The book of Numbers receives its name from the numbering of the people that occurred in Chapter 1 and again in Chapter 26. In Chapter 1, those who came out of Egypt were numbered. In Chapter 26, 40 years later, at the end of their wilderness journey, they are numbered again. A careful look will reveal, some of the tribes grew, and some of the tribes shrank. I think there is an important application we can glean which pertains to our lives. Just as they were in the wilderness, we often find ourselves in a spiritually dry time. We may even feel like we’re just wandering around aimlessly. I think it is valuable to remember, based upon what we do in the wilderness, we can either come out having shrunk or having grown.I believe God brings us to those places in our relationship with Him, those difficult times, because He wants to grow us in our relationship with Him. He wants us to learn to trust Him and follow Him.
In the Gospels, we read of the disciples getting into a boat with Jesus. Jesus falls asleep in the front of the boat. As they begin to cross the Sea of Galilee, a storm hits, and the disciples freak out. They were so panicked, they woke Jesus and said, “Master, don’t you care that we are perishing.” That translates into, “Jesus, You don’t love us or care about us. If You really loved me, You wouldn’t allow this difficulty in my life, while You were sleeping.” We know, in response, Jesus got up and calmed the sea (Mark 4:35-41). They faced a difficulty (you might say they were in a wilderness), and they failed. But was it a total failure?
The next time we see them on the Sea of Galilee in a storm, these same guys, row from evening time ‘till 4:00 am without stopping. Jesus sent them out onto the sea and said, “Go to the other side.” He went up on the mountain to pray and as He prays, He watches them (Mark 6:45-50). He seems to enjoy watching them row. They row and row, hour after hour… as the night grows dark and morning begins to approach, they are still rowing. They haven’t stopped. What happened? Well, in the first storm, they had a wilderness experience, but during that time of difficulty, they learned something. Even though they’d failed, they learned. When we are on the Sea of Galilee and a storm hits, we don’t need to be afraid; even if it looks as though God is sleeping and not involved.
As a result of that experience, you could throw those guys out on that sea, in any storm, and they knew, “Jesus has it covered. Even if He’s sleeping, He’s got it covered.” They were in a wilderness, but they grew.Every one of us will face a wilderness. We go through times of dryness in our relationship with the Lord. Times of difficulty, times when it seems like Jesus is asleep, not hearing us. We can grow or we can shrink. Depending on how we trust and follow the Lord.