When our Israelite forefathers were called out of Egypt and out of slavery, they were not just freed from bondage; they were also given a destiny and a destination. And although they did not know the way to the “promised land of milk and honey”, they had a promise with a vision, without which, as it says in Proverbs “the people are unrestrained [out of control, as indeed was proven out in the wilderness], but happy is he who keeps the Torah (29:18). What do Torah and vision have in common? The Torah, as the instructions of YHVH, is the pathway toward the vision, it lights up the way, or as it says in Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”. The Word of Elohim casts light on the pathways so that His People can find their way and cooperate with YHVH’s goals for them. However, without the vision the Torah trail will end up causing the people to wander in cycles of repetitive religious rituals. Hence the Torah and the vision (at which the Torah aims) are equally important.
At the same time we must also remember the words of the prophet: “For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Habakkuk 2:3). Here is where our ancestors miserably missed the mark, thinking that the promise would be fulfilled quickly and easily, and the journey would be short; flying on eagle’s wings, as it were. But because that was not the case, they were not able to keep their eyes on the (unseen) vision. Thus, their immediate needs and fears caused them to draw back from the hope and confidence that their Elohim would do what He had promised, and take them to their destined habitation. Even though they had, on a daily basis, many visual signs they failed to trust Elohim’s word and learn the lessons which were designed for them by their desert experience.
Then, as well as now, the wilderness is a place of preparation. It is a place for hearing the Word, for practicing and putting it into effect. One of the Hebrew words for preparation (in its root form) is ‘kuwn” and means to be firm, stable, or be established. If YHVH is fully engaged in the re-gathering and reconstituting of the second stick/nation of the House of Yosef, He will raise the level of testing and trials that this remnant of Ya’acov must walk through. We may only be at the beginning of this restoration, but what becomes the most obvious is the demand upon us to walk by faith and not by sight in a (many-times) unseen reality (see 2 Corinthians 5:7).
Closely associated with “faith” is “faithfulness”. The Song of Solomon 8:5 depicts a beautiful picture of the end of the wilderness experience: “Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” What a wonderful picture of the grand entry into the land after the long dry barren journey! This is the company of the priestly nation made up of families (even the solitary are put in families, Ps. 68:6), men, women and children. And so it says: “And to all who were written in the genealogy -- their little ones and their wives, their sons and daughters, the whole company of them -- for in their faithfulness they sanctified themselves in holiness” (2 Chronicles 31:18). To this the Apostle adds: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of YHVH Elohim” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
The wilderness journey affords us daily opportunities to offer ourselves a living sacrifice on the altar of obedience of faith (ref. Romans 12:1-2; 16:26). The Torah, that is the whole counsel of YHVH’s instructions, illumines the path to the vision. Some may think that this journey is to culminate only in a heavenly destiny with no earthly relevance. However, we cannot disconnect the Word of Elohim from its earthly fulfillments. The following Scripture, which was addressed to the northern tribes of Israel, illustrates the fulfillment of YHVH’s Word here on earth. Remember, having only the Torah without the vision, or having the vision without Torah, the following will be out of reach: "I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know YHVH. It shall come to pass in that day that I will answer,’ says YHVH; ‘I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth. The earth shall answer with grain, with new wine, and with oil; they shall answer Jezreel. Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; then I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they shall say, 'You are my Elohim' " (Hosea 2:19-23 emphases added).
Where and how do we experience and attain this level of righteousness and faithfulness which will take us to the greatest “vision” which has ever been granted to a people, a people who are to lean and rest peacefully on the arms of the King of kings and Lord of lords? “… For those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful" (Revelation 17:14).
To be continued…