Jesus for a minute. He is a New Testament character. In Luke chapter 4, says, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan". The Jordan River, as it runs through Israel, runs predominantly through the desert. It runs through the floor of the Rift Valley. It's a valley that starts in the center of Turkey and runs to the center of Africa, thousands of miles long. The lowest place on planet Earth is at the bottom of the Rift Valley. It's where the Dead Sea is and it's fed by the Jordan River. So Jesus has been led by the Holy Spirit to the Jordan River. It says he came away from the Jordan, "he was led by the Spirit in the wilderness".

Now, wilderness is a word that means you're not in an urban center, you're not in a populated center. And if you're in Israel and you're not in a population center, you're in the desert. In this case, Jesus was in the Judean wilderness. He was there for 40 days, led there by the Holy Spirit, where he was tempted by the devil. Do you have room in your portfolio for the Holy Spirit to lead you to a place that's not comfortable? "He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. And the devil said to Him, 'If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.' And Jesus answered him, 'It is written: "Man shall not live on bread alone".'"

If you want to get a revelation of the character of the devil, just take the "D" off his name. He's evil. He doesn't play fair. He doesn't play by the rules. His objective isn't to win a victory. His objective is your destruction. And he came to Jesus. Jesus has been led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness. He's fasted for 40 days. It says he was hungry. No kidding. And the devil comes and he says, "If you're the Son of God, you could make bread out of these rocks". And he's right, Jesus could. He could have made quarter pounders with cheese out of those rocks. He could have made brisket. But it wasn't the point. Satan was challenging his place, trying to get him to rebel against God's purposes. Satan is the father of rebels.

You know, the challenges you and I face, I have messages that play in my head. I suspect you do too. I'm old enough, I used to have tapes that play in my head. And now there's a whole generation of people don't even know what that is. But you've got messages in your head. And when you begin to follow the Lord and cooperate with the Lord or you read your Bible, I suspect that you'll have messages that trigger and say, "Do you really believe that"? And you've got to make a choice. Jesus was hungry. The devil came to him with part of the truth. You know, the challenge we have when we face temptation is to, whether we're going to embrace the truth that we know or whether we're gonna rebel against it. I've got just a minute or two left.

If you're walking through one of those desert places, I wanna say something to you today: Don't you stop. Don't you stop. God hasn't abandoned you. He hasn't forgotten you. He's not distant. In fact, he's closer to you than he's ever been. My Bible says that God is close to the brokenhearted. I could tell you from my own life experience when you're on the mountaintops, when everything's working, when everything about your life is, you know, running wide open, we're not very often listening to the Lord. We're doing seminars on how to do it right. We're freely sharing our advice on how to win in every circumstance. Between here and the desert, you start to listen and cry out to God. And if you're walking through one of those seasons, God has delivered you. It's for the purpose of bringing you into something better. And if you're in the desert because you're a rebel, get down on your knees and repent.

Don't be proud of rebellion. Don't build a monument to rebellion. Humble yourself and say, "Lord, I choose you". Often, we rebel against God by rebelling against the authority that God puts in our lives, in families, in homes, at work. Don't stand in that place. It's not a fruitful place. But if you're walking through that season, God will bring you through. God will bring, he even cares about your feet. We're all gonna go home and bathe. I brought you a prayer, but I'm not gonna read that one with you. I wanna commend it to you, though. We're becoming a people of prayer so take it away, read it for yourself each day this week, but if you'll allow me I'd like to pray for you today.

Why don't you stand with me. You know you matter to God? You're important to him. He cares about you. He even cares about your feet. That just makes me smile. I mean, don't you get all heated up and wonder if God even knows who you are? You know, I'm like, "How could you know"? 'Cause he's not like us. He's just not like us. What a privilege it is to serve the Lord. He wants good things for you. The Holy Spirit will help you. That's why he's here. Of all the things the Spirit of God could be doing, and he's making the journey with us. He's making the journey with us.

Father, I thank you for these men and women. I thank you for their lives, the love they have for you, but I thank you that you've called us out of darkness into the kingdom of your Son. I praise you, Lord, that you lead our lives. Just as certainly as you led the Hebrews, you lead us. Lord, you're not doing it with a pillar of cloud or fire today, but you're doing it by your Spirit and a still small voice. Lord, none of us are accidents. And we come today to welcome your Spirit into our lives. Holy Spirit, you are welcome here, in this place and in our homes, in our hearts. Forgive us when we have been unresponsive, forgive us when we've pushed you away. Lord, some of us arrived today as rebels. And we wanna pause and repent, to humble ourselves before you, to choose you as Lord and God of all. We wanna cooperate with you. We wanna follow you. We would say with Jesus, "Not our will, but let your will be done in us".

Lord, I pray especially today for those that are walking through desert places, dry places, and barren places, intense places. Lord, I pray that you would sustain and that you would provide everything they need, Lord, that they would know you're walking with them, Lord, that they would sense your shadow bringing shade to their lives. I praise you for it. I pray that not one will stumble or turn back or fail to move fully into your provision for the next season of their life. I thank you for it, I praise you for it. Our hope is in you. You are our God and our Redeemer. You are all-powerful. No enemy, no threat, no demonic force, no need, no lack, intimidates you and we praise you for it. Holy Spirit, give us a vision of the God we serve. Let us see him in his majesty, in his fullness, in his power. May it bring strength to our bodies. May it strengthen our knees, may it enable us to lift our hands in praise and worship to a living God. We thank you that our God is a delivering God and that he is watching over us and not one of us will be left behind. I thank you for it, in Jesus's name, amen.

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