Rev. E. Anderson
THE OASES OF LIFE
Reading 2 Timothy 1: 16-18
PILGRIMS: One of the images given concerning the Christian believer is that of a pilgrim, one that is on a pilgrimage. Peter in his epistle addresses the saints there as ‘strangers and pilgrims’ – 1 Peter 2: 11, thus revealing that this world is a place in which they are passing through. It is not home but they are on their way home. The patriarch, Abraham, as his offspring too, were regarded as such. Their dwellings were in tents until they entered ultimately into the Promised Land and possessed it as their homeland – Hebrews11: 13. They are seen to be passing through the desert, wilderness and barren places until they reach their destiny. One of the imperative things that they needed en-route, through these hostile, arid and desolate regions, was an oasis whereby they could be nourished and renewed.
Christian life and experience can be likened to a journey, and although this world is a beautiful place, yet it has to be said, there are occasions when God’s people have to go through some barren situations and times. There is a need for God and His provision so that the trip can be made successfully. It is somehow captured in the old hymn: “Guide me 0 Thou great Jehovah.”
OASIS: An oasis according to the dictionary is ‘a fertile spot in a sandy or barren desert.’ It is a venue that offers retreat, refuge, refreshment and renewal in a time of crisis. It is good to see and enjoy an oasis in the hour of crisis. When everything and everyone may seem hostile and cruel it is helpful to behold and know an oasis of blessing and encouragement. An oasis really becomes a place where you are ‘done good to’, where things become favorable and most beneficial. There comes a remarkable change that turns to advantage and prepares for the next stage of life and living. Such becomes a token that everyone/everything are not against. The oasis becomes a going factor and concern especially to the child of God. They come in the form of places, people, providences and promises of a divine character and order.
VARIETY: The provision is not simply of one oasis but a number because we are called to traverse through all kinds of situations. God wills that we should be an oasis to others and that there should come oases in the realm of the variety of situations and experiences we shall confront. One of the major reasons why we need the blessing of the input of His Word and Holy Spirit is that a wellspring of life should spontaneously flow from us. He purposes that we be a means of life and renewal to all, especially those within the Church – c.f. John 7: 37-39. Like Onesiphorus we refresh in numberless ways. The Lord has countless ways of meeting the desperate conditions in unusual ways and we must be open to His workings and provisions. See who He met in these kind of circumstances and He has not changed.
1/. HAGAR REQUIRED ONE WHEN IN FORBIDDING CONDITIONS
Hagar brought a lot of problems on herself besides the things that had been imposed upon her by her mistress. Whilst she was not to be totally blamed for her forlorn and desolate situation, she was responsible to some degree. She is now in a very vulnerable scene where she is in the wilderness of Beersheba alone and with a spent water bottle and in a helpless and hopeless state – Genesis 21: 14,15. It looked as both she and her son would die because there was no source of supply to her physical condition. At the point of crisis she calls out and comes to a personal discovery of the Lord and His intervention w17-20. Previously the Lord had met her by a spring of water when she was in problems: “You are the God who sees”, for she said, Have I also seen Him who sees me?” – Genesis 16: 6-16.
2/. JACOB REQUIRED ONE IN FLIGHT FROM HIS BROTHER
This man with a varied life and experience certainly knew in manner the sudden refreshing of the Lord. When on the run brother he needed something extra special and received the same a remarkable from his twin – Genesis 28.
He meets God at a place called Luz and experiences a divine dream which impacts his life and causes him to re-name the place Bethel – vv10-22. It was not a very nice place to spend the night but it was forced upon him by tiredness and weariness. It was not a comely or inviting place and all he had for a pillow was a stone vii. His thoughts and feelings in such a foreboding environment must have been far from the healthiest but in that situation God encountered him. Instead of having a nightmare he had a unique and unusual dream that was to impact him and affect his whole future. Bethel was an oasis to him. Later on he was told to ‘Go back to Bethel.’ Gen. 31: 13; 35: 1.
He meets Rachel at the well and senses that he is right in line with God’s blessed provision – Genesis 29: 1-12. It was not by chance or coincidence that he had arrived at this spot. All the signs were that in spite of his position there was Someone ordering his steps and mapping out his future. Although it would be here, he would face many difficulties, nevertheless, it would be a real oasis in the building up of his life and fortunes in God. That well was symbolic of the input that would be his over the forthcoming days. Rachel would be like a spring of life to him. She was no dream!
3/. ISRAEL REQUIRED ONE AFTER A DIFFICULT PERIOD
Over the past period of weeks this people had differing circumstances. Their whole world had the Almighty in their favor. Suddenly they had been called to face quite a lot of been turned upside down by the challenged in so many ways and instead of being a nation of slaves and in a state of bondage, they were free and on the march. Their enemy had been utterly desolated but now they were uprooted and having to confront a whole set of new circumstances which were of a challenging character. Faith and trust were to be tested to the full in the complex wilderness setting. Weakness was exposed amidst the traumatic scenes. But God had a pleasant surprise in the coming to a place called Elim – Exodus 15: 27. It was not going to be a rough and tough passage all the way. There would come the natural as well the supernatural provision of the Lord. It was important for them to see His hand here and benefit from it to the utmost.
4/. RUTH REQUIRED ONE AS SHE MOVED OUT OF A FAMILIAR SCENE
Her whole being and life had been shook and shattered by the desolating events and experiences of death in the family scenario. Father-in-law, brother-in-law and husband had all been taken from the household unit and the future looked anything but rosy and comfortable. Naomi makes the decision to return. What is she going to do? The challenge came to her to move out of the familiar and move to foreign parts and to discover a new faith and way of life. It was quite an adventure to engage upon and one that looked quite forbidding.
