Blog Post by our Campus Director
Hey everyone, I’m Braz Kennedy, long-time Jon Wood blog reader, first-time guest blogger. Many thanks to Jon for allowing me to write my first blog post. As many of you know, I’m in Israel right now on a firstFAMILY Church Network Study Tour. Jon asked if I’d mind writing this week’s post about something that stood out to me in the first week of our travels and of everything that has stood out so far, this post is about what I think is among the most applicable to our daily lives. We flew into Tel Aviv and then immediately began our journey South to start where so many great, Biblical, spiritual (and physical) journeys took place, in the Wilderness.
Before diving in, I’ll confess that I had no idea what to expect when it came to a wilderness type of place. Like most of you, I grew up reading about all of the various people who spent time in the wilderness, but I never really knew what it looked or felt like. “The Wilderness of Zin” or the “Wilderness of Paran” (where the Israelites wandered for 40 years before entering the promised land), I think I pictured either a desert with an oasis here and there, or some kind of forest… What I did not expect was utterly barren, rocky terrain. Walking here was like walking on the beach but with millions of rocks of various sizes to cause frequent missteps and result in a twisted ankle or a fall that ends with broken bones or at best, cut-up hands. Occasional valleys with minor springs, and anywhere between ½ inch and 4 inches of rain per year provided all of the water one had available in the “Negev.” To survive in there as a small group would take training and skill, to live as an entire people group with over 2,000,000 people would take a miracle or two.
So that’s where I was when our tour guide taught us something that struck a chord with me. Here’s what I learned.
Why the Wilderness
In Hebrew, the word for “wilderness” is “midbar.” That word has the same root in the Hebrew language as the word pronounced “davar or dabar” which means word. If you change a couple of letters around the same root, you make the word “medabber” which means speaking… Now if you’re not getting the significance yet, it’s okay… our guide had to spell this one out for my English-structured brain.
It’s in the wilderness that God is recorded as speaking to them, giving them His Word. Understanding that our hind-sight is always better than fore-sight, you can see that the very reason God would want His children in the wilderness is right there in the root Word! He wants to speak to them, He wants to give them His Word and allow His people to be dependent on Him for everything. By doing that, He refines them and makes them into a people that don’t look, act, or think like the other people groups around them. They are His people who are set apart for His purposes.
Now fast-forward into the New Testament world in which we live and we see that the Church, those who put their faith in Jesus Christ and have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside them, is the group of people set aside for God’s purposes. How does God develop us into steadfast people who are dependent on Him for everything? Well there’s certainly spiritual disciplines such as reading and memorizing Scripture, praying, fasting, tithing, and worship through singing and hearing the Word preached. The importance of each item on that list cannot be overstated however, what drives us to them? For the Israelites, utter dependence on God’s provision kept them close to Him in the wilderness. The wilderness that keeps us dependent on God, that keeps us grounded in His Word, the context through which He most often speaks to us is suffering.
No matter what kind of suffering you’re experiencing right now; big or small, short-term or long-term, relational, financial, physical, spiritual, and any other kind I missed, If you are God’s child, He’s speaking to you in your wilderness. Are you listening?
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Better yet, if you live anywhere near Fleming Island, come check out Island Church! We meet every Sunday at 5pm at Paterson Elementary School. I’d love to meet you and answer any questions you have in person!
 The “Wilderness of Zin” is different from the “Wilderness of Sin” and is mentioned in Numbers 14 and Numbers 20 among others.
 The “Wilderness of Paran” is sometimes just referred to as “Paran” and is mentioned in Numbers 10, Samuel 25, and 1 Kings 11 among others.
 Negev is the name for the wilderness area beginning in Beersheba and ending in Eliat (in modern Israel, in Biblical times, it would have likely ended about 6.5 miles South of Beersheba).
 Numbers 1:46 tells us 603,550 men over the age of 20 left Egypt in the exodus. The total number of people is probably somewhere just over 2,000,000.