The Wilderness Experience
When the children of Israel came out of Egypt they had to cross the Red Sea and go through the wilderness before they entered the Promised Land. Christians also have to go through a wilderness experience before arriving at spiritual maturity. One of the main purposes of this time in the wilderness is to teach us to be dependent on the Lord at all times and in all situations.
I want to look at some of the similarities between the journey of the children of Israel and our spiritual journey. The journey we take is based on what Christ did for us on the cross and afterwards in His resurrection and exaltation to the Fathers right hand, however, we apprehend the different aspects of Christ work at different times in our experience, such as Christ death for us and our co-death with Christ. Both accomplished at the cross but we understand one at the time of our salvation and the other possibly years later.
The first step, of course, is when the Israelites placed the blood of the Passover lamb on the lintel and door posts of their house to protect them from the coming judgment. Jesus our Saviour bore our punishment on the cross and “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
The crossing of the Red Sea is a type of baptism, coming out of Egypt. It represents the Lord’s death on the cross for our sins, His burial and resurrection. It is also our separation from the world. These first two are what every young Christian should know when they put their trust in Christ to save them. We now have a new standing with God. However it can be very difficult for a new Christian to understand why the Bible says they are to “reckon themselves to be dead indeed to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11) when in reality their lives say the opposite. They do not yet see it is our standing, what God says we are, we don’t work to arrive at our standing, our standing is what we are by God’s grace. The revelation of these truths must become part of our lives, this takes time.
When the children of Israel had crossed the Red Sea they came to Marah. The waters at Marah were bitter and could not be drunk. Bitterness is one of the first things God wants to deal with when we become Christians because this can result in many different forms of illness. God showed Moses a tree to cast into the waters which healed the waters and God said “I am the Lord who heals you.” Jesus, by dying on a tree delivered from the curse of the law all who put their trust in Him. Not only are our sins forgiven but He is also the God who heals our diseases.
At Elim we find God’s blessing and encouragement for the journey before us. God the Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).
After Elim Amalek came and fought with Israel. Moses went up the mountain to intercede for the children of Israel. As he held his hands up in prayer for the success of Israel then Israel were able to defeat Amalek. Satan comes against us to discourage us and defeat us; however Christ is praying for us and as we trust in Him the enemy is defeated. Jesus Christ, seated in the heavens, is our High Priest and our Advocate (Hebrews 7:25, 1 John 2:1). He is our High Priest to intercede for us on our journey when the enemy attacks us, and our Advocate when we sin against God.
The brazen serpent, gives the answer to the Romans chapter seven experience and how we get freedom from sin. The Israelites looked back to Egypt and no longer was the bread from heaven sufficient for them, they detested it and wanted something else instead. Flying serpents now bit them and many died, God’s answer was for them to look to a brass serpent on a pole and they would live. The brass serpent is, of course, a type of Jesus, who, though He was without sin, was made sin for us as He hung on the cross. So often Christians will look back to Judaism and try to improve themselves by works of law, what Christ has done for them by grace isn’t enough for them. Sin does not have dominion over us because we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14), however if we go back under the law we will find that sin does have power over us. If our hearts are right with God then God will use this time to teach us that we are dead to the law and married to another. The harder we try to improve ourselves then the more we will fail until we cry out for deliverance. The remedy is to look to Jesus who was made sin on the cross that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. It is not now by works of the law that we overcome the power of sin but by looking to Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross.
Balaam caused the Israelites to sin by mixing with the Moabites (children of Lot) and the Midianites (children of Abraham but not by Sarah, by Keturah). Here we are tempted to join with others in profane and vain babblings which lead to ungodliness, instead of purging ourselves from them (2 Timothy 2:21).
River Jordan is our co-death with Christ. This is now our experience. We can confidently say, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 KJV). The "old man", that old personality that we got from Adam has been crucified with Christ and is dead and buried. We are risen a "new creation", old things have passed away and all things have become new.
At Gilgal all the children of Israel who had not been circumcised were now circumcised. Now is the time to cast out the bondwoman and her son. To recognise we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit therefore we must walk in the Spirit. This may be the time we have to suffer in the flesh in order for the flesh to be weakened; this could be by illness or some painful experience as the Lord subdues our natural tendency to trust in self rather than in Him. Our reaction to this can be bitterness and complaining or to submit with thanksgiving. Apart from the flesh no longer being in control I believe God wants to teach us two important lessons, one is patience and the other is humility towards God.
Next: The Promised Land