Lessons from the Desert Kingdom

I hope to spend some time today to learn some valuable lessons from the Desert Kingdom of Israelites.
This message is a study of the desert journey of Israelites from Egypt to Canaan.
The intention of this short study is not to present any fresh interpretations to the desert life.
We are just re-reading the history with an intention to learn some lessons from them.
We believe that the Desert Kingdom offers some valuable lessons to those who live in the Inaugurated Kingdom of God of the New Testament.

Kingdom of God

Kingdom of God is a real Kingdom that will be established on the new earth.
There was truly a Kingdom established on earth with Adam and Eve as its caretakers.
But humans fell from the Grace of God by sin and lost the Kingdom.
Restoration of the Kingdom is the whole story of the Bible.
Salvation is a whole processes, which starts with the Born Again experience and fulfilled in the resorted Kingdom.
A vision of a new heaven and a new earth as the final abode of the blessed is described by John in Revelation 21.
The present heaven and the earth will pass away to be replaced by a new heaven and earth.

Kingdom of God established on this earth, during the creation, was a province of Heaven.
It was created by God, sustained and regulated by Him and given to the authority of humans to maintain and guard it from the enemy.
Unfortunately, humans lost it; but God has decided to restore it.

The promise of restoration and God’s plan for the restoration is first revealed to Abraham.
All the promises to Abraham was physical; he and his sons, really inherited it physically.
But Abraham had an understanding about the spiritual mystery behind everything.
Abraham was well aware of God’s plan of restoration of the Kingdom.
So he understood that all physical fulfilment is a type for the spiritual fulfilment that has to come.
He waited eagerly “for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10)

As God appeared again and again to Abraham and reminded him of His promise of a son, God manifested on earth, different aspects of the Kingdom, at different historical periods.
God is reminding us of His promise to restore the Kingdom of God.

The restoration processes of the Kingdom has three stages:

1.   Promised Kingdom in the Old Testament
2.   Inaugurated Kingdom in the New Testament
3.   Fulfilled Kingdom in the eternity

Jesus started His ministry on earth by declaring, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17).
When Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom, the restoration processes entered the second stage.
The New Testament church is sliced in between the Promised Kingdom and the Fulfilled Kingdom.
The Kingdom is “now and not yet”, for us.
We are living in the Kingdom promised to the Old Testament saints, enjoying partially the blessings of the “Fulfilled Kingdom”.

One of the great manifestation of the Kingdom was the “Desert Kingdom”.
By “Desert Kingdom”, we mean the Kingdom proclaimed by God and lived by the Israelites in the desert, during the great freedom rally.

The long way

Let us start the study with the question, why God directed the Israelites through the desert?

Exodus 13: 17, 18
17 Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, "Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt."
18 So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt.  (NKJV)

There were two ways from Egypt to Canaan.
The shortest and most direct route from Egypt to Palestine was the usual caravan road that went through the Belbeis, El-Arish, Ascalon, through the land of Philistines and finally reach Gaza, the south of Canaan.
It was only, four or five days' journey.
Philistines would never favor Israel, a slavish and nomadic people, and thus to incur the displeasure of Egypt, the strongest and richest nation in that area.
So it was sure that they would stop the journey of Israelites from the slavery of Egypt.
So there is a possibility of war; God did not want the people to face a war.

Their long slavery had so degraded their minds that Israelites were incapable of a war.
By this mental degradation, an infallible consequence of slavery, they have become cowards.
That is the reason for their many dastardly acts, murmurings, and re-pining for the comforts of Egypt.
The Israelites might have changed their mind if they encountered war, and returned to Egypt.
So God lead them through the longer route, the wilderness.

One lesson we learn here is that, the shortest way is not always the best way.
If God leads not His people through the nearest way, He leads them through the best way.
God’s magnificent intention will appear at the end of the journey; so judge nothing before God’s time.


Israelites were guided through a longer route, away from the Philistines.
But this does not mean that there were no war in the desert.
While Israelites were in the valley of Rephidim, Amalekites fought against them. (Exodus 17:8-13)

What is the hidden message in the story of Amalekites and the war against Israelites?
The Israelites seemed invincible as they came out of Egypt after the ten plagues, and crossing the Red Sea.
They expected no war in the desert.
But the Amalekites attacked them.
Though Israelites were victorious in the war with the Amalekites, their aura of security was shattered.

After the victory of the Israelites over the Amalekites in the war, God declares a permanent enmity between them.

Deuteronomy 25:17 - 19
17   "Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt,
18   "how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God.
19   "Therefore it shall be, when the LORD your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.  (NKJV)

Amalekites were the descendants of Amalek, the son of Eliphaz and his concubine Timna.
Eliphaz was the grandson of Esau, the patriarch Jacob’s brother.
That means Amalekites were related to Israel through their patriarch Jacob and his brother Esau.
They were Israelites corporal brothers; they were Israel’s flesh and blood.
They were the first to attack Israelites on their way.
Their intention was to plunder and destroy the rising nation of Israel.
And God declares a constant enmity between His people and the Amalekites until their memory is blotted out from the earth.

