A Way Through the Wilderness - Chapter 7

A Way Through The Wilderness
Beauty For Ashes Part II - George H. Warnock


The Long Journey Around Edom

The people of God tried to make a shortcut through the Land of Edom, but the Edomites would not permit it. Edom was another name for Esau, Jacob's twin brother. He was the firstborn of the twins, and as the firstborn he should have had the inheritance. But God's purpose was in Jacob, the second-born. Esau was called Edom (which means, "Red, Ruddy") after he had bartered with Jacob and sold Jacob the birthright for the red pottage. The word Edom is from the same root word as Adam, "to show blood, rosy." Now Paul tells us that the natural man "receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him." Edom forced the people of God into a long journey around his borders. The Adam nature waxes more and more corrupt. The natural mind is not subject to the law of God, "neither indeed can be."

Finally they encompass the Land of Edom and cross over the brook Zered. "Zered" means "to be exuberant in growth." It is somewhat of a turning point in the journeyings of the new generation. For them it is a day of new growth; and it is the end of the old generation: "And the space in which we came from Kadesh-Barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host..." (Deut. 2:14).

Conflict With Moab

God would not let Israel attack Moab, even as He would not let them attack Edom. But the presence of the people of God dwelling so close to their borders filled the Moabites with great fear, and they hired Balaam the sorcerer to come and curse the people of God. Israel's conflict through the main part of their wilderness life was really with their own hearts. But now as the people of God begin to emerge from the wilderness way, there is a new conflict: a conflict with false gods and with evil spirits. We are in that day right now. What was once but a human attack, a war of reason, an attack of the flesh, is quickly becoming a war against spirits. Evil spirits are assuming control in many areas of society and of the Church, and God's people are finding it increasingly difficult to know what is right and what is wrong. The time is now here when those demonic forces which once operated in the East (in gurus, medicine men, etc.) are now beginning to take up strong positions in the Church; and Christians are unaware of it because it is nicely clothed in "Christian" language. When the people of God are misled into thinking that the Kingdom of God is related to power and authority over this world's resources, over its governments, over its political and economic forces... when the Kingdom of God is presented as something synonymous with success, prosperity, and wealth... there and then Satan has found a fertile soil into which he can plant the seeds of deception. Even physical health can be a deceptive thing if we use questionable powers to tap into it. For why would Satan deny us physical health if we use Satanic methods to get it? Is it a real healing if Satan should withdraw his attack on our body, so long as he can retain control of our spirit? And is it, in fact, a real healing? The alleviation of pain and deliverance from certain physical afflictions has long been associated with the practices of the occult. Is it healing? No! It is but a sedative that the Enemy imparts, in order that he might take control of the minds and spirits of people.

Our Lord Jehovah declares, "I am the LORD that healeth thee," and this is the heritage of the people of God. But it is a covenant promise, and for its appropriation God requires an obedient, covenant-walking people. The fact that this present generation of the Church is afflicted equally with the people of the world is proof that we have not walked in covenant-relationship with our God. Truth has been so perverted that if we find wealth, health, prosperity, and happiness, the means by which we find it are incidental to most people. If the results are "good," this must prove that the methods are of God.

God forbid that we should find gain without godliness, physical healing without spiritual healing, prosperity to the natural man without prosperity to the spiritual man, peace of mind without the peace of God. Is this disturbing to some of you who believe that anything that produces happiness and peace and blessing must be of God? I hope it is disturbing. Because true blessedness has nothing to do with that at all. The teaching of Christ concerning the Kingdom of God speaks on this wise:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God"
(Matt. 5:3-8).

The Doctrine Of Balaam

The most distressing thing about Israel's conflict with Moab, and with Balaam the sorcerer, was this: God would not allow any enchantment from the false prophet to come upon the people of God, and yet Balaam got what he wanted through deception and guile:

"Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob... What hath God wrought!" (Num. 23:23).

BUT... the people who could not be cursed by Balaam's enchantments, were allured and deceived by his teachings. Balaam encouraged the king of Moab to suggest fraternization with the people of God, and to invite them to one of their socials and the people of God were ensnared by the gods of Moab; and through "the counsel of Balaam" there fell a very great plague among the congregation of Israel. (See Num. 31:16).

