Why The Wilderness?
The wilderness is not a romantic
holiday, but where God wants to get you, on your own. Desert is mentioned
266 times in the Bible, about few of us really experience the drastic dealings
of God alone. We don’t go to the desert by choice. Remember
Jesus was impelled, driven there, to be tested by the devil. The
power of the Spirit was the fullness of the Spirit TESTED. God tested
His children in the wilderness years to humble them, to see what was in
their heart, to cause them to live by the proceeding word out of His mouth
Power is for Purpose
God gives the power of the
Holy Spirit when His people pursue His purpose. The purpose of the
howling wilderness for the children of Israel was to prepare them for promotion,
for inheritance, to possess His possessions. Jesus was filled with
power to deliver the oppressed (Acts 10:38), to heal (Luke 5:17) to demonstrate
Satan’s defeat. Philippians 3:12-14 is a great encouragement for
those who are gripped with a sense of God’s purpose. A free translation
could go like this: -
“Not that I have tackled
it cleanly or am complete or mature, but follow after the vision God gave
me, that I may grip that which God has gripped me for. Brothers,
I’ve added up my figures and the total is not what it should be in terms
of God’s purpose, but the priority is to forget the past and reach out
to the future. I press on, like a long distance runner with my mind
on the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus.”
The wilderness experience
will break us AND make us into what God wants. Then we can follow
after the vision of God. Today many Charismatics, Pentecostals, word
of faith followers etc. realise they are in a spiritual limbo. The
freshness has gone, expectations often dashed and doubts emerge.
God calls us to the wilderness so we find the power of the Spirit, that
we may know it is not of us, but of God.
2 Corinthians 4:7 tells
us the truth about the treasure in our fragile, earthen vessels.
The word “excellence” means outreachingness. The treasure is inexhaustible,
and cannot be fully investigated in this transient life. Yet today
the church is often restricted in vision, inward looking, and paralysed
by a fear of evangelism. We need an outside-IN mentality that proclaims
the church exists for its non-members, the lost who fail to come to its
meetings. The wilderness can break the mould of our opinions, our
failures, our narrow thinking. The desert experience may have its
temptations, but the infilling of the Spirit will be turned to real power
as we faithfully go through the testing. Will we go through God’s
route of wilderness?
There comes a season in
a saint’s spiritual journey when God confronts us with the place of obscurity
and nothingness. Will we remain faithful? Will we allow God
to prepare us for promotion? Will we enter the Promised Land of our
Those Who Went Before
Think chronologically of
those who passed through the desert as an essential stage of spiritual
learning. Abraham left civilisation in Ur of the Chaldees, left his
father’s home and the prevailing moon worship for the desert wanderings.
Not knowing where he went, he lived most of his life in tents. It
was a mistake to take Terah and Lot. God called him alone, says Isaiah
51:2. We hate being alone so much, we will do anything to contrive
a little fellowship, to be in that meeting, to talk to this one or that
one. But God is waiting until we wait; then He will act for us.
Abraham eventually got alone in the horror of a deep darkness and God cut
the covenant of promises with the father of the faith.
Isaac, Jacob and Joseph
were all supremely alone in their deep encounters with God. Joseph
had at least 12 years unjustly in prison, where the word of God tested
him. Alone. Forgotten by the baker and butler. Forgotten
by his brothers. Rejected just like Jesus, yet the work of the Holy
Spirit was producing character via an immense patience. Joseph had
staying power, the hang- in -there attitude that any world leader would
need in a crisis.
In Jacob’s life we
see most clearly what every Christian today has to confront, self-life.
God has to take His children to school in the desert. We have to
learn what is flesh and what is spirit and not to refine the flesh.
The liberating secret is knowing when He died, I died. The positional
truth of Romans 6:6 and Galatians 2:20 must be balanced with the vital
truths of 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily”, and
God touched Jacob at the strongest point where the leg joins the body.
