It was not God’s intention for the children of Israel to spend a whole generation in the wilderness. The wilderness was not to be their destination. However, the wilderness was an integral and important part of their journey. Going through the wilderness was not optional. Even so, the Bride must go through the wilderness. She is not to abide there forever, but she is to profit by her wilderness experience.
Having just come out of bondage, Israel needed to acquire a new mindset. No longer slaves to their Egyptian masters, the Israelites had to shed a slave mentality. It was necessary for someone to take charge of their lives. They had two obvious choices. They could rule their own lives, or they could submit to God, receiving Him as their head and their Lord.
The saint of God has the same two choices. Having been delivered from bondage (the bondage of sin), the saint can choose to rule his own life, attempting to please God in his own strength, being led by his own reason, or he can submit to the Lordship of Christ.
As we saw with Peter, reliance upon self is inadequate to lead us to the destination God has for us. It also was inadequate to lead the Israelites into the promised land. The ten unfaithful spies and the mass of the people were walking in their own strength. Having spied out the land, they determined whether they were adequate in their own strength to go in and possess it. The answer was a resounding “No!”
“The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
It may seem incredible to us that Israel thought that they were going to have to conquer and possess the land of their inheritance by their own strength. After all, they had seen clearly that it was God who had brought them out of Egypt. It was God who visited the ten plagues upon Egypt. It was God who opened up the Red Sea allowing Israel to cross over and who then closed the sea, destroying the armies of Pharaoh.
How could these same Israelites, who could attribute none of their deliverance from so great a bondage to their own strength, believe that they would have to rely upon their own strength to possess the land of promise? Indeed, how can Christians today, who have been freed from the bondage of sin by no merit, deed, or strength of their own, believe that they will enter into their inheritance, fully possessing the land of their flesh, by their own strength? Yet many do.
Only Joshua and Caleb perceived that the God who had brought them freedom from Egypt would also go before them to destroy the enemies who were in their land. Consequently, only these two from among their generation entered in.
The wilderness is a place where we learn where our strength lies. It is a place where we abandon our slave mentality and we take God as our Head. It is a place where we demonstrate that we place no confidence in ourselves, but have complete confidence in God.
In the wilderness we learn to lean upon God. Having received the salvation that God provided for us through His Son, we now learn to trust Him with our lives in all other matters. The Song of Solomon holds many truths that relate to Christ and His Bride. It reveals the purpose for the wilderness.
Song of Solomon 8:5
“Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?”
The wilderness is a place where the Bride learns to lean on her beloved. If she does not learn this lesson, she will not come up out of the wilderness, but will remain there. God, having purchased our salvation, does not intend for us to live our lives by our own strength and wisdom. He wants us to continue leaning upon Him, trusting Him and receiving all we require from His hand.
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
One of God’s names is Yahweh Yireh, meaning Yahweh our Provider. Many Christians today want to do something for God, but what He wants is for His children to trust Him. This is not in any way a contradiction to what has been said in this book thus far. God wants our lives to be full of obedience and activity, but the activity He desires is that which He leads us to. As we mentioned in a previous chapter, we are being conformed to the image of Yahshua the Messiah and Yahshua stated that He never did anything of His own initiative.
Yahshua’s life was far from inactive, but His activities were those the Father led Him to. God is always the initiator of the deeds He would have us to be involved in.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Yahshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Pursuing the reward God has set before us is not about doing something for God. It is merely being willing to go where He is beckoning us to go. It is about expressing trust and confidence in God to the extent that we will go wherever He leads.
Adam and Eve’s fall was the result of a failure to trust God. They believed that God was withholding something that was beneficial to them. In grasping for themselves the thing that God had withheld, they were saying, “God, I don’t believe you have my best interests at heart. I must take control of my interests because I no longer trust you.”
Ever since the fall of man God has been looking for those who will say, “God, I do trust you. I do feel that I can confidently place my life in your hands.” Unfortunately, even among those who trust God for the forgiveness of sins, there are few who will trust Him with their lives here on Earth. However, when He does find such a one, God will move heaven and Earth on their behalf.
II Chronicles 16:9
For the eyes of Yahweh move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.
God has an inheritance for His children, but it will require faith on our part to acquire it. The Bride consists of those who trust God and who willingly place their lives and their welfare in His hands. They do not feel they must protect their own interests. They are confident of God’s care for them. With Job, they can say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
The children of Israel in the wilderness could not make this good confession. Instead, they confessed just the opposite. They asked God if He had led them into the wilderness just to kill them. They asked Him if it was because there weren’t enough graves in Egypt that He had led them to the wilderness to bury them there (Exodus 14:11). Such taunting and lack of trust angered God, and because of it He swore that they would not enter into the land of promise.