"And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods..." (Num. 25:1-2). The word "they" is feminine in the Hebrew, and refers back to the daughters of Moab. Twenty-four thousand valiant men of the new generation fell under the wiles of the daughters of Moab and perished in God's judgments, when God rose up to take vengeance on every man who had been seduced to worship Baalpeor, the Moabite deity.

Who Is Baal, The God Of The Moabites?

Baalpeor was the Moabite deity that was worshipped on Mount Peor with all manner of immoral rites. According to historical and archeological discoveries, Baal is seen to be the god of fertility, the farm god, the god of agriculture, the god of increase ... the god of prosperity. The cult was rampant in Canaan, and throughout her history the people of God fell victims to the lure of Baal worship. Baal worship was conducted by priests in the temples of Baal, or in the outdoors, or in certain "high places" in the land. Animal sacrifices were included in their rituals, along with licentious dances, and immoral practices. The female associate goddess was called "Ashtoreth"... and all manner of immorality was practiced. There were male prostitutes and female prostitutes, all associated with temple worship. The cult was rampant in Canaan, and when Israel failed to completely wipe out the seven abominable nations of Canaan (as God had commanded them), they soon succumbed to the subtle attractions of this kind of worship; and it remained a curse in their midst, and a grief to the heart of God, throughout much of their history.

It is not difficult to see in the land today, not just a similarity to what they had in ancient Canaan, but almost a reproduction of the same licentious rites and practices as they had then. We can expect such things in the world about us, for Jesus said it would be as it was in the days of Sodom. But little by little the doctrine of Balaam is being incorporated into the doctrine of the Church. It all starts with an avowed worship of the "God of prosperity and happiness"... the God who gives success, achievement, gain, wealth, happiness. What has this got to do with immorality and licentiousness? Very much. What were the chief sins of Sodom? What was the basic sin of Sodom? God pin-points it very clearly. He says it was... "PRIDE, FULNESS OF BREAD, AND ABUNDANCE OF IDLENESS..." (Ezek. 16:49).

It was their high standard of living that led to all the other things that we particularly associate with Sodom. And it is no wonder that in our land where we have such wealth and abundance that we are reaping an unspeakable harvest of immorality, licentiousness, adultery, divorce, unfaithfulness, and so forth. Not only out there in the world, but now, right in the Church. Not only that, but all the while we are reaping such a harvest, the seeds which produced the harvest continue to be sown by men in the pulpit, who are presenting success, wealth, prosperity, and happiness as the fruit of faith, as the fruit of Christian achievement.

The real tragedy is not just the fact that people in the Church are becoming immoral like the world about them. The tragedy is that the spirits of Baal are actively involved in this seductive kind of teaching, and the people of God are not aware of it.

God has a controversy with this world-conforming church at Pergamos, which dwells where Satan's throne is, and He is going to purge the "doctrine of Balaam" (who promotes Baal worship among the people of God) out of our midst; not with the javelin of Phinehas as in Moses' day, but with "the sharp sword with two edges" that proceedeth out of His mouth (Rev. 2:12-14).

Conflict With Sihon And Og

"Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle. This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven" (Deut. 2:24-25).

In the crossing of the Arnon they entered for the first time the borders of their inheritance. "Arnon" means "a rushing stream," and is from a root word meaning "to shout (for joy)." Here they would "begin to possess" the Land that God had promised them. It was just a beginning... a very small beginning, in fact. The real measure of their inheritance lay across the Jordan. But some of the people were ready to settle for this land, and desired to go no further.

