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You Can Learn from a Desert
08/17/2008
Scripture: Deuteronomy 32:10; Deuteronomy 8:2; Exod...
Track 4 of 14 in the Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication series
Running time: 1 hour, 06 minutes, 43 seconds.


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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.


August for our household was a nervous time of year because the kids would get ready to go back to school. Fun was over, learning was back and new clothes and supplies for school had to be bought. My wife, a teacher, was getting her things ready for class and planning her routines. During the college years, packing up furniture getting ready to move everyone again was on the schedule. August was always a busy and nervous month for us. Many of you with kids are probably now experiencing the same things, especially those with college age kids.

There is always something neat about the first day of school. Everything starts new and fresh. During the summer buildings are cleaned and repaired, many are repainted. Kids show up wearing new clothes for the year, teachers are welcoming and glad you are back and it feels almost like a party the first few days. In college there are welcome back parties, several drives to sign up for events and just good ole time to find friends that have been gone for the summer.
God also has a school too. Many probably donít know that. There isnít anything usual about it. It is very different from the schools you or your kids are use to. It doesnít have buildings, no science or computer labs, any football field or athletic facilities. You wonít find this school in some college magazine or on the internet. Yet it is the most profound institution of learning you could ever attend.

Most of us are alums from this school. In fact, many of you have been there more than once. As a parent, Iím not thrilled about any time my kids spend studying there. But knowing how things are, I realize each of them will spend some time learning valuable lessons from its teachers. I have experienced the presence of God there and I would like for my kids to feel that presence also but as a dad, I am not thrilled about the tuition they have to pay; it can be very expensive.

I am speaking about Godís school in the desert. I am not talking about UNLV or Arizona State; I am talking about the dry desert campus God puts His children in to prepare them for a particular task. There is nothing glamorous or colorful to attract students there. In fact it is quite the opposite and it is designed to be that way. It is dry, desolate, rocky and full of sand. Some people only spend a few weeks there while others seem to spend years. For Moses, he spent 40 years there.

Are you by nature a person when things go wrong become a ďwoe is meĒ person or are you someone who tries to look at the ďsilver liningĒ? Why? When you find in your mailbox the registration material for Godís school of the desert, is your attitude one of complaining or do you get ready for learning.

It is interesting to see the differences between how a freshman prepares for college versus an upper classman. There are many differences. In fact, entering your senior year in college is totally different than any of the other years in school.

What is the difference between entering school as a freshman versus being a senior? Contrast those thoughts Godís school of the desert?

The Hebrew definition for the word ďdesertĒ comes from the word that means ďto speakĒ. For Moses, that is exactly what the desert did, it spoke to Moses the words of God. It can get very quiet in the middle of the desert, so quiet that the normal sounds a man canít hear become blasting noises.

What is important for us to know, the desert has many faces. For Moses, the desert was in Midian. For you, it can be in Quincy; for others a trailer court in Georgia, a farmhouse in Kansas. It involves experiences that test you down to your very soul and it helps you discover who you really are. The tasks are usually not fair, many are heartbreaking. Sometimes the students of this school feel as though the teachers are too hard and delight in causing pain. It is a school that gives way too much homework and doesnít grade on a curve and the deadlines sometime grind you down till you feel you canít go on anymore.

he desert wears many faces.
It may be crowded with people, yet it is lonely.
It may rain day and night without stopping, yet it is dry and barren.
Flowers may bloom and trees may blossom all around you, yet it is desolate.

Most will ask, does God know? Does God care? Does He understand what He is putting me through? The answer is yes, He understands very well because He is the one who put you there. Why do we spend time in the wilderness? It is how God gets our attention.

Deuteronomy 32:10 In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.

In Deuteronomy 32 we learn that when God places us in the desert, in the wilderness, while we experience the howling waste, he protects us, he cares for us and guards us so we are not destroyed. His purpose is so we learn and know Him better, not to punish or destroy us. I think it is interesting how many have the wrong understanding that when bad things happen to Godís people, they assume it is for punishment. Many forget that God uses the desert to help His people learn.

The Door to the Desert

When you found yourself in the desert, did you ever ask yourself how you managed to get there? How did I get into this mess? What did I do wrong to deserve this?

The desert is dry and lonely, you feel dismal and sad. But whatever your emotions are, whatever they are telling you, the Bible says you are not alone. God is there. He cares for you and He promises to guide you through the desert to paths that make sense. Many feel God left them or maybe they left God. But the real truth is you are closer to God than you can ever imagine. This is where Moses found himself. This is what the desert taught Moses. Listen to what Moses said when Israel was just about ready to enter the Promised Land

Deuteronomy 8:2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.

Why does God lead us through the desert places in life? Think about this a minute, when God strips the peel off of you, do you know who the real ďyouĒ is?

In the Shadow of Sinai

Exodus 3:1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

I think it is interesting that the beginning of Moses ministry starts in the shadow of the mountain where the covenant of God will begin. He probably saw that mountain everyday not realizing that someday that mountain would play a major role in his life. Like Moses, Jesus too worked in the shadow of the mountain where the new covenant would start. How many times did Jesus see the place where he would be crucified? How many times did he walk by it as he traveled? Some of the events in scripture when Jesus was in Jerusalem took place close to the location of the crucifixion.

