Daily Devotional

The Purpose of the Desert

by Simon Whitton

2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 (NIV)

It is the Lord who leads us 'all the way in the desert', into places of hardship, isolation, struggling, failure, peril, and need. During such times, our goal is often just to survive each day.  Our situation may seem like pointless wandering, but the Lord has a goal in mind.

The nation of Israel suffered and persevered for 40 years in the wilderness, often walking in large circles. But after the desert had accomplished its purpose, the Lord used miraculous power to lead them into Canaan and to conquer the Promised Land. The Lord did something similar with David, who spent many years in the desert, often in fear for his life.

14 David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.
15 While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life.
16 And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.

1 Samuel 23:14-16 (NIV)

It was during David's time in the desert that he learned to rely on God and His strength; and from that foundational time in the desert, the Lord established David's kingdom.

Like David, Elijah fled into the desert in fear for his life. But God met him there and strengthened him so he could get across the desert to the mountain of God. There he had an intimate and powerful encounter with the Lord; and God gave Elijah confidence in His ultimate control over people and events.

John the Baptist was often seen as a type of Elijah, and he spent a long time in the desert. But again, the desert was the place where John grew strong in spirit.

And the child grew and became strong in spirit;
and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Luke 1:80 (NIV)

Jesus' public ministry also started right after He'd spent 40 days in the desert; a time of testing, temptation, loneliness and hunger. But He came out victorious and 'in the power of the Spirit'.

The Lord's purpose in leading us into the desert is to humble us and persuade us to rely on God and His word, so that we might find strength and power in Him.  After we have been humbled by our circumstances, it is important that we respond with faith.  Those that perished in the desert did so because of unbelief. This is where we learn to trust in the Lord and His word.  He must become our manna, so we can be strengthened by the true bread from heaven.

31 Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"
35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

John 6:31,35 (NIV)

Spend some time in prayer and thank God that He has purpose for your desert experience.  Pray that as you are humbled, you would learn to rely on Him and trust in His word, that you might find strength in God.

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