A Way Through The Wilderness
Beauty For Ashes Part II - George H. Warnock
In this writing we want to explore the wilderness areas through which the children of Israel had to travel, as they came out of the land of Egypt, and made their way toward the land of Canaan, the Land of Promise, the Land of Fruitfulness. Our purpose, of course, is to discover the Way of the Lord for us; for what happened to them, though very literal and very natural, was but a picture and shadow of our walk with the Lord, as we too seek to come away from the old life of sin and bondage, and enter into a fruitful walk with the Lord. In all the way that they travelled, and in all the experiences which they had to endure by the leading of the Lord, they were enacting a pattern of conduct that would be recorded in holy Scripture as an example and type of God's people today. Not that we are supposed to follow their example, but to learn from it. For it is clear that they utterly failed the Lord in many, many ways, so that the first generation of the redeemed people did not enter the Land of Promise. Nevertheless, in their conduct in the wilderness God was actually providing a picture for us today, so that we might learn from their mistakes.
"Now these things were our examples, TO THE INTENT we should NOT lust after evil things, as they also lusted" (1 Cor. 10:6). And the apostle goes on to enlarge upon this, by describing the many calamities that came upon the people of God because of their idolatry, their immorality, their tempting of Christ, and their much murmuring. Then he tells us that all these things happened to them as a warning and as an admonishment to us, so that we would NOT fall into the same tragic things that they did. And so their journey through the wilderness was not intended to be a pattern for you and I to follow, but a warning to God's people of the dangers that accompany the wilderness life, and God's provision for making us to be an overcoming people. We are to learn from their experiences, and so avoid making the same mistakes they made.
But we are slow to learn from the mistakes of another. Human nature is just that way. Usually we have to learn the hard way. But as we do, it is good that we can look into the Scriptures, and into the wilderness episode, and discover God's faithfulness in and through it all, and His pattern of deliverance for an erring people.
For we too are on a journey. It is good if we can recognize that. We have not been redeemed just to cross the Red Sea and sing the victory song of deliverance from the bondage of Pharaoh. This is but the first step. It is but the beginning of a journey, a SPIRITUAL JOURNEY, through the wastelands of our old carnal nature, and into the fruitfulness of the Canaan life of the Spirit.
And so Moses reminded the people: "He brought us out from thence, that He might bring us in, to give us the land which He sware unto our fathers" (Deut. 6:23).
The wilderness, then, becomes the place of PREPARATION, and the place of TRANSITION, as we relinquish the old life of fleshly bondage, and enter into the realm of our spiritual heritage. It was never intended of the Lord that we should linger all our days in captivity to the wild, untamed nature of the old life. But in every resting place that God has ordained on this Journey from Egypt to Canaan we are to learn more and more of Him, and allow Him to make in our wilderness nature a garden plot for the sowing and the planting of the good seed of the Word of God, that He Himself might be glorified in the fruit of the Spirit that He desires to bring forth from our lives.
Therefore let us learn to see the Journey in this light. As we do we will understand and appreciate the grace of God that brings us step by step through the tangled maze of life. WE OURSELVES ARE THAT WILDERNESS. Our own fleshly, natural lives are the wild, untamed areas that God is dealing with. And when we recognize this, may we find grace to stop blaming God and murmuring against Him when we come into fretful and disagreeable circumstances. Why do you do this to me, Lord? It is for my discipline, and for His glory, that He does it. I needed it, otherwise He would not have allowed it. In that grievous circumstance that God allowed, He was merely revealing the wild, untamed nature that was there in my old life, for the purpose of dealing with it and bringing forth the attributes of His own heart. And the murmuring and the complaining that we manifest simply reveal how deep-rooted the old life really is, and how slow we are to recognize it.
In other words, God intends that every situation that He brings us into will serve as a graving tool, a chisel, a refiner's fire, that will change us, transform us, and consume those carnal desires that are hindering the flowing of the life of Christ through us, and retarding our growth in the Spirit.
In the journeyings of the children of Israel there were several wilderness areas through which they must pass; and in each of these areas God had something specific in mind as He sought to PREPARE their hearts for the inheritance that lay before them. God must have a PREPARED PEOPLE for that PREPARED PLACE. He does not thrust us thoughtlessly into some disagreeable circumstance in order to harass and torment us. It is rather to PREPARE us for the life of victory and of fruitfulness in the realm of the Spirit. It is our reaction to God's dealings with us that brings such desolation and turmoil to our hearts and minds. What assurance and what hope this would give us if we could only recognize that in every devastating experience of life God is simply preparing our hearts for great conquests and fruitfulness in the days that lie ahead, in the heritage of Canaan. And if we are prepared to truly recognize this wonder-working principle in our lives, we are going to discover what God meant when He said, "I go before you to search out a resting place for you..."
Next: Map of the Wilderness Journey
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