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Bible verses about Wilderness Wanderings
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Numbers 22:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The forty years of wilderness wandering were about over. The Israelites had spent all this time coming out of Egypt, wandering from camp to camp, sometimes staying quite long in one place and perhaps just a night in another, moving again, sometimes coming back to stay at a place where they had been then moving onward again. Nevertheless, they were always marching inexorably toward the Promised Land—Canaan.

At this time, they camped across from Jericho, just steps away from going into the Promised Land. They were ready to cross the Jordan, and begin the conquest.

As recorded in Numbers 21, they had just defeated the Amorites under King Sihon, and they had smashed them—crushed them! Sihon and the Amorites were the big power on the East Bank of the Jordan, but their defeat was like swatting a fly to Israel.

Then they went next to Bashan and defeated King Og and his armies. They decimated them. In this way, the whole East Bank of the Jordan River became Israelite territory. Also on the East Bank, farther south on the east side of the Dead Sea where the Jordan enters it, was the country of Moab. The Israelites had marched right along their northern border, opposite Jericho.

Israel was nothing like we see on the movie The Ten Commandments (or some other Bible movie about the Exodus), where the depict the entire children of Israel as about 15 people with maybe four or five sheep. Realistic estimates conclude that Israel consisted of perhaps 2 to 3 million people, plus all the livestock and all the gear that they had brought with them. This was a train of people that stretched for miles! It took them a day or two to pass any one point from the first to the last person. Isreal was a huge, mobile nation! Moab was perhaps about the same size as the children of Israel, and they watched all these people pass through northern reaches of their territory. They had heard what Israel had done to Sihon, Og, and all their people. They were frightened witless!

As Isreal approached this region, God had told them not to mess with the Moabites and the Edomites because they were distant relatives of the Israelites (Deuteronomy 2:8-9). Evidently, the Moabites and the Edomites were not aware of God's edict because they figured that these 3 million people were a threat to them.

While they were camped across from Jericho, Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy. He would also go up Mount Nebo and view the land Israel was to inherit (Deuteronomy 32:48-52). After that, he would die, and God would bury his body in a valley opposite Beth Peor (Deuteronomy 34:6).

Many events were to happen in these final months while the Israelites were camped next to Moab. Much had to be done before they went in. This is the time setting of the events concerning Balaam.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 1)


 

Deuteronomy 26:1-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God connects the basket of summer fruit (Amos 8:2) with its lesson of remembrance in Deuteronomy 26:1-10. We should note several factors.

The Setting: The Israelites, having endured decades of Egyptian slavery and wilderness wanderings, are poised on the threshold of the Promised Land. Moses instructs them: "And it shall be, when you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground . . . and put it in a basket" (verses 1-2).

The Symbol: a basket of the woven, wicker sort, filled with summer produce. We might visualize a cornucopia. God instructs the Israelite to bring the basket "to the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide" (verse 2b), and there he is to make two declarations, the first to the priest, the second to God.

The Ritual: To the priest, the offerer briefly declares, "I have come to the country which the LORD swore to our fathers to give us" (verse 3). The declaration succinctly affirms that God has honored His promise to the patriarchs. After handing the basket to the priest, who places it before the altar (verse 4), the offerer makes his second declaration, this one to God. This affirmation recognizes God's faithfulness to carry out what He has promised: "My father was a Syrian about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous" (verse 5).

The declaration also rehearses Israel's "affliction and our labor and our oppression" (verse 7) in Egypt, and mentions God's deliverance "with great terror and with signs and wonders" (verse 8). Then comes that timeless characterization of the Promised Land:

"He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, 'a land flowing with milk and honey': and now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O LORD, have given me." Then you shall set it before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God. (verse 9-10)

The basket of summer fruit served as tangible evidence of God's faithfulness to deliver them. Its existence stood firm proof that He was "able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). Remember, God promised the patriarchs land (Genesis 12:7; 13:14-15; 15:18-21; 17:8). But what He actually gave His people was so special, so grand, that only "a land flowing with milk and honey" could properly describe it.

The "worship" mentioned in Deuteronomy 26:10 was praise and thanksgiving to God for His works "exceedingly abundantly above all that [Israel could] ask or think." Yesterday or today, the basket of summer fruit teaches the same lesson: Remember your God in the midst of His blessings to you. Do not neglect Him.

