Text: Deuteronomy 8:2

And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these
forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what
was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or
no.” (Deuteronomy 8:2)

In the previous pastoral chat, we learnt how God uses adversities in our lives to help
us mature in our faith. Thus, James exhorts, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye
fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh
patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire,
wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

The “trying” or “proving” process is akin to the process of removing impurities from
metal. The metal is first melted under high temperature before the impurities are removed.
This principle is brought to the fore in Deuteronomy 8:2. These adversities
will not only reveal the strength of our faith, but will also lay bare all our weaknesses
before us. When our failings are exposed, we can only cry out, “We have not known
Thee as we ought!”

The Lord proved the hearts of the children of Israel by permitting various challenges
in the wilderness. One example was the lack of water and food. How did the children
of Israel respond? By complaining against the Lord and railing against Moses,
Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we
sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us
forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exod. 16:3)
Through these trials, their lack of spiritual maturity is exposed. It is also through these
adversities that the Lord built them up in the faith. Thus the Lord provided manna, to
teach them to depend on Him day by day, and to trust in His Word. “And he humbled
thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest
not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not
live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD
doth man live.” (Deut. 8:3)

The use of adversity to expose the hearts of men is also seen in Numbers 13-14. The
Lord commanded the children of Israel to enter the Promised Land and to conquer it.
The children of Israel chose to send 12 spies on a recce mission of the land. Their
mission is as follows – “And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and
said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain: And
see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong
or weak, few or many; And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or
bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds;
And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or
not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was
the time of the firstripe grapes.” (Num. 13:17-20)

The 12 spies went and came back with their reports. Two of them (Joshua and Caleb)
understood the reasons for the mission. Firstly, the Lord wanted the children of Israel to
know that the Promised Land is indeed a land filled with milk and honey, and thus the Lord
is true to His Word. Secondly, since the Almighty GOd is true to His Word, He would help
them to overcome all adversities, and to possess the land no matter how strong the adversaries were.
Thus, Joshua and Caleb gave a good report, “And they spake unto all the
company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search
it, is an exceeding good land.If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this
land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Only rebel not ye against
the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence
is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.” (Num. 14:7-9)

On the other hand, the rest of the spies focused on the strength of the adversaries, and not
on the power and faithfulness of the Lord. “But the men that went up with him said, We
be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought
up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying,
The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the
inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And
there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our
own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” (Num. 13:31-33)

Their ill response to the adversity before them soon influenced the children of Israel. “And
all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And
all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole
congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or
would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the LORD brought us
unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey?
were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make
a captain, and let us return into Egypt.” (Num. 14:1-4)

The adversity before the children of Israel revealed that their faith was still immature and
thus they were not ready to enter the Promised Land and to conquer it. Thus, the Lord
commanded them to wander 40 years in the wilderness. These 40 years should not be seen
just as the chastitive hand of God, but also God’s gracious provision to the children of Israel,
to mould them spiritually. However, the children of Israel did not receive the verdict
well and proudly chose to enter the Promised Land. Suffice to say that it did not end well
by the mercies of God. The children of Israel were humbled before the Lord God Almighty.

Similarly, the Lord sends adversities in our lives to keep us humble. If things were easy, we
may grow proud, thinking that we can do everything in our strength and wisdom. Thus,
Paul confessed, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of
the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to
buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” (2 Cor. 12:7)

Dear friends, are you going through much adversities during this pandemic? Glorify the
Lord through these tribulations and rejoice in His goodness. May the Lord strengthen you
through your trials, and let us keep praying for one another.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew