A Way Through The Wilderness
Beauty For Ashes Part II - George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 1 - THE WILDERNESS OF THE RED SEA
"Hemmed In" - The Long Way Around
"And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: but God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea..." (Ex. 13:17-18).
This is a day of "fast" things: fast foods, fast trains, fast cars, fast planes, fast pleasures, fast communications. But God's way into the life of the Spirit is still the long way around. Many do not think so, and there are many in the Church who deride the thought of exercising "patience" in order to win the race that is set before us. "Let us run WITH PATIENCE..." may sound a little contradictory to a man in a race; but it remains God's way of winning "the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1). God's direct route to Canaan life is the long-way-around. There may seem to be a shorter way, a more direct way, and many continue to explore that route, only to end up rolling in the dust. "God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near..." Now the word "Philistine" comes from a word meaning "to roll in the dust, to wallow." And though it is a well-beaten pathway, as it was in the days of Israel, and though it would seem to lead in a more direct route to the land of our inheritance, it will leave the one who travels this road wallowing in the dust. And why? Because there is nothing in common with the way of the Philistines and the way of God. The Philistine spirit is that spirit of the world, of the natural man, that knows nothing of the Spirit of God. But because it is a well-worn pathway, and because it seems to be leading in the general direction of our pursuit for God, it is enticing to the natural mind. It is the logical approach to the things of God. It is the positive, the most direct approach to things spiritual. But it leaves you wallowing in the dust of the old Adamic life, rather than soaring into the heights of the Spirit of God.
"You do not have to take that long, uncharted, entangled way into the things of God... We can show you a simpler way... We can point you to a shortcut... You can know the joy of Canaan living without all the distress of becoming entangled in the wilderness." This is the reasoning and counsel of the natural mind.
But the fact remains, we did not choose the wilderness way. We simply chose to go God's way. It is He who goes before--by day in a pillar of cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire--to give direction and light for the journey. It is by the Light of His Glory that we find ourselves entangled in the wilderness. He leads us this way that He might have all the glory, and that our enemies might be consumed in the very midst of our own perplexity and dismay. For it is only when we find ourselves "hemmed in," with no place to go, that we are inclined to go to God for help. This is why He hems us in... that we might flee into His arms. God knows the Enemy will say, "They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in" (Ex. 14:3). And so God deliberately sets a trap for the Enemy by bringing us into that place where we have no other recourse, but in God alone. As long as there is room for the heart and mind of man to calculate and plan his own deliverance, God is left out of the picture. We don't really need Him, or so we think. But if we are followers of the Cloud, God will lead us into areas of utter hopelessness and despair, that we might prove Him to be the God who makes a way where there is no way, and a path in the mighty waters...
"Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known" (Ps. 77:19).
"The LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters" (Isa. 43:16).
People of God, beware of the shortcuts. There are many that are offered in this day and age, shortcuts to true spiritual life and progress, but they will not bring you there. You may try to find an easy way into spiritual gift and blessing. You may learn how to get, and how to operate spiritual gifts the easy way, without total commitment, without waiting upon God, but sooner or later they will fade away. You may think you have discovered a secure and safe covering in some church structure or institution, assuring yourself that you are being spared the pangs of finding your own way in the entangled wildernesses of life. You feel that if you trust in certain leaders, in certain apostles and prophets, in a certain "New Testament Church Order," that it is a much safer, much easier pathway. But sooner or later you are going to discover that the rest and comfort you sought in sheltered areas of this nature, are nothing less than the bondage of Babylonish systems; and you will discover that this is far more distressing and more captivating than the way of the Lord from which you sought to escape. When you see the "wars of the Philistines"--the striving for lordship, the striving for power and authority and for a place of preeminence--your hearts will become discouraged, and you will wonder why you ever chose to walk in that kind of a pathway. If we would examine our hearts, we might discover that what we are really looking for is some kind of a religious system that will make it easy for us or for our children. We want to shrug off the heavy burden that is associated with finding God for ourselves by way of total commitment to Him. So when someone offers us a place of rest in some kind of a structure that promises clear direction, we are quick to grasp it. God does want us to have fellowship with one another in Christ; but there is no true fellowship except as "we walk in the Light." And in our searching after God, there is no such thing as immunity to the trials and struggles and heart-searchings and perplexities that have always been the appointed lot of any man or woman who seeks to come into a living, vital relationship with the Lord.
