First Baptist Church of Hoquiam
Sunday Worship, February 12, 2023
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        Women's Prayer and Bible Study

        February 15, 2023 - 10:00 AM - 10:00 AM
        Gather with your sisters in Christ for a time of fellowship and encouragement.
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        Men's Prayer

        April 10, 2021 - 8:00 AM - 9:00 AM
        Men of the church gather to pray.
  • Lord Most High
  • Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
  • Gratitude
  • This I Believe (The Creed)
  • Desert

    This morning, I have a proposal for you. It might not seem likely at first, but I hope you soon come to realize the truth of this statement. My proposal is this: We live in a desert.
    Oh sure there might be trees and rain and green things. And by the dictionary’s technical definition my proposal is way out of line. But fortunately I base my definition of desert off of God’s word.
    You see, nature itself is theological. By looking at it, you can more easily grasp the deep truths of God. The Lord teaches us additional lessons of himself through nature, made clear in his word. For instance … when you see clouds, you are to think of the Lord’s second coming.
    Revelation 1:7 ESV
    Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
    When we see clouds, we can look forward with the eschatological hope of our Lord’s return. This is just one example from scripture. And there’s others.
    When we see rain, we are to think of the Lord’s provision. When we see a rock, we are to think of God’s steadfastness, how he is a shelter and a fortress. When we see the rainbow, we are to think of God’s promise to never again judge the entire earth through a deluge of water. The seas speak to God’s ability to control what seems chaotic. The lilies of the field remind us of the wisdom and pure beauty of God’s creation, and the confidence which we can place in our Lord’s provision. And then there’s the desert. The desert is to remind us of God’s faithfulness when seasons are tough.
    Desert, throughout scripture, has been used as a picture of testing: refining, trials, tribulation. God called Abram out of the land of Ur to wander in the desert. The Lord led the people of Israel across the red sea and into the desert, where they wandered for 40 years. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days, and in Revelation the dragon (Satan) chases the woman who symbolizes the church into the wilderness, where she is tested but also has a place prepared by God and is nourished by him for a time, times, and half a time. Desert is a strong theme throughout scripture, from beginning to end.
    So my proposal is we live in a desert. A spiritual desert where we have not yet experienced the full abundance of the Lord.
    It’s like what David said in Psalm 63:1
    Psalm 63:1 ESV
    O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
    We live in a dry and weary land where our soul is thirsty for the Lord: we need him for every ounce of our sustenance. Our whole world is a desert, a vast wilderness in which we are pursued by the enemy of Christ and where we face trials and tribulations. So we should not be surprised when tough things come our way: When friends pass away, and death lingers at the doorstep. When we lose those who are close to us. When children pass on before their parents. When finances become tough and we tighten our belts a little more. We should not be surprised when a natural disaster claims thousands of lives as the Lord did in Turkey this past week. Such pains are the pains experienced by those in a desert, when the heat of the sun licks upon the skin and the seeming joys of this world become dried up, and do not seem to offer any means of escape or hope. Behold, we all are in a desert, and the Lord is testing you, just as he tested the people of Israel.
    But just because we live in a desert doesn’t mean God is unfaithful or that he doesn’t provide. God uses the desert to shape and refine his people, just as he did to the people of Israel when they disobeyed him upon first reaching the border of the promised land.
    Last week we talked about the discipline of the Lord, and how his discipline is righteous judgment … and the result is that you miss out on what the Lord is doing (at least, maybe for a season). But this week I want to show you the other end of discipline: there’s benefit to being disciplined by the Lord. Discipline is meant to humble your soul. And once the Lord has brought you to a place of obedience and humility and hopefully increased wisdom, he will be able to work through you all the more. His discipline is intentional, and it’s for your benefit.
    This morning our passage speaks to the state of Israel wandering through the desert. If you have your Bibles, please turn with me to Deuteronomy chapter 2. And we will be reading verses 1 through 25.
    And as we’re reading, I want you to note something: I want you to note the difference in reaction that Israel had to the Lord’s commands before the years spent in the wilderness versus after. I want you to see what time in the desert wilderness can accomplish, according to the Lord’s working in his people.
    So let’s read through our passage today, Deuteronomy 2:1-25 taking special note of this change in attitude. Deuteronomy 2, beginning in verse 1:
    Deuteronomy 2:1–25 ESV
    “Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness in the direction of the Red Sea, as the Lord told me. And for many days we traveled around Mount Seir. Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward and command the people, “You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful. Do not contend with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as for the sole of the foot to tread on, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. You shall purchase food from them with money, that you may eat, and you shall also buy water from them with money, that you may drink. For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.” ’ So we went on, away from our brothers, the people of Esau, who live in Seir, away from the Arabah road from Elath and Ezion-geber. “And we turned and went in the direction of the wilderness of Moab. And the Lord said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab or contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land for a possession, because I have given Ar to the people of Lot for a possession.’ (The Emim formerly lived there, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim. Like the Anakim they are also counted as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim. The Horites also lived in Seir formerly, but the people of Esau dispossessed them and destroyed them from before them and settled in their place, as Israel did to the land of their possession, which the Lord gave to them.) ‘Now rise up and go over the brook Zered.’ So we went over the brook Zered. And the time from our leaving Kadesh-barnea until we crossed the brook Zered was thirty-eight years, until the entire generation, that is, the men of war, had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn to them. For indeed the hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them from the camp, until they had perished. “So as soon as all the men of war had perished and were dead from among the people, the Lord said to me, ‘Today you are to cross the border of Moab at Ar. And when you approach the territory of the people of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.’ (It is also counted as a land of Rephaim. Rephaim formerly lived there—but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim— a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; but the Lord destroyed them before the Ammonites, and they dispossessed them and settled in their place, as he did for the people of Esau, who live in Seir, when he destroyed the Horites before them and they dispossessed them and settled in their place even to this day. As for the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorim, who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and settled in their place.) ‘Rise up, set out on your journey and go over the Valley of the Arnon. Behold, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to take possession, and contend with him in battle. This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’
    Let us pray.
    So, we are in the wilderness. But … what do you do when you are in the wilderness?

