GEMS FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT
“Remember the whole journey on which the Lord your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you and to test you, in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. So he humbled you and allowed you to be hungry. Then he fed you manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known before, in order to teach you that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3 EHV)
The word wilderness may inspire us to envision trees as far as the eye can see, free flowing streams, and abundant creatures great and small. That definitely was not the kind of wilderness through which the Lord led the children of Israel! Jeremiah described it as barren, a land of deserts, ravines, and drought where no one lives (2:6). The wildlife consisted of things like scorpions and serpents. Few would sign up to travel through a place like that, but God knew that such a wilderness was exactly what His children needed.
As his time as their leader drew to its close, Moses reminded them of how important their wilderness experience had been. That was where God chose to humble, test, and teach His children. Though they may not have realized it, their hearts needed renewal, their understanding growth, and their necks softening.
More than once, they pushed away from God in their pride. Yet, God loved them and wanted them close to Him in order to bless them. That is why He used the wilderness to humble them. Its geography as well as its austerity served to remind them that their survival depended entirely on God’s good will. It was truly a lesson in humility!
In the wilderness His people saw nothing to encourage them. They were tested by the absence of nourishment and hydration. No place offering comfort or safety was evident. Their only hope was to trust in God’s promises.
In Egypt there had been an abundance of food, but there had also been an abundance of idols. In the scarcity of the wilderness, God reminded them that the covenant He had made with Abraham also bound Him to them and them to Him. Being counted righteous in God’s sight was by faith alone. Their journey was an ongoing lesson designed for them to learn to place their trust only in the Lord their God.
No one else could deliver them from the dangers of the wilderness. Only the one, true God could do that; and that is precisely what He did because of the covenant He made—a covenant of mercy and grace.
Regardless of where our journey in life takes us, as long as we remain in this world we are living in a desert—a spiritual wilderness. Many promises are made offering prosperity and happiness by those who can deliver neither. The most opulent places on earth are often deserts drear when it comes to thriving spiritually and possessing never-ending joy.
The Lord knows that there are seasons when His children need to spend a while in the desert. Those are times for humbling, testing, teaching, or all three. God loves each of us so much that, when its needed, He’s willing to lead us through a wilderness (be it physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually). He wants us to have all the blessings that come from trusting in Him.
Lord, we trust You to know what’s best for us!
Delwyn Maas is pastor of Gift of God Lutheran Church in Mapleton, North Dakota.