“It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea. Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, . . .” (Deuteronomy 1:2-3a)
The book of Deuteronomy is a book where Moses is in part warning a new generation of God’s people to not fall prey to the same debilitating spiritual pitfalls of the previous generation. This previous generation lived there lives in the wilderness when they could have gone on into God’s Promised Land. Paul warns us of the same thing in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 10:1-13). There is a valuable application for us here too.
There was a legitimate eleven days journey through the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land. From Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea is about 126 miles. But God’s people spent forty years in the wilderness! (1:3). Most of this time in the wilderness was illegitimate. What kept the previous generation in the wilderness so long? It was because of their lack of faith and disobedience (Num. 13-14). When God brought them to the edge of the Promised Land, instead of going in, they focused on the obstacles in God’s plan; the giants in the land. They should have followed the Lord wholeheartedly in faith. The consequence was that they never made it out of the wilderness.
The Old Testament can be looked at typologically. The Old Testament contains symbolism and patterns that can be applied to our walk with the Lord. For instance Israel’s life in Egypt represents the bondage of the unsaved life; the old sinful way of life. The Exodus represents God’s deliverance of salvation from this bondage. The wilderness represents the time wherein a person learns that the flesh or sinful nature needs to be crucified with Christ and no longer has a hold on them (e.g. Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6:6, 14; 7:24-25).
In the wilderness we learn to set the flesh life aside and replace it with new life in Christ. In the wilderness we learn living in the flesh is frustrating and doomed to failure. Paul describes his experience of trying to live for God in the power of the flesh in Romans 7. Such a life is a wretched robbery of God’s best for us. The key to passing through the wilderness is coming to the realization that our help is not found within us, but in the Person of Jesus Christ. Self-help is an oxymoron. Self-discipline will only take us so far. Paul by faith came to realize, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25a). The way out of the wilderness is realizing deliverance is found in “Who . . . . through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Deliverance from the flesh is found in the Person of Jesus Christ and His cross. We have to reckon the old man dead and in faith live depending on Christ (Rom. 6:11).
The Promised Land symbolizes the abundant life in the Spirit (Rom. 8). There are battles still to be fought, but God enables us in the Spirit to be victorious. This is a life of victory and overcoming. We are more than conquerors in Him (Rom. 8:37-39). It is life lived in submission to the Spirit and forsaking the lusts of the flesh. To enter this Promised Land one takes a step of faith and crosses the Jordan of decision (Joshua 1-3; cf. Acts 15:8-9).
God doesn’t plan for us to live out our lives in the wilderness. Disobedience and lack of faith can keep us in the wilderness longer than we need to be. Some people never get out of the wilderness because they choose to live a life of complaining and refusal to trust the Lord. God’s desire is to bring His people into the Promised Land. It was a tragedy their lack of trust kept them from God’s Promised Land. They allowed themselves to be overcome by the size of the obstacles rather than depending in faith on the power of God; the size of God.
Have you been wandering, meandering in the wilderness too long? Are you living in Romans 7 or Romans 8? God never planned for you to stay in the wilderness. Stop living in the shadows of frightening giants and come into the light of the Lord. Take a step of faith. Cross the Jordan and live in the Promised Land.