Saturday, 25 October 2014

Testing in the Wilderness

If you find yourself in the wilderness at the moment, there are different reasons for it.

A preacher in the Wort&Geist movement here in Germany which began in 1999 and spread rapidly among those disaffected by the emptiness in the charismatic church here, and which has predictably, become extreme and heretical, (and has since decreased in numbers) teaches that if you are in the wilderness then you are out of the will of God. The teaching is based on the faith/prosperity teachings of Kenneth Hagin and writings of E.W. Kenyon. Enough said.

It seems that after someone has been involved in idolatry, the only way for the Lord to deal with him is in the desert. In Egypt, Israel was deeply entrenched in idolatry and the worship of false gods. In Hosea 2:14, after decrying the spiritual adultery which the nation was committing against Him, in their worship of Baal, the Lord says that He will lead Israel back into the wilderness. 'Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness, and speak kindly to her.' God's longing is that we would repent. Romans 2:4 says ...'the kindness of God leads you to repentance'. Whatever we might think of the wilderness and its dryness, emptiness, barrenness, storm-prone, earthquake-prone character, one reason for being there is to rid us of everything which hinders us from following the Lord alone.

Another reason for being in the wilderness is so that we can be humbled and tested.
Deuteronomy 8:2 says, "You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not."

In leaving Egypt, Israel had to travel through the desert. There was another way to Canaan; the Way of the Philistines, now called the Via Maris, or Way of the Sea, the main trading route between Egypt and the nations of the Fertile Crescent as far as Babylon. This would have been faster but more dangerous in as far as there were bandits, as well as the Philistines to face there, and Israel, who had been slaves, unused to warfare and were travelling with women and children, quite apart from the fact that they were carrying a large amount of loot which the Egyptians had given them, would have been unable to defend themselves against inevitable attacks. So the wilderness was the safer option. King David would later say, when faced with three choices as the penalty for the sin of counting Israel's warriors of Israel (2 Samuel 24:14) "Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands." 
Israel in the wilderness would be in God's hands and would have to learn to trust Him there, and there were five main lessons and tests which God put before them:

Test no.1 : Listen to the Lord's Voice and Obey Him.
Exodus 15:25-26
“If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the Lord, am your healer.”
By worshipping false gods, and therefore by living an unhealthy lifestyle, the inevitable result would be disease and death. We all know about unhealthy lifestyles. False gods these days; demons of selfishness, can take all shapes and forms. By listening to His voice and obeying Him, the Israelites would avoid the traps set by these demonic entities, and remain healthy. If He lives in us, so can we.

Test no.2: Do exactly what He says: Walk in His Instruction.
Exodus 16:4
'Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. He gives bread, His 'rhema' word, as instruction for our walk. It's not only the 'what' that we should do, but the 'how' as well, if He lives in us.

Test no.3: Thank Him in every situation (don't test Him).
Numbers 13-14
"....Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it." (Numbers 14:22)
Israel had seen so many examples of God's provision and goodness to them time and time again, and yet, in each new situation, the majority of the people grumbled, complained, spoke negatively against the Lord and Moses, and refused to believe that God was for them and loved them. Here was a new situation. All they were required to do was to spy out the land. They weren't told to conquer it at that point. The Lord was using this situation to find out who trusted Him. Those who didn't would die in the Arabian desert over the next 40 years. It would have been Israel's ruin to have taken such an unbelieving horde with them into Canaan. They would never have succeeded in taking any of the land, had the grumblers gone with them. 
What Israel should have done, and what we are enabled to do, if He lives in us, when faced with a new challenge, is to thank the Lord for it (Ephesians 5:20) and in it (1 Thess. 5:18). The opposite of grumbling and complaining is to say, 'thank you'.  Mealtimes come to mind. Children (and some adults) will grumble if food that they don't like is placed before them. If they say 'thank you' to the one who prepared it for them, it is a blessing for him or her. Isn't it wonderful to know that we can bless the Lord by thanking Him in difficult circumstances? We can show Him that we trust Him, even though we don't enjoy the challenge. The reward is His peace, His presence and joy.

Test no.4: Trust Yeshua to fight your battles with the sword of the word of God.
Exodus 17:8-13
'So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.' (vs. 13). Jesus (Yeshua) is our 'Joshua'. It's trusting in His word, that goes out of His mouth (Rev. 1:16) which conquers the enemy. We do not need to be afraid at all, if He lives in us, we have heard His word, the rhema word which His Spirit speaks to us, and we can stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. 2 Chronicles 20:17 ..."You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.”

Test no.5: Worship and love Him in the beauty of the Holy of Holies.
Exodus 33:9-11
'Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.'
Isn't this beautiful? Joshua would not depart from the Tabernacle. He stayed in the Presence of the Lord because he loved Him. Joshua was not a Levite. He was from the tribe of Ephraim (Numbers 13:18), but his practice of remaining in the Tent of Meeting is a foreshadowing of our Yeshua, who didn't leave the Temple when His parents brought Him there for Passover when He was twelve (Luke 2:41-49), but remained behind, because as He said, He had to be 'in His Father's affairs'.
In the same way, if He lives in us, we need never leave the Temple. We are His temple, and we can remain in His presence all the time and gaze upon His beauty. 

Psalm 27:4: 
'One thing I have asked from the Lord
that I shall seek: 
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, 
to behold the beauty of the Lord 
and to meditate in His temple.'

The pre-condition for passing these tests is if He lives in us. We can do nothing without Him and if we don't have Him, then we can do nothing because we won't hear His voice, much less be able to do what He says. 
2 Corinthians 13:5 says. "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?" The wilderness tests us, humbles us, to see what or WHO is in our hearts.

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