Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel, and more specifically, is found in verses thirty-three through forty-nine of the twentieth chapter. “As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you: and I will bring you forth out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out” (Ezekiel 20:33-34). This is how this particular passage of Scripture begins—with the Lord speaking unto the house of Israel and declaring how with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out would He rule over them. What’s worth noting and pointing out is that the Lord didn’t merely speak about ruling over the house of Israel, but He goes on to declare how He was going to bring them out from the people, and would gather them out of the countries wherein they were scattered. What’s worth noting is that not only was the government of the Lord over, upon and within His people going to be with a mighty hand, with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, but so also would His deliverance be for them. The Lord emphatically declared that it would be His mighty hand, and His stretched out arm, and with His fury that He would bring His people out from the countries from which they had been scattered. It’s worth noting that the Lord didn’t merely speak of the countries from which the house of Israel had been scattered, but He also spoke of the people to which they had been scattered, dispersed and intermingled with. Perhaps one of the most interesting realities concerning the seventy years of captivity which the house of Israel had endured and experienced was that the heritage of the people of God was scattered among the nations, countries and people of the earth. When speaking of the captivity of the house of Israel, it’s worth pointing out that there were essentially two captives which were manifested in their midst. We have to remember that after the days of Solomon the kingdom of Israel was divided in two, as the ten northern tribes were given to Jeroboam son of Nebat, while the two southern tribes were retained by the house of David, and specifically by Rehoboam. Immediately following the reign of Solomon king of Israel the nation of Israel was divided, and would be divided up until and even through and during the captivity of the people of God. If you study the history of the two kingdoms of Israel—the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah—you will discover that the northern kingdom of Israel went into captivity first, as the Assyrians entered into the northern kingdom of Israel, captured the capital city of Samaria, and took the people of Israel captive. It would be years later when the southern kingdom of Judah would be invaded by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army, and would be carried away captive into the land of Babylon. Within Israel’s history there were in essence two distinct captivities, thus revealing that the house of Israel went into and entered captivity divided.
The Assyrian Empire was overthrown and conquered by the Babylonian Empire, and Babylon would be the dominant kingdom and empire upon the earth. With that being said, it’s important to make mention of the fact that there was a period of time when pagan, heathen and Gentile kingdoms ruled over the face of the earth. If you study world history you will note that the Assyrian Empire rose to power and ruled over and governed much of the known world as the leading and dominating empire within the earth. The Assyrian Empire would eventually be succeeded and conquered by the Babylonian Empire which would rule upon and govern the known world for at least a period of seventy years. Eventually the Babylonian Empire would be conquered and overthrown by the Medes and the Persians which would rule over and rule upon the earth as the dominant world empire. The Medo-Persian Empire would itself be conquered and subdued, as the Grecian Empire would emerged upon the earth under the leadership of Alexander the Great. For a period of time the Grecian Empire would rule over and govern the the entire known world, and would even do so divided for a period of time, as the Grecian Empire would be divided between Alexander’s four generals. Eventually the Grecian Empire would be conquered and subdued by the Roman Empire, which would dominate, control, govern and rule over the world. Even unto the days of Jesus and the apostles the Roman Empire would govern and rule over all nations, languages and peoples of the earth, and would remain in existence for three centuries. The reason I mention these five biblical empires is because there was a period of time when it was not the kingdom of Israel which ruled over and governed the earth, but Gentile and heathen empires. We must recognize and understand that this was not so, and it was not the original intention and design of the Lord of hosts. When the Lord planted and established Israel within the land He had given and prepared for them, He intended on Israel being given dominion, authority and government upon the face of the earth. Israel was never intended on being subjugated by and before other nations round about her—much less kingdoms and empires that would emerge upon the earth. Through its disobedience and rebellion before and against the Lord the kingdom of Israel not only allowed itself to be divided, but it also allowed itself to be carried away captive. We must recognize that before Israel was ever carried away captive, Israel was first divided. I would venture to say that division may very well precede captivity, as we allow ourselves to be divided from others before we find ourselves being carried away as captives by the enemy and adversary. Later on in the prophetic book of Ezekiel you will discover that when the Lord restores Israel to the land which He promised on oath to their ancestors, He brought about something far greater—unity through restoration. When the Lord restored the people of Israel to the land which was their inheritance and possession, He did so by tearing down and destroying the division that had been present between them for years. As surely as we must discuss division and captivity, we must also discuss unity and restoration, for we are unified through restoration as the Lord reverses our division and captivity.