The Bones Of Joseph
"And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he (Joseph) had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you" (Ex. 13:19).
Surely it would matter nothing to Joseph as to what happened to his bones. This would pose no problem to the God of resurrection life whom he served while he was alive. But in the bones of Joseph God would provide for the generation yet to be born, a living witness to the faithfulness of the covenant-keeping God.
Joseph in his life was a testimony to the faithfulness of God--a living testimony that the round-about-way through the wilderness was God's direct route to the land of fruitfulness. He had proved and manifested to the people of God that in obeying Him and holding to the Vision that God had given, this was God's direct highway to the Throne. But Joseph had been dead about 360 years, and the generation about whom Joseph prophesied when he said, "God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence" (Gen. 50:25), that very privileged generation that Joseph spoke about was now alive, and given the privilege and the opportunity of walking in the visitation that God had promised. He who was a living testimony to the faithfulness of God in his life, was now a living testimony to the faithfulness of God in his death. His very bones bore witness to the faithfulness of the God he served. Everywhere they would travel the people of God had a "living" witness in the presence of the bones of Joseph; for Joseph had prophesied that this day of visitation would come. Everywhere they would travel in this "waste and howling wilderness" Joseph was there with them: encouraging, confirming, prophesying, declaring... the faithfulness of God. "I said this was going to happen... I told you God would be faithful to deliver you... I prophesied that God would bring you to a land of fruitfulness. Do not lose heart now. I proved when I was alive that in due season the God who gave the vision would be faithful to fulfill it. Let not the weariness of the way, the heat and the drought, the scorpions and the fiery serpents of this desert land cause your hearts to murmur and complain. He is faithful that promised, and He will do it."
Is it not strange how we can carry around with us the bones of a dead prophet, and still not believe what that prophet said? Is it not strange that we can idolize God's chosen ones of a past day, and build their sepulchers, and yet not pay heed to the Word that they spoke when they lived?
Time and time again we are going to witness unbelief and failure in the people of God; and yet all the while they were carefully preserving the bones of Joseph and carrying them from one camping place to the next... a persistent reminder to them of God's utter faithfulness, and of their own unbelieving hearts.
Baptism In The Cloud
"And the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them" (Ex. 14:19).
Their entanglement in the wilderness was very grievous to them, but God led them this way for His own glory. One of the most glorious facts of the whole wilderness episode was the fact of God's faithfulness in the hour of the unfaithfulness of His people. Their hearts were smitten with fear and unbelief when they saw themselves entangled in the wilderness with the hosts of Pharaoh pursuing them; and they cried to Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?" (Ex. 14:11). But God knew what He was doing. Suddenly the pillar of Cloud which had been leading the way moved from the front of the hosts of Israel to the rear, passing through the host and immersing them in the Cloud of Glory. He who was their Guide was now their Protector and their Defense against their enemies. His glory became their Light throughout the darkness of the night; and that same glory became DARKNESS and NIGHT to the enemies of God.
We need to remember these principles, in this day when fear has taken hold of all the inhabitants of the earth... when all about us is darkness and night. God said it would be that way. And He promised, moreover, that it would be in that very hour of darkness that His glory would shine forth upon His people:
"For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee" (Isa. 60:2).
Baptized into the Cloud of His presence and of His glory, the people of God shall radiate the very Light of God Himself. Not only that, but the Light in which they dwell and in which they walk, shall make them to be totally triumphant over all the powers of darkness that shall engulf the world about them. Why do some people imagine that there is a safe hiding place somewhere up there in space? Especially in this space age? Our hiding place is in God alone, and His glory shall be our defense, and the only defense we need:
"And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence" (Isa. 4:5).
