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Reflections from BaMidbar: the Wilderness

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

by Morah Karen Low Deloge

Have you ever been in the wilderness?

Think barren desert, rocky wasteland, and burning heat. Unfamiliar terrain stretches as far as the eye can see. It is uninhabitable, and you wrestle with isolation and loneliness. It is a place of testing.

Harsh and strenuous, yes, but it is also a place of unexpected splendor. There are glorious and inspiring sunrises and a never-ending canopy of starry skies in the cool of night. Above all, it is a place of revelation. It is where gems are forged as in a refiner’s fire and the souls of men encounter the living God.

When God leads his people to the “midbar,” it is a journey of spiritual growth. It’s where we learn who we are and more importantly, who He is. The wilderness represents our life on earth in preparation for the Promised Land.

We see that God moves purposefully, and meaningfully, but He is never in a hurry. We never beeline through the wilderness. Why?

For one thing, see Exodus 13:17-18.

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.” NIV

He knows our limitations, our fears, and our needs. Like the children of Israel, we may be armed for battle but not ready for war. All might be lost if we’re faced with too much too soon. God’s in it for the long haul and He always acts for the best eternal outcome and the greater glory.

The wilderness road, that long way around, teaches us that our Heavenly Father is faithful to provide. Even to the extent that He brings water out of rock--undoubtedly one of the most unexpected and ridiculously unnatural provisions the world has ever seen! Have you ever picked up a rock when you’re thirsty? Would you ever expect even one drop of cool water to come out of it? This happened at Horeb, the Mount of God.

Think about the Lord creating a highway across a fifteen-mile channel of the Red Sea by sending a wind, then catering fresh meat to two million people! Not only so, but He delivered breakfast from the sky the next morning! His people were hungry and there’s nothing a Father won’t do to feed his children. Wherever they went, every morning with a rest on Sabbath, bread rained from the clouds! Every single week, right on schedule, for forty years! They lacked nothing.

The wilderness is where we learn that our Father always knows the perfect way through every challenge we face. He provides perfect solutions to every situation.

He is a transformer who can turn every bitter circumstance into something sweet. With just “a stick of wood” He turns the foul and brackish water of Marah into Koolaid! He turns the undrinkable and most unpleasant things into an abundant and life-giving source of sweetness.

I Kings 19 tells the story of Elijah fleeing into the wilderness in despair wanting to end his life. Instead, he experienced the Lord in a way he had never known. Instead of losing his life, he got a cake from the hand of an angel! It wasn't a funeral, it was a birthday party! Then he ran forty days and nights in the strength of that food until he came to Horeb, the mount of God! The very place where God brought living water and abundant life to his famished children, newly released from bondage.

Elijah was way out in that desert place, alone with God. He witnessed a tornado smashing through mountains, an earthquake breaking up the ground, and a terrible fire. But the best was yet to come.

He heard the calming voice of the Almighty in that barren place. Once he stopped complaining of course, he was given new direction and insights only God could give. No longer fearing Jezebel’s threats, he came away renewed and ready for action. He was effectually rebirthed in the wilderness.

Bamidbar is where we learn what Brennan Manning called ruthless trust.* This is where we can experience supernatural provision.

Do you trust Him today? Let Him revive you, rebirth your dreams, and show you his solutions to life's many challenges. It could even be a stick of wood lying near your feet, amen?

photo of the split rock at Mount Horeb, the Mount of God

* Brennan Manning, former monk, teacher, speaker, published Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God in 2000, HarperSanFrancisco.

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