by John Coblentz

taken from the August 2000 newsletter of
Deeper Life Ministries

Perils in the Wilderness

When the Israelites left Egypt, they assumed their troubles would be over. Or at least fewer and easier. The harsh, hot conditions of the wilderness soon dashed their expectations. They were free, but they had exchanged the hard labor of making bricks for the difficulty of finding water and walking through rugged country.

Are we different?

Do we also operate under the mentality that if we can just get through this problem, or if we could just get out of that situation, things would be just fine?

What are the perils of hardship?

1. In hardship we are prone to complain. This was the besetting sin of the Israelites. Again and again, they "murmured in the wilderness."

2. In hardship we easily develop bitter attitudes toward others. The Israelites blamed Moses for their problems. They blamed Aaron. They blamed God. In their bitterness, they were neither logical nor fair, But they didn't seem to care.

3. With bad attitudes in hardship, we lose our ability to enjoy the blessings we do have. The Israelites were free. Pharaoh and his army had been overthrown in the Red Sea. The Israelites had received "wages," gifts of gold and other valuables from the Egyptians. Daily they received manna-miracle food directly from God. But still they complained. Still they blamed.

4. With bad attitudes in hardship, we cease to trust in God. The Israelites knew that God was real. They had seen His works. They had been assured again and again that He cared fir them. But when things were hard, they failed to trust. God bluntly called it unbelief.

This is probably the worst danger we face when we go through trials. Will we believe God? When our circumstances are bad, can we still believe that God is good? When we see only chaos, can we believe that God has a plan? Are we able to trust God's ability to work out His plan for us through the very troubles we face?

The worst perils of the wilderness are not snakes and dry streambeds. Our greatest peril is that we, like the Israelites, will become functional atheists -- in our heads saying, "God is," but living as though God is not.

Perils in Canaan

When the Israelites were finally through the wilderness and ready to enter Canaan, God gave them special warnings. These warnings did not have to do with hardship and trials, but with ease and plenty.

Canaan was not like the wilderness. Food was abundant. Fields were productive. The Israelites received houses they had not built and riches they had not earned. God warned that while the riches of Canaan were from His hand, dangers attended them.

What are these dangers?

1. In plenty, we may forget God. This seems to be God's primary concern. "When thou hast eaten and art full," He warns, "Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy Clod" (Deuteronomy 6:10, 11).

2. In plenty we may forget the lessons of the wilderness. God says clearly that the wilderness was to teach the Israelites many lessons -- lessons about Himself, lessons about their own hearts, lessons about His laws, lessons about what is important in life. "Don't forget," God warns. Talk to your children about what you learned. Tell one another.

3. In plenty, we may grow proud. We may forget that increase comes first from God's band, not our own efforts. We may value ourselves by what we have. We may look down on others who have less.

4. In plenty we may grow greedy for more. Plenty of food and clothes, a nice house, a productive business all make us feel comfortable. But the danger is that we lose the blessing of contentment. Instead of being satisfied when we have enough, we may lust for abundance. In that greed, we may refuse to share. We may push deals that are not honest. We may treat the poor with a heavy hand. What a lean soul we soon have when we love a full pocket!

5. In plenty we may lose sight of our neediness. God allowed the Israelites to be hungry to teach them that "man doth not live by bread only" (Deuteronomy 8:3). Man has needs far deeper than his stomach. Our daily appetite is to remind us of those deeper needs. With a full stomach, we easily forget.

So whether you have been living in the wilderness or in Canaan, beware! The conditions of life are not as significant as the condition of your heart -- is it steadfastly set on the Lord?

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