Only in the Wilderness
Beloved Family… a long time ago, in 1965, I seriously began to study the Bible. And that is when the Lord began to show me something about what Scripture refers to as, ‘The Wilderness.’ I would repeatedly see a vast panorama in my mind’s eye… of a lifeless, desolate, apparently endless expanse of barren solitude. Not even a blade of grass was visible. And when that first began to happen to me, I knew intuitively that it had something to do with Israel and the depths of its meaning. But I had no idea what the Lord was showing me, or what I, personally, should do with it. So I simply kept that recurring vision to myself and pondered it in my heart.
And, at various stages of my journey since that time, I can honestly say that the Lord has taken me further and further ‘out there’… into what everyone would consider to be ‘No Man’s Land’… a place into which no one in his right mind would voluntarily choose to venture. Each time it has happened, I’ve been reluctant and prone to murmur and complain about it in my heart. But nevertheless, after I’d find myself back in that seemingly endless expanse, the Lord would begin again to reveal more and more of Himself to me and lay before me more of what it means when the Lord decides to lead us… ‘out there’… into that lonely, barren and inhospitable state of desolation.
The Wilderness: A Classroom
I certainly can’t relate in just one article all that I’ve learned about this throughout my decades spent in this world. Nevertheless, today, I’d like to share a little of what I learned. I believe God used the wilderness as a ‘classroom’ for His chosen people. He led them out there for the purpose of revealing Himself to them. And so, when I too have been forced to be where I didn’t want to be, and to wander around in that incredibly silent, lonely and inhospitable state of being that we call ‘The Wilderness,’ I believe He wanted to teach me the same lessons He desired to give to them.
Now I realize that, in a very real way, my entire life has been spent out there. I’m not exaggerating. Even when I’ve been surrounded by myriads of resources and interacted with hundreds of people… the truth was that I was all alone in one very real sense: Nothing created that I encountered in this fallen world was ever able to take the place of the true Living God! Nothing around me was ever able to be and do for me what only He can do. So, no matter where I was, or what was happening around me, the truth was that I had nowhere else to turn… and nothing else to draw from that would be able to sustain or satisfy the constant hunger in my heart! So, in that sense, I was always in a wilderness situation, with nowhere to turn, and nothing on which to rely, for sustenance or reassurance, or security. I always felt so alone, that I might just as well have been wandering around in the middle of the Sinai desert!
Searching for Satisfaction
“What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils? I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)
So, just as happened to Israel, had God not really been there to sustain her, I too would not have survived or been able to give this testimony today. But you may ask, “What possible lesson can you learn when you’re all alone in the wilderness?” And to try to come up with an answer… I’d have to say that, if you are not actually in a physical desert, you won’t realize at first, that you are really all alone. It takes time to realize this. Like everyone else, I instinctively began to look to all of the created people and things that surrounded me… hoping to find in them what I thought I needed to feel safe, secure, satisfied and completely content. Yes, I looked to human relationships. I also tried to find peace and contentment in the possessions, achievements, honors and awards I managed to gather.
Look to the Creator rather than the creation
But time and again, I would realize that everything I was looking to and depending upon was just as needy and empty as I was! It was a terrible shock when I realized that everything I depended upon for fulfillment and security was just as empty and bankrupt and as desperately needy as I! That’s when I finally realized that there is nothing in Creation upon which any of us can really depend for what we really and truly need. No person or group of persons, and no inanimate thing, to which we may decide to cling, has what it takes… to be as God to us. Only the True God can be what He is and do for us what He does to keep us going. And if we do not know Him, we’re in a terrible situation. Despite how lush, rich and inviting our surroundings may appear, and despite how much we may want to believe that if we have the right person or persons nearby, and enough possessions to rely upon, that will finally fill the void in our heart and soul.
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.
“Also, the sun rises and the sun sets; and hastening to its place it rises there again. Blowing toward the south, then turning toward the north, the wind continues swirling along; and on its circular courses the wind returns. All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, there they flow again.
“All things are wearisome; Man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-9)
This is Truth: you may be the richest and most privileged person in this world… but nevertheless, you are still all alone… in a barren desert existence that is totally devoid of the true comforts and resources you actually need in order to be completely satisfied and fulfilled as a human being. You cannot derive true peace, fulfillment, safety and contentment from any fellow creature. We are all out there, stumbling around, looking for the same thing… looking for something or someone that is invisible and far beyond our natural reach… Someone with whom we can finally feel completely ‘at Home… and at Peace… and fully consummated.’
