Every true disciple of Jesus Christ must go through the wilderness. The wilderness is not a requirement for the casual Christian in the American church, but it is a requirement for the Lord's disciples. The Father uses the wilderness to transform His disciples into the image of His Son. There is no other way. No way around it. No shortcut. Only by choosing to walk through the wilderness can we walk with Christ, and know Him in the capacity that He desires us to.
Throughout history, those who were truly devoted to the Lord, chose this path. Relatively few believers in this day are on the path through the wilderness. It is an extremely difficult path. The testing of the wilderness is severe and crushing. Everything in you will want to quit or turn back. Many who have started down the path in the wilderness have turned back, or have begun "wandering in the wilderness."
Choosing the wilderness is not a decision that should be taken lightly. However those who choose not to go through the wilderness will not really know the Lord during this age. The path through the wilderness leads to the mountain of the Lord. Every step in the right direction towards the mountain, brings a greater revelation of who He is.
Moses discerned God's call on his life from an early age. He had a sense of destiny and purpose. When Moses was full grown, he went to look upon the burden that his brethren were carrying. He observed an Egyptian striking an Israelite. Moses felt the call of the "deliverer" rise up inside him. His destiny to be a ruler and a judge burned within him. "Surly it is time to step out in God's calling for my life," he thought. Moses killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.
Moses "supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand" (Acts 7:25 NKJV). Moses had missed the Lord's timing, and he missed the Lord's way. Because of this, the Lord had not been with Moses when he acted. Since the Lord was not with Moses, the very people that Moses was trying to deliver, did not receive him. They rejected him and said, "Who made you a ruler and judge over us?" (Acts 7:27). The people were right. The Lord had not yet made Moses a ruler and judge over Israel, but Moses had made himself one.
Therefore Moses was sent into the wilderness by the Lord. The Lord needed to take the self-life and self-will out of Moses. Moses needed to die so another could live through him. If the Lord would have given Moses what he wanted, when he wanted it; it would have destroyed him. His ambition to achieve and "be somebody" would have train-wrecked his calling. Moses would have built something for himself all while saying it was for God. His heart would have deceived him.
The Lord loved Moses so much that He did not allow this to happen. He gave Moses an opportunity to embrace the wilderness. Moses struggled with the wilderness process for a while. He was left alone to tend sheep in obscurity. No one recognized him as a leader, or valued his counsel. He had been rejected by his own people. Probably even criticized as being to harsh.
The destiny that he envisioned for himself for many years, crumbled. His prophetic vision became dark. All the words he had heard from the Lord turned to confusion. The years went by and nothing happened....just daily routines and mundane life. Every year or so, a spark of that old hope would rise again. "A new season is almost here and the Lord is going to use me in power as He has intended," Moses would think. However another year would go by, and the Lord did nothing with Moses. Moses was not sent to deliver God's people from bondage, but only to tend the sheep.
Moses' drive for achievement was so great that it took many years to die. Drive is good, but only when it comes from the Lord. The drive that comes out of the natural man is from the knowledge of the tree of good and evil. It must be crucified, so that the Lord can release His drive through the vessel.
Moses died a thousand times in that wilderness. His hope and his dreams were completely destroyed. Hope deferred caused his heart to grow sick. The hand of the Lord was upon Moses to crush him and break him. Moses fell on the Rock and was broken to pieces. Moses' desires to be a judge, ruler, and a leader were turned to a dull feeling of disgust when he thought about the calling. Moses didn't want anything more to do with his calling. He wasn't continuing to "trust God" or "speak his destiny into existence." It was dead.
Something happened when Moses' calling was dead and buried. His attention became increasingly more focused on the Lord. Instead of thinking about his ministry, he thought about the Lord. Instead of being with the Lord to get power, anointing, and revelation for ministry; he simply went before the Lord to be with Him. Moses discovered the presence of the Lord. He wanted nothing but to be in His presence and to know Him. The position and ministry that Moses had valued so highly, now paled in comparison to knowing the Lord. The secret place of the most high became Moses' dwelling place. It became his life.