What does it mean when someone is in the shadow of something? What does ďa shadowĒ usually represent? Where is Midian? It is a nowhere place. It is probably a place where even a Visa card couldnít buy anything. It is what we come to understand as the last place on earth anyone would want to be. It is interesting to note that Moses didnít just leave Egypt and wander around until he ran into the Midianites. He had reason to go to them. There was purpose to all this. I donít know if it was Godís or Mosesí but it was no accident Moses went to Midian. The Midianites are direct decedents of Abraham. Midian was the son of Abraham through his concubine Keturah. When Joseph was sold by his brothers, it was the Midianites that took him to Egypt. Moses was related to the Midianites. In a way, they were his people so he went there to hide from Pharaoh.

Can you picture this, a man with advanced knowledge in hieroglyphics, science, literature and military tactics now existing out in the middle of nowhere, living with his father-in-law, raising a couple of boys and watching over sheep. If you want to define what a personal desert is, that is it.

For those of you who attended and graduated from college, what was your major? What part did your major play in attending the school you went to?

Godís school in the desert is like a college or university. It too has courses of study to major in. However, Godís majors are unlike what you would study in earthly colleges today. I doubt very seriously if anyone would sign up to study the majors God has to offer. Yet, for Moses and those of us you attended Godís school in the desert, we know full well what His courses are all about.

A Major in Obscurity:

This major is a life devotion to being a ďnobodyĒ. To get a degree in this major one has to study what it takes to deny self.

How many of you find it important that you are recognized when you are around people? How do you typically react when you are ignored, or even worse, no one knows you are even present?
Describe for me the life Moses had before he killed the Egyptian when it came to being recognized? What about his life as a shepherd?

The interesting thing about sheep, they donít care nor are they impressed with who you are. Most of the time they have their faces down because they are eating and they are unintelligent and unresponsive animals. They have one thing on their minds, eating. Moses had the pleasure of knowing sheep for 40 years. They could care less if he was famous or the son of Pharaoh. As long as he feed them, that was okay to them.

Can you imagine what our modern day news reporters would say about Moses if they interviewed him out in the desert? A prince who now is a shepherd, do you think they would admire him or think his life and talents were just a waste?

The course in obscurity is one that you have to pass before you can move on. If you donít learn to live peacefully with obscurity, you will repeat the course until you do. It is the first lesson we have to learn and we will become unusable by God until it is a part of our lives. For the Christian, it is critical to becoming His disciple:

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, ďIf anyone would come after me, he must deny himself (major in obscurity) and take up his cross and follow me.

A Major in Time

Acts 7:29-30 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons. ďAfter forty years had passedÖ

Most college degrees take 4 years to acquire. Many times if you are an athlete, it takes 5 years. I love it when parents wonder if their kids are majoring in college itself since it takes so long for some students to graduate. There are some professions that require up to 10 years to graduate. For Godís college in the desert, the amount of time it takes can be a whole lot longer. For Moses, it took 40 years to graduate. At the time Moses entered Godís college, he was 40. By the time he graduated, he was 80. The years from 40 to 80 are considered the prime years in a personís life. For Moses, he herded sheep in the front yard of Hades.

Describe for me the philosophy of time in our modern world. What are the principles we normally follow? Compressed, condensed, slam-bam-its-done. We believe in instant, we want everything instant. Compare the U.S. to Latin America. What is the difference between the fast-track and Godís track? Can you live on Godís track? How slow can you go?

A Major in Solitude

How many of you enjoy peace and quiet? Isnít it nice to have quiet especially right after a long hard day? But how many of you would want it all the time; total solitude, total silence? Why?
Today, most people are strangers to silence. That is why most people panic when they find themselves alone. That is why most people canít just sit with the TV off, the radio or iPods off when traveling, there has to be some kind of background noise going on.

What does solitude sound like? For many, some have no idea. For others, they forgot what it was like because they have been in the middle of the chatter of civilization too long. For Moses, there was no civilization as he knew it in Midian. He spent 40 years learning the values found in a life of solitude. Solitude helps us to develop sensitivity to thoughts that go beyond the surface. For most of us, the surface of life is where we spend most of our time. Very seldom do we go deep into our own souls and discover who we really are and who God really is.

The Major in Discomfort

Mark this down; there was nothing comfortable about Midian. It was a hard place to live. Moses left a life of comfort to live in a place that had no comforts at all. This major completes what the other three majors didnít finish. If youíre like most people, each of us builds a hard barrier over time to protect us from the things we donít like. Too often this barrier makes it hard to renovate our soul. David even talked about this process:

Psalm 51:6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
How does God do this? How does He put wisdom in your inmost place when your soul is closed off by the barriers you put up?

ē First he finds pride and uses the sandpaper of obscurity to remove it ever so gradually
ē Second, once our pride is gone, we might develop a fear of what is to come. Through the use of time God allows us to see that things arenít out of hand and in His hands.
ē Third, God deals with the barrier of resentment or bitterness with solitude. In the silence of his presence we gain a fresh perspective and let go of our cherished rights.
ē Last, God gets down to the basic habits of our living; he uses hardships and discomfort to buff away the last layers of resistance.

Why does he do this? So He can get to the very core of our inner being and renovate it. This is what he did to Moses and it took 40 years for Moses to be ready for the task God had for him. How long will it take for God to make you ready?