The Inheritance Of Reuben, Gad, And Half Of Manasseh

When these tribes saw the fertility and abundance of the land that they taken from Og and Sihon they were anxious to lay claim to it and settle down. They came to Moses and said, "If we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan" (Num. 32:5). At first Moses was angry with them, for their seeming desire to proceed no further into the conquest of Canaan. But when they assured Moses that they would "go ready armed" into battle against the Canaanites, until the rest of the tribes had received their inheritance, Moses relented. He commanded Eleazar the priest and Joshua the new leader, to give them their request, as long as they were faithful in helping their brethren to enter into their inheritance west of the Jordan. We must have no condemnation for those who desire to set up camp on the eastern banks of the Jordan. We know the inheritance they have there is only partial, and very limited; but it is nevertheless the beginnings of fruitfulness. If some find true delight and fulfillment there, who are we to accuse them of failure... or of disobedience? As we look about us we can see many of God's people who are finding joy and delight in the pasture lands of Gilead, and sometimes we may be inclined to envy them. They have found the desire of their hearts. They are happy and contented right where they are. And God is blessing them abundantly. They are fruitful in ministry and in service for the Lord. They have large flocks and herds. Why can't we be like that? The fact is, the vision that God has implanted, and the hope that burns within, will not permit us to settle on the eastern plains of the Jordan. We just know there is more, much more than we can see here. It is not that we are unthankful, dissatisfied, or disgruntled... as some may think. What was wrong with Abraham anyway? There he was dwelling in Hebron, the choice part of Canaan. Why did he always insist that he was but a "stranger and pilgrim" in the earth? Are you not at home, Abraham? Abraham could never feel "at home" because in following on to know the LORD, and in touching the heart of God, he had become increasingly aware that there had to be something better, something more enduring, than a beautiful country such as he had discovered there at Hebron. This is what the Spirit revealed to the apostle Paul. If Abraham was a "stranger and pilgrim in the earth, then he was declaring plainly that he looked for a "better country"... he "looked for a City which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God" (Heb. 11:10, 16). Your desire for something better, something more fulfilling, something more enduring, is related directly to your walk of obedience before the LORD. For in measure as God has enabled you to walk in obedience before Him, so in like measure has He been able to draw nigh to you, to walk with you, and to cause you to become more and more aware of that great longing that He has in His heart for a permanent HOME in your heart. What He has revealed and what He has given, you recognize as being good and wonderful. But what He has BECOME to you means much more than His gifts. And the glory of His Being, His character, His nature, His love, His Truth... all these reflect more and more of that inheritance on the other side of Jordan for which your heart longs and for which your spirit yearns. And whereas at one time we may have gloried in what He DID for us; now we glory more in what He IS to us. Once it may have been great in our eyes to be USED of the Lord; but now we desire only to WALK with Him. Once it was much service, much activity, much ministry, that filled us with a sense of gratification and fulfillment; now it is rather in simple abiding relationship with Him that we find our delight; and if this be not so yet in actual experience, it is nevertheless our abiding and constant hope.

If we do not know the difference between service and relationship, perhaps we should ask the Lord to test the motives of our hearts.

Is it enough that we should walk with Him, and know His voice? Or do we have that uneasy feeling that if our ministry lags, and we are becoming less and less active in our service for Him, that somehow we are losing ground? Was Jesus more spiritual when He healed the sick and raised the dead than He was when He set His face as a flint for Jerusalem, and walked the rugged pathway up Golgotha's heights? Was it not all the same to Him, to know that in either case He was simply doing the will of God?

"Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God..."

"My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work..."

New Expectation On The Plains Of Moab

As Reuben, and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh took their inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan, they must have felt a certain satisfaction in knowing that God had been faithful in giving them the desires of their heart. Their part in any future conquests would not in any way enlarge their borders, it was just part of the deal they had made with Moses. When the battle was over, they would return to the beautiful plains of Gilead, and there establish their homes. In any future battles, in any future conquests, theirs would always be the backward look.

But with the other nine and a half tribes in Israel there was expectation and hope for something they did not have on the plains of Gilead. Theirs was a living hope in every conquest they would make. "For what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it" (Rom. 8:24-25).

The nine and a half tribes belonged to the western side of the Jordan. They were bent upon new conquests, new areas of triumph in God, new explorations in the Land of Promise: new heights, new lengths, new breadths in God that must be appropriated. It is the forward look, the upward call, that urges us on. We have not yet come to the Rest, and to the inheritance that God has promised. There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.

