PERILS IN THE WILDERNESS
In the natural world, as you travel through a desert, there are many perils to avoid. The same is true of wilderness experiences in the spiritual world. When you do not understand what is going on in your life--when you feel alone and confused about which direction to go--there are many perils to which you may fall victim. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. From the example of Israel and their wilderness wanderings, we can learn the attitudes to avoid.
Murmuring and complaining. When the nation of Israel faced bitter waters they could not drink, they murmured against Moses (Exodus 15:24). This is a common response when we face difficult experiences. We complain about our circumstances. We blame others and murmur against them, but actually all murmuring is against God. We must realize that He is taking all the circumstances of our lives, both bad and good, and using them to accomplish His purposes (Romans 8:28-29). When we murmur against this process, we murmur against Him.
Questioning. Why? This is the question we usually ask when faced with difficulties and tragedies in life. It is also a question asked frequently during a wilderness experience. Repeatedly, the children of Israel asked "And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?" (Numbers 20:4) Honest questioning is not wrong. Jesus knew the purpose for which He had come into the world was to die for the sins of all mankind, yet in His hour of suffering He cried out, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It is what follows the questioning that is important. His next words were, "Into thy hands I commit my spirit."
A hardened heart. Exodus chapters 7-8 records how Pharaoh hardened his heart against God's people. Then in Exodus chapter 9 it says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart. When God hardens a heart, it is because a person has continued to rebel against Him. The person first hardens his own heart, then God steps in and hardens it to accomplish His purposes despite this rebellion. In the book of Joshua, God hardened the hearts of an already hardened people to come against Israel so that Joshua could execute judgment upon them as he had been commanded. A hardened heart is a serious matter: "Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest" (Hebrews 3:8-11).
Lust. Lust for the things of the flesh was a major problem during Israel's wilderness trek. The Bible records that "...they soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul" (Psalm 106:14-15).
Rebellion. Wilderness experiences can lead to outright rebellion. You don't like where you are at and how things are being done, so you rebel against God and spiritual leadership. Read the story of Korah in Numbers chapter 16 and learn from it!