Consider the superstar types of people that have enjoyed all the fame, wealth, pleasure and acclaim that anyone could possibly experience. There are too many of those types to count, aren’t there? But notice that they all come into this world helpless, naked and empty of all resources. And, despite all the stages of development and achievement they go through during the decades of their earthly lives… when the time comes for them to depart, they leave just as helpless, naked and empty of all resources as they were when they first saw the light of day!
“I, the Preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with. I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.
“I said to myself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.” And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind. Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.” (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18)
So, regardless of what my surroundings have happened to be, I could never find, in the people and things I encountered, what I truly need to have.
For I, like everyone else, am created to be the image and likeness of God!
And… when I finally came to realize this… I was forced to stop looking to created things. And the craving to finally secure them in my clutches, dried up and blew away. The enormous importance I used to attach to them faded away and disappeared in the dimness of all of Earth’s futility. It finally dawned on me that I had always been all alone! I’d been living in the middle of a vast wilderness expanse; and I admitted to myself that I had nowhere to turn and nothing earthly on which to depend. And then a most profound sense of solitude and silent isolation settled over me. Even when in physical reality I actually happen to be in the midst of a crowd of bustling hyper-active people, and am surrounded by tons of ‘stuff’… I can no longer forget the enormous depth of the Wilderness panorama that surrounds and engulfs all of whatever is temporary…
When I have actually been in the midst of crises and dangers and was experiencing actual earthly abandonment and desolation, there were moments when I was on the brink of losing all hope. That happens when you suddenly realize there’s nowhere to turn and you know you’ll never find what you really think you need in this world, and that there’s nothing you can do to save yourself and prolong your miserable earthly existence. At those times, we say that we ‘hit bottom.’ And by that we mean we’ve reached the utmost extreme of our sense of human helplessness and disability. And at those times, it seems that if we take just one more step… we will surely fall over the edge of the bottomless precipice of oblivion!
Sustained by God
I’ve been at that point a few times over the years. But… when the Darkness I was experiencing was at its most intense, and I fully expected to fall to my doom… that never happened! There was suddenly something else sustaining me… Something or Someone that was invisible was always there to intervene and prevent me from falling. And now I know that it was a Presence… a Someone… and I have finally realized that that Someone is Almighty God Himself… and He has always been here with me all that time, even during all the times when I’ve been utterly blind and clueless and unaware of His Presence! He is always PRESENT!
“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
“Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:45-49 Emphasis added.)
“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.
“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your Presence? If I ascend to Heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:1-14 Emphasis added.)
So at those times when we’re convinced that we have no hope and are truly alone, something happens… a Presence we never suspected, has always been surrounding and upholding us. He suddenly breaks through a seemingly invisible barrier… and enfolds us. And we find ourselves in a strange and totally new dimension of total Safety and Reassurance that we could have never anticipated or suspected could be possible! Suddenly, like Moses found out by the burning bush… a realization hits you that lets you know that you have never been alone! And you also realize that, although you habitually assumed that you knew everything there was to know, it becomes blazingly clear to you that you really do not have a clue about anything!
“Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel (the Living Word) of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”
“Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Exodus 3:1-6 Emphasis added.)
Beloved, if anyone was ever truly led by God into one of those ‘wilderness experiences,’ it was Moses, wouldn’t you agree? Consider how God saw to it that he would grow up in the ‘lap of luxury,’ a member of the pharaoh’s own household, as privileged and blessed with earthly advantages as anyone could be, and privy to any earthly thing that his heart might have desired. But in truth… during all those years he spent in that environment… he was profoundly ‘dislocated’… completely removed from his true God-given identity, purpose and destiny. Nothing that surrounded him was actually ‘real’ in terms of what he really and truly needed to fulfill his true identity, purpose and destiny. In that sense, he was surrounded by an array of ‘false gods.’ And therefore, he truly was all alone, surrounded by total unreality, and completely without true resources.
And then suddenly, apparent disaster overtook him. He killed an Egyptian in a fit of anger and immediately became a fugitive from Egypt’s wrath! In that instant, everything changed, and he would never be the same again. So he sought safety in ‘the wilderness’ amid the very place he would have never chosen for himself, had it been up to him.
