Wilderness Places

Joshua followed in the footsteps of Moses. God’s first words to Joshua after Moses death were significant. He said, “…arise, go over this Jordan” (Joshua
1:2). The mantle of leadership was now on him and it was time for Joshua
to cross over into the Promise Land. He not only had the direction from the Lord, but also he had the courage to act boldly as God’s appointed man.

For the past 40 years, the Jordan River had separated the Israelites from the land God had promised them. Joshua held on to his dream of living in the
beautiful, fertile land. The past 40 years had made it clear that before Israel could conquer the inhabitants of Canaan, they must first overcome the
true source of their containment: their unbelief and wrong thinking.

From the day they walked out of Egypt, carrying the gold and riches of their oppressors, the Israelites were a nation destined to be conquerors. God called
them out of Egypt into a wilderness apart from any other influence. He brought the Israelites into His own personal protection and provision in order
to reveal Himself to them.

For us, “wilderness” brings to mind aimless wandering and great adversity. That was not the case for Israel in the beginning. Once they had reached the
other side of the Red Sea and had witnessed the annihilation of the Pharaoh’s great army, they enjoyed the most marvelous experience in their lifetime:
They were free to know and worship God. The seclusion of the wilderness provided the setting for a nation to learn how great their God really was.

God brought them into the wilderness for three reasons. The first reason was so that they would worship Him. Back in Egypt, Moses gave Pharaoh this reason
for leaving Egypt: “…let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God” (Exodus 3:18).

This generation would discover what it meant to be God’s own people, no longer slaves. Until now they had known only the hard taskmasters of the Egyptian
empire. God brought them freedom so they could serve Him.

The second reason was that God wanted to reveal to them that He would be their provider. In the wilderness, Israel learned to have confidence in God’s
provision. It was not easy for this downcast nation to lift their eyes in trust. Though they believed in God’s existence, they had never seen Him.
How could they expect from Him the essentials to keep them alive? Yet, as a result of their asking, God provided them with fresh manna from heaven
and water from a rock.

There was a third lesson Israel learned as they went into this wilderness of freedom. They learned the importance of following God. God provided a cloud
by day and a pillar of fire by night to direct their steps. Again and again, when the cloud began to move, so must His people, even if it seemed inconvenient.

We can closely identify with the struggles these people experienced! God has demonstrated that He will provide for us if we will worship and trust Him
even in desert places. In our own lives, the time comes when we must press beyond merely believing in God, and reach out to discover that He is our provider as well. God expects us to follow Him where He leads us. When we yield to
His leadership, we can stand secure that His plan and promise for us is coming to pass.

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