This matter of trust is of utmost importance and it is in the wilderness that it is proven. God is looking for faith in the hearts of His children. Yahshua asked the question, “when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth” (Luke 18:8)? Likewise, we are told,
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
Once salvation is received by an act of faith, this faith being a free gift (Ephesians 2:8), God then expects the saint to begin demonstrating trust in Him. The believer needs no other proof of God’s good will toward Him than the cross of Christ.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
The natural response of one who has received salvation should be to assert confidently that he knows God loves Him. He loves him so much that He did not even withhold His own Son, but freely gave Him up on our behalf. All saints should be able to assert with John, “I am the disciple whom Yahshua loves.” Having this confidence, the saint will find himself following Christ wherever He leads. For this reason, Satan works tirelessly to undermine the saint’s confidence in Christ’s love toward him. The saint must remain vigilant against the deceptions of Satan.
Having determined that we will trust Christ, following after Him wherever He leads, we must then learn to discern how He leads us. In the wilderness, God led the Israelites by the pillar of fire and the cloud. When these moved, the whole nation of Israel would immediately strike camp and move with them.
The child of God is likewise to be led by God. Instead of fire and a cloud, we have God’s own Holy Spirit to guide and lead us.
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are [mature] sons of God.
The articles in the Holy Place of the temple are symbolic of the Spirit of God. The altar of incense and the golden candlestick indicate that if we are to progress further into the temple, we must be led by God’s Spirit. The reason for this is that the Bride must have no will or initiative of her own. She lives to do the will of God. In order to do so she must discern the voice and leading of God. Yahshua is our example in this.
As the Christ, the sent one of God, Yahshua willingly became subject to God the Father. He only did the will of the Father, never seeking His own will or acting upon His own initiative. His complete obedience in this was perfectly demonstrated upon Gethsemane when He told the Father, “Not My will, but Thy will be done” (Luke 22:42).
Yahshua repeatedly demonstrated to His disciples the obedience that the Father required. He did not even speak a word on His own initiative, but spoke that which the Father gave Him.
“I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
Yahshua therefore said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”
Yahshua said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.”
“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak. And I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.”
Embracing the cross means dying to the things of the self-life. The scriptures tell us that God’s intention for us is to be conformed to the image of Christ. If this is so, then God would lead us all to the place where we too could confess, “I do nothing of my own initiative. I always do the will of the Father. I do not even speak a word on my own, but I speak that which the Father gives me.” Does this seem like an unattainable dream? This is the Father”s expressed will for us.
The Bride of Christ has no will of her own, even as Christ had no will of His own. He lived for another’s pleasure. The Father’s satisfaction was Yahshua’s satisfaction. The two were one. This same unity is Yahshua”s desire for us.
“I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that You did send Me. And the glory which You have given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them, and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that You did send Me, and did love them, even as You did love Me.”
Yahshua was perfected in unity with the Father. As we enter this same unity with Christ, we will have no ambition or initiative of our own. We will live to do the will of our Lord. We must therefore discern clearly what His will is for us. We must learn to be directed by the Holy Spirit.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
God gave the children of Israel the pillar of fire and the cloud to train them how to be led by Him. He was teaching them how He wanted them to relate to Himself. When He moved, He wanted them to move. When He abided, He wanted them to abide. All they had to do was watch and observe what God was doing and follow after Him. This was Yahshua’s example, also. He was always beholding the Father and doing what He saw the Father doing. He did this as an example of how we are to walk.
As God takes the Bride through wilderness experiences, He is desiring to find her expressing confidence in Him. Instead of murmuring, words of complaint, and expressions of fear, He is looking to hear her speak confidently of her trust in the One who brought her out of bondage.
In the wilderness God is teaching the Bride to move only at His leading and to go wherever He directs. He is teaching the Bride to hear His voice and to respond accordingly.
These are not small lessons. It would seem that few actually perceive the purpose of the wilderness testing in their lives. One of the greatest features of the wilderness is that there is a scarcity of things that appeal to the flesh. There is little water, little greenery, few trees, very little shade, or things that bring comfort. In the wilderness, Israel had manna for food. Manna contained everything necessary to sustain their lives, but it held little appeal to the fleshly appetites.
As God takes us through the wilderness, we will experience the same meagerness of that which appeals to the flesh. God is testing us to see if we will be content with His provision and His will for us. This is part of embracing the cross. We must crucify the flesh with its desires and lusts.
The reward we seek is not the fulfillment of the flesh and its lusts, rather, it is a heavenly reward. We seek the presence of Christ. We seek to lay hold of that for which we were laid hold of by Christ Yahshua (Philippians 3:12).
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Yahshua my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ
This is the heart of the Bride, a desire to know Christ. The wilderness is intended to strip all else away until we are left with one ambition, one goal, to know Christ and to gain Him as our inheritance. When we are leaning completely on Him, we will be ready to come up out of the wilderness. We will be ready to enter into our possession.
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