Four Points of Knowledge
In these verses we have four valuable points of knowledge connected with our walk through the wilderness, namely the knowledge of ourselves, the knowledge of God, the knowledge of our relationship, and the knowledge of our hope.
First, as to the knowledge of self, we read, “Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart.” Here is a wondrous point of knowledge. Who can say it? Who can penetrate the depths of a human heart? Who can tell its windings and labyrinths? The details of a wilderness life tend to bring out much of the evil that is in us. At the beginning of our Christian career, we are apt to be so occupied with the present joy of deliverance that we know very little of the real character of nature. It is as we get on, from stage to stage of our desert course, that we become acquainted with self.
Secondly, we are not to suppose that, as we grow in selfknowledge, our joy must decline. Quite the opposite. This would be to make our joy depend upon ignorance of self, whereas it really depends upon the knowledge of God. In point of fact, as the believer advances in the knowledge of himself, his joy becomes deeper and more solid, since he is led more thoroughly out of and away from himself, to find his sole object in Christ. He learns that nature's total ruin is not merely a true doctrine of the Christian faith, but a deep reality in his own experience. He also learns that divine grace is a reality; that salvation is a deep, personal reality; that sin is a reality; the cross a reality; the advocacy of Christ, a reality. He learns the depth, the fullness, the power, the application of God's gracious resources. “He humbled thee and suffered thee to hunger,” not that you might be driven to despair, but that He might “feed thee with manna which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know, that He might make thee to know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. Thy raiment became not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.”
Touching and beautiful appeal! “Forty years” of evidence of what was in the heart of God toward His redeemed people. “Six hundred thousand footmen” clothed, fed, kept and cared for during “forty years” in “a vast howling wilderness!” What a noble and soulsatisfying display of the fullness of divine resources! How is it possible that, with the history of Israel's desert wanderings lying open before us, we could ever harbor a single doubt or fear? Oh! that our hearts may be more completely emptied of self, for this is true humility, and more completely filled with Christ, for this is true happiness and true holiness. “For the Lord thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand; He knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the Lord thy God hath been with thee, thou hast lacked nothing” (Deut. 2: 7).
Thirdly, all we have been dwelling upon flows out of another thing, and that is the relationship in which we stand. “Thou shalt also consider in thine heart that as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee.” This accounts for all. The hunger and the food, the thirst and the water, the trackless desert and the guiding pillar, the toil and the refreshment, the sickness and the healing — all tell of the same thing, a Father's hand, a Father's heart. It is well to remember this “lest we be weary and faint in our minds” (Heb. 12). An earthly father will have to use the rod of discipline as well as to imprint the kiss of affection, to administer the rebuke as well as express his approval, to chasten as well as minister supplies. Thus it is with our heavenly Father. All His dealings flow out of that marvelous relationship which He stands towards us. He is a “Holy Father.” All is summed up in this. Our Father is the “Holy One;”
“the Holy One” is our Father. To walk with, lean on and imitate Him “as dear children,” must secure everything in the way of genuine happiness, real strength and true holiness. When we walk with Him, we are happy; when we lean on Him, we are strong; and when we imitate Him, we are practically holy and gracious.
Finally, in the midst of all the exercises, the trials, the conflicts, and even the mercies and privileges of the wilderness, we must keep the eye steadily fixed on that which lies before us. The joys of the kingdom are to fill our hearts and give vigor and buoyancy to our steps as we pass across the desert. The green fields and vine-clad hills of the heavenly Canaan, the pearly gates and golden streets of the New Jerusalem are to fill the vision of our souls. We are called to cherish the hope of glory, a hope which will never make ashamed. When the sand of the desert tries us, let the thought of Canaan cheer us. Let us dwell upon the “inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us” (1 Peter 1: 4). “For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of oil olive and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack anything in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.” Bright and blessed prospect! May we dwell upon it and upon Him who will be the eternal source of all its brightness and blessedness!
“To Canaan's sacred bound
We haste with songs of joy,
Where peace and liberty are found,
And sweets that never cloy; Hallelujah!
We are on our way to God!
“How sweet the prospect is!
It cheers the pilgrim's breast;
We're journeying through the wilderness,
But soon we'll gain our rest. Hallelujah!
We are on our way to God!”