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"The Wilderness"                                  15/11/13

It was a new beginning. The ground was still cursed and would have required "toiling" for food (Genesis 3:17), but God removed the need for toiling by providing. In the wilderness God's people could enjoy the rest they'd longed for in Egypt. It was a special time, 40 years in a "wilderness," experiencing God's miraculous provision. Forty years of resting from the curse of toiling for food. 

 They were no longer slaves to labour, or enslaved like they had been in Egypt. This meant they had more time to do other things; things like learning to go when and where God went, and to stop when and where God stopped. It was a time of learning to follow and trust, and perhaps to learn to battle as they did have some during this time. It was a time of training, when God's people listened to Him through one "mouth piece," because the people were afraid of the fire. God wanted them all to come up onto the mountain and be in His presence and hear Him, but they were too afraid.

"And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel" (Exodus 24:17).
"At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain" (Deuteronomy 5:5). 

Still, God wanted to dwell in the midst of His people, so He told them to make a sanctuary for Him in their midst.

"And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8).

 God released them from their burdens of toil, giving them a "light yoke" that included listening to the laws He gave Moses. These laws also gave them a way to practice their new sense of identity as YHWH's people; a people not like those around them whose gods required practices many would consider abhorrent today.

Like the first year when the main requirement of a husband is to make his wife happy, God's people had more time to be with Him and each other. His people could have been very happy with His provision and spent time getting to know Him better but most hung onto the ways of Egypt, complaining as though the food God gave was "hard work."

When we think of wilderness experiences we think of difficult time, times when we fail to hear God speaking, but this is not how God sees them.

The wilderness was a place where God cared for His people.

"I cared for you in the wilderness, In the land of drought" (Hosea 13:5).

When Israel sinned by forgetting Him, He said He would burn her vineyards, but then "allure her" and "bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her."  Then He would "give her her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt" (Hosea 2:13-15).

Some people think of the wilderness as a place of discipline, a place they find themselves in because they have disobeyed God. When the Lord disciplines His people, He has one end in mine - a sanctuary in her midst. The Hebrew word for discipline means to be entwined together like threads in a rope, bandaged and bound. The Lord's discipline means He entwines us to Himself, binds us with ropes of love and bandages our wounds. The wilderness was a place where God revealed Himself and drew close to His people. It was a place where He gave to them from the abundance of His resources.

Some view the wilderness as a hard place where they are wandering alone in a desert place, without peace.  In the Genesis account, the seventh day/age never ended. On all the other days, there was an evening and a morning, but no evening for the Sabbath.  The day of atonement, which foreshadowed what was to come, was a day of Sabbath rest when the people were to deny themselves “and not do any work” (Leviticus 16). Jesus has now atoned for sin so we can walk in Sabbath peace every day. We can cease from our toil and rest in God. The wilderness was an opportunity to rest after years of being slave labour.
Now we who have believed enter that rest … there remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4).

In the wilderness God makes a way (Isaiah 43:19). If you have lost your way, look to Jesus. He is the way. If you have no peace, or are weary from toiling, be yoked to Jesus. His burden is light. Seek after Him and listen for his voice. Make your heart a resting place, a holy place, a sanctuary reserved for the Holy Spirit of God - Love Him. If you don't know how, ask Him.