In The Wilderness

Feb 8, 2013
Akron, Ohio
Thursday, September 25, 2014, 5:24 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “To Be Like Him.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Corinthians 10:1-22 (ESV).

God was Not Pleased

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

So, why were God’s people in the wilderness? What did the wilderness represent to them? What does it represent to us today? What have been some of our wilderness experiences?

Wilderness is defined on as a place which is deserted, desolate, a desert; of a person: deserted, abandoned, desolate; properly, an uncultivated, unpopulated place; solitary; lonely; deprived of friends and fellowship; or a flock deserted by the shepherd.

In Exodus 13:17 we read: “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’” In other words, the Lord knew if he led them by the more direct route, at the first sign of resistance they might turn tail and run, so he took them by a longer route. I believe God sometimes takes us to where he wants us to end up by a difficult and perhaps lengthy path (route), where we must rely totally on him for all things so that we don’t turn around at the first sign of trouble and return to slavery to sin or give up in defeat at the first sign of trouble. These wilderness times are for our growth and maturity, and to teach us steadfastness and perseverance.

Yet, when the Egyptians pursued the Israelites, because Pharaoh had a change of heart about letting them go, the people were afraid and they complained to Moses and to God about being removed from Egypt to only die in the desert. They lacked faith to believe God that he would take care of them, although he proved himself to them over and over and over again. And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today; you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Ex. 14:13-14).

Awesome! These words from the Lord have spoken encouragement to my heart so many times over the years. The people were afraid because they had been taken from the only home they had ever known, to go somewhere where they had never been. They were leaving the known for the unknown, and that was scary for them. Added to that, their enemy pursued them, and they now thought they would most certainly be killed at their hand, or the alternative was going to be that they would die in the desert. To them, it was a lose-lose situation, because they were looking at their circumstances instead of trusting in their Lord God who had proved himself to them many times over.

And, sometimes that is exactly where we are, too, because we get our eyes off Jesus and we begin looking at our circumstances, and so our tendency is either to return to the known, even if it is slavery to sin, or to give up in defeat, distrusting our Lord to take care of us and to provide all that we need. Yet, God will do for us just what he did for the Israelites, though perhaps not in a physical realm, but in a spiritual realm. He will part the waters of the sea before us so that we can walk through to the other side of our situations unharmed spiritually, victorious over the enemy of our souls, and continuing to walk in the light of God’s love and truth, going where he leads us to do what he commands us to do.

Yet, the people of Israel continually grumbled and complained to Moses and to God about their circumstances. They were never content. They always wanted something different; something more. They even made a golden calf to worship in place of worshiping the One True God, when Moses was taking too long receiving the 10 Commandments from God. They continually disobeyed God, worshiped other gods, and committed grievous sins against their Lord, so they were made to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, and most all of them died in the wilderness and never did get to go into the Promised Land.

Examples to Us

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Although it is certainly not God’s will that we sin, and he never tempts us or causes us to sin, he does permit us to be tempted of Satan, and he does allow us to go through times of difficulty to test our faith, to strengthen us, to grow and mature us, and to teach us perseverance, diligence, tenacity, devotion, integrity, continuance, and endurance. As well, he promises to never leave us or forsake us, to guide and direct us, to give us his strength and comfort, to encourage and counsel us, and to provide the way out for us from giving in to temptation to sin, so that we might be able to stand up under the pressure of the temptation without yielding to the sin. In other words, he provides us with all we need to fight off our enemy. We just have to daily put on the armor he provides (See Eph. 6:10-20).

The experiences, temptations and sins of the people of Israel were recorded for us as examples to us as to what not to do in similar circumstances in our own lives. As well, we are taught in these history lessons what the correct response to God/Jesus should be, which is to trust him with our lives and our circumstances, to not give up, to not get discouraged, to not be afraid, but to believe that God will deliver us from the evil one, and that he will land us safely in our Promised Land; and that he will fulfill everything he has ever promised. We just have to walk by faith and not by sight, and we have to know that he is working behind the scenes where we can’t see what is happening. If he has called us, he will make the way for us. We just have to believe, even when we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can tell you that returning to sin as a means of escape is NEVER the solution!

Flee From Idolatry

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

I went through a time in my life some years ago where I was going through a wilderness time in my life, and where I returned to sin rather than trusting my Lord. All that did was heap guilt upon me, make me feel miserable, dirty, and ashamed, and it never did anything to satisfy the deep longings of my soul. No idols or any amount of sin or taking matters into my own hands ever resolved my loneliness, nor did it make me feel better, but it only masked the problems temporarily, complicated matters further, and just messed up my relationships with people, and with my Lord, and probably led my children to do things they would later regret, although they made their own choices for sure. Yet, I can’t do it over. God has forgiven me and I have forgiven me. I only share my experiences to let you know that if you are where I was, the only way to joy and peace is through surrender to your Lord, trusting in him to work out all things in your life for your good (best).

So, how should we respond to these wilderness times in our lives? We must trust God no matter what! We must daily put on our spiritual armor with which to fight off Satan’s attacks against us. This means we have to put on the truth in place of lies; put on righteousness in place of unrighteousness; put on faith in place of fear and doubt; put on sharing the gospel of our salvation in place of grumbling and complaining over our circumstances; put on prayer in place of despair; and put on the Word of God in place of the ideas, teachings and philosophies of human beings or our own thinking and reasoning. We must also put off selfishness and wanting to have what we want when we want it, and we should instead think about how we can please God, and do what he says, and how we can make a difference in other people’s lives, and minister, instead, to their needs.

I don’t know about you, but this is speaking to my heart! Jesus Christ died for us so that we would no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave himself up for us (See 2 Co. 5:15). His grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled and upright lives in this present age while we wait for his return (See Tit. 2:11-14). Coming to faith in Christ, in fact, means leaving our lives of sin behind us (leaving Egypt) and being transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God (crossing the Red Sea), and walking in the Spirit of God in his righteousness and holiness (in the wilderness). [See: Ac. 26:16-18; Ro. 6-8; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24; and 1 Jn. 1-5.]

If we say we love God, but we don’t do what his word says, and if we say we have fellowship with him, but we continue in sinful lifestyles, then we are liars and we do not live by the truth. We cannot follow the ways of the flesh and the ways of the Spirit, too. The two don’t mix. We died to sin, so how can we live in it any longer?

To Be Like Him / An Original Work
March 16, 2014 / Based off Scripture

Crucified you are with Jesus.
To be like Him, oh, you’ll be,
Because He died at Calv’ry,
So from sin you’d be free.
Oh, what joy He brings into your life,
Giving life with Him endlessly.

Oh, what plans He has for your life.
Share the gospel faithfully.
Show the people He loves them.
Now His witness you’ll be.
Tell the world of sin about Jesus,
How He died for them on a tree.

Purifying hearts, He saves them,
Who believe on Christ, God’s Son.
Turning now from their idols,
New lives they have begun.
Jesus saves from sin; we’re forgiven.
Over sin, the vict’ry He won!

When He comes again to take us
To be with Him evermore,
There will be no more crying.
Gladness will be in store.
Heavens joys will now overtake us:
We’ll be with our Lord evermore.