The Commission of Moses
Moses had completely given up his calling on the earth. It was dead. He no longer wanted to be the leader, judge, and deliverer of the Israelite people. He simply wanted to fulfill his calling as a shepherd of sheep, and use his many hours in isolation to draw nearer to the Lord. The Lord had become first in Moses' life and the presence of the Lord become his goal. Moses had come to a place in the Spirit in which he stood before the Lord of the heavens and the earth. It was enough for him that the Lord saw him. He no longer cared what man thought about him or if man even took notice of him. Moses had died to the pride of life, and his desire to be seen and respected by men. He found that the Lord seeing him in the secret place was so much greater than men seeing him in public. He valued being in the sight of the One who sat on the throne more than being among the greatest men on the earth.
Then it came. It was a day like every other. Moses led the flock to the back of the desert (one of his favorite places of isolation). At Horeb, the angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. The commissioning came. After a generation of hope deferred making the heart sick...long after his dreams, plans, and vision were dead. It finally came.
Forty years earlier Moses had failed miserably at being a leader, judge, and deliverer. Now the Lord was commissioning him into the very office that he had failed horribly at all those years ago. God was giving Moses a commissioning that Moses no longer wanted. When the Lord tells Moses that he is being sent, Moses answers with the words, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11 NKJV). The man who was once so sure that he had the answer and could be the solution; now knew that he was nothing and could do nothing to help the people.
Forty years prior, Moses would have been very excited to go at the command of the Lord. But now being broken and not trusting himself, he answers the Lord, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.” (Exodus 4:13 NKJV). This scripture makes it clear that Moses truly did not want to go. He had completely forgotten his destiny. He was not waging war for his destiny, and bringing it to pass through prayer until the breakthrough came. Moses destiny had died a along time ago in a forsaken land of death called "The Wilderness."
The Lord had to make sure that Moses' calling and destiny were annihilated before he could be used mightily. Because it was never about Moses getting what he wanted. It was always about the Lord using a vessel named Moses to carry out His purposes, and fulfilling His plans upon the Earth. So Moses was sent. Only now Moses understood that it wouldn't be him doing the delivering or being the savior. The One who is the Deliverer and the Savior would be doing the delivering and saving through him. Since Moses was no longer living, Christ could live through him.
Joseph received a powerful calling and destiny at the age of 17. The Lord showed him a dream of his brothers and father bowing down to him. This indicated that Joseph was to be given a position of authority and leadership. The young 17 year-old was so excited about this dream that he shared it unwisely. There was something in his heart that desired this position for himself, and enjoyed that his brothers were bowing to him. Joseph's self-life was driving his excitement, as his focus was on what God would do for him.
The Lord made sure that Joseph found his way to the prison cell. A man or "angel" conveniently "found" Joseph when he was wandering or "lost," and told him exactly where his brothers were located without Joseph even telling the man his name (Genesis 37:15-17). The Lord orchestrated this to prepare Joseph (Genesis 50:20, Psalm 105:17). Suffering was necessary to remove the garage from Joseph's soul, and to bring him to a state where the Lord could move through him unhindered.
Joseph was given a high calling on the Earth. Many in the modern church desire powerful and important earthy callings according to earthly standards. Many desire powerful positions in politics, or the entertainment industry, or leadership in the church. However, the higher the earthly call, the more potential for a fatal fall. If a believer is given a high position without the proper internal character to sustain that position, Satan will utterly crush that person. This is seen in the church with "big named" leaders making things all about "their" ministry and their anointing. Some even falling into sexual immorality and committing adultery.
Only the sufferings of the cross can bring a believer to a place in the Spirit where the Lord can then entrust that person with a high earthly calling. Believers who are called to these high positions (according to earthly standards); and fail to choose the cross and sufferings of the wilderness, will crumble under the weight of their calling. The Lord clearly understood this, so He made sure Joseph went to prison for 12 years. Would you be willing to go to prison in order to be used by God? Many desire a high calling, but there are few who can withstand the severe testing and trials that a high calling requires.
Prison was a very difficult time for Joseph, as it would be for any of us. Joseph was placed in a dark dungeon that was not sanitary. His family was gone. The prison guards beat Joseph's feet with shackles (Psalm 105:18). He suffered severely. Between the promise and the promise land, there is usually a wilderness of testing and preparation. Joseph's process had begun.
Joseph was strong in hope and faith. He had the prophetic word from the Lord that he would be a ruler. But now nothing could be further from the truth. Joseph was the opposite of a ruler, but a slave and prisoner. During the early years in the prison, Joseph kept his positive declaration that he had a destiny. He remembered the word from the Lord and prayed it. He knew that the Lord would deliver him out of the prison and bring him into his destiny.
