In my daily reading of God’s Word I just read through the book of Numbers. In a book titled Numbers you would expect to find statistics and figures, and sure enough they are listed in the book. After an initial census to determine the strength of the fighting force, God instructed Moses to cleanse and consecrate the nation for worship and warfare. After a special celebration of the Passover at Mount Sinai, the people began the journey to the Promised Land with great expectations. But rejoicing soon turned to rebellion, leading to a fateful decision at the desert of Paran and forty years of wondering in the wilderness. Even in the midst of death and discouragement, God’s grace was evident in the form of daily provisions of manna and water. It is a rather engaging story that includes scouts in the Promised Land, a bronze snake and a talking donkey! I fully encourage you to read Numbers!
You cannot get to the Promised Land from Mount Sinai without passing through the desert wilderness. The issue was not whether the nation of Israel would pass through the desert wilderness, but rather how long they would camp there. What should have been an eleven day journey became a forty year nightmare.
A wilderness is never pleasant, especially the one the nation of Israel was wandering around in. It tends to be dry, barren, lifeless and uncomfortable. One would tend to get thirsty and yearn to be in a place of rest and refreshment. Many of God’s servants had wilderness experiences. Moses did. David did. John the Baptist did. Paul did. Jesus was tempted for forty days in a barren wilderness near the Dead Sea.
A dry season does something interesting for a tree; it causes the roots to go down deeper in search of life giving moisture. The result is usually a stronger tree, better able to withstand the next difficult season. The same is true of us as Christ followers who face a desert like experience. What at first glance may appear to be barren, fruitless days on the back side of God’s blessing may in fact be preparing you for days of great fruit bearing in the future. Wilderness times will come; I think we should expect them. But don’t allow the wilderness experience to make you bitter or turn from God. says “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.
The tragedy of the book of Numbers is not that Israel went through the wilderness, but that because of disobedience they camped there for so long. By the way, where are you camped these days? Are you in the midst of a wilderness experience? Is it causing rebellion in your heart or causing you to dig deep and seek out the Lord?
4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (ESV)