The Wilderness

He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness (Deut. 2:7).

He knows my wandering. He knows my times in the wilderness.

Is He angry at me, disappointed that I am in a great wilderness instead of out doing great exploits for Him? Or, did He design it.

When God led the children of Israel out of Egypt, He could have taken them directly into the Promised Land. Look at the map in your Bible; it is a direct route from Egypt to Canaan by the way of the sea shore. But this is not the route that He took them. He took them by way of the desert, into the wilderness.

It is likely that they were discussing among themselves, murmuring, that God could have made it easier on them—He was the One after all who had taken them out of their years of captivity and terrible bondage, why wouldn’t He have led them right into the Promised Land by an easy way? They didn’t understand why. They were living the story, not reading it several thousand years later. We can read the story now and there it is—the answer is right there in front of us

“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.’” Ex 13:17

If they face war with this particular enemy, they might change their minds and want to return to Egypt.

What seemed like an unfair decision on God’s part was actually His tender loving watch care over His beloved people. The Philistines were a formidable enemy to the Israelites. They inhabited an area which is called Gaza today, and this war is still going on, several thousand years later.

God knew that. He was protecting them from this enemy. They fought in other wars, but not this one. Not yet. God knew they were not ready for this enemy and He led them by a different path. That path was designed, as all of our paths are, to drive us to Jesus. It was designed to show them Who their God really was.

“So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle” Ex. 13:18.

They were armed for battle and there would be battles—there would be great exploits for God even in the wilderness, and He made sure they were armed for it. For some reason, He knew they needed to be trained, refined, for the real battle.

I have thought often about the wilderness. I have found myself in that wilderness more times than I can count and I’m fairly certain that most reading this would agree—the wilderness is not a pleasant place. We find ourselves crying out to God, but He is in a pillar of fire way up ahead, leading, but seemingly not paying attention to our cries. Or so our emotions tell us. We know He is there; we can sense Him in the cloudy pillar bringing up the rear, but can He see me? Does He care? Oswald Chambers says sometimes God feels like an unfamiliar friend, preoccupied with other things as when Jesus had “set His face” toward Jerusalem, walking ahead, seemingly occupied with much bigger things. Does he care that I am in this wilderness?

I had that thought so often when my husband was ill. My wilderness was designed by Him and as I traveled through it I was made to see little by little the deeper, bigger plan that He had designed for me in the wilderness. In retrospect, writing about it three years later, I began to see the bigger picture He was painting. It is an impressionistic picture, darks contrasted with lights, shapes and forms not painted in detail, just dabbed onto a canvas in splashes that when viewed as a finished painting shows how those vague splashes of saturated pigment, blotches of color next to grays and blacks, all come together to translate what the artist saw all along—he was painting light. And light can only be painted as it contrasts with dark.

In my wilderness, dark places that seemed to go on forever, were used to contrast with the brilliance of His painting of light. The finished painting is not dark at all; it has an atmosphere of light, shimmering as light does, especially when placed side by side with darkness. God paints in contrasts. But it all ends up as light. Witness that ethereal moment after a rain storm when the dark clouds remain in one part of the sky, yet with the break in the clouds the sun bursts through creating brilliant, almost otherworldly, color and light. The light is bathed in yellows and oranges and reds; the trees and houses appear almost fluorescent. It is in that place where the rainbow will form, with the darkest of clouds as a backdrop. Staring at this scene, where are the eyes drawn? To the brilliant, fluorescent light, or to the dark clouds in the background?

Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert. Isa 43:19… Because I give waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My people, My chosen. Isaiah 43:19-20

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Will bring her into the wilderness, And speak comfort to her. Hosea 2:14

I knew you in the wilderness, In the land of great drought. Hosea 13:5

He knows me in the wilderness. He cares. He is painting Himself—the “Light of the World”—into every detail of my wilderness and as long as I am paying attention, and draw near to Him, and choose to believe, I will know Him at a level that I never imagined possible. When Jesus is painting light into my wilderness, I can run into that light, sit there, let it bathe me in its warmth and comfort, because it is He, Himself who is the Light and He knows my wanderings in this great wilderness.

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2 Responses to The Wilderness

  1. Nikole Hahn says:

    Very uplifting post. “In my wilderness, dark places that seemed to go on forever, were used to contrast with the brilliance of His painting of light. The finished painting is not dark at all; it has an atmosphere of light, shimmering as light does, especially when placed side by side with darkness. God paints in contrasts. But it all ends up as light.” Amen!

  2. Kathy Beard says:

    Am getting very anxious to see the finished work :-)

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