After about five years went by, something changed in Joseph. He was no longer as confident as he once was. He had expected the Lord to deliver him out of the prison after two or three years, but the Lord had not. The day's turned into years and the years turned into half of a decade. The fire and drive that once exuded from Joseph was no more. His hope was now deferred and his heart had become sick. His expectation that the Lord would move in his life was utterly crushed.
A few more years went by. The Lord dealt with Joseph's will and his expectations of the Lord. Joseph's desire to be a leader was removed. He no longer craved a high position before men. Joseph realized that it was no longer about his own calling and destiny; it was about the purposes of the Lord.
Eight years had now passed. Joseph used to spend much of his time focusing on his calling and how the Lord would use him. Now he spent most of his time focusing on the Lord and simply knowing Him. Joseph found the presence of the Lord in his prison cell and it became everything to him. Joseph could no longer stand to go a day without being in the intimate presence of the Lord. He desired fellowship with the Lord above all else.
“Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the LORD tested him.” (Psalms 105:19 NKJV). The Hebrew word 'tested' also means to refine, to melt, or to purge away. The revealed word of the Lord literally refined Joseph by taking him through a process. The word purged the self-life and self-will out of Joseph until he was fit for the Master's use.
Finally the Lord delivered Joseph from the prison after about 12 years. Joseph stood before Pharaoh: “And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it.” So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, “ It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”” (Genesis 41:15-16 NKJV). 13 years earlier Joseph might have answered Pharaoh differently. "I can help you," Joseph might have said. However the hand of the Lord had been on Joseph and he was completely broken. Therefore Joseph said that it was not in him to help Pharaoh, but God could do so. The crushing of the wilderness produces true humility. Joseph was now ready to be used by the Lord.
Elijah was trained in the wilderness by the hand of God. He went through the school of hard knocks (the school of the Spirit). He didn't attend a formal Christian Bible College where he was simply given information about the Lord. The school of the Spirit brought Elijah into an experiential relationship with the Lord. Because Elijah chose this path instead of a formal education, he was granted access to stand before the Lord and to know His presence.
Elijah was a prototype for what every ministry should be, a true ministry of the Lord. Many of the ministries in the current church are simply white washed walls filled with vanities such as fame, good reputation, power, and wealth. The ministry of Elijah would not be considered a valid ministry by many in the current church. Elijah appeared on the scene in 1 Kings 17. After giving what some would call a "negative" prophetic word at the beginning of his public ministry, he withdrew again to the wilderness for three and a half more years. The Lord commanded Elijah to go to a wilderness location at the Brook Cherith, and Elijah obeyed. That obedience was the death of his public fame.
Could you imagine the Lord commissioning you into ministry after countless years of crushing in the wilderness? Then allowing you to give one prophetic word before pulling you back into the wilderness again. Elijah could only obey this because it was no longer him living, but the Lord living through him. If the self-life of Elijah was still living, Elijah would have rejected the word of the Lord of going to the Brook Cherith as his own thought. He would have reasoned that the Lord wanted him to preach to all of Israel and work many miracles among the people. Elijah would have set up large meetings to preach and raise money for evangelistic crusades. He would have advertised his ministry and sold books. But since Elijah obeyed the Lord, none of that happened. Elijah simply faded away and was forgotten about while a severe famine ravaged the country for three and a half years.
While Elijah was in the wilderness the Lord used him to save a starving widow and her son. The Lord even raised the boy from the dead through Elijah, when he had become ill and died. Yet no one knew this at the time. Elijah's life and ministry had been hidden by the Lord. Elijah's simple life of living off of a brook while being fed by birds, and living with a poor widow would seem unexciting to us in the modern church. We view the power that comes with famous ministries as the high point of success. Large crusades with highly visible tactics are what attracts us. Flashy preachers on the cutting edge of worldly culture with humorous jokes is what entertains us.
Prophets in the current church consistently have their prophetic words and ministries advertised on the "biggest" prophetic websites, but is this the ministry of the true prophet who has been raised in the wilderness. Would this type of ministry make Elijah cringe? Does it make the Lord cringe? What is currently hailed in the church as true ministry, is not necessarily hailed as true ministry in Heaven. True ministry focuses on the Lord, not itself or its own success. True ministry is obedient to the Lord, regardless of the cost or lack of popularity.
