Friday, November 26, 2010

What God Teaches in Wilderness, Part 2A

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
[Deuteronomy 8:3 NIV]

Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?
[Song of Solomon 8:5a NKJ]

Note: Graham Cooke has said that what happens in spiritual “ebb” or seasons of “hiddenness” is just as important as what God does in the “flow” of His manifest Presence, evident blessings, answered prayer, etc. The following is Part 2A of a series that began on 11/12/10.

In Part 1 - Wilderness: What & Why, we saw that, as we follow the Lord through our wilderness experiences, we don't have to feel lost, afraid or alone. “Spiritual wilderness” is intended by God to be a place of purpose and preparation to walk in His promises for our lives. In the next three postings, we’ll look at the wilderness as a place of supernatural provision, a place of divine guidance, & a place of loving intimacy with God.

Part 2A - Supernatural Provision

As Bill Johnson points out in his excellent 2 CD-teaching "Recognizing His Voice" (available at iBethel/store, link below), the wilderness is not necessarily a place a scarcity. The children of Israel had food delivered daily from heaven. Water flowed from a rock. A cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night went with them through the desert and protected them from extreme temperatures… even their clothes and shoes did not wear out for 40 years! The wilderness can actually be a place of abundance, but our source of supply is not what we would normally or naturally expect. This teaches us to look to God as our Source and partner obediently with Him - which in turn prepares us for our promised land, where both natural and supernatural abilities work together in ways that continue to give Him glory.

A friend pointed out to me that, in Part 1 (11/12/10), I listed three “essential lessons learned in the wilderness” – humility, obedience, and conscious dependence on God – as if they were all one subject. I thought about this later, and realized that I considered these as related parts of the same basic lesson: in the wilderness, we are humbled by awareness of our needs and our own inability to meet them; and, as we turn to God for help, His provision often comes with specific instructions. In both Deuteronomy 8:3 (quoted above) and Exodus 16:4-5, God explicitly links His provision of manna (bread from heaven) with humility, dependence, and obedience to His Word:

Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days." [Exodus 16:4-5 NIV, emphasis added]

(A side note on the teaching power of consequences: what we fail to learn through obedience, we have another opportunity to learn from the results of disobedience. For example, those who tried to keep the manna longer than God instructed found it full of maggots on the second day [Exodus 16:20]; those who went out looking for manna on the seventh day - the Sabbath - found none [Exodus 16:27]… of course! :) )

Pastor Bill points out that it was not God’s plan to sustain the Israelites with manna indefinitely; Exodus 16:35 & Joshua 5:10-12 tell us the manna stopped when they reached the border of Canaan, the day after they ate some produce from the Promised Land. At Gilgal, on the plains of Jericho, a new generation of Israelites was circumcised and God said, "Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." [Joshua 5:9 NIV] Supernatural provision in the wilderness was part of God’s training, so that His people would enter the Promised Land knowing their true Source of supply, humbly dependent on Him and obedient to His Voice. As they conquered the cities of Canaan one by one and began to occupy their Promised Land, God would reward and use their new lifestyle of obedience to display His glory to the people around them.

To preserve the lessons of God’s supernatural provision in the wilderness for generations to come, God commanded the Israelites to keep an omer (about 2 quarts) of manna in the Ark of the Covenant. Moses also warned God’s people in Deuteronomy Chapter 8 not to forget these lessons of humility, obedience, and conscious dependence on God, after they prospered in the Promised Land:

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land He has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe His commands, His laws and His decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery…. You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
[Deut. 8:10-14, 17-18 NIV]

Hopefully, we come out of the wilderness with the kind of freedom the apostle Paul describes – satisfied and sufficient in any situation, because we know our true Source of provision and strength:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.
[Philippians 4:12-13 NIV]

Next week: "What God Teaches in Wilderness, Part 2B - Divine Guidance."


Bill Johnson’s 2-CD teaching “Recognizing His Voice” is available at

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