What does a person face when headed for a wilderness experience? What will he or she encounter in the Desert? What, after all, is its purpose?
Most wilderness adventurers have come from some exciting, life-changing events.
- Israel had just marched out of hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt and escaped the Egyptian chariots by walking through the parted Sea of Reeds. Exodus 14 They were supposed to settle down as a nation under Yahweh’s rule, live His Law, and spread it to other nations.
- Jesus had just been baptized and had heard the voice of his Father say, “This is my son, whom I love.” He was to travel about the country, preaching the nearness of God’s reign.
- Elijah had spent three years hiding from the king then triumphed over the priests of Ba’al on Mt. Carmel. Yet, he fled before Jezebel’s threat on his life. He was told to anoint Hazael to be king over Aram, Jehu son of Nimshi king over to be Israel, and Elisha son of Shaphat to be prophet in his place.
Each of these went into the Wilderness south of Israel, if not to Mt. Sinai. Each of them endured
- hunger (fasting or lack of supply)
- thirst (At least, Israel needed water from the Rock.)
- wild animals (dangerous?)
Yahweh wanted from Israel trust in His provision (food, water, protection) and got complaining and calls to return to bondage.
The Father wanted from Jesus
- trust in His provision (“Come on, feed yourself and make bread.”)
- trust and obedience to His plans (“Show your power and throw yourself from the Temple.”)
- trust in His ways to accomplish goals (“I can make the whole world yours if you do it my way.”)
Yahweh wanted from Elijah a listening ear to hear the still, small voice instead of
- a thundering judgment (prophetic roar against King Ahab)
- a mighty wind of destruction (drought in Israel)
- a cleansing fire (sacrifice at Carmel).
I believe God the Father has these goals when sending a person into the Wilderness:
- to teach that person utter dependence on Him for provision
- to bring the person to utter surrender of self-will and utter obedience to God’s will
- to instruct the person how to march in triumph and accomplish His work in the Promised Land and
- to toughen that person’s body, mind, and will for the battles coming in the Promised Land.
The glad tidings are that Emmanuel; God is with us through all hardships and wilderness experiences. His love and His reign in us make for a much better life than without them.
(Coming soon: Hero’s Journey explained)
What wilderness experiences have you had? How did you know God was providing? What instructions were you given for marching in triumph through His Promised Land? Are you following them?