But of course, from our vantage point, we can see that this massive change that took place with no input or premeditation on his part, turned out to be very strategic and timely. And it proved to be the major turning point in his earthly journey. This apparent disaster was what launched him in a completely new direction that would ultimately lead to the fulfillment of his true, God-given destiny! And all that time that he was forced to spend in the wilderness… finally brought Moses into an unprecedented realization and awareness of a Reality he had never dreamed possible. And he was ushered into a previously unknown level of Wisdom because finally… the awesome Presence of Almighty God broke through the invisible barrier… that concrete-like layer of human self-sufficiency behind which we all spend most of our days on Earth… in hiding.
The same thing had happened to Jacob centuries earlier. He had recently separated from the household of his uncle, Laban, and now he was forging out on his own. But suddenly he was faced with the unavoidable necessity of having to confront and deal with some very serious ‘unfinished business’ from his past. Now the Lord was going to force him to come to grips with his twin brother Esau, whom he hadn’t seen since he deceitfully wrangled the blessing and birthright that Isaac, their father, intended to give to his chosen son. Jacob deceived his father and usurped the blessing and birthright from his brother.
Now Jacob knew that Esau had sworn to kill him out of his sense of rage and lust for revenge! And Esau was about to have his chance to fulfill that vow! Jacob finally had to face him… and whatever consequences might lie in store for him!
So now we can see that Jacob was also taken out into the wilderness so that the Lord could show him what we all have to discover about ourselves and must face and finally learn. Our ‘unfinished business’ from the past reveals volumes about us, and about what still lurks in our hearts. And if we fail to deal with that worldly residue that is still working within us, we will remain stuck and unable to move forward into our God-given future. And it is only when we realize this… and submit to God’s Truth and Authority over it… we finally become ready to face our hidden issues and repent of our arrogant self-adoring ways… and allow the Cross of our Messiah to set us free from what we are in ourselves:
“Early in the morning Laban got up, kissed his grandchildren and daughters and blessed them. Then Laban left and returned to his place. While Jacob left on his way, the angels of God met him. Then Jacob said when he saw them, “This is God’s camp,” and he named that place Mahanaim. Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau, to the land of Seir, the field of Edom. He also commanded them saying, “This is what you should say to my lord, to Esau: ‘This is what your servant Jacob said: I’ve been staying with Laban, and have lingered until now. Now I’ve come to possess oxen and donkeys, flocks, male servants and female servants. I sent word to tell my lord, in order to find favor in your eyes.’”
“The messengers returned to Jacob saying, “We went to your brother, to Esau, and he’s also coming out to meet you—and 400 men with him.” So Jacob became extremely afraid and distressed. He divided the people with him, along with the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, for he thought, “If Esau comes to one camp and strikes it, the camp that’s left will escape.”
“Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, Adonai, who said to me, ‘Return to your land and to your relatives and I will do good with you.’ I am unworthy of all the proofs of mercy and of all the dependability that you have shown to your servant. For with only my staff I crossed over this Jordan, and now I’ve become two camps. Deliver me, please, from my brother’s hand, from Esau’s hand, for I’m afraid of him that he’ll come and strike me—the mothers with the children. You Yourself said, ‘I will most certainly do good with you, and will make your seed like the sand of the sea that cannot be counted because of its abundance.’” (Genesis 32:1-12)
God’s Living Word
God waits for strategic breakthrough moments like this to take place. It often takes many years for God’s people to become ready for them. But, as soon as they do, and as soon as they finally remember all of the promises He made to us, God sends His Living Word to intervene and do His irreplaceable work:
“Then he got up that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and he sent across whatever he had.
So Jacob remained all by himself. Then a Man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. When He saw that He had not overcome him, He struck the socket of his hip, so He dislocated the socket of Jacob’s hip when He wrestled with him. Then He said, “Let Me go, for the dawn has broken.”
But he said, “I won’t let You go unless You bless me.”
Then He said to him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he said.
Then He said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but rather Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men, and you have overcome.”
Then Jacob asked and said, “Please tell me Your name.”
But He said, “What’s this—you are asking My name?” Then He blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, “for I’ve seen God face to face, and my life has been spared!” (Genesis 32:22-30)
God sent His Word to wait for Jacob. And later, He sent Him to wait for Moses… so He could finally reveal the things Moses absolutely had to know. And, each time this happens, God’s Living Word begins to purify his chosen ones and lead them in the proper direction that will connect them with their true God-given destiny. And dear ones, please notice that none of this could have happened while Jacob was living in Laban’s household, and while Moses was being pampered in the salons of privilege and abundance in idolatrous Egypt! It was only in the wilderness that they were finally able to personally disconnect from this fallen world and its illusions… and come to know the Living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in Spirit and in Truth! Only in the wilderness can the Lord finally capture all of our attention… so that He can pierce, penetrate and impregnate our hearts with his Truth and Reality and Eternal Life!