Elijah had a true ministry because he followed the Lord, and not his self-will. The school of the Spirit in the wilderness prepared Elijah for this true ministry. All who are willing to come under the hand of God, can be prepared in like manner. The Lord is no respecter of persons, but we must choose the path we want take.
David knew the crushing of the wilderness very well. He was under the heavy hand of the Lord many years before he was made king over Judah at the age of thirty. David was probably around the age of 16 when the prophet Samuel poured the golden oil on his head and prophesied his huge destiny. David's whole life was before him. He had hope and excitement. David imagined what it would be like to be king, and thought his destiny would come to pass quickly.
Things began to progress rapidly for David. Promotion came from King Saul himself. David was brought before the king to minister to him. The Lord was with him in a mighty victory over Goliath, and David gained fame and recognition. David was then even placed over the king's army.
However this rise to rank and position was only a setup from the Lord. David was initially brought to Saul because the Lord allowed a demonic spirit to begin tormenting Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). David would play his harp and the demon would leave Saul. However, the Lord used the same demon to drive David away from the king and into the wilderness, that He used to bring David before the king (1 Samuel 19:9-10). David went from being fast-tracked into his destiny, to running for his life in the wilderness.
Years went by in the wilderness and David was being crushed. It felt as if it would never end. It was hard for David to remember Samuel pouring oil over his head and declaring that he would be king. Those memories seemed so far from reality. David never imagined it would be like this. He thought things would be different. He never believed he would feel this hopeless and crushed. Pressure mounted against him from every side.
After around 12 years in the wilderness, David even doubted the Lord's willingness to continue to protect him. He reasoned to himself that he needed to go to the Philistines, or the Lord would allow him to die at the hands of Saul (1 Samuel 27:1). David actually reached a point of complete despair and discouragement, in which he didn't believe he would be protected from death. Since he thought he might die, it means that he had begun to doubt he would ever be king.
The wilderness process is not intended to cause a person to put faith in their destiny. It is intended to kill the soul's desire for its destiny. It's intended to remove everything that stands in the way between the person and the Lord; so that the Lord would be the only thing that the person needs to live. When the Lord becomes the sole life of the person, then the two are one. If a person must have their destiny and calling to stay "alive" or driven, then it simply means that Christ isn't enough. If Christ alone is enough to live a fulfilling life, then one does not need even an earthly calling or destiny. But when Christ alone is enough for a person, Christ will use the person to complete an assignment on the earth. The key is allowing Him to strip our self-life to the point where He alone is enough. So few ever get to this point.
After it seemed that David might remain in the wilderness forever, everything suddenly changed. The Lord allowed Saul to die in battle, and David was made king over Judah. The Lord had to do work in David so he wouldn't be ruling over the people however he desired, but that he would yield to the Lord ruling through him.
Many times the Lord will not allow His destiny for us to come to pass until we have come to the end of ourselves. We can be elite in our faith, prayer, fasting, meditating on the scriptures, studying, and waiting on the Lord; but if the Lord gives us our calling based on our works, then it becomes about what we have done. All of these devotions are necessary and important, but we can never earn the grace and anointing needed for our callings. It only comes by grace, when we truly realize how weak and incapable we are of doing anything of significance in our own strength. Our problem is that we are too strong. This is a deception, therefore the Lord seeks to show us how truly weak we are; so that He can fill up our weakness with His strength and manifest Himself through us. Destiny can be released when we come to a place of maturity, in which we understand that it has nothing to do with us.
The New Covenant did not change who God is. He still uses the wilderness to raise up His true servants. John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul all spent a considerable amount of time hidden in the wilderness. They were disconnected from people and connected to the throne of God. The Lord will, at times, separate His disciples in the wilderness to bring about the crucifixion of their souls. However He will not do this to everyone. He gives us a choice. We can choose ourselves or we can choose Him. The closer we desire to be to Him, the more we must suffer in the wilderness. This is because we cannot draw near to Him and still be full of self-life. He will allow us to suffer in order to strip us of self. When our self-life and will is removed, we can come into union with the Lord. It is your choice. Will you choose the life of a disciple? Will you choose the inward journey? Will you forsake the self-life and take the path into the wilderness?
““If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27, 33 NKJV)
- Ty Unruh (2016)