"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." -Proverbs 3:5-6
Trusting the Lord and His ways, how He's leading us, can be really easy when we're going through a promised land, or when everything is working out well around us. It's easier to hear the Lord on the mountain-top, and it gives us a false sense of pride that our trust in the Lord will never waver because clearly we're good at this whole walking with God thing!
But what happens to our faith when we go through a wilderness season or dark period? That's what God wants to know. He wants to know if we can follow Him in the valley. He wants to know if we'll remain faithful to Him when things get hard. The truth is, our trust tends to wane when we are led into a wilderness season.
Maybe we're faithful at first. Maybe even for some time. But when days lead to weeks, which turn into months, which lead to years, do we give up? Or do we press on? God's curious what our response will be.
Often we grow weary in the wilderness, and then we say things like, "how long Oh Lord?" "Have you left me here to die?" (Actual words written in one of my journals). Because trusting God when the path before us isn't laid out out with clarity is really, really hard.
God Anoints David
In 1 Samuel we find that David receives the anointing of God to be Israel's future king. In 1 Samuel 16 God says to Samuel, "“How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.”
The Lord is saying to Samuel, stop holding onto the past! It does no good to stay stuck in what was. See where I am moving now, and move with me.
He says the same thing to us today. Don't live in the past or rush forward to the future. See where I am moving now, and move with me.
"So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!”
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:6-7
The Lord doesn't care what you look like, what you wear, what you do, how much money you make, or how qualified you believe yourself to be. The Lord looks beyond the outside appearance and He searches the heart. He says, "are you teachable? Can I mold you? Do you seek Me and My face? If I put pressure on you and lead you into the wilderness, will you abandon Me there?"
Because God wants people who will follow Him no matter what. He doesn't care about your qualifications, because He changes the unqualified and makes them qualified! He doesn't care about your bad habits, because when we spend time with Him, our bad habits are replaced with His ways.
In the next few verses, all of Jesse's sons pass before Samuel, "And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” (v10) Finally they bring in David. What's interesting is that no one in David's family thought David would be anointed as king. They didn't call him along with his brothers to pass before Samuel. They didn't even bother to bring him in from the fields where he was tending the sheep! Even Jesse, David's own father, didn't go get him to line up with his brothers!
Do you ever feel like that? Like your whole family has passed you over? Or maybe you feel as though you were passed over your whole life? Don't discount yourself just because the world has decided something specific about you. God looks deeper than the outside appearance. God looks into men and women, into their hearts and souls, and says this is my chosen one.
"And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”
And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah."
-1 Samuel 16:11-13
God looked at David and saw a young man who would be willing to follow Him no matter the cost. When David's family looked at him, they saw a shepherd boy who talks to sheep. He was skilled with the harp, he probably played music to the sheep. He likely spent time worshipping the Lord while playing music in the fields!
That is what God saw. God saw a young man with a heart of worship. God saw a teenager with courage, who had taken out lions and bears to protect his sheep. (1 Samuel 17:34-36) God saw a youngster who made Him his best friend.
While the world looks at the outward appearance, God looks at your heart. Do you worship Him? Spend time with Him? Talk to Him? Pray with Him? When you choose Him, He chooses you. He anoints you, and He appoints you.
God's heart is that all would turn to Him, and that He would be able to use everyone and their gifts for the kingdom. But not everyone is willing to sacrifice their comfort to live for the Lord. Will you be the one who chooses Him so that He can anoint you?
The Choosing Leads To The Wilderness
God anointed David and that caused him to gain favor before God and men. He played the harp in Saul's presence and evil spirits fled. He picked up stones from the stream and planted one straight into Goliath's forehead. He married Saul's daughter and became a son-in-law to the king. He was favored.
Something happens though when you are anointed by God. There is suddenly a target on your back, and you become Satan's #1 enemy. David's name means beloved, and when God calls you His beloved, you can bet the fiery darts will start coming. Satan hates anything that God loves, so you can guarantee he will turn people against you, and send his demons after you.