If there is no knowing in experience of Romans 6:6 we are hindered from
the throne. The lonely night in Genesis 32 was the pivot when the
dream of reality for Jacob became the reality of the dream, and a price
with God emerged. Today, this education of the desert will bring
maturity to leaders. Is it that so many leaders fall because they
have never been broken in the strongest part of their flesh-life?
When there is no desert there can be no dimensions of the width, length,
height and depth of the gospel. Some mock at preaching on the wilderness,
but it’s there we feel keenly our obscurity and nothingness.
The list of Bible
characters must include the O.T. giants, Moses and Elijah, David and Jeremiah,
and many more. The children of Israel experienced 38 years of the
wanderings, but failed to learn the lessons. In the desert, our flesh-life
is exposed that it might be put to death. Egypt was to be replaced
by a land flowing with milk and honey, but only the young generation under
Joshua qualified for entrance. Our inheritance cannot be enjoyed
unless there is deliverance and holiness, says Obadiah 17. In Egypt,
God’s people could blame Pharaoh…. a type of Satan. In the early
wilderness experience they could blame circumstances – no water, nowhere
to stay, no certain food. The mercy of God provided a table in the
wilderness. At Mount Sinai and after, God was shut in with His people.
They had no excuses. They needed to see the state of their own hearts.
The resistance in their hearts was exposed, and the writer to the Hebrews
uses this to warn new covenant saints:
having heard, rebelled? Indeed was it not all who came out of Egypt,
led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it
not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness?”
- Hebrews 3 : 16,17
For 14 months God lead Israel
from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea, which was only 11 days from Canaan.
But they went to Edom and the plains of Moab for 38 years. The wilderness
is not supposed to take that long! But unbelief and disobedience
delays the people of God.
God takes us out of the
way, into the wilderness to learn things of the Spirit. In the New
Testament, John the Baptist and Paul learned the lessons. One great
lesson to stand in awe of the ineffable name. To learn we are the
reverse of what Almighty God is. To learn how holy God is.
How corrupt we are. This has to be a revelation and not the condemning
power of the law, which only inspires self-effort. Some Christians
have formed an image of God that is wholly false; they see Him as a tyrant.
We should serve Him out of joy and gratitude. Do we enjoy or endure
our religion? The wilderness will test our image of God. If
we are obedient we discover a fresh revelation of God. I’m so glad
God is not like me! The Holy Spirit can reveal the gap, and prompt
our hearts to praise and worship. He can convict us of our rebellion,
pride and unforgiveness. The desert is where we get right with God,
where the power of brokenness makes us new.
Revelation of the Word
“…. The word
of God came to John, the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”
- Luke 3:2
It’s not gospel for God to free
us from sin, in order to please ourselves. To fulfil His purposes
we must hear His voice and obey. To hear accurately the proceeding,
prophetic word from the mouth of God takes time. We are in a keen
contest against principalities and powers, which is associated with the
desert period of our lives. Lilith, the female monster of the night
will come to those deeply seeking God, and we must know our victory in
Christ Jesus (see Isaiah 34:14). The prophetic word is precious and
the enemy will resist and attack you on this crucial point. That’s
why so many think God has spoken, obey, and yet no lasting fruit remains.
Deception is an epidemic in charismatic circles, especially among leaders,
who have failed to repent. That failure has led some to premature
death. Are we going to spend time in the wilderness or risk a ministry
with no death to self, doctrinal error, and possibly disgrace?
I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort
- Hosea 2:14
The word of God came
to John in the wilderness. The power of that word drew Jerusalem,
all Judea, and all the region to him (Matthew 3:5). The trouble over
Jerusalem (Matthew 2:3) was evidently a spirit of fear that closed in on
Herod at the news of Jesus’ birth. The prophet’s intercession set
that city free to come to hear the living word of repentance. People
today talk of revival in Lewis in 1949 – 51, but it never touched Stornaway!
Perhaps there was no prophetic intercession discerning the knowledge of
specific evil spirits over the town.
