“I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord’” (Exodus 6:5-8).
God led Moses to free the Children of Israel from their slavery to Pharaoh. Moses took them to the desert, where they spent 40 years learning to rely on God’s word. God shaped them into a covenant people, cared for and led by God with cloud and fire. In Luke’s Gospel Jesus also was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to learn from God. While he was there he was tempted by the devil. Jesus successfully overcame temptation by quoting God’s word.
Lent is an invitation for us as God’s people to experience our own 40 days in the desert with Jesus. Our Lenten practices are designed to help us do this. We typically “give something up” for Lent as a form of fasting, but we should include spending more time in prayer, meditation, Bible study and in making contributions to those in need. That is harder than just “giving up (fill in the blank) chocolate.”
As we prepare our hearts for the First Sunday of Lent, spend some time thinking about your own Lenten practices. If you haven’t already done so, make a commitment for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. If your choices don’t seem challenging, consider changing them up to something a little more difficult. But don’t set yourself up for failure. Your Lenten promises should be a challenge, but not something that becomes a burden or that you just abandon.
Remember God’s promise to the Israelites, and the example of Jesus in the desert. Our capacity to repent and to resist temptation comes from our relationship with God and the grace of God’s deliverance, not from our own strength and initiative.
Seek ye first the Kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you
Ask and it shall be given unto you
Seek and ye shall find
Knock and it shall be opened unto you