The Wilderness

Deuteronomy 8  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 5
Listen from:
Deut. 8
This chapter is the wilderness. The wilderness was not God's purpose. His purpose was to bring Israel from Egypt into Canaan; but they were brought into the wilderness to learn God's ways and government, that they might be exercised in faith and hope.
We, too, like Israel, have to learn in the wilderness what His ways with us are. In Exod. 3:4, 54And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. 5And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. (Exodus 3:4‑5), and 6:2-8, there is not a word about the wilderness, nor in Exod. 15 But as to the actual fact, the effect of bringing them out of Egypt was to bring them into the wilderness. The result of redemption is that in the wilderness we have to learn a great deal of God, and a great deal of ourselves. God has taken the believer up, and taken him out, and brought him to Himself. It is a complete deliverance from Egypt, and Canaan comes in as the purpose of God; but the wilderness is brought in between. The Christian cannot be in a difficulty that Christ is not sufficient for, nor on a long, dark road where he cannot find Him enough.
God's rest is where He can find perfect rest. We are not there yet, for do you think that God could find rest in this world? Have you even found rest in it? Did Christ rest here? Never. Though He was perfect love above all the evil, yet He could not rest. When the Jews charged Him with breaking the sabbath, in John 5, He says, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." He works in grace now. Could love rest in the midst of woe? When everything is in accordance with His mind, when all the saints are perfectly conformed to Christ in glory, when Christ is glorified, when all His purpose is accomplished, then, as it is expressed in Zephaniah, God will rest in His love; He will see of the travail of His soul, and will be satisfied. That will be our rest, too. There will be nothing there to hinder our enjoyment of the love and glory of God. The full result of redemption will be accomplished, and God will rest because His love has no more to do to satisfy itself. As regards my conscience, it is at rest now; but the effect of that is to bring me not into rest, but where I can "labor... to enter into that rest."
God wants our hearts to be in tune with His now; He wants it to be so in our everyday life; therefore we find here, "Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart." Now, God says, your heart and Mine want to have a little talk together. I am going to show you what is in your heart, and to show you that I know it. He has brought us to Himself, and do you think if all that is in your heart is not brought out to Him, that it will be all right between you? Do you think the Father likes to have His heart different from His child's heart? He desires that the whole spirit, tone, and mind of His child should be suited to His. God passes us through the wilderness that we may learn this. No question of imputing sin to us, but of the dealings with the soul. You often see a true Christian full of uncertainty at his deathbed, because he has not had everything out with God day by day. Paul says, "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men." The exercise was whether his heart was in everything attuned with God's heart. Now, Christ's heart was. He could say, "I do always those things that please Him." Enoch walked with God; and he had this testimony, that he pleased God. He was walking in God's presence and the effect of it was that he pleased God. Are you walking with God? You cannot walk with Him without having everything out before Him. If you have anything on your conscience, you will not be happy. Every step we take we see Him better, the light gets clearer, and we find things to judge that we had not known must be judged before.
According to that which you know of the glory of God, are your hearts up to it? And supposing they are not, what is the effect of God's presence? Why, it has to set my conscience at work in order to bring me into communion: "My son, give Me thine heart." Now, are your hearts given to God out and out? "He humbled thee," brings us to our bearings; "suffered thee to hunger," causes us to live a life of faith; and "fed thee with manna" tests what satisfies our hearts. Do not our souls sometimes loath this light food? Is it not true sometimes that Christ does not satisfy this heart? "He that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst." Of course, if your hearts are cleaving to something else, Christ will not satisfy you-"That He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live." Christ quoted this to the devil in the wilderness. He had no orders from God for the stones to be made bread, and He had taken on Him the form of a servant. His mind was inert until it had God's will to make it act. The word of the Lord abides forever; it comes from God; it is heavenly; and he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.
Now mark another thing, that while He kept them in dependence on the word of God to guide them, He did not allow the nap of their coats to wear out; He thought of everything for them. "He withdraweth not His eyes from the righteous"; not a moment that He does not think of them. Then comes another character of it: "As a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee." First of all, God passes us through circumstances which exercise us, feeding us all the time, and taking unfailing care of us. But then there is the positive discipline, the breaking of the will; and so we glory when we come into trials, because they work patience. God puts us in the wilderness to break our wills. Every day one sees God doing it; and people do not know where they are, and get questioning the love that does it. Look for a moment at Rom. 5 God loves us as He loves Christ, and we rejoice in hope of the glory where Christ has entered. For the past, there is not a sin left on me; the present, perfect divine favor; the future, the glory where Christ is. "And not only so." When He has gone through the whole thing, that is not all. I am not only rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God, but I am glorying in tribulations also, because God is not withdrawing His eyes from me in them. Then "the hope" is so much the brighter; for I say, Ah! my rest is not here, that is clear. And the hope makes not ashamed, because I have the key to it all in the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. It is God's ways and work to make us know ourselves. There can be no question of the love, because it gives the key to it all. How has He proved His love? Why, it goes on to that in the next verse: "Christ died for the ungodly." Then He says again, "And not only so." What? "But we joy in God"; not merely joying in salvation, in His favor, and the like, but in God. I have learned to know myself, all my forgetfulness of God; but in this very judgment of self I have learned to joy in God. It is to bring the heart into tune with God that He has to break it down and humble it; but this being in tune (that settled consciousness of association with God) is never attained until these ways and works of His have got to the bottom of self. It is not that we shall not have to contend with it afterward, but its back is broken, and I have no trust in myself.
The natural man says, "Whither shall I flee from Thy presence?" But at the end of Psalm 139 he says, "Search me, 0 God, and know my heart." As to the knowledge that you have of divine things, is your heart in tune with them? Could you say, "Search me, 0 God"? It is a painful process sometimes. What was wrong in Job was that he was getting pleased with himself. He had said, "When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me." He learned to say, "Now mine eye seeth Thee: wherefore I abhor myself." As I experience self, I abhor myself; "Lead me in the way everlasting." Beloved friends, there is a way everlasting, and it is in that way everlasting that God comes and searches out the heart. Are you content to have every motive searched out? It must be so if our communion with God and joy in Him are to be full and uninterrupted.
We get these three things: the proving of our hearts, the chastening, and the conflict with Satan (Deut. 8:15, 1615Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; 16Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; (Deuteronomy 8:15‑16)), "to do thee good at thy latter end." If your souls want to walk in fellowship and peace with God, you must learn it in that wilderness where you find there is no good in you, but you learn to know Him in the perfection of that love. It is present joy and fellowship with God; and if we go on with it, if self has been learned, when death comes, then it is just, "Absent from the body, present with the Lord"; and it is the brightest moment in the life. Some have to learn to abhor self upon the deathbed; hence much exercise. You have to go through all these exercises of heart, which are self-knowledge. It is not the heart going back to see whether God has redeemed me or not, but it is God getting our hearts, as redeemed ones, to joy in Him. "Because Thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee." "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness." If you want to walk and glorify God in fellowship with the Father and the Son, then you must go through this, having the conscience exercised to be "void of offense" that you may walk with God. As to the affections of the heart, there may be Christ at the bottom, and a walk which no one can blame at the top. But between these two is another-all the thoughts and intents of the heart, what I practically am in my thoughts and inner life. You must have your soul practically exercised; you must learn God's ways with you, that you may be in tune with Him.
The Lord give us to know more of a walk with God, that we may have the kind of peace that Christ had in His walk down here-that peace of heart that the soul knows in walking with God, in fellowship with the Father and the Son. The Lord give you to know what it is to have everything in your heart open before God.