by Don Nori Sr
Much like Ancient Israel, who wandered in the wilderness for forty years, believer’s have struggled with the same issues that kept the ancients in disarray, disharmony and in disapproval with God. The Wilderness was a horrible place of confusion, unbelief, distraction, infighting, factions and rebellion. The provision was remarkable, the leading of God indisputable. Nonetheless, they never seemed to get to where God wanted them to live. They experienced the power of God when He delivered them from the bondage of Egypt. All the authority that Pharaoh held could not withstand the mighty delivering power of the Living God of Israel. They witnessed, day after day, His love for them as He sheltered them from the heat of the day, warmed them from the cold of the desert nights. He fed them, gave bread and meat every day. Water flowed abundantly from a Rock that followed them where ever their wanderings would take them. In spite of all experienced first hand, their unbelief bound them to a life far short of the glory that God intended for them.
They were a people who straddled dimensions. They lived far beneath the glory of God yet they knew what God had promised them. The miraculous was evident to all day and night but they did not get to the point where they trusted God with their future. Though Canaan held the assurance of flourishing life and well being, to the Israelites, it was a promise they could not see with the eyes of their heart. They had seen His power but did not see His love.
Their history had proven to them time and time again that God was faithful. He could be trusted and would deliver on whatever promise He had given to them. Yet, it was one thing to rejoice over what had been done for them in the past but it was another thing altogether to trust Him for themselves.
The heart of ancient Israel was locked in Egypt. They lived in the Wilderness. God’s heart was in the Promised Land. It is no wonder there was so much confusion, unbelief and aimlessness among them. Their fear of the giants kept their hearts in the past, in the slavery they hated, making it impossible for them to step into their destiny. Their fear of God prevented them from actually going back to Egypt. Their inability to accept their plight and trust God kept them wallowing in the wilderness of hopeless confusion and unbelief.
Sure, they fled the bondage of Egypt at the command of God. Who wouldn’t? Their lives were arduous, to say the least. They were slaves in their social position, fed like cattle and whipped into submission as one would heartlessly break a horse. Their day-to-day drudgery kept under control and in strict obedience. Although their numbers grew, they were sick, malnourished and worked to brink of death. Who would not want to escape from such hopeless bondage? Who would not want to be freed from heartless slavery?
But this was different. They had gotten used to the Wilderness and its meager provision. And yes, it was meager. They could gather manna and quail for the day but no more. If they secretly to gather more manna, it was rotten by the next morning.
They did not accumulate wealth in the Wilderness. Their clothes grew on their backs as their children grew and did not wear. Their sandals did not wear out. They had everything they needed to survive but that is all they did…survive. There was no provision to accumulate anything for the future. What they had when they left Egypt is what they had when they crossed the Jordan into the Land of Promise. They were stuck in their unbelief. God took care of them because they were His children but He was angry with them because of their unbelief.
The Wilderness was an experience of their own making. Their faith would have brought them to their glorious destination in a matter of days. But as it was, it would take many years before Israel would be prepared in heart to cross the Jordan, which was the dimensional line between what was and what should be; between where they lived and where thy could have prospered; between what was intended to be a short journey and what could have been an immediate transition into the abundant life God had destined for them. They refused to release what they had while they demanded what they were promised. They refused to se the obvious. To release the meager was to experience the maximum. To step into the Promise meant to leave the unbelief, the rebellion, and the petty factions of established religion.
The point is, God never intend for them to live in the Wilderness, it was merely a place they had to pass through to get to the land promised to them by their heavenly Father. Instead of confidently passing through the wilderness with focused expectation on God’s promises, they were instead distracted by their own fear, their own rebellion and their need for earthly security.
So what was the difference between believing God to set them free from the Egyptian slave masters and believing God for entrance into the Promised Land? The difference is quite simple. In leaving Egypt, they left the life they hated. They had nothing to lose for they had nothing. They would either die as slaves or die in escaping, either way they would die.
