For a greater part of the last seven years, I have felt that I have been walking or sitting in one kind of a wilderness or another. Some major relational and spiritual incidents over the last seven years have contributed to this feeling.
There have been moments where God has allowed me to renew at an oasis here and there along the way, but God has certainly been keeping me very dependent on Him at every moment—dependent on Him for nourishment, guidance, comfort, and understanding. By this season He has allowed me to be stripped of personal future vision or ideas and instead has given me eyes to see Him and His ways more clearly day by day. For me, this has been a great (and sometimes exasperating) challenge and an incredible learning experience.
Often times I have pictured myself in this wilderness—in an Israeli wilderness, a desert. There have been times that I have envisioned myself sitting in that desert crying and feeling dejected, lost, and alone; yet also knowing that God is right there standing by, watching over me and waiting. There have been other times when I have envisioned God taking me by the hand, raising me up, and leading me in some specific direction through the wilderness but not quite all the way out of it.
I was pondering (again) recently how long it seems that I’ve been in the wilderness. And the thought struck me that God has removed me from certain relationships and situations and into this place to do a cleansing work in me; to purge me as He purged the fearful, unbelieving, and unfaithful Israelites in their wilderness long ago. He is working on removing certain things from my mind and soul so that He can replace them with His better truths. He has taken me out of where I was and into a new realm of His presence, His kingdom, and His ways.
I realize this has been His “teaching theme” with me over the last few weeks, and the “light” has finally turned on within me that I may understand. It all started with the “Tear Out” and remodeling lesson. Then He reaffirmed the concept in various other ways as I lived daily life. Each time, He seemed to be confirming to my heart and soul that He had placed me in the desert so that He could purge some of the “old”, the “not so good”, and do a renewing work within me in preparation for whatever He has planned ahead. Even as I type this life lesson right now, it all becomes clearer and clearer to me.
Today, I revisited the Scriptures where the Israelites were told they must wander the wilderness—the desert—for 40 years before they would be able to enter the Promised Land. God told them He would have to purge all the people who were 20 years old and up before they would be allowed to enter. Those would have to live and die in the wilderness. What happened? What drove God to such drastic measures with His people? What was the problem of the people that so exasperated God? Fear. Unbelief. Lack of trust. Disobedience.
They had been through the worst and best of times with the great YHWH. He had freed them from Pharaoh, parted the Red Sea for them to walk through on dry land, fed them food from heaven, personally spoken to them, organized them, hovered over them as a cloud, led them step by step. Yet they still allowed their fear to reign supreme and be an idol above their great YHWH.
He had simply sent them to spy out their Promised Land which He had waiting for them. But when they saw the people that lived in that land they were overcome with fear, and their fear led to unbelief and disobedience. When Caleb encouraged the men by saying, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it (the land), for we will surely overcome it” the men who had been with him answered, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us” (Numbers 13:30-31). Of course they were too strong for them, but not for God! And those men began spreading awful rumors to the rest of the people, bringing them to despair and convincing them that the people currently living in the Promised Land were so big that the Israelites would be like grasshoppers and would be defeated. And the people, overcome by the fear of man and of their enemy, cried out to Moses and Aaron, “Would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to
I believe God NEVER breaks His promises; but we sure don’t help Him out in fulfilling them.
God forgave them of their sin of fear and unbelief that HE would and could conquer their enemies for them and with them, and He forgave their disobedience to go forth and take possession of the land. But He also laid out the consequences of their sin and said, “As I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD. Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it.”
My point in all of this is that God will allow us to spend as much time as we need in the wilderness for Him to be able to purge any and all fear, unbelief, lack of trust, misplaced beliefs, or disobedience that may be exalting itself above Him and who He is and who He wants to be in our life. He will allow us to spend as much time as needed in the wilderness to remove anything He sees is hindering us from truly living in the fullness of His presence and of His Spirit which He offers to us right now.
I will share more of what that means personally in my life in my next blog entry. Until then…
In HIS strength and for HIS glory…