July 29, 2009

Him who Rides through the Deserts

“The LORD.” “The Almighty.” “God Most High.” “Jehovah Jireh.” “The Maker of heaven and earth.” All these are names, or titles, given to God in the Scriptures. But did you know that another biblical name for God is “Him who rides through the deserts”? That is what David calls the Lord in Psalm 68.4: “Him who rides through the deserts”. Sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? Why would God be out in the deserts? Why would He spend His time, as it were, criss-crossing the most empty, uninhabited places on earth? Wouldn’t it sound more correct to call God ‘Him who rides through the cities and towns’? Perhaps. After all, He does ride through the cities and towns, blessing people left and right. But in Psalm 68, the focus is different. In Psalm 68, God is “Him who rides through the deserts.” But why? Why would God be out in the middle of nowhere? What did David have in mind when called God “Him who rides through the deserts”?

Well, surely David was thinking back to the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt … and how the LORD rode through the desert with them – sheltering them, providing for them, and fighting for them. Surely David had that ancient Sinai wilderness experience in mind when He called God “Him who rides through the deserts.” But he did not only have the book of Exodus in mind. For (writing several centuries after the exodus) David calls God “Him who rides (present tense) through the deserts.” In other words, David’s point is not simply that, at one time in history, God rode through the desert … but that, to this day, He “rides” through the desert. But how so? How does God ride through the desert today?

David actually tells us what he means in the verses that follow Psalm 68.4. What does it mean that God “rides through the deserts”? Well, He is “a father to the fatherless” and “a judge for the widows” (v.5). He “makes a home for the lonely” and “leads out the prisoners into prosperity” (v.6). In other words, just as God once rode through the Sinai desert, He continues, today, riding through the deserts of fatherlessness, widowhood, loneliness, and imprisonment. We see that perfectly in the life of Jesus, do we not? In the way He cared for children. In the way He healed the sick. In the way He befriended the outcasts. In the way He cared for His (presumably) widowed mother. Jesus rode through the deserts!

All of us (who believe) celebrate this Jesus don’t we? The Jesus who loves the outcast; who befriends the sinner; who “rides through the deserts”. But are we like Him? Are you like Him? When you are riding through the desert of the inner city; when you hear about a deserted child; when you see the elderly in need; when you encounter an obviously lonely person; when you come in contact with the mentally perplexed … do you find yourself loving him or her for Jesus’ sake? Or do you speed through these deserts as quickly as possible, never to return?

And if the answer is the latter, have you forgotten where Jesus met you? It was in the desert wasn’t it? Okay, maybe you weren’t a widow, or an orphan, a prisoner, or a loner. But far more alienating than any of those sociological deserts is the desert of sin. When Jesus met you, you were separated from God. You were going to require far more time, attention, and slow-going effort than any orphan ever could. Indeed, Jesus is still ‘raising’ you today! He made a lifelong commitment to you … sins, alienation, and all! He rode through the desert to meet you, died to redeem you, and lives forever to intercede for you, train you, and grow you.

So be sure that you don’t shy away from, every now and again, riding back through the deserts with Him. And make sure you drive slow enough to notice – and stop to give gospel help to – the thirsty people all around you.

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