David felt the heat of Satan's hatred. Our Bible says, "Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8) Satan prowled around the people near David and found men who were filled with pride and conceit, who were jealous that God had chosen and anointed David. He turned Saul and Saul's army against David, and they chased him to the wilderness.
David fled to the Wilderness of Ziph to escape his oppressors. When God chooses you, there will be time spent in the wilderness. God brings His chosen people to the desert to protect them, and to teach them.
The preparation, the learning, the strengthening, happens in the desert.
While David was hiding in Ziph, hunted and chased by Saul and his men, the Ziphites betray David and tell Saul where he is. "Is David not hiding in the hill of Hachilah, opposite Jechimon?" - 1 Samual 26:1
Hachilah means dark, dull, unclear
Jeshimon means wasteland, wilderness, to be desolate
If we are faithful in our walk with the Lord, we are promised that we will end up in a wilderness season. People may betray us, and we might feel hunted down by our enemies. We start walking one way and it's dark and unclear. We start walking in the opposite direction and we find that it's a wasteland, filled with desolation.
Because what we don't realize, is that God is preparing us for the beautiful promise on the other side of our wasteland. God gave David the wilderness to prepare him for kingship. He changed his identity from one of a shepherd, to one of a king. He molded his character, molded his heart, and shaped him to be a man not only after His heart, but with the ability and strength to lead His people.
God cares about your ability to trust Him. He cares about who you are. He wants to know, if I call you, and I lead you into the wilderness where you start to learn My ways and to hear My voice, will you diligently rise day after day? Will you still put on your worn out shoes and pick up your tired feet to follow the dark path?
Because the characteristics that qualify us are born in the wilderness.
The Wilderness Is The Land Between
If you feel the anointing of God on your life, or that you have been given a dream or a vision to do something, but the way is unclear and enemies hunt down your life, take heart! You are not alone in your battles! The Lord Himself goes before you, shelters you and protects you. You can confidently say that,
"A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place,"
It's unpleasant I know, but the wilderness is an important part of the journey. When God chooses you for an assignment and gives you a dream, He will be faithful to fulfill it. Believe Him. Make Him your refuge and hide yourself in the shadow of His wings.
Trust in the Lord. Trust Him in the wilderness. The wilderness prepares us to be safe stewards of the promise He has anointed us with. He can't give us the promise He has for us if we aren't faithful to Him in the preparation.
The Israelites were led out of slavery to the promised land. They were given a dream, a new place of rest, a new way of life. God told them, no longer will you live in slavery! I am freeing you from your bonds!
Experts say that the crossing from the land of Goshen (Egypt), across the Sinai desert to the promised land, can take as little as 11 days. The Israelites could have been in Canaan in less than 2 weeks! Sadly, we find that almost every single person died in the wilderness except for Joshua and Caleb. Why? Because they could not shed their slave mentality.
Only Joshua and Caleb believed the words of the Lord that He was bringing them from slavery to a land filled with milk and honey. Only two men in all of descendants of Abraham took God at His Word.
The Wilderness is the land between your former way of life, and the new life God has promised you. You can't get to your new promised land, to the dream that God has given you, without first journeying through the wasteland.
The wilderness journey is where God removes your old way of thinking, and replaces it with His ways, His thoughts, His truths. Your work, your job in the desert, is to believe God and take Him at His Word. Your job is to remain in His presence and trust Him. It will take effort to keep God's promises at the forefront of your mind, because Satan will come to steal them from you. It will be hard to remember you are anointed with His oil for a specific purpose because friends and family will attack you.
Keep yourself in the presence of God and the wilderness journey won't last forever. Take God at His Word and you will find that soon you are possessing the promised land. Don't be an unbelieving Israelite with a slave mentality! Don't let yourself die in the desert! You, the Lord's beloved, you were called forth from your mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5), and God has a purpose and plan for your life. (Jeremiah 29:11)
God's plan for you is not that you would die in the desert, but that you would persevere through the wilderness to take possession of the promised land. When you grow weary don't turn away from God, but tell Him how tired you are. He will strengthen you and uphold you with His mighty right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
God is faithful, and He will lead you through the wilderness to the land flowing with milk and honey. Put one foot in front of the other, and keep your eyes fixed on Him.