What lay before them was daunting. But what lay behind them had been no cake wake either. To move forward and live according to the promise meant leaning into the battle, trusting God for the victory. But the wilderness they had already been through, if they let it, could serve as a vivid reminder of His unfailing faithfulness.
As I continue reading Moses’ words to the people as they are prepare to enter the promised land, what strikes me this morning is how the wandering in the wilderness they had just experienced could be redeemed as preparation for the difficulty that still lay ahead.
And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
(Deuteronomy 8:2-3 ESV)
God used the desert to humble His people. Their affliction stripping away any pretense of self-empowerment. Rations of morning manna dispelling any myth of self-sufficiency. The leading of the pillar of cloud squashing any delusion that they were masters of their own destiny. And Moses said they were brought low for two reasons: that He would know; that they would know.
God chose a season in the desert for His people that He might know what was in their heart. Though He would lead them, He knew it would test them. Their wandering serving as a crucible to reveal any dross and, if they’d allow it to, burn away the impurities. Though it seemed like they were going in circles with no end in sight, it provided opportunity for them to trust in the LORD with all their heart and lean not to their own understanding. Though they wondered if they’d ever feel again like they were back on top of life, every day they woke to bread from heaven on the ground they could know again that His mercies are new every morning. What would He find in their heart? Despair and bitterness . . . or the fruit of faith?
And this humbling, says Moses, was not for God’s knowledge alone, but that they too could know something from their time spent in what seemed like a barren labyrinth. They could know from firsthand experience that God’s power is truly the power to deliver. That God’s sufficiency really is all-sufficient. That God’s leading is a trustworthy path to God’s promises. That real life was not about bread alone, but was found in believing every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Through the wilderness He permitted, God revealed their hearts. Through the wilderness they had just endured, they remembered God’s faithfulness. Both serving to prepare His people as they moved forward into unknown territory, making them ready for the battles ahead against enemies yet unknown.
Redeeming the wilderness. That’s what our God is prepared to do. So that He would know our hearts. So that we would know in a deeper way His faithfulness.
All by His grace. All for His glory.