The Edge of the Wilderness

The Edge of the Wilderness
Cornerstone Church,

Saudi Arabia places solar-powered laser lamps near water resources and wells to guide missing people lost in the desert. According to a report issued by Enjad, a volunteer search and rescue team, last year there were over 13,000 vehicles reported stranded in the deserts. These lights lead the lost and broken down to the life giving resource and rescue of water and communication.

Exodus 13:20-22 (NKJV) 20 So they took their journey from Succoth and camped in Etham at the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.

The wilderness is wide open, vulnerable, extreme. Wild is the opposite of tame, controlled, known.  God often takes us into the wilderness. Wilderness is barren, water is primary, food is scarce, temperatures are deadly.  
After God freed Israel from slavery, He led them by way of the wilderness. Why? Why does God drive us into the unknown, the unknowable? We find some insight earlier in chapter 13.

Exodus 13:17 (NKJV) 17 Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, "Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt."

Our salvation secured by the Blood of the Lamb, God begins to prove Israel, to humble them and to test them. (Deuteronomy 2:8) Our Lord was also driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested.  
The Wilderness is not a place of punishment, but of proving. Proving is different. Proving elicits a positive outcome. Proving is done by faith. God takes us to wilderness to prove Himself to us. God also uses wilderness to prove us to ourselves. To see that the salvation is real. To keep us from the easy return to Egypt.
The Wilderness is not a place of plenty but of prayer. Prayer is priority. Prayer boils our needs down into the most basic reality. They were on their way to the land of plenty. They had to pass through the place of prayer. It is in the Wilderness where all is stripped away. Prayer for provision of daily bread. Manna.
The Wilderness is a not a place of ease, but extreme. As late as 2005 the desert regions of the Middle East have been recorded upwards of 159○ F. Simply breathing becomes a tug of war for the moisture in our mouths, our throats, our lungs. Suddenly we are aware of our frailty, our desperate need for the Living Water. God came to them as a pillar of cloud. Shade from the sun. Water in the air.  
There is the opposite extreme as well. The arid environment causes quick shifts in temperature.  In minutes the air can drop 40○ F. From deadly heat, to deadly cold. Hyperthermia to Hypothermia. The lack of moisture peels back the sky. Exposed, blinded by darkness, cold. God comes again as a pillar of fire. Warmth from the cold. Light in the fire.
It is in the Wilderness that we discover our deepest needs. It is in the wilderness that we discover the purpose of prayer, the pillars of Providence. Wilderness is the way of God. We must welcome the way of the wilderness. We must come to know the God Who Gifts us Freedom, Who Guides our Wilderness Wanderings, Who Grants us Grace

- Pastor Joel Johns