40 years is a long time to be wandering in the wilderness, but that's precisely what happened to the Hebrews. Their journey was filled with surprises, such as the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, drinking water from a rock, and receiving manna from heaven. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll draws a parallel between Israel's plight and our recent journey through the COVID lockdown. Reflecting on the past is a healthy discipline.
Deuteronomy 8 verse 2 says, filled with the full spectrum of emotion, experiences, things we never dreamed would occur took place. Those we loved and held close to ourselves as the year began are no longer with us, and we have lost them, and they have come to you in your presence, having left us. And we are grateful for the memory of their lives, for what they meant to us. We also remember how faithful you have been.
You have met our needs. You have never abandoned us. You have remained near and dear, holding us close to yourself.
Some at the beginning of the year were healthy and strong, but at the end of this year find themselves sick, some quite seriously ill. That change has caused a whole number of things to happen in the home, in the family. We pray for those, and those who care for them, we remember them, asking for strength as we transition into another set of new months, weeks, and days. Lord, use your word to bring to the surface some of the things we are to remember and some of the things we are to forget.
Speak to us individually, saying one thing to one person and something altogether different to someone else. Remind each one of us that your grace has been sufficient and has sustained us. Finally, Lord, as the year has ended, we have turned our attention to the coming of your Son, who arrived as a baby, becoming ultimately the Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world. Thank you for the reminder again in this year's Thank you for the reminder again in that blessing Christmas story of the one you sent to us, who came as this helpless, needy child, and yet became the mighty, resurrected Lord, with a name above every name that every knee would bow to him and one day confess that he is Lord. Speak to us today from your word and make it personal so that we leave better equipped to evaluate the months that have passed and call to mind the things that are essential and worth remembering and never forgetting. Use these quiet moments of reflection to prepare us for the sowing of the seed of your word. These things we ask in the name of Christ, ask in the name of Christ, our Savior.
Everyone said, Amen. Remember the journey. You're to remember it was the Lord who led you all the way through the wilderness.
That is what you pass on to your children. That is what your children and grandchildren must learn, that God is faithful and will meet your needs regardless of how demanding, difficult, how exposed you may be, how vulnerable you may be to danger. God faithfully remains your protector, your shield, your guide. The Lord God gave you the cloud all through the way, and we never got lost. He gave you the fire to warm you through the cold nights.
You never had to suffer the serious cold weather, even in the desert that can get cold. Remember the Lord led you, note the word, through the wilderness. He knew where he was taking them.
There were things for the slaves of Egypt to learn before they became free people in Canaan, and they could only learn them in the wilderness experience. Remember them, that the Lord is the one who led you. Remember how the Lord, our God, has led us looking back over these months. Now, I thought it might be helpful, just in case your memory is a little bit sluggish today, that I bring to your mind the wilderness of this past year. It's been in several phases. What a year it has been. It hasn't been 40 years, it's just seemed like it. It hasn't been in the wilderness, it's just felt like it.
And I fully admit that. I don't know that I've ever gone through a full 12-month period like the one that's just about over. It's to the point of my saying, it's been a unique wilderness.
Allow me to do a quick and dirty review of where we have been. We endured, early on, a sub-zero blizzard that removed the reliable flow of our electricity. It burst our pipes, it buckled our floors, it ruined our landscapes, it taught us how a house feels instead of being in the 70s when we would sleep and it was in the 40s and 50s. We'd never known that before, until this year.
There were some I read about who learned how to fix their meals on a grill outside in 10-degree weather because nothing on the inside was working since everything was electric and there was no electricity. So we have endured, to begin with, a harsh winter wilderness, which I think it's true to say not one of us will ever forget. But not once did God leave us. Not once were we without his presence. Not once was he surprised.
Not once did anything happen that he did not permit or direct. Don't forget that. He led us through the harsh winter wilderness, deliberately led us through it.
Not around it, not apart from it, but through it. Our wilderness also included an ongoing pandemic that had already been with us a year, in fact a little over a year, as well as with variants of new, dangerous, life-threatening viruses that proliferated during these 12 months. The wilderness included overcrowded hospitals and overworked health care specialists, nurses, and physicians who added to their hours more than they had ever worked before, and their ranks were thinned by a mandate. Don't get me started on the mandate.
