Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
In the past few months, I came across many people who are going through terrible times, especially believers. What would be the reason for all these trials? Why do they have to go through all these painful circumstances even after being saved? What if God just told them what is expected from them instead of allowing them to go through these trials? All these questions jump upon me when I think about the wilderness experience people go through.
Today, while going through few chapters of Deuteronomy, God revealed to me the true purpose of the wilderness experiences in our lives. The people of Israel is the best example that we can take to understand this lesson. In the book of Exodus, we see Moses asking the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go so that they can worship God. If Worship was the only purpose behind the exodus, God would have planned some other arrangements for them to worship. God did hear their cry in bondage and saved them from Egypt and promised them a land flowing with milk and honey. It would have taken just few days to reach Canaan from Egypt…but they wandered in the desert for forty years..they took a lifetime to reach the promised land. Have you ever thought this…If they were led by the Lord in the cloud by day and in the pillar of fire in the night…then why would they wander in the desert for these many years??God allowed that wilderness in their lives for a reason..and that is Deuteronomy 8:2, our key verse for today.
We read four reasons for their wilderness. I would like to explain each one briefly.
To humble You: How can the desert humble you? Its not the desert, but the events you face in the desert that humbles you. Humbleness can be achieved in two ways..one is to put us through an impossible situation..Another way is to see God’s goodness and mercy in that impossible situation of ours. For example, the people of Israel were put to hunger in the wilderness…From their side, they could not do anything to overcome that hunger…Where would they go in search of food in that wilderness? That feeling of ‘nothing’ before the Lord, should bring the expected humbleness…But they were all the more humbled when they saw God’s hand providing manna from heaven…something they have never thought before…God’s goodness and mercy even when they were not perfect..even when they murmured..
To test you: Another purpose of wilderness is to prove who we are. When we are in Egypt, we are ready to leave everything behind and walk to the promised land..We are eager to worship the Lord. We are enthusiastic about the whole journey while we are in the Egypt..But as days go by, and when in the wilderness, you and me loses the joy of redemption from the slavery of Egypt.Slowly resentment and anger creeps in…wickedness and murmuring comes into picture when lease expected..slowly we show our true colors. Only the wilderness can prove who we actually are…The bondage of Egypt or the glory of the promised land will not prove us who we are…Only when we go through trials…only when you are faced with red sea..only when challenged by Amalekites…only then will we be proved.
To know what is in your heart: The people of Israel were rebellious people. But did we notice any glimpse of rebellion in them when they started their journey from Egypt? Rebellion was proved in the desert…Even though they did not believe in Idolatry, they were proved that they were idolaters only when they were in the wilderness.. God knows our heart…He knows that we are dust…but many times we do not realize who we are…We don’t realize that we are short-tempered until some irritating incident happens in our life…we do not understand the magnitude of our faith until we are given a trial to prove it..So wilderness experience is an opportunity to let ourselves know who we actually are..God knows our stature already and now its our turn to accept that painful truth.
To know whether you will obey my commandments or not: It is in this wilderness that we will make choices in life…the choice to follow God no matter what..or to follow this world….to make God your priority or to please men…to obey God’s word or to be passionate about this world…God never forces us anything…HE has given us the options..to choose life or to choose death. The ultimate purpose of the wilderness is to know our choice..
Your wilderness experience is to make you a better person…to make you perfect as your Master when you finally reach the promised land…One great assurance is that God is with us…and He is leading us in that scorching desert.. Our experiences and the duration of our journey may vary, but the purpose is the same…TO MAKE US MORE LIKE HIM.