The supply of the
Spirit quickening the word of God must sustain those who are going through
the wilderness season. The Hebrew church needed Hebrews 10 : 35 –
39. They had gone through a wilderness of suffering and bewildering
loss. Paul says to them, “Don’t discard your outspoken
statement because your salary is coming.” Your strong declaration
of faith has a great payday! The temptation in the desert is to throw
away your faith as something that cannot help you. Unbelief, the
worry-power that the devil will succeed stalks everyone who walks in the
God-appointed wilderness. Or think on the words of Hebrews 10:23-24
where we are exhorted, “…. to hold fast the confession of our
hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful.” “And
let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”
To hold fast is to embrace tightly the downward revelation of God.
Our confession is to say the same thing as God is saying to you personally,
for to feel the same way as God does, or the thought life corresponding
to the mind of Christ.
The revelation of
the word, line upon line, precept upon precept, is to bring us into union
with God. The true mystic desires to be joined to the Lord to be
one (or the same) spirit as Him (see 1 Corinthians 6:17). In the
wilderness sway from the pressure of normal living we have our most precious
commodity – time – to hear, study and meditate upon the word of the Lord.
We have 1,440 minutes a day and about 1,000 are taken up with work and
sleep! Add to that travelling, eating, family life, TV, and the phone,
on average most believers give less that 60 minutes to God. No wonder
Western Europe has the shadow of the Antichrist falling across its nations!
Know the time spiritually! Get awake, and be prepared, and BUDGET
your time. The lost live for the weekend – that’s how eternal they
are! Lovers of God must live for something more than church on Sundays.
Consider wilderness and the drastic dealings of God where precious souvenirs
of solitude will adorn your lifestyle as you exhibit deep-seated peace,
love, and joy to those around you.
Remember God does
nothing except He tells His servants, the prophets! Will you pay
the price to be a prophetic person? When the Lord God HAS SPOKEN,
says Amos, who can but prophecy? The revelation word must be spoken
back to God by prophecy; and this becomes our confidence in the trial,
the danger, the long difficult period of waiting upon God. Come to
the rendezvous of rest, where God will speak tenderly to your heart, where
the Holy Spirit will be your daily coach training you in righteousness,
where the word of God will yield new secrets.
The wilderness for David
was the realm of the really real. At the cave of Adullam the two
questions for his ragamuffin followers were:
For 8 years David would now
flee from Saul. God would teach him the Kingdom of God in higher
terms. 1 Samuel 25 is the pivotal chapter, where Abigail intervenes
and prevents a massacre, with an astounding word of wisdom (vs. 28 – 31):
do you like the
do you mind living in caves?
the trespass of your maidservant.” (The humility here in
stark contrast to David’s hurt pride and revenge of verse 13). “
For the Lord will certainly make for my Lord an enduring house, because
my lord fights the battles of the Lord, (he was just about to fight
a Saul-type battle), and evil is not found in you throughout your
days. Yet a man has risen to pursue you (Saul
is no more than a mere man), and seek your life, but the life of
my Lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the Lord your God,
and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pockets of
the sling. And it shall come to pass, when the Lord has done for
my Lord, according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and
has appointed you ruler over Israel….”
She goes on to imply
that stopping the projected bloodshed will cause God’s people to see that
King David is different in character from Saul. This matter of the
Kingdom has essential relevance today. God puts spirit and flesh
kingdoms together so His people can choose the better way. In the
wilderness, David began to see the Kingdom in higher terms. No longer
revenge but mercy. No longer the folly of haste but wisdom.
No longer pride but humility. Abigail is a wonderful example of women’s
ministry, and David recognised it, later, taking her as wife. Bracketing
this chapter 25 are two instances where David has opportunity to destroy
Saul. He refuses to touch the Lord’s anointed, allowing God to take
the ultimate issues for both men: Ziklag and Endor. David gets
to his lowest point before the Kingdom where his men mutiny. Saul
goes into the occult. The last nine chapters of 1 Samuel are the
desert teachings of Christ to the future King. Moses had his Midian,
Paul the Arabian desert, Elijah knew Cherish and Zarephath, and most prophets
know the wilderness of drastic dealings from God.
