A Message Series for the Season of Lent
Modeled after Jesus’ forty days in the desert, Lent is a time to become more open to God through the vulnerabilities of life. The questions of ancient Israel resound in our hearts: can God really spread a table before us (Psalm 23) in the presence of global and personal fears and sorrow? Our Lenten observance this year comes with an invitation to bring that doubt, fear, sorrow, loneliness, and dryness before God and join with others wanting to taste God’s promised provision in the deserts of life.
God spreads a table before us in the wilderness, in the face of all our greatest fears (Psalm 23:5). This series highlights one biblical character each week along with the way God provided food for them in their wildernesses. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 22nd, marking the beginning of our forty-day journey to Easter.
February 26 “A Table in the Wilderness for Jesus”
The Word: Matthew 4:1-11 God’s wilderness provision: angel food cakes
Feel: The Spirit sent Jesus out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
Know: Jesus sets the example of provision in the wilderness. Despite modern conveniences and protections, we know that we still feel vulnerable to the anxieties of the world, especially in these last few years. The biblical witness is that no place is as transforming as the wilderness, and we can go there because Jesus went there first.
Desired Outcome: The temptation Jesus faced was not primarily to focus doubt on the question of His Sonship but rather, in view of the voice from heaven affirming Him as God’s Son, to use this privilege for His own self-interests. On occasions of spiritual blessing, we are tested as to whether we will use spiritual privilege for the will of God and His glory or for our own self-interests.
March 5 “A Table in the Wilderness for Israel”
The Word: Exodus 16 God’s wilderness provision: manna
Feel: We may picture the Israelites exodus from Egypt as a journey across flat, sandy plains. But in these desert regions, steep, rocky mountain ranges surround the valleys and plains, making travel much more difficult.
Know: The physical challenges of the desert, with its pain, incredible thirst, relentless sun, and overwhelming sense of not being able to take even one more step—is still a metaphor for life’s hard times. The Hebrews quickly discovered that they could not survive in the desert without God’s provision.
Desired Outcome: In harsh, unforgiving desert environments, we can experience what being in an intimate relationship with a loving, forgiving, compassionate, and faithful God means. God is faithful to provide, protect, strengthen, and guide so that we learn to draw near to him and rely on him with confidence (Psalm 121:5-8).
Mar 12 “A Table in the Wilderness for Hagar”
The Word: Genesis 21:1-21 God’s wilderness provision: water
Feel: Many women throughout history have found solace, compassion, and even critique in and through the story of Hagar.
Know: The brokenness of our world is revealed in our headlines, but the story of Hagar and Ishmael reminds us of this: God is a God who sees the suffering of his children. God does not abandon his children. God does not forget his promises.
Desired Outcome: In your grief or confusion, don’t miss the well of water by you in the covenant of grace. The same God that opens our eyes to see our wounds opens them to see our remedy. In 2 Cor 5, we are instructed to walk by faith not by sight. God guides our every step without necessarily revealing the next.
Mar 19 “A Table in the Wilderness for Elijah”
The Word: 1 Kings 19:1-9 God’s wilderness provision: bread and water
Feel: Elijah was afraid and ran for his life . . . a day’s journey into the wilderness.
Know: Every call of God is a journey of great challenge requiring more than what you have and needing what only God can provide. Elijah is exhausted; he has had enough. But a meal of bread and water provides for him. The water provides restoration; the bread provides strength.
Desired Outcome: How have you let the wilderness shape the way you live out God’s call in your life? Have you waited long enough for God to show up with bread and water? God hears our prayers. He knows our discouragement and depression. Yet he still loves us and is reaching out to touch us. He offers rest for our souls and forgiveness for our sins. He does not condemn us, but promises to be more than enough for us, forever.
Mar 26 “A Table in the Wilderness for David”
The Word: 1 Samuel 25 God’s wilderness provision: raisins and figs
Feel: In the two stories that frame the story of David, Nabal, and Abigail, David is thrust into an unexpected position of power over Saul, who is still the anointed king and hunting for David, his rival. Will David take matters into his own hands? Or will he put his trust in the Lord?
Know: God’s provision in this story is not just the loads of food that Abigail brings; God’s provision of grace is a person who is willing to risk herself, bare her soul, and speak truthfully to another. God’s provision is Abigail in all her wisdom, authenticity, vulnerability, and resourcefulness. One of the great dangers Christians face, even the most dedicated, is that it is too easy to confuse our own agenda with God’s.
Desired Outcome: Abigail’s gracious ministry to David presents strong analogies to the grace by which Jesus meets us and brings us to salvation. As Abigail saved Nabal from the sinful wrath of David’s anger, Jesus Christ has saved us from the just wrath of the holy God. Let us profit from her gracious example, as David did, but also see in her example a gracious appeal to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
April 2 Palm Sunday “A Table in the Wilderness for a Hungry Crowd”
The Word: Matthew 14: 1-21 God’s wilderness provision: fish and bread
Feel: Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee. He looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him. He asked his disciples, “Where shall we find bread for these people to eat?”
Know: The disciples are exhausted and want to send the hungry crowd of people away. But when Jesus sees the crowd he feels not revulsion, not self-protection, not hopelessness, but compassion. This is a miracle of multiplication. Jesus takes the little that his tired and overwhelmed disciples have and multiplies it to meet a need that, humanly speaking, his disciples could never meet.
Desired Outcome: What a faith lesson for us, his overwhelmed people in a busy world, in a wilderness time of political unrest, wars, refugees, climate change, and everyday challenges in our local communities and congregations.
April 7th Good Friday “A Table in the Wilderness for Our Savior”
The Word: Mark 15 God’s wilderness provision: wine vinegar
Feel: It isn’t a table of sustenance that Jesus is being offered, but a sponge dipped in vinegar with a drug mixed in to dull the senses.
Know: Despite Jesus’ thirst (John 19:28) he did not drink (Matthew 27:34). Neither was he rescued. Nothing could be as bleak as this darkest time, this most profound loneliness. But still, somehow, God’s glory broke through and the Roman guard understood: “This man was surely the Son of God!”
Desired Outcome: The text says, “When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, ‘This man truly was the Son of God!’ ” (15:39). This is the climactic confession of the crucifixion and of the book. The one executed was seen by one of his executioners as executing the will of God. Despite Jesus’ death, he was still God’s Son, as events three days later would dramatically confirm. What light do we see in the wilderness?
April 9 Easter “A Table on the Beach for Us”
The Word: God’s wilderness provision: fish (John 21)
Feel: Jesus shows up after a long night of work. Jesus works a miracle. Jesus sits with us by the fire. Jesus invites us to bring what we have. Jesus feeds us. How do we respond?
Know: Peter has recently committed the greatest sin of his life and seen himself to be a bigger failure than he ever imagined, denying Jesus three times on the night of his arrest. So what has changed? The answer is that Peter has learned the grace of God for sinners in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus had appeared to Peter and the other disciples, not greeting them with terrifying words of judgment or stinging words of rebuke, but blessing them with mercy and love.
Desired Outcome: Jesus likewise invites us to draw near to him and seek intimate spiritual fellowship through his saving grace for those who believe. As Easter people, this is our one task: to point to the presence and work of Christ in the world every chance we get, to exclaim “It is the Lord!” every chance we get.