This particular passage begins and opens up with the Lord speaking of bringing His people out from the people, and gather them out of the countries wherein He scattered them, but then He shifts to speak of bringing them into the wilderness of the people. Why? Why would the Lord bring His people into the wilderness of the people? The answer is actually found in the thirty-fifth verse of this chapter as the Lord declares that His purpose for bringing them into the wilderness of the people was to plead with them face to face. The Lord was going to plead with His people face to face as He pleaded with their fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt. One of the most striking features of the wilderness—whether it be a physical wilderness, or whether it be a wilderness of people—is that it is there in the wilderness where the Lord rises up to speak to His people. The Lord may very well bring you. Into the wilderness in order that within and from that place He might plead with you—plead with you concerning your iniquity, plead with you concerning your transgression, plead with you concerning your wickedness, plead with you concerning your iniquity, plead with you concerning your idolatry. There is a passage in the Old Testament prophetic book of Hosea that helps shed even more light on to this particular reality of the Lord bringing His people into the wilderness in order that there in the wilderness He might speak unto them. In the second chapter of the prophetic book of Hosea we find these words beginning with the fourteenth verse—“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Anchor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Bali. For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name. And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulnes: and thou shalt know the Lord. And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel. And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (Hosea 2:14-23).
A WEDDING IN THE WILDERNESS! A LOVE AFFAIR IN THE WILDERNESS! The Lord through the prophet Hosea made it very clear to the house of Israel that He was going to allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and there in the wilderness He was going to speak comfortably unto her. Moreover, it would be there in the wilderness the house of Israel would no more call the Lord Baali, but would instead call Him Ishi—Ishi, which literally means “my Husband.” The Lord was going to allure the house of Israel into the wilderness, and was going to bring her into the wilderness in order that in and from that place He might romance her heart. The purpose of the wilderness journey was that there in the wilderness the Lord might captivate the attention and affection of the house of Israel in order that He might win her unto Himself. The entire reason and purpose of the wilderness was centered upon intimacy, communion and fellowship between the Lord and His people and between a people and their God. In all reality, this was the main purpose for bringing the children of Israel into the wilderness after bringing them out of their slavery, bondage and oppression within the land of Egypt. It is absolutely imperative that we recognize the Lord doesn’t immediately bring us from and out of the land of Egypt and into the Promised Land and our inheritance. In all reality, I would dare say the Lord had absolutely no desire and intention of bringing the children out of the land of Egypt and immediately taking them into the land of Canaan. If you journey back to the Old Testament book of Exodus, you will discover how when speaking unto Pharaoh, Moses spoke of taking a day’s journey into the wilderness in order that from that place they might worship and offering sacrifices unto the Lord their God. The Lord could have very easily brought His people out of their slavery, their bondage, and their oppression within the land of Egypt, and brought them into the place of inheritance and possession, but to do so would actually have hindered their growth and maturity. I have to admit that I am so grateful and thankful that the Lord didn’t immediately bring His people out of their slavery and bondage within the land of Egypt, and bring them into the place of inheritance, promise and blessing. If we are honest with ourselves, we desire this reality to be manifested within our lives—the reality of the Lord delivering us from and out of our slavery, bondage and oppression, and immediately bringing us into the place of inheritance, promise and blessing. The truth of the matter is that the Lord doesn’t deliver us out of slavery, our bondage and our oppression to immediately bring us into the place of inheritance, for to do would be to bring us into that place unprepared, and perhaps even unqualified.
PREPARED AND QUALIFIED TO ENTER INTO THE INHERITANCE! I am absolutely convinced the wilderness was one hundred percent needed of the children of Israel and required of the Lord. I believe with everything inside me that had the Lord immediately brought the children of Israel into the land of Canaan after just delivering them from and out of their slavery and bondage they would have been unprepared and unqualified to enter into the inheritance. When we speak of inheritance we oftentimes don’t speak of being prepared and being made ready to enter into and take possession of it, but the truth of the matter is that inheritance is something that is so significant and so vital for our spiritual lives that we must be prepared and qualified for it. There are far too many individuals who want to immediately enter into the inheritance after being delivered from their slavery and bondage, and yet they don’t realize the tremendous importance of the wilderness. UNDERSTANDING THE PURPOSE IN THE WILDERNESS! UNDERSTANDING THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WILDERNESS! In order to truly understand the value and importance of the wilderness, it’s necessary to journey back to the Old Testament book of Exodus, for it is there where we discover why the Lord brought the children out of slavery, bondage and oppression in Egypt and into the wilderness, rather than bringing them out of slavery and bringing them into inheritance. The reality of the wilderness is expressed in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of the book of Exodus, as the Lord begins to speak to the children of israel concerning His desire and intention for them. Beginning with the third verse we read these words—“Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of israel; ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:3-7). When you come to the tenth verse of this same chapter, you find the Lord beginning to speak to Moses about what He was about to do in the sight and presence of all the people—“And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai” (Exodus 19:10-11). When you come to the sixteenth verse, you will find a description of the Lord’s descent upon the mountain in the wilderness before and in the sight of all the people—“And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount: and Moses went up” (Exodus 19:16-20).