Jeremiah was still
a teenager when the call of God came bringing such an area of conflict….a
message that would be hated an refused, no wife to share his melancholy,
imprisonment, a protracted martyrdom. The desert prophet experienced
the wilderness of not being listened to. The political, social reforms
of Josiah could not prevent the Captivity, because the inner heart change
failed to materialise. Heart repentance is the route for living waters
to flow again. Israel did not ask for the ancient (timeless, eternal)
paths, but rather feigned obedience. God had to deal drastically
by exiling them for 70 years. Jeremiah was an assayer, testing the
quality and strength of God’s people, but declaring them “rejected silver”.
Where are the Jeremiahs today? Men who will pay the price in the
desert for the burning power of God’s word to make religion vital, victorious
and valid to a materialistic society again. The tension in this great
book for preachers, is his fidelity of God’s Word with the feelings of
his own heart because he was a lover of men (Jeremiah 17: 16). The
desert is the place where the dealings of God marry us to the purpose of
God and life us beyond our emotions, our ideas, and our will power.
Temptation in the Wilderness
The wilderness season includes
temptation because our faithful Father tests our faithfulness. What
the Father tests, the enemy will tempt in that area of our lives.
In the wilderness know that Jesus Christ is the merciful High priest able
to succour us. The pattern was appetite (body) in Luke 4:3, ambition
(soul) in Luke 4:6 and advertisement (spirit) in Luke 4:9.
In two of the temptations
Satan ruthlessly attacked the identity…. If you are the Son of God.
With us also the enemy hates the privilege of our position in Christ Jesus.
Our new creation identity is a threat to the Kingdom of darkness – and
in the wilderness more than anywhere else – the enemy comes to destroy
our dignity. Tied up with our identity is our destiny. The
purpose of Jesus was to win the world, but not by the fatal compromise
of Satan’s method by submitting to worship him. Much work for the
Lord today fails to go the crossroad to resurrection. God cannot
improve me, He must remove me for a fuller receiving of the divine life.
The wilderness is where this action begins.
The third temptation concerns
lifestyle - will I use spiritual gifts to conform to public expectation?
Jesus walked as a DEAD MAN
To know the abiding love of
the Father we must die to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes,
and the pride of life.
to self interest
to compromise with Satan
to popular demand (the temple).
In John’s Gospel there
is no mention of temptation because the writer is proving the deity of
the Son of God. The difference between Matthew and Luke are consistent
with their portrayals of Jesus – in Luke, Jesus is priest, the temple concludes
the temptations; while in Matthew Jesus is King therefore the mountain
and kingdoms completes the order. He was tested as the Son of God and therefore
the magnitude of the temptation was much greater for him than for us.
However, the essential pattern of being lured away from the Word to follow
the spirit of the world is the same. Remember, the devil is never,
never, never in control of the situation. To preach or write about
his methods is to know the enemy, not glorify him.
Many teachers today disregard
the wilderness teaching, but without its cleansing and purifying under
the hand of the Lord, these very same leaders can fall into pride, immorality
or financial sins. There is wisdom in a stop – start ministry where
the leader leaves for an exile to seek the Lord, or takes a simple job
outside preaching to listen again the ordinary people. Allow God
to speak to you about the barrenness of a busy life and the busyness of
a barren life and set your heart to wait on the Lord.
After our Lord’s temptations
– including “every temptation” (Luke 4:13), He was conscious of the mighty
anointing to set the captives free, to preach the gospel to heal the broken-hearted.
In driving the car we sometimes have to reverse in order to move forward.
To fast from telephone, TV, friends and even church life can do wonders
when the Lord has authored it.
A Place of Dependence
In Revelation 12:14-17 we
glimpse the refuge God provides of the remnant Church in the days of Tribulation.
Yes, in the end-times, there will be a desert for His hidden ones.