Charles Whitaker
A Basket of Summer Fruit


 

Deuteronomy 29:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's freeing of the Israelites from their bondage and His use of them in the journey to the Promised Land and in the Promised Land were for an entirely different purpose than salvation at that time. Ultimately, the experiences these people had will stand them in good stead.

Of course, God certainly did not use them for the purpose of abuse. He was causing Moses, primarily, and others to reflect on those experiences in the wilderness so that they would write them down under God's inspiration, supplying us with an accurate record to consult and come to understand the purpose of God, be humbled by it, and have the right perspective on salvation.

For this reason, He never gave the Israelites the Spirit of God. No salvation was really offered to them—no forgiveness of sin, no invitation to join God's Family. They did not even have access to Him. They were, in a sense, actors on a stage; God was moving them about so that a record would be left for us: the Bible. When they are resurrected in the second resurrection (see Ezekiel 37:1-14), they can look back on the record, hit themselves in the forehead, and say, "Now I see!" The scales will be removed at that time.

Nevertheless, He never gave them His Spirit and never really revealed to them what He was doing with their lives. Thus, they reacted to their circumstances as human beings would normally react without the miracle of His Spirit being performed on them, opening up their minds and revealing what His purpose is all about.

In Hebrews 4:2, Paul reflects that God preached the gospel to these people, or at least a gospel that pertained to them. They heard a "good news," yet because it was not mixed with faith, it did them no good. All through the wilderness trek and on to their deaths, neither they nor their relationship with God improved in any way. If anything, as Hebrews 3:17 declares, they deteriorated as they went along.

John W. Ritenbaugh
We Are Unique!


 

Psalm 111:4-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is undoubtedly a reference back to Israel's wilderness journey.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 10)


 

Acts 3:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word "Prince" is translated from the Greek archegos, which is translated "author" or "captain" in Hebrews 2:10. But here, Jesus Christ is called "the archegos of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses." In this context, the word has the sense of being "originator," someone who starts or begins something. An archegos is one who leads the way so that others may follow. It can also be translated "trailblazer," "scout," or "pioneer," and so it indicates one who leads into battle, blazes a trail, sets a pattern, one who initiates and guides.

In the Daily Study Bible series commentary by William Barclay, he uses the illustration of a ship foundering on a rock. Someone jumps overboard with a rope and swims ashore, securing the line somewhere on the shore so that others are able to grab onto the rope and come to safety. The one who did it originally is an archegos. He fulfilled the role of an archegos.

That is what Christ is. He is saving us from the jagged rock, from the loss of our hope of eternal life. That is His job. He is leading and guiding us to the safety of actually being in the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Wilderness Wandering (Part 5)


 

1 Corinthians 10:1-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verse 5 is downright alarming. How many people of the 2 to 2½ million people who came out of Egypt under Moses made it into the Promised Land? Only two, Joshua and Caleb, along with their families, made it.

Paul uses vivid terminology. He literally says that their bodies were scattered all across the desert. They fell aside as they went along the way and did not make it. They were buried where they fell. The Israelites left a trail of graves all the way from Egypt, through the Sinai, and up into the borders of Israel, the Promised Land.

Such a thing will not physically occur to us. God is working out something different with us than He was with them. With them, He was establishing a type and setting examples for us. We can look at what they did and learn from what occurred to them. We have the Holy Spirit, and they did not. That should make a huge difference!

Paul says that they all went under the cloud and were baptized into Moses. They were not literally baptized in the way we were, but they did pass between the waters. When they went through the Red Sea, they walked on dry land, but the water rose up like walls on either side of them. The apostle Paul uses this as a type of the baptism we go through. They were buried into Moses, as it were, becoming partners in the Old Covenant. Moses, the mediator of that covenant, was a type of Jesus Christ.

Yet, these people died in the wilderness. Here is decisive proof (most of it contained in the record of their wandering in Exodus and Numbers) that though a person physically goes through all the ordinances, it does not mean a thing spiritually.

