The Dry Land –the Testing in the Desert

First darkness, then light from God shining, wind blowing over the waters, dry land appearing as the water separates, am I talking about Creation or the Parting of the Red Sea?  Both actually.

The waters parting and the dry land appearing was one of the key events of the third day.  God used that same imagery in the parting of the Red Sea to say, “Here is a new creation–a people specially chosen by God.” Every Hebrew was called to leave Egypt and pass through the waters of the Red Sea. After entering the desert, God led, fed, watered, instructed, and tested them for 40 years.

Egypt, rocky wilderness of Sinai mountains, morning view from the heights
Egypt, rocky wilderness of Sinai mountains, morning view from the heights

In  the earlier blog The Waters Above Meet the Waters Below Christ’s baptism was tied to the second day of creation. After Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit led Him into the desert to be tempted by Satan for 40 days.  This event was foreshadowed by the third day of creation.

If the waters above represented heaven, and the waters below the abyss, then the dry land represents the temporary home of mankind. Here we encounter God, and are taught and fed by Him. It is also where our character and faith is revealed through various trials.  During this temporary existence, our permanent home of either heaven or hell is determined.

Temptation of Jesus Christ

Jesus successfully passed His test, the Hebrews for the most part did not. Although all were called out of Egypt, only two were found worthy of entering the Promised Land. This is a perfect illustration of the Scripture, “Many are called but few are chosen.”  Some of those who left Egypt were found so unworthy, that the earth literally opened up beneath them and swallowed them whole.  A visual reminder that some of us called to follow Christ can through rebellion find ourselves in hell.  But for the rest of the Hebrews, including Moses, Aaron and Miriam neither outcome was their end.  They were instead assigned a time of suffering before meeting a natural end.

Moses’ punishment was light.  He could see the Promised Land but not enter into it.  I think this was because you cannot enter heaven through the Law alone and Moses represented the Law.  The Israelites needed Joshua (whose name is the same as Jesus in Hebrew) to enter the Promised Land.  That Moses made it into heavenly glory is apparent from the Transfiguration accounts.  So there is hope for people whose faith journey was somewhat lacking.

Did Jesus ever say anything even remotely like this?  Yes.  Jesus described the three ends that His servants can meet in a parable about the Faithful and Unfaithful Servants. One set who is found doing their master’s will gets greatly rewarded.  Another set who beat the other servants and spent their time carousing gets thrown out with the unbelievers. A final set received either severe or light beatings based on their culpability.

These three possible ends correspond to the Church’s teaching on Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.  God forgives our sins, making it possible for us to enter heaven.  We cannot through our own actions ever merit heaven, even with a life of perfect obedience.  Only through faith in Jesus may we enter, but our actions still carry consequences.  St. Paul says our deeds will be tested by fire. What was done in God will survive, what was not will be destroyed although our lives will be saved.

Our time on earth is short, difficult, and includes times of trial.  We have all been called but where we end up is determined by our own response to the grace of God.

Referenced scriptures: Gen. 1:1-10, Ex. 4, Matt. 4, Matt. 22:14, Luke 12:41-48, 1 Cor. 3:10-15

#Creation #Purgatory #Temptation in the Desert #trcot #Catholic