The Conquest Of Canaan Becomes Increasingly More Difficult

With every delay to the conquering of the inheritance that we experience because of human failure, the task becomes that much more difficult. Every time God moves mightily by His Spirit, and the people of God for one reason or another are defeated and turned back into the wilderness, the next attempt at conquering the Land seems to become more and more remote. But there is a principle in God, and one that we have emphasized over and over, and it is this: When God has sent His Word into the earth concerning His purposes for His people, HE WILL NOT TAKE THAT WORD BACK unfulfilled, unfinished, uncompleted. That Word will remain in the earth, until it has accomplished the desire of His heart: "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it SHALL NOT RETURN UNTO ME VOID, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa. 55:10-11).

Some may confess that God has seen fit to take back that Word, because we have come to the end and it's too late now for God to do what He had planned. Some may confess that there is nothing to be expected but a sudden removal of the Church from the earth... like a farmer would reap his green fields of wheat when it appears that a devastating storm is on its way. At least, then, he would have fodder for his flocks.

But Our Confession Is A Living Hope

We confess that His Word is in the earth concerning a harvest that is coming forth that will be ripe, that will be full, that will be like the good Seed that was planted: some thirty-fold, some sixty-fold, AND SOME ONE HUNDRED-FOLD... We confess that we hear that Word, and therefore we speak it .

We confess that we have a living hope that His Church will yet become a "glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or blemish, or any such thing"...

We confess that the Lord has delayed His coming, as He intimated He might have to do, that with "long patience" He has waited "for the precious fruit of the earth"; and that the Day of Harvest is now very nigh at hand...

We confess that the Judge now stands at the Door, to purge His Church, and then to judge the world...

We confess that the Husbandman is preparing laborers for His harvest field... and that shortly they will reap the fields that are fast coming to maturity... and that very soon He will say to the reapers: "Thrust in thy sickle, and reap... for the harvest of the earth is ripe" (Rev. 14:15). Notice in this passage that the word "ripe" is from a Greek word that means "more than ripe, dry, mature, withered." Is this the way you feel sometimes? Think it not strange; in the Day of Harvest the fields of grain must become very dry, in order that it may be threshed, and the chaff driven away.

Yes, it is going to become increasingly more difficult for God to bring His people into the inheritance; it is more difficult now than at any time in the history of the Church. This simply means that the God who promised must give more and more grace, and more and more of His Glory, to accomplish the task.

In a previous writing (Feed My Sheep), we dealt somewhat with the flooding of the Jordan at the time of Israel's passage across the river into Canaan... God making it even more difficult for their entry into the Land. We mentioned how the priests bore the Ark of the Covenant on their shoulders and led the way; how they dipped their feet in the waters, and saw the waters cut off before their eyes; and how they stood with the Ark in the bottom of the river while the people of God passed over. We spoke of their encampment on the western side of the river, in preparation for the attack on Jericho; and of the circumcision of the new generation on the plains of Gilgal and how God was making it increasingly difficult for the new generation to survive, incapacitated for battle in the presence of their enemies. And now the man Moses had just died; the man who had the authority for leadership, and the expertise for battle. In all the way that the Lord led the new generation we can see less and less likelihood of a successful conquest of the Land. Everything was against them. Weakened by the wiles of the daughters of Moab and their forces decimated by God's wrath as He slew 24,000 men, and then at Gilgal totally crippled before their enemies.

What was God doing anyway? He was making it utterly impossible for them to attain to the promise EXCEPT BY A MIGHTY AND MIRACULOUS DISPLAY OF HIS OWN POWER AND GRACE AND GLORY. For He alone was to be glorified in the sight of the chosen nation; and He alone was to be glorified in the sight of the wicked nations of the land.

When we see and understand how Jealous our God is for the Glory of His great Name, these things that we are talking about ought not to be considered some far-out teaching... something we can just lay aside as irrelevant to the purpose of God in this hour. It is in a day and hour such as this, when apostasy is rampant, and the Name of our Lord is blasphemed among the nations, that we can expect and anticipate the Jealous God to rise up and vindicate His great Name in a holy, conquering, godly remnant in the earth.

Chapter 8 - The Heavenly Canaan
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