    What do you do when you are in the wilderness?

    What to do in the wilderness:
    Follow in Favor
    Finish off the Flesh
    Give God the Glory

    1. Follow in Favor

    I grew up in a desert, if you can’t already tell from the vast number of moles on my skin. It’s just one of the effects of being exposed to the sun for any length of time. Marcus will attest that living in the desert is one of the worst places to live. It’s nothing like the green glow of the Pacific Northwest. But living in the desert taught me many lessons.
    One of these lessons was the value and importance of water.
    If the whole world is a wilderness, then the Lord is an oasis in a dry and weary land. He is the pool of water that resides in the coolness of a cave, under the shade of a tree. There are many who seek his cool relief.
    But how does one attain such water?
    God has made the way clear through covenant.
    Stipulations for Israel: To obey God and to follow him in obedience, and then they will be blessed in the promised land (and thus be a blessing to others) or to follow after other gods and disobey the Lord, and be thrown out of the land.
    In the wilderness, we see that the new generation of Israel has learned how to follow God in obedience. The Lord leads them, men, women, children, priests, cattle, livestock, through the desert and up through hostile enemy territory up to the border of the promised land. Israel follows the directions of the Lord.
    Following means there are directions given. Count how many commands are given in this passage. And yet Israel has learned to follow God faithfully.
    The Psalms put it this way:
    Psalm 32:9 ESV
    Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
    (explain the imagery)
    It’s important that we can learn how to walk on our own. The Lord is training us up in the way that we should go. And often that process takes time. Sometimes it takes discipline: removing things from your life so that you are left with the bare minimum to survive.
    And yet, even in the desert, there is life and sustenance. So long as you turn to the right place to find it. Traveling through a tough patch of desert is meant to draw you closer to the Lord as your source of strength. The Lord gives you instructions to the next well, the next spring of water, the next shade of a tree. And we need his instructions. If we veer off of his instructions, it’s to our own detriment.
    Have any of you ever been driving with your gps and you take a wrong turn, and it screws up your map? You miss your exit, and you have to drive for another few miles before the next exit appears, and then you get off on that off-ramp and it’s seemingly impossible to turn around to go back the way that you came so that you can finally get to your exit? It may have happened once or twice to me. Not following the map that is laid in front of us, not obeying the leading of the Lord, can result in a long detour. One that is not as enjoyable or pleasant. And it often takes longer.
    For Israel, the instructions were clear. But what about for us? What are our instructions?
    Well, we can start with the Bible. All scripture is useful for helping us understand salvation and the path of righteousness. We know that even the Old Testament was written for our use. The Apostle Peter speaks about the writings of the prophets:
    1 Peter 1:12 ESV
    It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
    Scripture is the key to understanding the heart of God. And like the Psalmist of Psalm 119, we must sit at the feat of God and hear his instructions. We must learn to love to do right things, according to the Lord. And the Bible, the Word of God, is the standard by which an action is deemed good or not. Our instructions begin with the law and rule of God, which has been plainly laid out for us, even now today.
    And once we have our instructions, we are to follow the Lord in humility, so that we are in favor before him. Favor means that we are acceptable for his use.
    2 Timothy 2:19–21 ESV
    But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
    We need to be ready for every good work which the Lord calls us to do.
    It would almost be like a self-driving car: God is the driver, and when he sits down to move you should already be programmed to go where you need to go. You shouldn’t be veering off the road, but rather your programming of obedience, your training, should keep you on the road and get you and God to where you need to be.
    Now, we are not naturally obedient people. In fact, our human nature is selfish, much like the Israelites. And we tend to choose ourselves and what we think is the right direction over God’s way. Thus we lose our favor with the Lord.
    Fortunately, there was one who was in perfect favor with the Lord: that man being Jesus Christ, the Son. And through his blood on the cross we now have favor with the Father who is in heaven. Even though we as Christians are broken and sinful people and we don’t perfectly follow the Lord in favor, we are made at peace with the Lord because of Christ.
    But that’s not to say that we shouldn’t make every effort to live righteously. Jesus Christ was our example, and we are being conformed to his image. So just like Jesus, we are to follow in the favor of the Lord, even in the midst of the wilderness.
    Not only are we called to follow in favor, we are also called to finish off the flesh and to put on the new self.