The Eternal Presence of God
Only when the Presence of God accosted Moses at Horeb, did he finally become aware of the fact that from that point onward – no matter where he went, no matter who he would encounter, and no matter what may or may not be happening to the contrary, in the days to come – the awesome Perfect Presence of Almighty God would always be with him! And this revelation was critically necessary to fulfill everything He has revealed, and commanded and promised through His Living Word… the Word He would soon commission Moses to put into human words, and to prophesy and promise that He would be sent into this world by His Father… for the benefit of Israel and the rest of the world! (See Deut. 18:15-19.)
And so, from that point onward, Moses had to learn to blot out everything else from his conscious awareness. Now that he had finally encountered ‘The Ultimate Reality Himself,’ Moses finally knew that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was all he would ever need, for the rest of his days in this temporal world. And, throughout the many years that have led me to this current stage of my journey, this lesson has been reinforced and more deeply explained the more it is repeated. I’ve learned that when we’re surrounded by worldly assets and comforts and acclaim and fleeting satisfactions, we’re actually in a wilderness of futility, emptiness and barren promises that can never be fulfilled! BUT… even when all of those things are taken away, and we’re deprived of even our last blade of grass, suddenly all of our earthly distractions fade away… and we’re suddenly ushered into the Throne Room of the Lord of All Creation… the Living God! He reveals Himself to those He summons… when the time is right for that encounter to happen. God uses the wilderness! It’s the stark backdrop against which He can reveal Himself to those chosen ones through whom He intends to reach others. He did it with those that came before us; and He does it with us, and He will continue to do it with those chosen ones who are destined to come after us!
We will all see the Lord do with us, what He did with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Joshua! After Moses died, it was time for Joshua to inherit the responsibility of leading the children of Abraham forward, to carry out the awesome commission God was now ready to entrust to them. So God’s Presence suddenly broke through that invisible barrier that makes all of us assume that we’re all alone. And when He broke through that barrier, He made Himself known to Joshua:
“While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year.
Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” The captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy!” And Joshua did so.” (Joshua 5:10-15 Emphasis added.)
So… what is the awesome Truth and Lesson that the wilderness teaches to anyone that God leads into those dangerous, hostile and very unfriendly confines? It is the most precious and most welcome realization that God is utterly ALIVE… and electrifyingly REAL… and everlastingly FAITHFUL to Himself… and to anyone who would dare to entrust himself, or herself, solely to Him and His care… and to His eternal purposes.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:2-6)
Can you see it beloved? When you think you’re in the midst of myriads of things upon which you think you can place your hope, trust, reliance and expectations… then… YOU ARE TRULY IN THE WILDERNESS! You have nothing available to you that can sustain you, but you still do not realize it! However… if everything is stripped away from you… you suddenly realize that you are in the Presence of Almighty God, and you actually become able to hear His voice and interact with Him… even though you’re in the middle of an earthly ‘No Man’s Land’ with no earthly resources available to you! That is when YOU ARE ACTUALLY IN THE ALL-SUFFICIENT THRONE ROOM OF ALMIGHTY GOD!
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it!” (Matthew 10:34-39)
As revealed in the Bible, at various times throughout Israel’s history, we see the same lesson being taught concerning this ‘in the wilderness’ pattern that the Holy Spirit of God always follows. Here’s another example: during the reign of King Jehoshaphat, Israel was about to be utterly overrun and destroyed by an immense horde of murderous enemies. The king and his advisors and his people were naturally overcome with dismay and were totally at a loss as to how they could be saved. So they turned to God in prayer… and through a prophet, through whom He chose to speak, God assured them that if they would dare to venture out into the wilderness to meet the enemy hosts, He would be there waiting for them. And He would deal with their enemies… and they would be able to watch Him do it, and praise, worship and thank Him for His Lovingkindness:
“Then in the midst of the assembly the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, the Levite of the sons of Asaph; and he said, “Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz, and YOU WILL FIND THEM at the end of the valley IN FRONT OF THE WILDERNESS of Jeruel. You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the Salvation (Yeshua) of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:14-17 Amplification and emphasis added.)
