Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why the Wilderness?

You know, it’s interesting that God didn’t take the children of Israel straight into the Promised Land. Of course, it was not His original intent that they wander around in the desert for 40 years either, but He did not command them to spy out the land in preparation to go into it until 2 years after they left Egypt. The Lord sent them from Egypt to Mount Sinai and they camped there for just over 2 years before God gave the command in Deuteronomy 1:6-8 “The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, (Mount Sinai) saying: “You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey…See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land…”” Why, by God’s original design were there 2 years in the wilderness before He was going to allow them to go into the Promised Land? We find clues to the answers in several places of scripture. The book of Numbers has several places where the Children of Israel get into tight spots and they begin to complain. But their complaints always go the direction of “We wish we were back to Egypt!” In Numbers 11 they got tired of the manna that fell to the ground each morning and said, “(Those) who were among them yielded to intense craving…We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic.”  When things got a little boring, they focused on Egypt.  They do this in this scripture and several other places. When water runs short, they want to go back to Egypt, when the spies come back out of the land and tell them about the difficulties ahead, they want to go back to Egypt. Apparently they had already forgotten that in Egypt they were slaves living in oppression. They had forgotten that the land of Egypt was hard to work and that they had to haul water or dig ditches to get water to their crops. They had forgotten that Egyptian soldiers would whip them, taunt them and abuse them in many ways, but they did not forget the savory foods or the culture that they had grown so accustomed to that it became what they craved.  Any time they got a little bored or the road ahead became a little uncertain, they craved the things of Egypt and began to make plans to go back. 
I feel like Preston Morrison said it best while speaking at Gateway Church. “The wilderness is not about getting you out of Egypt, it’s about getting Egypt out of you.” God designed 2 years in the wilderness so that He could reshape and restructure the minds of the Children of Israel to prepare them for His promises. In order for them to go into the incredible place He had waiting for them, He first had to get Egyptian culture out of them so the cravings for all things Egypt would be gone. We will never fully enjoy or receive the promises of God as long as we are constantly looking back to the things of Egypt. The problem with the Children of Israel was that Egypt was so engrained in them that they never were able to look forward to the inheritance God had for them. They could not focus on God’s amazing plan when the stress levels went up. All they could do was crave what was back in Egypt. God left many of them in the wilderness. They wandered there for 38 more years and died there because they refused to let go of what God had pulled them out of and look forward to what God had promised them.
Are you in the wilderness? Please understand that it has a purpose. God designs the wilderness days to chip away at the cravings for the things He’s delivering us from.  Do you notice that when you get bored or stressed that you start to crave the things He’s in the process of setting you free from and lose sight of the things He’s put in front of you? If so, you aren’t ready for the Promised Land, that land of complete blessing and spiritual abundance. We can’t enter the promises of God if we are constantly looking back at the things of Egypt with craving in our hearts. Let it go. Whatever it is, just let it go. Walk away from it. God has a better plan, a better way and a better place. Focus on what is ahead of you--“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills: a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey: a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing…” Deuteronomy 8:7-9