On the other hand, to leave the Wilderness, to cross the Jordan in the land of Promise, the land where giants also lived, was to risk everything, even life itself. To run from Egypt was to run from death. To cross the Jordan was to run toward certain death by the giants who possessed the land. To put in contemporary terms. To leave Egypt was to leave the bondage and sin they hated. But to enter the Promised was to leave the sin and rebellion they craved. They straddled two dimensions.
Doctrines of the Wilderness
Ancient Israel did not want to leave the Wilderness any more than believers today want to leave Pentecost. There was food in the Wilderness. They had shelter, protection from the weather and they had food. A Rock followed them to give them water. They were cared for in every way. But their hearts never changed. They never grew into love, into union with God. That Union was the real prize of Canaan. Union was the ultimate goal of their God. But they resisted God’s ultimate intention for a morsel of bread and meat that fell from the sky. The powers in charge would give not even an inch to risk what they had for a promise that could not accept although they saw it with their own eyes. To move on, the old guard would have to die. To resist what had become commonplace, would be to resist what their entire generation was unwilling to accept. For that refusal, Canaan would have to wait for a new generation of believers.
Pentecost has not delivered the kingdoms of this world into the hand of God. Rather, the kingdoms of this world are farther from our King than they have ever been. We know the litany of accusations against them. They do not need to be reviewed again. Nonetheless, at some point, someone must step up to say the truth. We have blamed everyone and everything imaginable for the plight of our world. But we have failed to point the finger where it belongs. For the true culprits are us. We have camped in the relative safety of the Wilderness. We have soothed our hearts with morsels of bread and explained away the conviction of the Holy Spirit who would show the way if we would only trust Him for it.
Rather than responding to the gentle call of our Lord to change, refocus and repent, we have taken the truth of Union with God and turned them into doctrines that make it ok, even scriptural to live below who we are, who we could be and who our King intended us to be when came with His glorious ransom campaign so long ago. We removed responsibility from ourselves by subtle changes in our belief system and in some cases by putting responsibility on the next generation that should be ours.
Let us briefly consider how we have released ourselves from the truth that would cause us to experience Oneness with our Creator in the here and now.
* We have removed the appearing of the Lord that was always intended to be through us and made it an external event over which we have little responsibility.
* To many, poverty is now a sign of holiness.
* Relationship with God has been reduced to a booklet, a one-time trip to the altar, as if a trip to the altar in a perquisite to salvation.
* Some have bargained their way to prosperity by offering God a little money in exchange for much more of His money.
* It is now acceptable to claim, demand or otherwise follow a formula to get healed, delivered, restored and rich.
* Some abandon their children on the altar of God’s will to justify their pursuit of ministry, career or fame.
* Some have taught God as the servant of all, providing everything for the right price.
* Canaan is somehow heaven now so we cannot expect anything better than what we have.
* “Church” is supposed to be boring, tired, aimless and pointless. The “fun” is in heaven.
* God is all forgiving. He is the only one who has to sacrifice. We can live in our current condition as long as confess Jesus.
These are but a few of the misconceptions that are a direct result of determining that there is nothing more that what we have experienced. This why we were warned to be certain that no one falls short of His glory. His Glory, a fundamental experience for all who will surrender and cross the river of their humanity into the glorious union with Him.
In the final analysis, there is no contentment in straddling dimensions, no fulfillment, certainly no destiny. If there were, God would have both made the Wilderness Israel’s permanent home and would not have had to lead the ancients into the battles and victories of Canaan. But God would not be content with His people missing the mark. He would not be satisfied with an arrangement that would leave His people short of their destiny. From the beginning, God wanted Union with His people so intently that He sacrificed His own Son to insure it would happen.
His heart is open. His hands outstretched to a stubborn and obstinate people. Yet, His love for His people causes Him to strive with them, to draw them, to be patient with them. For it is written that some must enter. And by the will and mercy of God, some will.