The Song Of Moses
"Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for He hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea" (Ex. 15:1).
It was a song of victory, a song that bore witness to the faithfulness and the wisdom of God who had led them into wilderness entanglements. If we could only recognize this... if we could only know... that God has ordained a Song of Triumph for every wilderness entanglement... what hope and assurance it would give us as we tread the unknown way! If we could only know that every entanglement in our walk of faith is intended of the Lord to bring defeat to our enemies, what hope and courage this would inspire in our hearts!
And then when God proves His faithfulness in swallowing up our enemies in the Red Sea, what hope and confidence this ought to give us for the next phase of our wilderness testing and trial! For let us be assured, this is but the first phase of our spiritual journey unto the heart of God. There are many more. "How many?" some would ask. And the answer is: Just as many as it will require for God to tame our wilderness nature, and to till and cultivate the soil of our hearts. Just as many as God may deem necessary to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah concerning His people:
"The wilderness and the solitary place Shall be glad for them; And the desert shall rejoice, And blossom as the rose" (Isa. 35:1).
For let us never forget this, that the wilderness through which we are journeying is a spiritual journey unto the heart of God; and it is through the wilderness areas of our own natural and carnal hearts that God is leading us unto a place of REST in the bosom of God. How then can we say, "Lord, leave us alone... we have had enough of the wilderness and the solitary place," if we still know not the rejoicing of the desert, and the blossoming of the rose in our lives? Do we really want God to leave us where we are, redeemed from the bondage of sin and the world, but still very much in captivity to the bondage of our own fleshly natures? And is it not a matter of great disappointment to us when we discover, upon forsaking the world and its bondage, that we are still very much in bondage to our own selves, our own hearts, our own ways? How hopeless and helpless we feel when, having known what it is to be redeemed by the blood of the Passover Lamb, we discover that we are still languishing in areas of captivity to self, to the carnal mind, to the ways of the flesh!
And how wonderful it is when we discover that God hid a lot of this from us, and allowed us to consolidate our position on the redeemed side of the Red Sea, before He began to deal with the wilderness areas of our own lives!
And so the Song of Moses (and this is something that so few seem to recognize) gives hope and confidence for the land of Canaan fruitfulness, even as it exults in the God who destroyed Pharaoh and his hosts:
"Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them
In the mountain of Thine inheritance,
In the place, O LORD, which Thou hast made
For Thee to dwell in,
In the Sanctuary, O Lord,
Which Thy hands have established"
So it is that we must pass through the Red Sea of baptism as outlined in Romans 6, then through the wilderness of conflict with the "self-life" in Romans 7, and INTO the glorious liberty of the mountain of His inheritance in Romans 8. The solitary place of Romans 7 gives way to the corporate expression and the corporate inheritance of Romans 8. The "I," "Myself," and "Me" of Romans 7, as the renewed man of God struggles against the tide of his own carnal desires, is surrendered and swallowed up in the victory of the people of God in whom He dwells in corporate fullness, in His own Sanctuary, His very own inheritance. No longer is it the untamed wilderness of selfish, fleshly striving; but now it is the cultivated and fruitful land of God's own Garden--weeded, tilled, and ordered, and cared for by the great Husband man, to be the Garden and the Inheritance of His own delight and pleasure: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus bath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:2-4).
And I am confident that as we come into this realm of abiding fullness in Christ, that it is going to be JUST AS EASY, JUST AS SIMPLE, JUST AS NATURAL AND SPONTANEOUS FOR US TO WALK IN THE SPIRIT AND TO ABIDE IN HIS PRESENCE AS IT WAS IN FORMER DAYS TO WALK IN THE ENTANGLEMENTS OF OUR OWN WILDERNESS LIFE AND IN THE BONDAGE OF THE FLESH!
Do we question this? Then we are saying in effect that in our fleshly striving we are able to produce more power and energy than the Spirit of God can. We are confessing that the "law of sin and death" is really of greater power than the "Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus."
Chapter 2 - The Wilderness of Shur
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