This particular set of verses describes the preparation leading up to one of the most significant purposes for the children of israel being brought into the wilderness, and for the Lord descending upon and atop the mount. When you come to the twentieth chapter of the book of Exodus you will find one of the most noted and quoted passages in all of Scripture, for it is within this particular chapter we discover the Lord releasing and revealing His law unto His people. “And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guileless that taketh His name in vain. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it, Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (Exodus 20:1-17). Upon reading these words, many would recognize these as what is known as the Ten Commandments which are the heart and foundation of the entire law of God which was given unto Moses atop the mountain in the wilderness. Everything else that was spoken unto Moses atop the mountain concerning His law had its foundation in these Ten Commandments—a reality that is further confirmed in the New Testament gospels through the words of Jesus. It would be Jesus who would answer one who came unto Him by stating that the first and greatest commandment was to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, with all our strength. Jesus would go on to declare how the second commandment was likened unto the first, for the second commandment would be to love our neighbour as ourselves. In all reality, the entire law can be summarized and even fulfilled in loving the Lord our God, and loving our neighbours. Furthermore, the entire law can be fulfilled in, through and by love, for love is the fulfillment of the law which was given unto Moses.
While the twentieth chapter of the Old Testament book of Moses brings us face to face with the beginning of the law of God which was spoken and given unto Moses, there is another place in the same Old Testament book that not only reveals another purpose for the wilderness, but also the purpose for the children of Israel coming unto the mountain in that wilderness. Beginning with the twenty-fifth chapter of the book of Exodus we discover the Lord’s instruction and pattern concerning the Tabernacle which was to be built and constructed in the midst of the children of Israel. Beginning in and beginning with the twenty-fifth chapter of the book of Exodus we discover that the Lord’s pattern and instruction for the tabernacle, which was to be a place where His glory could dwell, and a place where He could and would place His name. The Tabernacle was to be a place within the camp of Israel where the Lord could manifest His presence, and essentially dwell in the midst of them. In the twenty-fifth chapter of the book of Exodus we find the Lord speaking unto Moses and calling the children of Israel to bring unto Him an offering—an offering that would provide all the necessary materials for the construction of the Tabernacle. “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Pseak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering. And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goat’s hair, and rams’ skin dyed red, and badgers skins, and shittim wood, oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate. And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it” (Exodus 25:1-19). As you continue reading this particular chapter, you will discover the very first instrument the Lord spoke of and instructed to be made in the wilderness was the Ark of the Covenant which would be the symbol of the presence and glory of the Lord. It would be the Ark of the Covenant that would be the center piece of the entire Tabernacle, for without and apart from the Ark of the Covenant there could be no Tabernacle. What began at the altar would ultimately and inevitably end and conclude with, before and at the Ark. There can be no Tabernacle without and apart from the Ark of the Covenant, and there can be no coming near to the Ark of the Covenant without and apart from the brazen altar which was in the court of the Lord.
THE LAW AND THE TABERNacle! In order to understand this even further, it is necessary to turn and direct our attention to the ninth chapter of the apostle Paul’s epistle to the Roman congregation in the New Testament. “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh; who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the. Promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever” (Romans 9:1-5). What is so incredibly important, and what is so vital concerning the wilderness was that it was there in the wilderness where the Lord prepared for Himself a people to enter the inheritance who not only had the law of their God, but also had the tabernacle and sanctuary of their God. Pause and consider the reality that the Lord wasn’t willing to allow the children of Israel to enter into the inheritance without His law, and without His sanctuary present among them and within their midst. When the Lord brought the children of Israel into the place of their inheritance, He wanted to bring them into that place as a people of obedience, as well as a people of worship. There are far too many times when we attempt to enter into the place of inheritance, and yet we have not been prepared through obedience and worship. PREPARED FOR INHERITANCE THROUGH WORSHIP AND OBEDIENCE! The apostle Paul wrote of “the glory,” “the covenants,” “the giving of the law,” and “the service of God,” which all speak of the work the Lord did in the wilderness. It would be there in the wilderness at the mountain where the Lord would give unto the house of Israel the law, which would demand and require obedience. It would be there in the wilderness at the mountain where the Lord would give unto the house of Israel the pattern of the Tabernacle and sanctuary of God, which would teach and show them how to worship Him. The Lord could not, the Lord would not bring the children of Israel into the land of Canaan without them understanding how to walk in obedience before Him, and without understanding how to worship Him. Consider the fact that despite the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for forty years, they had forty years of experience worshipping the Lord at His holy sanctuary and Tabernacle among them in their midst. Consider also how for forty years the children of Israel walked with the law of the Lord—not only written upon tablets of stone, but also bound to their foreheads and other parts of their body. When the children of Israel finally entered into the wilderness, they already had forty years of experience—both with the law of the Lord, as well as with the Tabernacle and sanctuary of the Lord. The Lord brought the children of Israel forth from their slavery and bondage in order that He might transform them into an obedient people that knew and understood how to worship Him. When the children of Israel entered into the land of Canaan, they would enter into the land understanding the requirement to obey the voice and commands of the Lord, as well as understanding how to come near, approach and worship the true and living God.