When they were gathered in Jerusalem, the Lord spoke to His people through a prophet. But when they dared to venture out into the wilderness, in the very direction from which they knew their enemies were advancing against them, they actually came under the Shadow of the Wings of Almighty God Himself! And He proved to them ‘in living color’ that it isn’t the dangers that lurk throughout the wilderness that they should obsess over… No, what they should zero in on out there is the full expectation that their awesome Covenant Lord is waiting for them out there… waiting to reveal Himself in all of His Glory… so they can see for themselves, that never again will they have to fear any situation, threat or condition that may come against them!
That’s what He shows us… in the wilderness. He demonstrates in spectacular ways, that as long as He is God… His people will always be enfolded within His Everlasting Lovingkindness! So… when we have God Himself… we have EVERYTHING!
“They rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa; and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the Lord your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.”
“When he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the Lord and those who praised Him in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said, “Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” When they began singing and praising, the Lord set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed. For the sons of Ammon and Moab rose up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir destroying them completely; and when they had finished with the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another.
“When Judah came to the lookout of the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude, and behold, they were corpses lying on the ground, and no one had escaped. When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found much among them, including goods, garments and valuable things which they took for themselves, more than they could carry. And they were three days taking the spoil because there was so much.”
“Then on the fourth day they assembled in the valley of Beracah, for there they blessed the Lord. Therefore they have named that place “The Valley of Beracah” until today. Every man of Judah and Jerusalem returned with Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had made them to rejoice over their enemies. (2 Chronicles 20:20-27 Emphasis added.)
Dear ones, as we all know, life in this fallen world is amply supplied with apparently hopeless, incredibly dangerous and life-threatening situations. There are more than enough of them to go around to supply every inhabitant of the globe with ample reason to suffer recurring bouts of fear and even total despair! Danger lurks everywhere! And even those elite people, who habitually abide in the lap of luxury and privilege, are not exempt. They too eventually lose everything. It may happen to them in the blink of an eye at any given moment, or it may happen slowly, as they see one asset and privilege and ability and pleasure snatched away from them by time, age and unavoidable senile frailty. Day by day and moment by moment, they eventually lose everything. And, in their blindness, most of those worldly people never learn this awesome wilderness lesson that God wants to teach to His own. So they continue to lust after empty, treacherously temporal created things anyway, and thus, they perish in a wilderness of their own choosing.
The Wilderness: for all of Us
Beloved, there is no escaping those ‘wilderness episodes’ for any of us! But we have the privilege of abiding with God in His Throne Room! The wilderness is not merely reserved for special people, like Jacob, Moses or Joshua! The wilderness is for each and every fallen, Sin-corrupted child of Adam and Eve. It happens to the worst of us, and also to the best. No one is exempt. For the wilderness is the ‘classroom’ in which God wants all of us to become aware of what is real and good, as opposed to what is false and deadly. So, sooner or later, we will all have to be taken ‘out there.’ And we will all have to face Death, Disease, Misfortune and all kinds of Disaster and Anxiety and Frustration. And we will all have to decide what we’re going to do when those things confront us. The wilderness will force us to choose who we will be and to what we will look, for Salvation and Fulfillment. And so He requires us to remember this:
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
“You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you. You will only look on with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.
“No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down.
“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My Name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My Salvation.” (Psalm 91: 1-14)
We are all equally liable and vulnerable to what we commonly call ‘the powers of Darkness.’ They are demonic beings, sworn enemies of God, and haters of His intended image and likeness. And every human being is conceived and born already under their domination! So no one is exempt from having to experience the malice and contempt of the Serpent, beloved. He is intent on blinding and deafening us so that he can keep us entrapped under his malicious domination. That’s why he does everything possible to make sure we remain deaf, blind, and always unable to perceive or know or experience God’s awesome Presence. Dear ones, the powers of Darkness are ‘gunning’ for all of us:
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
“ But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you!” (1 Peter 5:6-10 Emphasis added.)
Notice what Peter admonishes us to do. He speaks from much bitter personal experience:
“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
He’s telling us what to do when it seems as if we’re all alone in a wilderness setting. At the very moment that we’re at our lowest point, about to despair and cave in, and when it seems and feels as if we’ve reached the end of our ability to go on… and we cannot survive for one more step… THEN… that’s when we can learn what Peter learned. That is the time when we must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God… trembling at His Word… SO THAT He can grab hold of us and exalt us and cover us by His totally supernatural, Heavenly Strength, and pour upon us all that He has waiting for us in His Eternal Kingdom of Heaven.
“My eyes pour down unceasingly, without stopping, until the Lord looks down and sees from Heaven. My eyes bring pain to my soul because of all the daughters of my city. My enemies without cause hunted me down like a bird; they have silenced me in the pit and have placed a stone on me. Waters flowed over my head; I said, “I am cut off!”