In her arrival in Bethlehem she must have sensed she needed some token and manifestation of mercy and divine provision. Both Naomi and she were coming to Bethlehem empty. It was imperative that some unique resource would arise that would become a wellspring of life and nourishment. She was not to be disappointed because God was in charge of all that was to take place – see chapter 2 onwards. The ultimate fact is that Boaz turned out to be an oasis in the midst of their lives-see Ruth 4: 14, 15.
5/. ELIJAH REQUIRED ONE IN HIS UTTER LONELINESS AND FAILURE
No one would have ever thought that this strong, resilient, independent and confident individual would be reduced to a state where he felt a flop and in an isolated condition. This major prophet and man of God came to the point where he felt washed out and utterly useless. He is found on the run after one of the most profound experiences that any person could witness. There had been the supernatural fire in response to prayer and the unique provision of rain in reply to his petitioning – I Kings 18. But now he is in extreme circumstances, in the wilderness, seemingly friendless and forsaken and without sustenance.
The request is made to die but the Lord sends an angel and provides a means of sustenance, thus expressing an oasis of life to His choice servant – I Kings 19: 5-8. It was such a meal that the vitamins and energy created the ability to go in the strength of it for 40 days and nights. He was not to be left in the wilderness but to go to the mount of God where He would have a personal display of God’s great power and an experience of His Presence that would be quite radical and revolutionary – v12. There would come such a ministry of and from the Lord to him in this low state that would change him and his ministry for the future. He would look back and say, “God met me there!”
6/. ELISHA REQUIRED ONE IN THE COURSE OF HIS LIFE AND MINISTRY
This very blessed and used man was to know a wonderful oasis in his experience in the form a hospitable gesture coming from a person known as the Shunemite woman – 2 Kings 4: 8-37. She was impressed by the fact that this man was nothing less than a prophet, a true, holy man of God. She sensed she must make more than a one-off meal for him. There was a need to extend the property and give him a true resting place that would become a spiritual and natural oasis – w9, 10. She knew it was right to turn her home into use for God and His servant and so bless this divine messenger. She did not do it for personal gain but felt it was the right and best thing to do. Elisha must have enjoyed the oasis and retreat which became a treat I
Little did she realize that this prophet would play a major role in her life and become a veritable oasis to her in a number of ways. Her womb would be opened up so that she would become a bearer of a son – w16, 17. Her heart would be open where she would believe to see this dead son resurrected through this oasis – v30. It was this man of God that had the anointing and blessing of life on him. Later on she discovers that her identification with the prophet is to turn again in her favor and become a stream of life – 2 Kings 8: 1-6. The woman that blessed God’s servant was wondrously blessed in return.
7/. PETER REQUIRED ONE FOLLOWING THE WORST ORDEAL OF LIFE
It was a disturbing and upsetting ordeal that this great disciple and follower of Christ had to face. His Master put him into the picture as to what was to actually take place in the midst of His own trials and sufferings – Luke 22: 31, 34. He was going to have a rude awakening by the crowing of a cock that would shake his whole spiritual state. He would feel what it meant to be an awful letdown and failure in Christ’s great crisis. When it all happened he was suddenly plunged into a most depressed time – vv6O-62. Somehow he felt he could never face up to Christ again I He would cut his ties and go back to fishing – John 21: 3.
Christ came to act as a spiritual oasis to Peter when possibly he least expected it. The Lord had him in mind immediate on His resurrection – Mark 16: 7. He came to the shore of Galilee to make Himself known to this man. Following the wonderful draught of fish, the discerning disciple, John, said, “It is the Lord.” It was enough to spontaneously cause something to awake and arise in Peter -John 21: 7. There came the beautiful challenge and change for this apostle that was to restore him fully to Christ and his calling. That morning breakfast and what ensued acted as a spiritual oasis to him. Unforgettable, as he passed that place in the coming days. His life and ministry would be so affected that he would become an oasis to others in a pronounced way.
8/. PAUL REQUIRED ONE DURING HIS IMPRISONMENT
Not all went well for Paul in his prison situation. News came to him of those who were no longer favouable to him – 2 Timothy 1: 15. In his first appearance before the Roman emperor no one stood with him, in fact all forsook him – 2 Timothy 4: 16. He knew he had to go to Rome and make his stand for Christ before the Roman hierarchy but he was not aware of the demands that would be fully made. There had been the remarkable acts of providence en-route but what would ensue would require faith and courage.
The Lord does see to it that one man acts as a real oasis to him in the state of privation – 2 Timothy 1: 16-18. Onesiphorus was to serve in an admirable and favorable fashion and that made him realize that he was not forgotten and forsaken in these unseemly and uncongenial conditions. This man was very keen to find this servant of Christ and made sure by presence and provision there would be no lack. A stream of boundless refreshment flowed through this genial and generous man that uplifted this mighty messenger of Christ.
The Lord also made sure that in his personal defense of the Christian gospel that He would be present Himself as the true oasis and strength – 2 Timothy 4:17. It was so big an issue that Paul needed to have the very Founder of the Faith he was speaking up for should be with him in a personal and powerful manner and measure. No one else was more suited to be with him in the dock hence the removal of any other support. He did not fail in His presence or ministry I
In considering all these people and circumstances we come to the right conclusions and convictions:
That there are desert and wilderness experiences in life to be negotiated, which are dry and barren places, and which are a test of character and faith. There is the Inevitability of having to confront some of these demanding events and experiences.
There’s a divine provision that can be naturally and supernaturally laid on that is more than adequate to meet the current requirement. God is not devoid of ways, means and resource to meet the prevailing conditions.
Having ministered to us, He puts inside of us the capacities and ministries by which we can act as oases to others. Instead of being simply refreshed ourselves, the greater comes into being and function. In a dry, barren and thirsty land, we become a channel through which countless others are refreshed and blessed.