We all want to experience the joy and peace of the mountaintop. In reality though, it’s not always possible. There are times when the desert becomes our home.
We begin our journey by entering the wilderness with the nation of Israel. Our travels will launch us right into the midst of the hot and sandy desert—the place the Israelites called home for forty years.
Let’s begin by looking at the background of the Israelites’ forty-year desert experience. Skim through Numbers 13; 14:1-9, 20-40.
Why did God make His people wander in the desert? Choose two:
God wanted them to suffer
This story always amazes me. Like me, do you find it hard to comprehend what happened when the twelve men returned from spying out the land? Remember, the land had already been claimed. According to God’s Word, the fruitful, bountiful, and beautiful land of Canaan was chosen and selected for one group of people—the nation of Israel (Exodus 3:17). And God spoke this promise long before they entered the desert. In my mind, this simplistic act by God to clear out the land of its people seems insignificant compared to the parting of the great Red Sea. However, these self-absorbed people—when confronted with this fact—quickly forgot the power of their Almighty God.
After examining my own heart, I find I am not much different than the Israelites. How often have I witnessed God’s abundance? How frequently have I testified to God’s protection? No doubt, more times than I can count. Throughout my life, God has gently reminded me of His promises to love, protect, and provide for me. Nevertheless, I’ve often needed a swift kick in the pants (or even a heavy brick dropped on my thick skull) for me to be reminded of His faithfulness.
More than anything, God longed for His people to remember His promise and to trust Him to fulfill it. His ultimate desire was to be honored and to be given the rightful place in their hearts and within their nation. But because of their ignorance and disobedience, God’s people had to learn a hard lesson. By way of the wilderness, God eventually led His people to their future home, but not before the original group—with the exception of Joshua and Caleb—died in the desert.
How does Psalm 106:13 sum up the Israelites’ failure?:
Can you think of a time you forgot God? Write a brief synopsis. What was the result?
Skim over Numbers 33:1-49, a passage that details the stages of the Israelites’ journey.
I seem to have a free-spirit, and staying in one place too long can be quite confining. My husband and I moved into our little ranch shortly after we were married and, as we approached our twentieth anniversary, we were still living in the same house, on the same street, with almost all the same neighbors. I was beginning to think I was destined to live in that house forever. But two months after our twentieth anniversary, we relocated from Michigan to Ohio. Three years later, we moved back to Michigan and since then, we’ve settled in South Carolina.
In spite of my eagerness to move, though, I doubt I would want to relocate as often as the Israelites did while stationed in the desert. It seemed they were forever packing up and moving on. Do you think perhaps God was teaching them about dependence on Him? When we become too comfortable in our surroundings, we can easily rely on our self. It’s amazing, but God’s direction for many of our lives often takes us outside of our comfort zones.
God desires for us to relinquish all independence so we will learn to depend on Him and Him alone. And sometimes only our circumstances, accompanied by God’s will, yield these factors.
Have you relinquished your independence? Are you drawing your strength from God? Are you depending on Him for everything, even if it’s difficult? Write out your prayer to God.
For our next assignment, use some creativity and describe a desert you are in right now or have been in the past. What words would you use?
As I described my desert experience, I said that it is a place without: without life, without color, without beauty, without growth. Can you relate? How?
Sometimes being in the desert is a stark reality. Perhaps you are there now, or you have been there in the past. Either way, you have experienced the desolation and barrenness of such a place. My prayer is that this Bible study will offer each of us hope and guidance with every footstep placed in the sand. Allow God to use this study to change your life forever.
We’re off to a good start. The desert is a hard place to be, but God never intended for us to stay there forever.