If you journey to the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus you will discover a second reason for the Lord’s bringing the children of Israel into the wilderness rather than simply bringing them up into the land of Canaan. “But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee: begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land. Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz. And the Lord our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people. And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain: only the cattle we took for a prey unto ourselves, and the spoil of the cities which we took. From Aroer, which is by the brink of the river of Arnon, and from the city that is by the river, even unto Gilead, there was not one city too strong for u: the Lord our God delivered all unto us: only unto the land of the children of Ammon thou camest not, nor unto any place of the river Jabbok, nor unto the cities in the mountains, nor unto whatsoever the Lord our God forbad us” (Deuteronomy 2:30-37). This particular passage forms part of the picture concerning why the Lord would bring the children of Israel into the wilderness, while the second part of the picture is found in the following chapter. “Then we turned, and went up the way to Bashan: and of the king of Bashan came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. And the Lord said unto me, Fear him not: for I will deliver him, and all his people, and his land, into thy hand; and thou shalt do unto him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon. So the Lord our God delivered into our hands Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people: and we smote him until none was left to him remaining. And we took all his cities at that time, there was not a city which we took not from them, threescore cities, all the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. All these cities were fences with high walls, gates, and bars; beside uncalled towns a great many. And we utterly destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon king of HEshbon, utterly destroying the men, women and children of every city. But all the cattle, and the spoil of the cites, we took for a prey to ourselves. And we took at that time out of the hand of the two k inns of the Amorites the land that was on this side Jordan, from the river of Arnon unto mount Hermon; (Which Hermon the Sidonians call Sirion; and the Amorites call it Shinar;) all the cities of the plain, and all Gilead, and all Bashan, unto Salchah and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan” (Deuteronomy 3:1-10).
These particular passages—those found in the Old Testament book of Exodus, and those found in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy—reveal the nature and purpose for the children of Israel being brought into the wilderness. The children of Israel were brought into the wilderness in order that they might receive the law of the Lord their God so they could learn and understand how to walk in obedience before Him. The children of Israel were brought into the wilderness in order that they might receive the pattern for the Tabernacle and sanctuary of the Lord, so that they might understand how to worship, approach and come near to the Lord. Moreover, the children of Israel were brought into the wilderness in order that they might experience battle and warfare, and even in order that they might learn how to take possession of land before them. In the thirty-first verse of the second chapter we find the Lord speaking unto Moses, saying “Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee: BEGIN TO POSSESS, that thou mayest inherit his land.” Please don’t miss those words “BEGIN TO POSSESS,” for the children of Israel didn’t learn how to possess land after crossing over the Jordan River, but before ever even crossing over the Jordan River. The Lord did not, would not and could not bring a people into the inheritance who didn’t already have experience with possessing land, and inheriting land. When the children of Israel entered into the land of Canaan, they had not only conquered the lands of Sihon and Og king of Bashan east of the Jordan River, but they were also a people who had the law of their God, and the tabernacle of their God with them. What’s more, is that when they crossed over the Jordan River and entered into the land of Canaan they had something present among them they didn’t have when passing through the waters of the Red Sea—the Ark of the Covenant. How absolutely incredible it is that when the children of Israel finally entered into the land of Canaan they not only had the law of the Lord their God, they not only had the Tabernacle of the Lord their God, but they also had the Ark of the Covenant. When they finally passed over the Jordan River they had already conquered two kings east of the Jordan River, and had learned how to take possession of land that was before them—land that was promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Lord brings us into the wilderness in order that He might bring us into that place of law once more. The Lord brings us into the wilderness in order that He might bring us into that place of tabernacle and worship once more. The Lord brings us into the wilderness in order that He might bring us into that place of battle and warfare before. It is in the wilderness the Lord teaches us how to walk in obedience once more. It is in the wilderness where the Lord teaches us how to worship once more. It is in the wilderness where the Lord teaches us how to battle and wage war once more. Directly connected to all of this is the Lord’s desire to allure us there in the wilderness and that from that place of intimacy we might walk in obedience, we might worship the Lord our God, and we might confront, engage and overcome our enemies and adversaries in battle.