It was on this day that Moses led the children of Israel into the wilderness of Paran, as recorded in Numbers 12:
“And afterward the people moved from Hazeroth and camped in the Wilderness of Paran.” (Numbers 12:16)
There is a great deal of theological debate as to where the wilderness of Paran was. Some say that it was a stretch of land that began on the southern edge of the Dead Sea and extended southwesterly into the Negev. Others say it was an area that is now part of what we call Saudi Arabia. Some even argue that it was Mecca, which is quite interesting. Wherever it was, the wilderness of Paran became a staging point for the conquest of the land of Canaan meaning that, Israel emerged from the wilderness and then entered the Promised Land. Here’s why that is interesting.
Before the Messiah began His public ministry, He first went to John and was baptized. Afterwards, He went into the wilderness to be tempted for forty days just as Israel was tested in the wilderness for forty years. When it came time to initiate His ministry, He emerged from the wilderness and went forth to “conquer,” so to speak. Later when it was time for Him to be crucified, He first went into the wilderness and stayed at a place called Ephraim (John 11:54). That means, when it was time for Him to go to Golgotha and conquer hell and death, He emerged from the wilderness. And at the advent of the Messianic Kingdom, Isaiah says this is going to occur:
“Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this One who is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? — ‘I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.’ For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed has come.” (Isaiah 63:1, 4)
This prophecy is speaking of the conquering Messiah who comes to, once and for all, eradicate Israel’s enemies and reign upon the throne of His father, David. But notice that He emerges from the wilderness, specifically from the land of Edom and the area called Bozrah – a place in the wilderness.
All of this bring us to this question: why does the wilderness play such an integral role in the conquest of the land of Canaan and the ultimate conquest of evil? Perhaps the answer is found in the fact that the Hebrew word for “wilderness” is מדבר midbar. Here is why that’s of interest to us: the same Hebrew letters that spell midbar also form the word m’daber, which means “to speak.” It is in the wilderness where God most often speaks to us because, in the wilderness, there aren’t many distractions. In the wilderness, we don’t have conveniences and, so, we are more inclined to listen to the voice of God. It’s in the wilderness that we learn of our weaknesses and are given the opportunity to acknowledge them and overcome them. If we can overcome our weaknesses in the wilderness, we are better equipped to overcome the enemy that possesses the land promised to us.
How can we hope to conquer the adversary without, if we don’t first learn to conquer the adversary within? Where do we most often deal with the enemy within? It’s certainly not when everything is going great and our environment is lush and green. It’s when everything is dry, barren and desolate. It’s when we are in those wilderness experiences.
So, if you find that you are in the proverbial wilderness and you’re not sure where your provision is coming from, please know that it’s not a place where you have to despair. To the contrary, it may prove to be the very place that God has orchestrated to be a staging area for victory. It might be the place He’s brought you to before He leads you into the promise that’s been made to you.