Nourishment and protection are promised for those who resist the adversary
steadfast in the faith. The “adversary” literally means
anti-righteousness, the enemy who hates and opposes all righteousness,
with violence, rage and destruction. Hence the word, “enraged”
with the woman. A recent prophecy welled up in my spirit along these
lines, while spending time in Lewis.
are coming when My people will no longer be free to fellowship on Sundays.
As the shadow of the Antichrist spreads across Europe My people who are
in the liberty in the Spirit will be directed as Joseph who preserved the
holy child by dreams. You will learn of Me in the night seasons and
will need your minds, imaginations and heart cleansed by the power of My
blood. For I see into the minds of My people and there is filth,
unbelief and many things against My kingdom. Those who repent, abandon
themselves on My mercy, and surrender their lives to My Lordship, will
dream dreams and be led to fellowship at night. I will preserve those
who repent. In the days of the Antichrist, know there is a place
of safe retreat, your spirit, where My Kingdom dwells.”
Being in a wilderness; whether
an actual desert, or boring workplace, or Broken marriage through betrayal,
or financial loss, or bedridden sickness; it is the place of a new dependence
on God. Jesus could not do what He wanted! He could do nothing
The wilderness period in
our lives is where we learn a new dependence, being Abba’s children, certain
of the Father’s voice, but uncertain of everything else. This critical
inner knowledge must be developed NOW in the Body of Christ….we need to
know the good Shepherd’s voice and be spiritually sensitive. Our
destiny is vested in a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ
through His Word. The desert is refusing to rush in; refusing to
listen to good advice when it’s dark, i.e. no personal revelation; refusing
to produce an Ishmael. Isaac was born of “dead parents”. Embrace
the desert discipline of dependence, and our own nothingness. Perceive
the El Shaddai God, the All-Sufficient One who alone can produce the Son
of God in you!
Salvation Comes Out Of
and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the
A modern fulfilment concerns
Israel, who by transforming the desert, has become the second greatest
world exporter of citrus fruit.
desert shall blossom
like the rose….” - Isaiah 35:1
There are many applications
of this principal. The most striking is the children of Israel leaving
the wilderness for the promised land. Deuteronomy 8:11-16 sketches
their 3-stage development as God’s people. This chart helps us to
see the essential transitional zone of the wilderness.
Modern preaching attempts
to persuade us we go from victims to victors at the new birth or baptism
in the Holy Spirit. The wilderness period is given by the God who
will test us. Even Jesus knew it in the temptations. He went
to the desert in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:1), and returned in the
fullness of the Spirit (Luke 4:14). We gain our validity in the desert.
The children of Israel had to learn holiness and the law pointed to the
need to be a separate people. Holiness was taught in Leviticus in
three ways: sanctuary, sacrifices and Sabbath (including feasts).
There are two religions in the world:
(a) Making God like
We must be born again, redeemed
from the market place of sin never
(b) Changing man that he
becomes like God (Christianity).
to be sold there again,
BEFORE WE BEGIN to appreciate the character of God. In the desert
of a boring job, a broken relationship, or serious sin, if we are faithful
to the truth, we will grow in grace towards maturity. The desert
truth of what I am has been crucified to the Cross and gains power in our
lives when we realise the depths of the old man. When we are born
again the first Adam life does not automatically die. Some rejoice
in the positional truth of Romans 6:6 and Galatians 2:20, but will we go
through what it means to die to self? Will we embrace the wilderness?
Those who are willing and obedient will eat the good of the land.
In the desert, the great
principle is WARFARE before WELFARE.
In Deuteronomy 7:1 the names
of the nations in Canaan that were to be
conquered are filled with
= terror, fears
The desert experience is where
we get set free from self and demonic
strangers, occult spirits
Amorites = talkativeness
Canaanites = dealers,
Perizzites = squatters
= pleasure seekers
Jebusites = crushers,
bondage, in order to be
victorious in the promised land, where we must use the sword of the Spirit,
in aggressive warfare. Remember in the three stages of development
of God’s people, now as then, that the divine method of redemption and
warfare differs: the blood cleanses us from sin, but the word of the Cross
applies His victory over evil spirits.