Leave it there. But we have been through a health-threatening wilderness these 12 months, on top of the sub-zero winter that was ours to endure like never before. On top of all that, we experienced and watched, if not suffered from, criminal activity like we've never known before in our country.
We've become acquainted with words like smash and dash robberies, a dreadful absence of law and order in a number of our cities, a disrespect for and even defunding of the police to protect. So we've been in a criminal, cultural wilderness over these 12 months, and it isn't over. We're still going through it. We still see snatches of it to the point where we want to close our eyes and say with the country-western singer, make the world go away. It's a wilderness, and don't you forget it.
He led us all the way through it. By the grace of God, we weren't shot. We weren't wounded, but maybe a friend was or a relative. For the first time, many Christmas gifts and household goods remain packed on huge container ships, cargo ships sitting in ocean waters only, a number of yards from the port and the shore, unable to be unloaded onto 18-wheelers because of the lack of drivers or whatever reason. They have sat there, and you have probably experienced something that wasn't delivered. You expected to have been delivered an ever-increasing national debt, ever-increasing cost factor at the gasoline pumps and the grocery stores, and the growing inflation that isn't going away.
And so it has been a financial wilderness as well, and I'm not through. I haven't even mentioned our unprotected border, where drugs and diseases and crime and human trafficking have poured over into our state and other border states. We saw in these 12 months students shooting other fellow students at their schools. The darkening presence of ever-negative media reporting, the rapid growth of the rate of suicide among children, as well as teens and adults. This isn't pessimistic.
This is realistic. Nothing exaggerated. It's what I'm leaving out that is significant.
I could stay here for an hour and enumerate the things you're aware of. Just a reminder, it has been a wilderness existence for 12 long months. Now, is it these things we're to tell our kids about and our grandchildren, who either won't remember them or weren't born when they were happening in the years to come? Is that what we're to remember? Not according to the passage. We're to remember it was the Lord who took care of us, protected us, watched over us, held us together, often in spite of the leadership of our country, guiding us, directing our steps, keeping us in his will as we groaned and prayed and labored through those times that we thought couldn't get worse, only to see them within a week or so or perhaps a little more get much worse. Now let's go back to Moses' sermon. Let's go back to see and to learn what they specifically were to remember about the Lord leading them. Look again at verse 2. Look at your Bible. Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness these 40 years, in our case, these 12 months, humbling you.
That's the place to stop. We were humbled during these 12 months. We weren't nearly as in charge or powerful as we thought we were.
I don't know of anyone that could throw their own switch and get their electricity back. I don't know of anyone that could stop the criminal activity suddenly, even though we prayed like constantly for safety. We were humbled. We watched in humility the harsh weather stunned us. We couldn't stop it. We couldn't change one degree.
All this health-threatening wilderness, all of the extreme cultural wilderness, the financial wilderness. God was faithful. He never left us, but we were humbled in it. Many lost the jobs, maybe some of you, quite likely some of you. Our ranks were thinned at the church. Our ranks were thinned quite a bit at Insight for Living. Your ranks were thinned in your companies. We were humbled.
We watched as it seemed like everything was coming off its hinges. We'd never known a year like this, ever. In my almost 60 years of ministry in the church, I'd never seen a church I was serving go through what we went through.
Quite likely you haven't either. The Lord our God faithfully was there, humbling us. He used those events to remind us you are not in charge. You will trust me. You will wait on me. You will watch me work.
I'll do it in my time and in my way. I am the potter, and you are the clay. I am the master. You are the servants. Accept that.
It's a humble role to fill, but it's healthy for us. Look further at the passage. Look further at the passage.
Remember all the way the Lord God led you these 40 years in the wilderness, humbling you. Look next. Testing you to prove your character. I think there was some character proving during the previous 12 months in all of us. He used the events to test us, to prove us, to hold our feet to the fire, to see if we would continue to open his word and take instructions from him, to believe his promises, to trust him when we can't see our way through. It was a testing time.
It was character building 12 months, just as it was those 40 years for the Hebrews in the wilderness. Now look at the next one. Here's where it really gets tough. He says in verse three, yes, he humbled you, letting you go hungry. I don't know of a parent in his or her right mind who deliberately plans to let his or her children go hungry. We don't do that. We just don't do, we just don't have it in us.
God does. You see, he was up to something and it took hunger for it to be fulfilled. In the wilderness, there were no leaks and garlics and melons and onions that they could pull from the ground and eat. There were no cattle to kill that they might cut and cook and prepare as meat. They were in the wilderness.
