Fed by the Ravens
I think we can all remember that traumatizing day when we first discovered that Bear Grylls had a full camera crew and a team of experts following him wherever he went. I know I may have been naive to believe that he was actually alone, considering it was not meant to be a secret, but I was still crushed. My thoughts were, “If Bear Grylls can’t even survive on his own, lost in the wilderness, what hope is there for me when I inevitably end up in a plane crash in the middle of the desert?” I can’t say that it exactly robbed me of my innocence, but it brought to light the reality of how harsh and unforgiving the wilderness is. Human beings are social creatures, and, by nature, we rely on one another to survive and flourish. No great civilization was ever formed by a bunch of people deciding, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we all just went our own way and did everything we could to avoid each other?” When we come together, we become greater than the sum of our parts. It not only increases our chances of survival but increases our overall quality of life.
Hebrews 10:25 commands us, “Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” So why would God ever pull us out of Christian civilization into the spiritual wilderness? As we addressed during part 1 of this series, we know with certainty that God does call people there at times, we see it in the life of Christ, David, Elijah, and Moses, but what is His reasoning? There are a lot of different circumstances that lead to us being called there, but there is one main reason that encapsulates them all. God calls us into the spiritual wilderness to teach us to trust Him.
We see it first in the life of Moses, the Giver of the Law. On the surface, Moses enters both the physical and spiritual wilderness to avoid being killed by Pharoh, but beneath that, we see a greater story unfolding. (Exodus 2) Moses was separated, by God, from the Hebrew community, that He might learn to trust Him. It is likely that Moses spent in excess of 40 years in the desert, prior to being called by God to speak to Pharoh. (Exodus 7) God spent that time preparing Him. He provided him with a wife, a family, and a job, despite being in the middle of a barren desert. God was willing and able to give him whatever he needed, and it gave Moses the confidence to lead the Israelites through a 40-year exile knowing that God would provide for their every need.
400 years later, we come across David, the King. David was forced into the wilderness twice during his lifetime: once during the reign of Saul (1 Samuel 23-24) and once during the revolt of Absalom (2 Samuel 15). During the revolt of Absalom, David truly grasped that all provision both physical and spiritual comes from God. While walking the desert of Judah, he writes,
“You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water. . .” (Psalms 63:1 ESV)
David wrote this while truly having no access to water, yet he states that his thirst for God is stronger than his thirst for hydration. He trusts in God, and God provides putting David back on the throne and bringing an end to all of his enemies. David learned to trust in God as he survived in the wilderness and that trust shaped the way he would rule the nation of Israel.
Fast forward another 150 years, and we find Elijah, the Great Prophet, in a very similar situation to both Moses and David. Having declared to King Ahab that God was sending a drought on the land as punishment, Elijah was commanded by God Himself to enter the wilderness until further notice. He was uprooted from any support system he had and forced to trust the Lord for his most basic needs. “And the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.’ So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.” (1 Kings 17:2-6 ESV) Without fail, each and every day, Elijah was provided for by the hand of God, and when the brook dried up, the Lord sent him to a widow’s house so that he would still be taken care of. After this, Elijah did many great things in the land of Israel which lead to the repentance of King Ahab, one of Israel’s most wicked kings. (1 Kings 21)
Finally, we come to Jesus, the Son of God, the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, the King of Kings. We often think of Jesus’ time in the wilderness as only having one function: His temptation. But it was much more than just that. We need to ask why Satan chose to tempt Him in the wilderness in order to get the larger application. Satan chose to test Him there because he knew that we are most vulnerable in the wilderness. We can not divulge our struggles to anyone but God, there is no support group, no accountability, nothing but faith to guide us through. If there was ever a time that anyone would crack, it would be after 40 days of isolation without food, without water, without comfort. Christ had to rely wholly on God to keep Him alive and to see Him through this incredibly difficult time. Those 40 days of trusting God helped prepare Him to go forth with the rest of redemption. To trust that the Father would not “allow [His] Holy One to undergo decay.” (Psalms 16:10 NASB) In the words of God written through David,
“You who fear the Lord, praise Him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor Him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For He has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the Afflicted One;
He has not hidden His face from Him
but has listened to His cry for help. . .” (Psalms 22:22-24 ESV)
God calls us into the wilderness not to forsake us there, but to teach us that He is right there with us. That all we truly need comes from Him. Sometimes we become so used to finding our spiritual provision in devotionals, videos, sermons, and friends that we forget where it truly comes from. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NIV) Every bit of provision we receive comes from God and God alone. So, at times, God may remove us from Christian civilization, but only so He can provide for us in ways that are undeniably from Him. And once we do learn to trust that He is in control, He leads us back to the fellowship amongst other believers so that we can share the things He taught us there. So endure the God-ordained wilderness with patience and push into Him during the times where all else seems to go quiet. Becuase it is in those times that He will feed us with mana from above and streams of Living Water from below, all to His great glory.
With the love and grace given to us through Christ,
“And my God will supply every need of yours
according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”