He brought us out to bring us in


slavery in Egypt? Perish the memory! Thank God, He brought us out. Not that this wilderness is so wonderful, but we’re coping. And surely, it is worth being free, even though we’ll be trudging around in circles through this desert until the day we die.”

Resignation and all that.       

We may suppose that most of the Israelites thought and reasoned like that. They had become accustomed to the “status quo” of the desert. God’s promises of a “land flowing with milk and honey” seemed increasingly unreal and distant. They had learned to live with their present circumstances. And surely, these were a lot better than the terrible oppression under the pharaohs!

The more we look at Israel’s history, the more we are likely to discover our own mirror image, that of present day Christians on the whole. God’s Word as a “mirror” is unsurpassed, but, of course, what we see in the mirror may be very, very shocking. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:6,11 that Israel’s history was precisely written so that its example might benefit us. In other words, as we look, where do we find ourselves?

Out … and then?        

By his mighty hand God had brought the Israelites out, but what for? Was it just to escape from the pharaohs and slavery, and then get stuck in the desert? Were they meant to continue ‘living in the past’, just to enjoy these wonderful memories of what their great Redeemer had done for them long ago? Was it a matter of getting all sentimental perhaps, or … could it be they were completely sidelined?  Our title comes from Deuteronomy 6:23 (one particular version). Very clearly and very simply we are given to understand what God’s end purpose was. It was not the ‘bringing out’, but the ‘bringing in’. The second was impossible without the first, but the first was sadly incomplete without the second.

The trouble.

His purposes were glorious alright, but his people had other ideas. The ‘bringing out’ had meant a monumental upheaval of their lives, and they were not prepared to face another one … The present hardships of the desert had them complaining a lot, but what about the “giants” over on the other side? Surely they were going to be even worse? In other words: God’s promises were really suspect. And his love? Better to take that with a pinch of salt as well.

Choosing  death.

The Israelites had to be reminded of the fact that the desert was not their home. One whole generation had refused to understand this. They rebelled, even though Joshua and Caleb reassured them repeatedly of God´s might and his wonderful plan for them (Hebrews 3:16-19). They preferred the desert to the land flowing with milk and honey. Desperately seeking to avoid the suffering that seemed to loom out there, they despised God’s purposes. They chose what they thought might be easier to cope with. They chose the desert and … death. And so through the desert they wandered until every single one of them had died. Only the two men of faith, Joshua and Caleb, and, of course, the children of that lost generation, eventually entered the promised land. Forty awfully long years had been lost and would never come back.


It was our Lord, as recorded in Matthew 16 and 18, who first used the word “ekklesia”, usually translated as “church”. It means “the called out ones” and occurs a total of 114 times. After Acts it is Paul who uses the expression most (i.e. in all his epistles except in 2 Timothy and Titus). Can you see how he writes to the ‘Called Out Ones’, urging them to leave the desert behind and let God ‘bring them in’? Just think of his pleadings with the Corinthians and the Galatians, telling them as it were: “God has so much more to give to you than a desert existence, if only you could appreciate it and appropriate it.”

The other famous ‘6:23’ verse.

Romans 6:23 is usually applied to unbelievers, yet the context applies entirely to Christians! When we fear the suffering that total commitment to God might bring, what concept of our heavenly Father are we really embracing? God is Love and Light and Life, and yet how sadly common it is for Christians to turn their backs on HIM and his loving purposes, choosing instead the desert and death! All the while we may be polishing our outward ‘respectability’, hoping others will, indeed, pay us their respects, but inwardly there may be a frightful emptiness. If it happened so easily in New Testament churches (remember also James’ epistle and chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation), then what to expect in today’s churches all over the world? As missionaries also, we cannot expect to reap what we have not sown.


In our own lives and among those that surround us there may be a lot that we find frustrating, but passages like Jeremiah 2:12-13 and Revelation 3:15-18 show us God’s frustration with his people over their mad self determination. Having the privilege of meeting with Christians on five continents, we experience the very real joy of being with those of like precious faith. But it is also true that too often such joy is tempered. That happens when God’s people indicate in one way or another that they don’t mind being stuck in the desert. They ‘happily’ leave the crossing of the Jordan up to others.


It is usually the Christian’s attitude to God’s Word that shows him up. Reading his Bible is not a high priority, he can manage without. It is sadly true that huge portions of the Bible are completely ignored by very many Christians. It leads to the unhappy diagnosis of Hebrews 5:11-14. Millions know about John 3:16 and conveniently forget about Colossians 3:16.

Another symptom might be called the ‘Jonah syndrome’, a striking unwillingness to “get out the word”. There may be praise and thanksgiving for blessings received, but hardly a thought for those deprived of the Gospel, whether near or far. Right in the Israelites’ desert was the Dead Sea with this most telling detail: the Jordan River kept on flowing into it (as it still does), but it never flowed out again, in marked contrast to the Sea of Galilee. It is indeed a dead sea … Could it characterize my life?

And one more symptom, one which stands out among the saints. It is the overall willingness to depend on the “mediators-between-God-and-men”, i.e. certain leaders, be they called: pastors, priests, ministers or something even more grandiose. In his love God may have showered lots of wonderful “manna” on his children through the ministry of such men, but never in order to make men spiritually dependent on men. Joshua is a type of the Holy Spirit. He brought Israel into the “promised land”. So it is only the Holy Spirit who can take on the leadership of a Christian’s life and ‘bring him in’ (John 16:13; Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18).

The Message of the Cross.

God has the perfect ‘remedy’. It deals not only with the symptoms of ‘desertification’, but is effective against the root cause, the infamous one letter word:  “ I ”. We find it in chapters like Luke 9; John 12; Romans 6; 1 Corinthians 2 & 3; Galatians 2. The Christian who, perhaps at long last, “lets go and lets God …”, responding to God’s Message of the Cross, will experience … what? Nothing less than LIFE, the power of the resurrection. The Holy Spirit is faithful and brings him in! By God’s grace he now can say: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die … is gain!” (Philippians 1).