George H. Warnock: "A Way
through the Wilderness"
In this writing we want
to explore the wilderness areas through which the children of Israel had to
travel, as they came out of the land of Egypt, and made their way toward the
land of Canaan, the Land of Promise, the Land of Fruitfulness. Our purpose, of
course, is to discover the Way of the Lord for us; for what happened to them,
though very literal and very natural, was but a picture and shadow of our walk
with the Lord, as we too seek to come away from the old life of sin and bondage,
and enter into a fruitful walk with the Lord. In all the way that they traveled,
and in all the experiences which they had to endure by the leading of the Lord,
they were enacting a pattern of conduct that would be recorded in holy Scripture
as an example and type of God’s people today. Not that we are supposed to follow
their example, but to learn from it. For it is clear that they utterly failed
the Lord in many, many ways, so that the first generation of the redeemed people
did not enter the Land of Promise. Nevertheless, in their conduct in the
wilderness God was actually providing a picture for us today, so that we might
learn from their mistakes.
“Now these things were
our examples, TO THE INTENT we should NOT lust after evil things, as they also
lusted” (1 Cor. 10:6). And the apostle goes on to enlarge upon this, by
describing the many calamities that came upon the people of God because of their
idolatry, their immorality, their tempting of Christ, and their much murmuring.
Then he tells us that all these things happened to them as a warning and as an
admonishment to us, so that we would NOT fall into the same tragic things that
they did. And so their journey through the wilderness was not intended to be a
pattern for you and I to follow, but a warning to God’s people of the dangers
that accompany the wilderness life, and God’s provision for making us to be an
overcoming people. We are to learn from their experiences, and so avoid making
the same mistakes they made.
But we are slow to learn
from the mistakes of another. Human nature is just that way. Usually we have to
learn the hard way. But as we do, it is good that we can look into the
Scriptures, and into the wilderness episode, and discover God’s faithfulness in
and through it all, and His pattern of deliverance for an erring people.
For we too are on a
journey. It is good if we can recognize that. We have not been redeemed just to
cross the Red Sea and sing the victory song of deliverance from the bondage of
Pharaoh. This is but the first step. It is but the beginning of a journey, a
SPIRITUAL JOURNEY, through the wastelands of our old carnal nature, and into the
fruitfulness of the Canaan life of the Spirit.
And so Moses reminded
the people: “He brought us out from thence, that He might bring us in, to give
us the land which He sware unto our fathers” (Deut. 6:23).
The wilderness, then,
becomes the place of PREPARATION, and the place of TRANSITION, as we relinquish
the old life of fleshly bondage, and enter into the realm of our spiritual
heritage. It was never intended of the Lord that we should linger all our days
in captivity to the wild, untamed nature of the old life. But in every resting
place that God has ordained on this Journey from Egypt to Canaan we are to learn
more and more of Him, and allow Him to make in our wilderness nature a garden
plot for the sowing and the planting of the good seed of the Word of God, that
He Himself might be glorified in the fruit of the Spirit that He desires to
bring forth from our lives.
Therefore let us learn
to see the Journey in this light. As we do we will understand and appreciate the
grace of God that brings us step by step through the tangled maze of life. WE
OURSELVES ARE THAT WILDERNESS. Our own fleshly, natural lives are the wild,
untamed areas that God is dealing with. And when we recognize this, may we find
grace to stop blaming God and murmuring against Him when we come into fretful
and disagreeable circumstances. Why do you do this to me, Lord? It is for my
discipline, and for His glory, that He does it. I needed it, otherwise He would
not have allowed it. In that grievous circumstance that God allowed, He was
merely revealing the wild, untamed nature that was there in my old life, for the
purpose of dealing with it and bringing forth the attributes of His own heart.
And the murmuring and the complaining that we manifest simply reveal how
deep-rooted the old life really is, and how slow we are to recognize it.
In other words, God
intends that every situation that He brings us into will serve as a graving
tool, a chisel, a refiner’s fire, that will change us, transform us, and consume
those carnal desires that are hindering the flowing of the life of Christ
through us, and retarding our growth in the Spirit.
In the journeyings of the children of Israel there were several wilderness areas
through which they must pass; and in each of these areas God had something
specific in mind as He sought to PREPARE their hearts for the inheritance that
lay before them. God must have a PREPARED PEOPLE for that PREPARED PLACE. He
does not thrust us thoughtlessly into some disagreeable circumstance in order to
harass and torment us. It is rather to PREPARE us for the life of victory and of
fruitfulness in the realm of the Spirit. It is our reaction to God’s dealings
with us that brings such desolation and turmoil to our hearts and minds. What
assurance and what hope this would give us if we could only recognize that in
every devastating experience of life God is simply preparing our hearts for
great conquests and fruitfulness in the days that lie ahead, in the heritage of
Canaan. And if we are prepared to truly recognize this wonder-working principle
in our lives, we are going to discover what God meant when He said, “I go before
you to search out a resting place for you...”