By Horatius Bonar
"He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye." -- Deuteronomy 32:10
WE might take this figuratively, of Abraham, in Chaldea; or of Israel in Egypt; but Moses is speaking literally of the Sinaitic wilderness, and of Israel there. No sooner had they crossed the Red Sea than they became wanderers in the desert. There God found them; he came to them. It was truly a desert land; without bread, or water, or dwellings, or cities. All heat, barrenness, danger, terror. He met them, came to them, took their hand, and became their guide (Deuteronomy 1:31,33; Nehemiah 9:19); by day and night he kept and led them for forty years; taught, protected, watched, as if they had been the tenderest part of the tenderest member of His body. Such was Israel's story, till brought to Canaan; and such that of every Israelite indeed, every saved sinner from his first arousing till he enters into the joy of his Lord. Consider,--
I. The sinner in his native country. That land of his nativity is a desert waste; it is the far country into which the prodigal went; the world where all is evil. It is a barren land, without comfort, or safety, or friends, or kindred. No living bread to feed his famished soul. No fountain of living water to quench his thirst. No peace, nor rest, nor gladness; no shelter from the wrath to come. He is wretched and empty; a poor wanderer of the desert, a man without a home.
II. The sinner found by God. (Jeremiah 2:2) The three parables of our Lord bring out this: the lost sheep found by the Shepherd; the lost silver found by the woman; the lost son found by his father. It is not the sinner that seeks God, but God the sinner; and when God comes He finds him in the land of barrenness, and famine, and danger; He finds him in his sin and wretchedness; a child of wrath, an heir of hell. He goes in quest of him; seeks him; saves him. By convictions, by terrors, by disappointments, by a sense of want, by weariness; by these he pursues him from valley to valley, from refuge to refuge; and not by these only, but by a thousand such things great and small. Each believer, as he looks back reminds himself of this,--"He found me in a desert land, a waste howling wilderness." Ask them all, and they will tell you this. Ask Abraham, Moses, Manasseh, Zaccheus, Paul; ask the Corinthians, the Thessalonians,--they will tell you the same story,--"He found me in a desert land; "He chose me, sought me out, found me, called me, sent from above, took me, and drew me out of many waters. I was a lost sheep, but He found me! A prodigal, but He found me! Some in childhood, some in youth, some in manhood. Yet all the same at last.
III. The sinner under God's care. The finding is not the ending, but the beginning of God's dealing with him; which from first to last is all marvellous; the display of wisdom and love.
(1.) Guidance. No place needs a guide like the desert. One gets utterly bewildered in its intricacies and labyrinths of rocks and plains. He who finds him knows this, and takes him under his guidance, so that at every turn, every step, he shall be sure of being in the right way. Nay, and often does God bring him into circumstances, in which there can be no help save in Himself. The desert is pathless, the sinner is ignorant; there are false guides, uncertain ways, as well as darkness and enemies. Therefore does God lead us! By His word, His providence, His rod, His hand, His eye; by sorrows and joys, prosperities and adversities; by the footsteps of the flock; hedging up our way; denying us our own will. He "leads us about;" not directly, but with many a winding, and apparent backturning; many stages and unlikely bypaths. He does not take us at once to Canaan, but leads us about; for wise ends; of grace and discipline, and purifying; for the manifestation of Himself and the overthrow of Satan. What a leader! Whatever be the entanglements, briars, thorns, darkness, He will guide us; onward, still onward, to the city of habitation; we come up out of the wilderness leaning on the Beloved. We pray, "thy Spirit is good, lead us to the land of uprightness."
(2.) Instruction. One of his first words is, "Learn of me." The sinner needs his teaching,--divine, not human teaching; as to what sin is, himself, God, Christ, the cross, the love of God, the grace of Christ, the glory to be revealed. These God teaches us. Every day and hour is a teaching time; and He who has found us is one who has compassion on the ignorant.
(3.) Protection. He comes at once under the shadow of the divine shield; so that he is kept by the power of God; "preserved in Christ." No enemy prevails; no weapon injures, no evil comes nigh; he is made more than conqueror. How careful God is of the new found one! How sensitive about injury done to him, as if done to Himself, to the apple of His eye! What a guardian, what a protector do we find in God! The sun shall not smite by day nor the moon by night; nor shall the sand of the desert blow into our eye.
O men of earth, are you still wanderers? Lost, unguided, uninstructed, unprotected? What will the desert do for you? Will it be an equivalent to Canaan and Jerusalem? God pursues you, appeals to you, seeks to win you, asks you, Have I been a wilderness to you? He calls! In every way, and by every agency; by the gospel, by the law, by a sense of want, by sorrow, by pain. He calls,--he pursues! Oh, flee no longer from him. Let him this day overtake you!