- the blood, the Red Sea
The blood of the Lamb cleanses
from all sin and sets us free from the curse of being in Satan’s Kingdom.
In the desert, however, it is the power and wisdom of God, the Cross that
does the holy work of subduing the flesh as we yield to God. After
the river of Jordan we use the sword of the Spirit, the living word of
God, to overcome the principalities and powers. For victory we must
enjoy our state of being in the character of Jesus Christ our Lord – the
essence of using His name. Secondly, we must be anointed, refusing
to rely on the flesh. These essential lessons of warfare are learnt
in the desert. Truly, salvation comes out o the desert, where character
is formed by the leading of the Spirit. Rivers in the wilderness
can spring forth speedily!
- the Cross or Judgement
- the name of Jesus under the
anointing of the Spirit using the
sword of the Spirit
Let God Love You
Psalm 23 has the context
of the desert. The testimony of trust and triumph comes beside still
waters, without fear, lying down in green pastures, being led in paths
of righteousness. The valley of the shadow of death is literally
the lengthening shadows in the Dead Sea canyons at 5pm when leopards, snakes
and scorpions come out of hiding. Accepting His acceptance often
comes when we are laid aside, with time to examine our hearts and meditate
His Word. Let God’s presence come and love you again in this rendezvous
of rest. Come apart, before your nervous system comes apart and health
fails. Clarity of mind and deepening conviction comes to those who
make the desert a priority.
him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness;
He encircled him. He instructed him, He kept him as the apple
of His eye.” - Deuteronomy 32:10
God’s love for His children
is white-hot passion, a gut reaction that lurches toward his children.
The matrix or womb of Calvary love reaches out. He takes us to the
desert to love again with His deep love – but first we must be loved by
Him. I remember being cast aside in solitude for several weeks in
the Outer Hebrides and one afternoon after a week of tearful desperation
I put on a tape by Bernard Hull. It restored my soul and up from
the central depths I poured out a prophecy, which was encapsulated by the
presence of Jesus. That was the turning point – back to usefulness,
with a new use of destiny to serve God’s people. He will encircle
you and make you know you are precious. The Bible became alive again
– so vital for the preacher who must hear and obey and minister the creative
By duty, by work we
become so easily the centre of our universe. But the earth goes round
the sun. The believer must orbit the Son of God and never the other
way around. He is not a God to fulfil your expectations. The
desert training, God’s spiritual boot camp, teaches us to see the man-centred
gospel as superficial. As a mystic of old said: “So many
walk in the path of what Jesus purchased for them at Calvary; but He is
looking for those who walk the path of the Cross.” Present
risenness of Jesus Christ IN you and THROUGH you depends on that narrow
path that leads to life. The internal kingdom must be established
for the external victory in the promised land. God, create a new
breed of Christian worker! Men and women who know their identity
and security in Him alone, and walk the path of self-renunciation.
Let God love you amid the souvenirs of solitude in the desert.
Will you go and experience:
When God appoints the
desert in your life, let Him love you enough to kill you. This is
the central reason for the wilderness. In Song of Songs 3:7,8 we
read, in the context of Christ and his church about the sixty valiant ones
who surround Solomon’s bed. That bed is the place where the Kingdom
is within you, your spirit, where Jesus rules. These soldiers are
armed to fight and slay all aspects of self-praise, self-righteousness,
self-defence, self-interest. Flesh must be killed off as an active
force that plans our Christian life. All our presumptions and soulish
expectations must be destroyed. He abases and humbles you in the
desert. The “fear of the night” is the darkness of flesh activity.
God wants His Bride to have no part dark. His love wants to enter
our weakness to kill off self. He is calling the remnant to desert
dealings. Before the great and glorious victories in the Promised Land,
where we fight the ites in His power and strength. Will you be prepared
for promotion by accepting the wilderness?
Encircling experiences of
Souvenirs of solitude?
Exorcism of enemies?
Rendezvous of rest?
Tender talkings of Christ?
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