The Christian’s Wilderness Wandering
The Christian’s life is a test of faith that lasts from the moment of baptism until death, just like the forty year wilderness wandering of the Israelites was a test of their faith from the moment they crossed the Red Sea until they crossed over into the promise land. The Israelite wilderness wandering was a “type” or “foreshadowing” of every Christian’s life. We can look back on all the struggles and successes of the Israelites during that period of time and learn many valuable lessons to help us with our Christian walk. Paul spoke of this when he said, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). We can learn a great deal about what God wants and expects from us in this life by looking at what he expected of the Israelites. Listen to what Moses told the Israelites about their forty years of wandering. He said, “And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deut. 8:2). Let’s examine different phrases from this verse to better understand what God expected of them and what He expects of us.
1. “To humble you and test you.” The wilderness wandering was used by God as a way to test the genuineness of the people’s faith and their willingness to rely on Him. He allowed them to hunger and thirst so he could provide them with water and manna to see if they would obey the conditions he required of them to receive the blessings. The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not” (Ex. 16:4). God created opportunities to test the amount of faith the Israelites had in Him. Likewise, God does the same for us today. Baptism is the Christian’s very first test. We show our faith in God that He will forgive us when we submit to baptism. We then continue to show our faith toward him by keeping the commandments in His Word.
2. “To know what was in your heart.” We show God the condition of our heart by deciding whether or not we will faithfully obey his commandments. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Our obedience is how we show our love for God. God had commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. When God saw that Abraham was going to go through with it, He stopped Abraham and said “now I know that you fear God” (Gen. 22:12). We show the condition of our heart by our willingness to obey.
3. “Whether you would keep His commandments or not.” Our relationship with God comes down to this simple statement. Will we, or will we not, keep God’s commandments? We have already seen that it is how God humbles and tests us. It is also how God knows what is in our hearts. None of the original Israelite people from Egypt, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, were allowed to enter into the Promised Land because of their unbelief and disobedience (Heb. 3:18,19). The same will apply to us as well. Only those Christians who believe in God, and live an obedient life, will be able to enter heaven one day. Remember, God recorded the Israelites mistakes so Christians could study the past, and try not to repeat it. -Ed