They have nothing, nothing. And on top of that, their stomachs growled with hunger. And so, look at what he did. I love this part, probably because I wasn't there and had to eat it.
But look at this. He humbled you, letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna. In fact, he says this about it, a food previously unknown to you and to your ancestors. Why did he do that? Why did he rain down manna and leave it like snow on the ground for them to gather each morning and to eat it?
Why would he do that? I think Mrs. Moses' cookbook had a thousand and one ways to prepare manna before the 40 years were over. They ate it. They broiled it. They boiled it. They ate it in sandwiches. They ate it raw. They sliced it, ate it thin, thick, ate it hot, ate it cold.
It's all they had. What's for breakfast? Manna.
What's for what? Manna. How about supper today? Manna. Manna is deliberately designed to be boring but nutritious.
Now stay with me. There's a reason for all this. God doesn't operate as though He's unreasonable. He just doesn't do it our way. Just as we don't let our children go hungry, He does let His own.
Because you see, it takes a heavenly appetite to enjoy a heavenly food. They didn't have one. We're just midway through this message from Chuck Swindoll. There's much more to discover in this reflective study about the Hebrews. Chuck titled his message, Looking Back, Let's Remember the Journey. We'll hear a closing comment from Chuck in just a moment, so please keep listening. If you'd like to learn more about Chuck and this ministry, visit us online at insightworld.org. Did you know that Insight for Living prepares online study notes called Searching the Scriptures? If you're looking for a way to dig deeper right now, you can expect to gain access to these study notes with every sermon that Chuck presents on this program. It's not a mere outline of the sermon either. It's an interactive document that allows you to study through the Bible just as Chuck does. And there's plenty of room to keep track of your thoughts and reflections as well. To download Chuck's Searching the Scriptures studies, go to insightworld.org slash studies.
But that's not all. Insight for Living also offers a daily email devotional from Chuck. This resource is also free. To sign up for the email devotional, just follow the simple instructions at insight.org slash devotional. You know, when you contribute to Insight for Living, you're playing a significant role in bringing light and hope to those who are searching. Thank you so much for making moments like these possible. Here's Chuck. When someone truly follows Jesus, the outcome is demonstrated in the personal virtue of generosity.
You heard me right. Generosity. I know my statement is true because I've spent my entire adult life shepherding a flock of generous sheep who give joyfully from a heart of gratitude to God on a regular basis. As we approach the final days in the year, I'm calling on you to be among those generous givers. As you give generously to Insight for Living Ministries in a manner that reflects your heart, Paul said it best. To the Corinthian Church, Paul wrote, you must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure, for God loves a person who gives cheerfully. In the original Greek language, the word cheerfully actually means with hilarity.
Isn't that a surprise? God loves an hilarious giver. I love the mental picture this statement creates, watching church attenders laugh out loud as the proverbial plate is passed down the row. As we approach the end of another ministry year, please ask God to guide you. Invite Him to prompt your spirit on what amount you can cheerfully give. I can assure you of this, that whatever amount you choose, God will leverage your cheerful gift to bring a smile to the face of all those who encounter God's indescribable gift, Jesus, seen in Scripture as the light of the world.
You see, when you give a year-end donation, you're not giving to us. You're giving through us. Insight for Living Ministries is merely the conduit through which you give in order to touch the lives of others. In this respect, you have a ministry all your own, from your hand of giving to their hearts of receiving.
Now more than ever, people are desperate for grace and truth, love and hope. This Christmas, you can help them unwrap this awesome gift of Jesus by donating generously to Insight for Living Ministries. I'm counting on you to give cheerfully and out of gratitude for God's provision. So in advance of your giving, I want to say this.
Thank you so much for giving generously and with hilarity. And here's how to respond to Chuck Swindoll. First, you can call us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. Or it might be quicker to go online to Insight.org slash donate. Once again, our phone number, if you're listening in the U.S., 800-772-8888.
Thanks so much for your generous gifts. We look forward to connecting with you soon. I'm Bill Meyer. Tomorrow, Chuck Swindoll continues his retrospective message on the COVID lockdown.
Join us Friday to hear Insight for Living. The preceding message, looking back, Let's Remember the Journey, was copyrighted in 2021 and 2022. And the sound recording was copyrighted in 2022 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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