The identity of Amalekites has been lost over the millennia.
The command to destroy Amalekites as a people group, cannot be fulfilled today.
However, the command to remember Amalekites is still valid in the spiritual realms.
Amalekites are our flesh and its desires, that fight against our journey towards the Fulfilled Kingdom of God.
The Desert Kingdom is not a war free area, until the Amalekites or the desires of our flesh are blotted out.

The Desert

Desert is a no man’s land.
No humans, except for some plundering desert tribe in rare oasis live there.
Usually, no humans built cities or nations in the desert.
No nation is interested to conquer a desert and add it to their nation.
Desert has no boundaries, no citizens, no laws and no king.
Desert is not a nation.

But No man’s land is God’s land.
The whole earth, the fertile and unfertile land, the rivers and seas, the hills and mountains, the sky and stars, everything belongs to God.
Everything is under His authority and ownership.
So the desert is God’s land.

The route through the land of Philistines was short and more comfortable.
But the human nation on the land would not allow God’s people to pass by.
They would deny permission and stop them by war.
So God chose God’s own land, the desert which belongs to no nation.

As we have discussed before, we the New Testament believers are now living in the Inaugurated Kingdom.
We are in a Kingdom which belongs to no humans; the authority and owner is God.
The Kingdom of God belongs to God and no human can stop us living in it.
As it is said in Ephesians 2: 5 and 6, spiritually, we are already seated by the side of the risen Jesus Christ in heaven.

That is why the Bible reminds us that we live on this earth as strangers and foreigners.
So we are living in a desert, a no man’s land, in the Kingdom that belongs to God.

Desert offers nothing.
Desert is barren dry land which has nothing to offer to a traveler.
Hot and dry sand in the front and back, dry sand in the left and right, burning sun above the head and burning sand below the feet.
This is a desert.

Earthly valuables are worthless in a desert; honors and glory are meaningless; special talents and abilities are useless; health is not wealth in the desert.
The only valuable and meaningful thing in the desert is God’s Grace.

Desert offers no food; no water; no clothes; no health; no roof above the head and no shoes under the feet.
Desert is barren and lifeless; it is no place for living.
Desert is lifeless.

But Israelites had everything they needed.
They had food, water, clothes, health, roof and shoes.
They enjoyed abundant life, in the lifeless desert.

Israelites enjoyed the heavenly food, drank from the cleft rock that followed them, God took sickness away from them (Exodus 23:25); God provided the pillar of clouds above their head and their shoes did not torn out.

Psalm 105: 39
39   He spread a cloud for a covering, And fire to give light in the night.
40   The people asked, and He brought quail, And satisfied them with the bread of heaven.
41   He opened the rock, and water gushed out; It ran in the dry places like a river. (NKJV)

Deuteronomy 29:5 "And I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet.  (NKJV)

The desert provided nothing; the desert had nothing to provide to God’s chosen people.
God provided everything and all.

No way in the desert

The first thing that might have struck the Israelites, as they entered the desert, would have been the fact that there was no way in the desert.
They knew no path to follow and they had never travelled through this way before.
But that was not a disadvantage, rather the blessing of the journey.

Desert offers no way for any man; desert is not a path to a destiny.
Only those who are well experienced with the desert can travel through it.
And we know that the Israelites have been in Egypt living in slavery for more than 400 years.
They were inexperienced for long journey, especially a journey through a vast desert.
So the wilderness was not a way to Canaan for them.

Israelites have heard about their destiny, but none has been there before.
They needed a guide to show them the path to go; but they had none other than Moses.
Moses knew the way out of Egypt; but in the desert they needed a better guide.
And God posed before them as a very good guide, who was infinitely wise, kind, and faithful.
God became their guide and their path.
God appeared to them and led them through the desert in the cloud and fire. (Psalm 78:14)

Total Dependency

What do you surmise from the discussion so far we have made about the Desert Kingdom?
Kingdom living is a life of total dependency on God.
We cannot eat, drink, clothe, walk and sleep without God’s provision.
Our food and water belong to God; garments and shoes belong to God; the roof above our head, the warmth and light and everything belong to God.
We have nothing of our own in this life.
We have no way to go, no work of our own to do, no words of our own to speak.
We walk, speak and work as our God commands only.
If God ever takes away His guidance, we die in this desert.

An Inaugurated Kingdom of God is not a spectacular show of wealth and power.
It is a total dependence on God.
It is a proclamation of how God provides every need of a citizen of heaven.
Healing is God’s provision; food is God’s provision; wealth is God’s provision; family is God’s provision and all spiritual gifts are God’s provisions only.

Here we live like a free slave of the Middle East during the Old Testament times and the first century.
There were cruel masters and unfaithful rebellious slaves.
There were loving masters and faithful slaves; but slaves with no freedom.
There were loving masters and faithful slaves with freedom.

There were “free slaves”, who were happy to be the slave of the master.
The master was so loving that he gave the slave freedom to do his own farming and business.
The slave was free to live with his family, with his wife and children.
The slave could make money and become wealthy.
But everything was under the Lordship of the Master.
If the Master asks, the slave has to give everything back to him.
The Lordship was protection for the slave; the lordship of the master reminded the slave that everything he possessed and enjoyed belong to the master.
He was only a faithful steward who had freedom to enjoy all blessings from the master.

