When looked at in a very macro way, the spring holy day season pictures the journey of God’s firstfruits from start to finish, Passover to Pentecost.
That sounds simple, but in reality the time from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (at the Passover) all the way until Pentecost (picturing the acceptance of God’s elect before His throne in heaven at the Marriage Supper)…that’s a LONG time.
And in seeing the bigger prophetic pictures and focusing on the end point, we can sometimes forget to look at the more personal applications—separation from sin, being called out of the world to a different life.
Within that timeframe, the Days of Unleavened Bread signify the journey out of the bondage of sin for God’s firstfruits, picturing how we move through this physical life learning to rely on God and undergo the process of conversion. It’s a time of spiritual challenges, doing our best to navigate our lives in a carnal world.
A constant theme in the bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is that of wilderness. It is a place, an idea, and a feeling. And what the bible shows us about the wilderness tells us a lot about how we should view our personal spiritual (and physical) journey through life.
How do we see the idea of wilderness in the bible?
The word “wilderness” is used hundreds of times in the bible, particularly in the Old Testament. It’s almost exclusively the word midbar (H4057), which evokes a pasture, an open field where cattle are driven, and can imply a desert.
In our modern world we often equate it with a barren, harsh desert where nothing can survive, but really it just means an uninhabited or uncultivated place, and the origins of the word actually seem to indicate good grassland or choice pasture.
And this is where the other implication of the word midbar comes in, which gives the sense of pushing out or driving (as in driving cattle forward to graze). There is a sense of forward momentum, of being spurred forward…not simply plopping down and staying, but rather moving FROM something TO something else.
And it’s when we start to combine the sense of wilderness as a tangible place, with that idea of momentum and a journey with purpose, that we begin to gain a better understanding of how the wilderness factors into our spiritual and physical lives.
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How should we think about the wilderness, spiritually?
As I mentioned above, today most of us probably have a somewhat negative association with the idea of wilderness, and particularly a spiritual wilderness. We might conjure images of physical and emotional desolation, feeling alone through trials, maybe of a barren place that can’t sustain life.
And in focusing only on those aspects, we’d be missing a very important truth—that the way to the Promised Land lies through the wilderness.
As we reflect on the entirety of God’s spring holy day season and how it pictures our physical lives, we should meditate on how it is also our own personal journey into—and through—the wilderness.
For the ancient Israelites, the wilderness was a physical place with a divine purpose. And this remains true for God’s chosen people today, even though we’re not (usually) tramping through a physical desert.
A few key themes we’ll explore below are the wilderness as a place of…
- Separation, being called out and set apart from the world
- Preparation, through testing and trials to make us ready for the future God has planned
- Surrender, learning to rely on God and fully put ourselves in His hands