Verses 1-4 show the Israelites were in the presence of Jesus Christ. He was in the cloud and in the pillar of fire. He was there as the Angel, the Messenger of God, who was leading them through their pilgrimage on to the Promised Land. That is why Paul's illustration is so alarming: One can lose his salvation (not make it to the Promised Land, the Kingdom of God) if he is living a life of divided loyalties (Matthew 6:24).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10


 

1 Corinthians 10:6-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Israel's experience in Egypt and in the wilderness is an object lesson that God desires us to reflect on frequently. These lessons are most forcefully brought to the fore during the spring as we begin rehearsing God's plan of salvation in the annual holy days. Once freed from their slavery to Egypt, it took the Israelites but seven days to cross the Red Sea, breaking completely clear of Egyptian control. In dramatic contrast, it took them forty years to walk the remaining few hundred miles! During this trek, every man of war numbered in the first census after leaving Egypt—with the exception of Joshua and Caleb—died without reaching the Promised Land. Will we allow ourselves to match this miserable record by failing to maintain our liberty?

What a costly expedition! Hebrews 3:16-19 clarifies the cause of their failure more specifically:

For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. [emphasis ours]

Clearly, they did not make the right efforts to defend their God-given liberties. Instead, they exacerbated their circumstances by failing to discipline themselves to submit to God's rule over their lives, even though He freely rescued them from their slavery. They were unwilling to pay the costs of directing their lives as He commanded, despite knowing, through the many manifestations of His power, that He acted exactly as Moses had said He would.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Love


 

Philippians 2:5-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is our example and the instruction as to the mind that we have to adopt and make our own. If we are going to go through this with a kind of growth that God wants us to have, it takes a certain mindset to be able to do it.

One of the things God wants us to get out of this is that He wants us to consider often that He, the Father, did not withhold suffering from His Son and our Savior Jesus Christ. He shared suffering with us despite His high status as God in the flesh and living a totally sinless life. We are neither God in the flesh nor have we led a sinless life. He did this to be our Savior. He did it in order to be our example, and He did it to be perfected to carry out His job as High Priest and Savior. He set His mind to be this way, and He carried through.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Wilderness Wandering (Part 5)


 

Philippians 3:7-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Why do we have to go through this suffering? For the same reason that Christ did. Verse 10 gives the answer, "that I may know Him." In what way? By the experiences of going through the same kinds of sufferings He went through. We gain intimate knowledge of what it took for Him to do what He did even though our tests, trials, and sufferings are considerably toned down so that we can bear them. It is almost as if we are given a little taste of walking in His shoes.

That is why we are here and that is why we suffer. There is very good reason why we have to go through it. If we do not, we do not really know Christ. He Himself says in John 17:3 that eternal life is to know God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Wilderness Wandering (Part 5)


 

Hebrews 2:9-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The "He who sanctifies" is Jesus Christ, as can be seen by following the flow of the pronouns that are being used within their context.

Contained within these verses is the overall reason for suffering. The entire wilderness experience of the Israelites, when God freed them from their slavery, was to prepare them for living in the Promised Land. In like manner, God has willed that we suffer because, as it did for Jesus, it prepares us for what lies ahead. It helps complete us for the Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Wilderness Wandering (Part 5)


 

Hebrews 2:10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The NKJV reads "captain of their salvation." The KJV reads "author of their salvation," and He was made "perfect through sufferings." The word "author" or "captain" is translated from the Greek term archegos. It is a word capable of many translations. In secular Greek, in their pantheon of gods, Zeus was called "archegos" of the gods, meaning he was the head or the chief of all the gods. Incidentally, "head" or "chief" is archegos' simplest literal meaning.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Wilderness Wandering (Part 5)


 

Hebrews 3:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The last phrase ("Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness?") indicates a scattering of dismembered bodies, as if they had been left unburied. These "corpses" were the same people who came out of Egypt with great joy, exulting in their new-found liberty. They yearned for a settled and free life in a land that was their own. But, instead of knowing the joy and plenty of the Promised Land, they chose to sentence themselves to live a life of homeless wandering in a barren land and to die and perhaps be buried in an unmarked grave. Chosen to be the beneficiaries of God's great blessings in a rich land, they instead lived poor and hungry in the wilderness, discontented, and often at war because of their sins. Their example ought to be a sobering warning.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Wandering the Wilderness in Faith


 

1 Peter 2:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Under the New Covenant we, too, should consider ourselves aliens and pilgrims in relation to this world. We live here as co-heirs of the earth with Christ, but we are to live our lives as if we are just passing through on the way to our inheritance. A pilgrim is a person out of his own country, in a foreign land. He does not intend to put down roots there but is heading elsewhere toward a definite goal. Thus, his life is always in transition. He should not view himself as permanently anchored to the society in which he lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing for the Feast


 

 




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