Summary: The lessons of Israel’s forty-year period of testing in the wilderness can serve to define and explain the trials and tests during our spiritual journey.
“The Purpose of Our Trials”
Pastor V. P. Oliver
Deuteronomy 8:2 (1-6)
"And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”
Because of their stubborn disobedience and lack of faith, God caused the original generation of Israelites, except for Joshua and Caleb, to perish in the wilderness. Moses, the author of the book of Deuteronomy, found himself finally at the borders of Canaan prepared to lead a new generation of people into the Promised Land. The word “Deuteronomy” means, “second law,” and it comes from the fact that Moses was not re-writing, but restating the law handed down from God to the children of Israel 40 years earlier at Mt. Sinai. All of these people were 20 years or younger when their parents failed to believe God and cross the Jordan River into Canaan. This new generation needed to hear the Law again, so Moses restates it by way of this 5th Book of the Bible. Moses understood that we all men have short memories and that it was important that they know God’s Word afresh as they were about to face new challenges and new enemies. Deuteronomy is a series of addresses to the new generation that reviews the past history of the nation. We are not called to live in the past, but we can never understand the present or prepare for the future if we are ignorant of the past.
For the time that I have, I want to examine this text from the perspective of this new generation of Israelites to discover God’s purpose and reason behind their 40-year trial in the wilderness. For the first generation, the Law was for their survival in the wilderness. But this new generation needed the same Law, but for their spiritual growth and development. Our own spiritual journey can benefit as we look at “The Purpose of Our Trials” by way of our text.
1. THERE IS A DIVINE NATURE FOR OUR TRIALS.
First of all, THERE IS A DIVINE NATURE FOR OUR TRIALS. God has a method to the trials He sends our way that is unique. The nature of our trials is such that you will undoubtedly recognize the hand of God in the midst of your testing. Have you ever come through some tramitic expereince knowing that you should not have survived, but you did? In retrospect you realized it was the hand of God.
(a) Quite often our trials are SUSTAINED. Notice how He dealt with His chosen people. In verse 2 we read: “The LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness…” We know that the number 40 in the Bible is always associated with the period of probation, trial and chastisement. Moses spent 40 years of probation by waiting, first in the courts of Pharaoh, and then 40 years of probation by waiting in Midian tending his father-in-laws sheep. He was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days to receive the Law, and our text references Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness and their probation by trial. These 40 years remind us of the patience of God. He Who sits outside of the confines of time presiding over eternity can afford to wait. Psalm 90:4 informs us: “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” I’m kind of glas that God has been patient with me. The great wheels of His divine purpose move slowly but surely during our time of trials.
(b) Trials are also SEVERE. In verse 3 we read, “(He) suffered thee to hunger…” God could have easily prevented this, but He suffered it to be so. God will often allow us to experience need and discomfort. And before you ask the question why, let me tell you – so that we will have need and cause to call upon Him. The Apostle Paul, after asking God three times to remove his thorn in the flesh wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” The nature of trials is to be SEVERE.
(c) Then many of our trials are UNDER HIS SUPERVISION. Verse 2 says: “…the LORD your God led you…” We often say that the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, but this verse lets us know that it was the Lord Who led them those 40 years. You may not like the direction that you are headed, but the good news is that He has not forsaken those whom He hath redeemed. So the divine nature of our trials are SEVERE, SUSTAINED and UNDER HIS SUPERVISION.