Kingdom Living is a life under the Lordship of our Master, Jesus Christ.
Everything we possess belong to Him, we are only stewards of it.
A faithful steward will be rewarded and an unfaithful will be thrown into the darkest pit.

Kingdom Laws

It was God’s desire to establish a nation on this earth, who worshipped Jehovah, the Lord alone.
There were many nations on earth that worshiped gentile gods.
But God’s people are different; they are the only nation who worshiped Jehovah the Lord and Him alone.
God planned to declare the official formation of this special nation on Mt. Sinai.
So the people came to the desert valley of Sinai.

For the formation of a Kingdom, laws must be given, ordinances instituted, covenants sealed, and the contract ratified.
This was the plan of God which He revealed to Moses when He called him at Sinai.

Exodus 3:12 So He said, "I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain." (NKJV)

The word “serve” in Hebrew is: abad (aw-bad)
The meaning is: to work or serve, enslave, keep in bondage, be bondmen, bond-service, to become servant, worshipper.

This was not a sign to the Israelites in Egypt to believe that God has called Moses.
It is a prophecy and an instruction to Moses that during their return from Egypt they should come to this mountain, and enter into a special relationship with God.
As Moses received his calling here, the Israelites received the Ten Commandments and the Laws of the Kingdom, here in the same place.

God proposed a covenant relationship with the people.
The Kingdom of God would be established with a covenant. (Exodus 24)
The covenant will be after the manner of the suzerain treaty that existed among men.
God, the higher authority would initiate and proclaim the details of the covenant.
Israelites are free to accept or reject.
If they accept, the covenant will be signed by shedding the blood of an animal and by a feast that follows with the meat of the animal.

The Ten Commandments and the Laws of the covenant were written on stone tablets, first by God Himself and afterwards by Moses.
Moses brought the tablets down to the valley, read to the crowd and the people said, “Amen”.
An animal was killed, the covenant was sealed by the blood and a covenant meal followed.

In Exodus 24, God invites 75 leaders of Israel into His presence.
They went up the mountain, ate and drank the covenant meal, at the presence of God.
This is the final act of ratification.

For the New Testament believers, the bread and wine serve as a physical reminder of the New Covenant.
It reaffirms the covenant relationship between God and His people.
That is what Jesus said during the Last Supper.

Luke 22:20 “Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”  (NKJV)

The New covenant restores what the Mosaic Covenant promised to the Israel.
The meal at Mt. Sinai and the Lords Supper in the New Testament Church, both indicate that a covenant is ratified and the people of God’s Kingdom are under a covenant relationship.

The sole intention of the Mosaic Covenant is expressed in the following verse:

Exodus 19: 5, 6
5     'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.
 6    'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."  (NKJV)

And the New Covenant has made us royal priests to God.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (NKJV)

The Desert Kingdom was a type of the Inaugurated Kingdom.
The Old Covenant had Laws as strings attached to the blessed relationship.
The New Covenant also is not free from Laws.
The Sermon on the Mount, narrated in Matthew, chapter 5 to 7 is the manifesto of the Inaugurated Kingdom.
The difference is that, the Old Covenant prescribed Laws of works and the New Covenant takes us to the heart of the Law giver demanding our attitude.
The Mosaic Law does not go void but goes deeper in the New Covenant.
Kingdom Living is a covenantal living under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Do not miss the destiny

Let us learn one more lesson from the desert Kingdom, before we close this short message.

Israelites were living in the comfort zone of the Desert Kingdom where there were no reason to worry about.
They have signed a covenant with the Heavenly King.
A blessed tomorrow is assured.
They were safely marching towards the Promised Land.

But, unfortunately, things went wrong at many times.
The comfort of the Desert Kingdom was shaken more than once.
People wandered in the desert and died there without even a sight of the Promised Land.
Even their leader Moses died before the final march.

They ate the bread from heaven, drank water from the cleft rock, did not wander away from the roof of the cloud and did not go back to Egypt.
Still many of them perished in the desert. (1 Corinthians 10: 1 – 5)

This is a warning to the New Testament Kingdom.

Hebrews 3: 12 - 14
12   Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;
 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,   (NKJV)

We are exhorted to learn from the failure of Israelites in the Desert Kingdom. 
Israelites failed because of an evil heart of unbelief; by hardening through the deceitfulness of sin.
As a result, they departed from the living God.
And because of their rebellion, they fell short of the promised rest in Canaan.
Of all those over the age of twenty when they left Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb entered the Promised Land.
All the rest, of which there were 6,03,548 men, died in the wilderness.

This can happen to the New Testament believers also.
The Inaugurated Kingdom is a desert where we are tested for our faith in Jesus.
If we ever harden our heart with unbelief, there is a chance of departing from the living God.
So we are warned to hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.
Our destiny is not the desert; not manna and water; not clothes and shoes.
Our destiny is the rest in the Promised Land.

Let me cut short here.
May God bless you and help you to lead a faithful Kingdom Living in this age of Inaugurated Kingdom of God. Amen!

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