Moshe expressed the purpose of the wilderness journey, from YHVH’s point of view, in the following words: “Do not fear; for Elohim has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin" (Exodus 20:20). "And you shall remember that YHVH your Elohim led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2). Fear in Hebrew has two meanings “scared, fearful, afraid” or, “to stand in awe, reverence, honor and respect”. Both meanings are embedded in the above quoted verse from Exodus.
Although we are called to be a priestly nation, it is not religion that is to be the vehicle of expression, but rather life laid-down for the purpose of serving and administering YHVH’s Kingdom life and light in and to families and local communities. This ‘mode of operation’ requires a renewal of the mind, as most of us (especially in the western world) have been brought up in a mindset and lifestyle that highly regards one’s personal independence and individuality. The instructions of the Torah, the Prophets, Yeshua and the Apostles, on the other hand, do not advocate this kind of world view, but the opposite - interdependence and concern for others and their needs (see for example, 1 Corinthians 12: 14-27). This approach is not one of interference and intrusion, but of encouragement and support, not only toward friends and relatives but also in regards to the unbelieving neighbor, and not just one day out of the week.
The wilderness journey was and is today a 24/7 experience of living by faith, and daily facing the unknown, both in the natural and spiritual. During their wilderness journey, our forefathers lived as a community of Israelites on the way to a promised land that they had not seen, nor experienced. They did not even know exactly where it was located, just as was the case with Avram who, when initially called to ‘get out and go’, did not know the way or the destination. Some of us may suppose that we know all about our future and how the Spirit will lead us to what we think is the ‘promised land’. We may even attempt to plan the way, but in the end YHVH will direct the unknown pathways (see Proverbs 16:9). As mentioned above, we have to come to a point of recognizing the need for mind renewal, especially as to whether we identify as assemblies of His redeemed people or, conversely, as communities. In the past we were mostly conditioned to getting together for bible studies, worship services, socials and pot-luck meals, and in many cases even now these have become our long standing camp grounds from where we have not moved, having perhaps mistaken the crowd for the Cloud. We have become dependent on those one or two weekly gatherings just for a break in our daily routines. This is not to say that these meetings do not have their purpose and place, but in and of themselves they do not constitute community. The definition of “congregate” is “to come together; to assemble; to meet”, whereas “to commune” or “communing” means: “a body of people or families living in close proximity and sharing their livelihood together…communicating intimately with; being in a state of heightened, intimate receptivity”. These definitions and their application may not even be common in many a home or family, let alone among family groupings and other types of assemblies. Why do I keep emphasizing these issues? It is in order to remind us of the season and place we are currently in, and for the purpose of reviewing our present conditions. The desert is a habitation that YHVH uses as a means for achieving His aims, and so for us it is a place where we are to prepare ourselves to receive what has been promised: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of Elohim” (2 Corinthians 7:1-2 emphasis added).
To enter into the fulfillment of YHVH’s promises one has to go through ‘gates’: "Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter, the one that remains faithful. The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:2-3). Faithfulness, steadfastness and trustworthiness are the main ingredients for successful family and community life, and may I add, also for successful maneuvering through the wilderness. Another component are the two commandments that Yeshua uttered: “You shall love YHVH your Elohim with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Torah and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40).
If communities or home groups will work together for specific objectives, the levels of relationships will deepen so that the journey may progress, while also putting to the test hitherto unexplored heights of trust and responsibility. Maturity in the body of redeemed Israel is based on the ripeness of the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The rotting and dying fruit of the works of the flesh (vs. 19-21) at this stage should not even be seen, let alone give off its unpleasant odor.
YHVH also uses the wilderness and its conditions to “purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me” (Ezekiel 20:38), as we have read above. He will reveal what is harbored in the heart, and the thoughts that are not of Him. Overcoming the evil tendencies will take perseverance and persistence. The apostles left us with the Father’s instructions and the tools of truth to work with. As already mentioned, the renewing of the mind is essential to all of this. “Renewal” means that at some time in the past (before the Fall) man’s thoughts were pure, his motives uncontaminated, and his desires untainted. Even while in the womb of our mothers, our minds were pure and undefiled. But with the polluted spirit-life of Adam, and living in an environment that expresses the nature of this kingdom of darkness, the mind cannot remain in a pure state. A good example of that rebellious nature is seen in toddlers, or even in younger children (babies), who so naturally resist the authority of parents.
The Tanach and New Covenant writings are replete with instructions for each of us to take seriously, remembering that we are “under the rod”. The power of the resurrected life in Messiah is able to accomplish the renewing process of the mind, but that means a serious commitment of obedience to the Word and to Elohim’s instructions, especially those that apply to the internal (heart and mind) changes: “Be ye holy”.
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things… and the peace of Elohim, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Messiah Yeshua” (Philippians 4:8-7)
“For I am YHVH your Elohim. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, that you shall be holy; for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44). “For Elohim did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness [or sanctification]”
(1 Thessalonians 4:7).