    2. Finish off the Flesh

    If God is an oasis in the desert, the flesh is a mirage. Often we chase our own passions and desires thinking they will be the source of refreshment our parched soul needs, and instead we end up with a mouthful of sand. Israel discovered this for themselves as we learned last week, when they disobeyed God because of their initial fear, then they disobeyed him again when they tried to seize the promised land in their own strength. For their pride, the Lord sent Israel to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until all that was left of the unfaithful was cut off. They would not inherit the promised land.
    Deuteronomy 2:14 ESV
    And the time from our leaving Kadesh-barnea until we crossed the brook Zered was thirty-eight years, until the entire generation, that is, the men of war, had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn to them.
    Deuteronomy 2:15 ESV
    For indeed the hand of the Lord was against them, to destroy them from the camp, until they had perished.
    Life has different seasons. And there may be times when the Lord sends you into a period in the desert, of testing, of waiting, of learning to follow after him. You may be in one of those seasons right now. But let me tell you this: “There’s no better time to put the flesh to death than when you’re in the desert.”
    There’s no better time to put the flesh to death than when you’re in the desert, and you’ve lost all of your strength and your resources and the only sustenance you can turn to is the Lord.
    When you are facing trials and difficulties, it is hard. But it is also a good thing, meant to draw you closer to the Lord your God. You might not have a reason for why the Lord does what he does, but God does. And he works all things for good for those who live according to his will.
    And our fleshly passions are dangerous. We read from the Apostle Paul:
    Romans 8:7–8 ESV
    For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
    We cannot please God when we are in the flesh.
    Do you love God? Is it your life’s mission to please him? Then obey his commands. Take up your cross daily and follow him. Crucify the flesh and all the desires that are with it. And the Lord will give you peace.
    And we don’t finish off the flesh with our own strength. So often we try to do it in our own strength, even though we know better. But it’s as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9
    2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV
    But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
    Even through our weaknesses, God’s power is shown. We shouldn’t have to pretend like we’re perfect people. Instead, we confess our sins and rely upon God’s grace as a source of salvation. We rely upon God’s grace to help us put our flesh to death.
    The solution to the flesh, to putting that part of you off, is to live in the Spirit:
    Romans 8:9–10 ESV
    You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
    The Spirit of God is our sustenance, the means by which the selfishness of the flesh is expelled from the heart, and we are filled instead with the vivifying presence and peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
    Faith in Jesus Christ allows the Spirit to come into your life. And once the Spirit is there, he will never leave. God is always by your side. And it’s his presence, his power, that will allow you to deny your flesh. He will convict your heart and mind of sin, and remind you of his righteous statutes. He will write his law upon your heart so that you know what is right and wrong, if you listen to him and you don’t suppress the Spirit in your life.
    And if you have suppressed the Spirit speaking into your life and you have grown callous, there is no time like the time in the wilderness to fix that. To take the steps to leave behind what you’ve been placing your trust in and to take up the mantle of faith in the living God.
    There are times when those in the church become callous to the Spirit, and they hold on to their own passions and desires rather than obeying the Lord. It’s times like these, when sin is blatant, that the church is to call that person to repentance. And if unrepentant, they are to turn that person over to the world … why? So that that person might find out the fruitlessness of their passions and return to the living waters of their soul, that they might return to salvation in Jesus Christ. Church discipline moves an individual out of the shade of the Lord and into the heat of the sun, so that a person might recognize God’s blessing and provision and return to him as their source of strength.
    Ultimately, you cannot have both your flesh and God. The presence of God does not dwell with the enemy. Either one will be the Lord of your heart and life, or the other will be. Either you will serve the Lord in faithfulness, or you will follow after the passions of your flesh in rebellion to his righteous law and sinning against a holy God. There are many in the world today who chase headlong after the passions of their hearts. It’s how we were before Christ intervened in our lives, as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2. But now that we have found freedom and life in Christ, let us not return to the bondage of the flesh. Let us strike that killing blow to our passions and desires, day by day, morning by morning, moment by moment. And let us encourage each other to do the same.
    Give no way for the enemy to take a foothold. Let no ground be gained. Make every effort to maintain your position. Stand in the gap. Rely upon the Lord. Take courage.
    Finish off the Flesh so that you can follow in favor of the Lord.
    The wilderness in which we live is challenging, but it is the exact place where God wants us to be.
    Lastly, when you finally emerge from the wilderness, give God the glory.

