Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would really obey his commands. [Deuteronomy 8:2 NLT]
He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you.
[Deuteronomy 8:15-16 NIV]
One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and he was baptized by John in the Jordan River. And when Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens split open and the Holy Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven saying, "You are my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with you." Immediately the Holy Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness. He was there for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him. [Mark 1:9-13 NLT]
Essential Lessons Learned in the Wilderness
Moses’ instructions to the children of Israel as they prepared to enter their Promised Land [e.g., verses from Deuteronomy 8 above] describe humility, obedience, and conscious dependence on God (not on worldly strength or our own self-effort) as crucial to fulfilling their destiny as God’s people – essential lessons learned in the wilderness. To glorify God, we must first be convinced of our own inability to succeed apart from Him, and come into a place of “abiding” in His Presence (see John 15). True success is achieved as we fulfill what He created us to do (not just the status, safety, security, or achievements valued by the world). As we yield to God’s Spirit, His Love and power are displayed through our lives, revealing who He really is to the people around us.
It is not that we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success come from God. [2 Corinthians 3:5 NLT]
Do you see what I've done? I've refined you, but not without fire. I've tested you like silver in the furnace of affliction. [Isaiah 48:10 MSG]
He trains my hands for war until my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
Blessed be the Lord my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle—
God builds things into us in the wilderness that help us to transition from the past into our future. Inner transformation brings us to the place where we are ready to make a difference on this earth - truly dependent on God, not on the world or even ourselves - ready to act and fulfill our calling.
As we encounter and follow the Lord through our wilderness experiences, we don't have to feel "lost," afraid or alone. In closing, I’ve quoted the full text of Isaiah 35 (below) – some beautiful promises regarding the wilderness! Next week we'll look at the beauty of the wilderness as a place of supernatural provision, a place of divine guidance, and a place of loving intimacy with the Lord.
Even the wilderness will rejoice in those days. The desert will blossom with flowers. 2 Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel's pastures and the plain of Sharon. There the LORD will display his glory, the splendor of our God. 3 With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. 4 Say to those who are afraid, "Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you." 5 And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf. 6 The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will shout and sing! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the desert. 7 The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived. 8 And a main road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-hearted people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God's ways; fools will never walk there. 9 Lions will not lurk along its course, and there will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will follow it. 10 Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return to Jerusalem, singing songs of everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be overcome with joy and gladness. [Isaiah 35:1-10]