Divine Protection in the Wilderness
Divine protection in scripture is often described as being provided in a wilderness experience. Sending His people or a particular person into the wilderness seems to be something God did to protect His people - to remove them from danger; most often from the danger of those who were persecuting them. But there is another reason for a wilderness experience that we will explore.
The wilderness is referred to twice in Revelation 12 and many other times in scripture. The two references in Revelation 12 are:
"And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days." (Rev 12:6)
"And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent." (Rev 12:14)
These two verses may include both an historical application (where the true believers fled from religious persecution during the Dark Ages) and a future fulfillment in the last days. What the two verses do share though is the idea of the figurative woman being cared for and fed for a period of time. There are several other Biblical references to people being in a wilderness experience that seem to have something in common with these verses. This page will examine those passages to help understand what is involved in a wilderness experience and especially what may be involved in the future wilderness experience mentioned in Revelation.
A friend had studied this topic and suggested that, in many of the Biblical cases, the wilderness represented a time of "divine provision and intimate fellowship." So, while needs were provided, the divine protection also included a time of fellowship between God and His people. Removed from distraction, with their needs met and under divine protection, people could give more attention to getting to know God. Let's look at some of the Biblical wilderness experiences to see what they have in common and if this idea is so.
Divine Protection in the Wilderness: Moses
When Moses fled from Egypt he went to the land of Midian which included the area of Mt. Sinai (also known as Horeb - Compare Exo 31:18, 33:6 and 34:2).
"Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well." (Exo 2:15)
"Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb." (Exo 3:1)
"And the LORD said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him." (Exo 4:27)
Moses spent 40 years there being prepared for his work of leading the Israelites out of Egypt. During this time, God spoke to him and appeared to him:
"And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush." (Acts 7:30)
Moses spent much time in the area of Mount Sinai even before Israel's exodus from Egypt. During that time, he was under divine protection, his needs were provided and he learned to know and trust in God rather than himself - preparation essential for his task of leading Israel to freedom. It seems that the wilderness experience can include the idea of preparation for a work. And it seems that, in Moses case, there must have been some time of intimate fellowship. It takes spending some time with someone before you would consider them a friend. It seems that Moses developed this level of relationship with God - that few others are spoken of as having done. We read:
"And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle." (Exo 33:11)
Divine Protection in the Wilderness: the Children of Israel
When God brought His people out from Egypt He led them to the wilderness. The area of Mt. Sinai itself is called a wilderness:
"And Jethro, Moses' father in law, came with his sons and his wife unto Moses into the wilderness, where he encamped at the mount of God:" (Exo 18:5)
"Which the LORD commanded Moses in mount Sinai, in the day that he commanded the children of Israel to offer their oblations unto the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai." (Lev 7:38)
God certainly gave them divine protection, fed them and cared for them in the wilderness:
"And Moses said, This is the thing which the LORD commandeth, Fill an omer of it (the manna) to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt." (Exo 16:32)
"Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end;" (Deut 8:15-16)
"For the LORD thy God hath blessed thee (the people of Israel) in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the LORD thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing." (Deut 2:7)
"But (God) made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies." (Psa 78:52-53)
The people of Israel had their needs provided for in the wilderness. However, as a people, they never reached the same level of friendship with God that Moses had. God did speak to them directly as He gave His commandments but they were not at the point in the relationship with Him that they could even bear to listen to Him speak directly to them.
"And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die." (Exo 20:19)
Divine Protection in the Wilderness: Elijah
At the threat of Jezebel, Elijah fled into the wilderness where God provided his needs:
"But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God." (1 Kings 19:4-8)
We also see him going to the wilderness of Horeb or Mt. Sinai. That seems to be a special place, a solitary, wilderness place for God to commune with His people.
Divine Protection in the Wilderness: David
David, as a shepherd, spent much time in the wilderness where he became acquainted with God.
"And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle." (1 Sam 17:28)
David spent time in various wilderness areas when he was being pursued by King Saul:
"And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand. And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life: and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood." (1 Sam 23:14-15)
"Saul also and his men went to seek him. And they told David: wherefore he came down into a rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon." (1Sam 23:25)
"And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi." (1 Sam 24:1)
In various ways, God provided for his needs while he was in the wilderness. And he received the much-needed Divine protection as King Saul and his army was seeking for his life.
Divine Protection in the Wilderness: John the Baptist
John the Baptist is one who we commonly recognize as having had an extended wilderness experience:
"And the child (John) grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel." (Luke 1:80)
The word rendered "deserts" in the King James is from the Greek word "eremos" (Strong's #2048) more commonly translated as "wilderness." John spent years in the wilderness before he began his important work to alert people of the coming of the Messiah. And he did that work itself in the wilderness:
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." (Mark 1:3-4)
"Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness." (Luke 3:2)
"And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?" (Matt 11:7)
John, who spent basically his whole life in the wilderness, was highly regarded by Jesus:
"For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist ..." (Luke 7:28)So there are a number of examples of people being provided divine protection in wilderness areas. For many of them, there was also intimate fellowship with God and preparation for a mission or position of responsibility for God. There are more. The next page will talk about Jesus in the wilderness and yet other examples of divine protection.
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