    3. Give God the Glory

    Deuteronomy 2:7 ESV
    For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.” ’
    Deuteronomy 2:25 ESV
    This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’
    One day, you will leave the wilderness. Or even when you’re in the wilderness, God will bless you. Make sure you direct the credit where the credit is due.
    God will bring many marvelous victories into your life. For the Israelites, their obedience to God and walking rightly with him meant that they would go into the promised land and partake of the Lord’s blessing. For you, it may mean defeat over a specific illness, victory over a personal sin struggle, escape from the consequences of your former transgressions, you could name many things … there are many ways in which the Lord blesses us. But ultimately how did we receive such freedoms? Was it not through the Lord’s working? Is it not through his power? Is it not by his Spirit that we are able to see clearly and to follow the things of God?
    The Lord God is the one who deserves the glory.
    When you recount the hard seasons of your life, or maybe you’re in one right now and you’re telling people about it … who is the main player? Is the main player in your story you, or is it God, who shapes and fashions you? Our sanctification, our purification, is for his glory. The hard things we experience are things that God has put into our life for ultimate good … if we attribute our own strength as the source of our salvation, we are lying to ourselves and to others. We would be directing others away from the oasis of life and living water, which the Lord has led us to.
    Do not deceive others by taking glory in for yourself. But clearly display the Lord’s power as he works in your life. We all need this reminder.


    Our series through Deuteronomy is titled Changing Times and Our Unchanging God. Indeed, God is an unchanging God. He reaches out to humans through a covenant relationship with him. For the Israelites, it was through the covenant of Moses at Sinai, renewed here in Deuteronomy as the people are passing into the promised land. For us, it is the covenant through the blood and body of Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice and the payment for our sins. Even while we live in this desert of a world, parched and thirsty when we wander from him, he is faithful to provide, through Jesus Christ his son. Let us strive to follow the Lord in Obedience. Let us put our flesh to death, daily. And in all that we do, let us seek to give the glory and honor to him.
    Let’s pray.
      • Revelation 1:7ESV

      • Psalm 63:1ESV

      • Deuteronomy 2:1–25ESV

      • Psalm 32:9ESV

      • Deuteronomy 2:14ESV

      • Deuteronomy 2:15ESV

      • Romans 8:7–8ESV

      • 2 Corinthians 12:9ESV

      • Romans 8:9–10ESV

      • Deuteronomy 2:25ESV

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