“I called on Your Name, O Lord, out of the lowest pit. You have heard my voice, “Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, from my cry for help.”
“You drew near when I called on You; You said, “Do not fear!”
“O Lord, You have pleaded my soul’s cause; You have redeemed my life. O Lord, You have seen my oppression; judge my case.” (Lamentations 3:49-59 Emphasis added.)
A Vertical Perspective
All of the prophets, and Peter, and the other New Covenant apostles, have told us to become ‘vertical’ in our perspectives, interactions with God. It is into God, and His Eternal Heavenly Treasury of All-Sufficient Grace, that we are to embed our personal ‘root systems’. We are not to look around us, in horizontal directions, for what we need amidst the earthly wilderness that surrounds us. God wants to exalt us and cause us to ascend far above what is earthly, and take us up into the Heavens! So… LOOK UPWARD… rivet your attention on what God has revealed to you that He has in Eternity, at His right hand, waiting to bestow upon you:
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our Life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in Glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)
“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. BUT BEING FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, he gazed intently into Heaven and SAW THE GLORY OF GOD, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
“ But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:54-60)
Jeremiah and Stephen, just to name two, were part of the myriads of other suffering servants of God, that went before us. The Holy Spirit inspired sacred writers of Scripture to tell us about what happens to God’s people who experience the most dire of wilderness circumstances. The Holy Spirit puts their stories before us, to teach, train and instruct us in the wisdom and mysterious wonder of what it means to become ‘vertical’ in our outlook, and ‘vertical’ in our expectations.
He reveals that we needn’t be overwhelmed or intimidated or driven to despair by earthly situations and circumstances… even when we’re out in the barren desert-like conditions of our own personal wilderness experiences.
Not even when we’re actually being put to death by rabid enemies… can anything separate us from the Love of God that is always being offered to us in and through His Living Word, Messiah Yeshua, who is the Captain of the Lord’s Host!
God is with us, and for us… ESPECIALLY when we’re out in the middle of nothing but barrenness, desolation and gut-wrenching hopelessness! None of that matters. All of that is only a temporary puff of smoke! None of that will ever stop or deter or outdo Almighty God, who is always with us and for us, no matter what may or may not be happening all around us here on Earth!
“Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble! And make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame will not be pulled out of joint but rather be healed. Pursue shalom with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God; and see to it that no bitter root springs up and causes trouble, and by it many (will) be defiled. Also see to it that there is no immoral or godless person—like Esau, who sold his birthright for one meal. For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected. He found no chance for repentance, though he begged for it with tears.
For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched, and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and storm, and to the blast of a shofar and a voice whose words made those who heard it beg that not another word be spoken to them. For they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” So terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am quaking with fear.”
“But you have come to Mount Zion—to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, a joyous gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are written in a scroll in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous ones made perfect, and to Yeshua, the Mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks of something better than the blood of Abel.
“See to it that you do not refuse the One who is speaking! For if they did not escape when they refused the One who was warning them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject the One who warns us from Heaven. His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens.”Now this phrase, “Yet once more,” shows the removal of those things that are shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain! Therefore, since we are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude—through this we may offer worship in a manner pleasing to God, with reverence and awe. FOR OUR GOD IS A CONSUMING FIRE!” (Hebrews 12:12-29 Amplification and emphasis added.)
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39)
Eternally Faithful, Eternally Sustaining
Beloved, it is only in the middle of the wilderness that we really and truly learn and experience the Glory and the Goodness and the Faithfulness of our awesome OMNIPOTENT and ETERNALLY FAITHFUL LIVING GOD! To know Him as He REALLY IS, is the greatest Treasure and abiding Comfort imaginable. To know Him as He really is will sustain you and it will override any and every earthly situation or condition or setback or disappointment you will ever encounter. To know Him as He really is, is worth more to you than any silver, gold, jewel or any other imaginable human pleasure, treasure or delight anyone could name or mention. It is especially in the nothingness of wilderness conditions that God reveals to us that… to have Him with you and for you… IS TO HAVE EVERYTHING!
“Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
“But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
“O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is Lovingkindness, and with Him is abundant Redemption. And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” (Psalm 130 Emphasis added.)
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His Lovingkindness is everlasting.Give thanks to the God of gods, for His Lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His Lovingkindness isEVERLASTING! (Psalm 136:1-3. Emphasis added.)