TODAY is very exciting. Because we are starting a brand-new series called
Wilderness: Lessons and Inspiration from the book of Numbers.
In this very first talk, we are preaching this message:
God is with you in your wilderness.
Even if we’re talking about the book of Numbers, I’d like to assure all of you, especially my niece, Alexa, who hates Math with a passion, I’m not talking about Geometry, Trigonometry, Algebra, or Calculus.
We are talking about the book of Numbers.
So, please extend your hands to the Word of God, and let us glorify His Word by singing:
Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet And a Light unto my path.
We shall read from the very start of the book of Numbers— Chapter 1, Verses 1-2:
God instructed Moses to conduct a census of Israel, His chosen people, because God wanted to remind them that He is fulfilling His promise to their father, Abraham.
Remember, God told Abraham, “You will be the father of many nations and your descendants will be more numerous than the stars.”
At that particular time (of the census), the Israelites were journeying in the wilderness and they were experiencing so many challenges.
So, God had to remind them that He is a promise-keeper.
So, let us glorify His Word once more:
Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet And a Light unto my path.
As I told you a while ago, we are talking about
Numbers. But the question is:
Because, as we read a while ago, God asked Moses to do the census—actually, twice in the entire book of Numbers.
God asked Moses to conduct a census twice.
So, Moses literally numbered the people. He literally numbered the Israelites he was journeying with.
So, I’m sure, some of you might ask: “What is so inspiring about a book that would talk about census and numbering?”
I’m sure some of you will ask if I know the names and the numbers of the warriors of Israel. I’m sure some of you will ask: “How will that strengthen my relationship with God? Why do I have to study this? I have so many concerns in my mind already. Why do I have to study the Statistics book of the Bible?”
But I assure you, promise: After the end of the series, this Wilderness series, you will appreciate the treasures, the learnings, the blessings that can be derived from the book of Numbers.
So, for this Talk 1, we will be giving you an overview of the entire book of Numbers,
For Talk 2, which will cover
Chapters 1-10, we will discuss the preparation of the Israelites as they were about to leave Mount Sinai.
Then, for Talks 3-7, we will be discussing Chapters 13 to 19. And we will be reflecting on their journey in the wilderness of Paran (a desert in Western Arabia known today as Hijaz)
And then, we will end this beautiful series with Talk 8, that will discuss Chapters 22-36—when the Israelites already reached the Promised Land and they were preparing to enter it in the plains of Moab (known today as located in Jordan).
Intersections in the Journey
I would like to remind all of you that it is important for us to study, to reflect on the book of Numbers in light of the other books, especially the Pentateuch— the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
In our last series, the Closer talk series, we all learned that Leviticus is the heart of the Pentateuch. It’s the heart of the Torah (the law of God as revealed to Moses and recorded in the Pentateuch).
But I’d like to teach you something new. You will learn as we walk through the book of Numbers that the events in Numbers, they mirror the events in Exodus.
The events of Numbers mirror the events in the book of Exodus.
And we call this a chiasm (an intersection or crossing of two tracts in the form of the letter X).
So, in Exodus, we learned that God delivered His people from Egypt, then the people left Egypt, they walked through the wilderness, and they reached Mount Sinai. That’s the book of Exodus.
And then, in the book of Leviticus, we discussed how they lived—their experiences on Mount Sinai.
So, now, this is the mirroring part: In Numbers, we will discuss the Israelites leaving Mount Sinai, and then they walk through the wilderness, and then they reach the Promised Land where God delivers them again from their enemies.
I’d also like to teach you that the book of Numbers was called by a different name before. It was called Bamidbar.
Bamidbar is a Hebrew word that means in the wilderness. That’s why the title of our new series is:
Back to Eden
Let’s go back to the very first line, to the very first verse of the book of Numbers:
Just in the first line, we already encounter something surprising and even scandalous. Did you notice that the first line mentioned two very opposite words: Tabernacle and Wilderness?
We know that the Tabernacle is very holy. The Tabernacle is very sacred. It is the dwelling place of God. It is where God resides with His people. And then you hear Tabernacle being mentioned with the word Wilderness.
And it’s very hard to reconcile, right? How can a very holy centerpiece —the Tabernacle—be found in a very dangerous place—the wilderness?
But we all know that the Tabernacle also symbolizes the Garden of Eden. We go back to the Garden again. We always go back to the Garden of Eden. And the Tabernacle symbolizes the Garden of Eden.
You might say,
“But the garden and wilderness are opposites.”
The Garden and Wilderness are also exact opposites. But this is where the main message of Numbers comes in. The main message of Numbers is this:
God accompanies us in the wilderness.
That’s what we want to teach all of you. That’s what we want to learn. The very central message of Numbers: God accompanies us in the wilderness.
And I’m telling you this absolute truth:
That’s the absolute truth. And so, this is the promise of God to each and every one of you: You will taste the Garden in your Wilderness.
So, when you are going through your wilderness, when you are going through your dangerous phase in your life, when you are going through something that is difficult—a trial, a suffering in your life—always remember: God is with you in your wilderness. God is with you in your suffering, in your trial, in your difficulties.
You are not alone. You are never alone. Because God is with you in your wilderness.
To inspire us even more, I’d like to call on our dear Bro. Bo Sanchez.
BO SANCHEZ: Thank you so much. Let’s give a big hand to Doc Ryan Capitulo!
I was going to wear my leather shoes today but I realized my talk will include a lot of walking. So, if you allow me…
Back to Egypt. Okay, I’m going to do my 10,00 steps here because I’m going to go back to Egypt.
So, what’s this place? This was a difficult place for them— because they were slaves here.
But then they had to go through the wilderness.
All of this is wilderness… Wilderness here…Mount Sinai here… And then wilderness here, wilderness, wilderness, wilderness…
And then the Promised Land. So, this is the whole journey
Egypt. Difficult place. They went through 400 years under slavery, under Pharoah. Wilderness.
Question: What is more difficult: Egypt or wilderness?
What do you think?
Egypt. This is a difficult place– under the whip of Pharoah’s soldiers, carrying those big blocks of stones. But in the wilderness, there is unpredictability, uncertainty. At least here, in Egypt, it’s predictable— there’s pain, but at least, there’s food.
So, in the wilderness, it’s a different kind of difficulty.
My dear friends, there are three sub-messages I want to share with you today. And the first one is this: that you walk in the wilderness.
I really think that for some people I meet, there is this false expectation that life is a Disney fairy tale—where the prince and the princess fall in love and then they live happily ever after.
But we live in a world filled with struggle– you know, when we complain, “Why is life so hard? – Bakit ang hirap ng buhay?”
Well, I really think life was not designed to be easy. I really don’t think so.
I’m sorry to burst your balloon here– but life is filled with struggle.
There are three kinds of struggle:
- Struggles as a human It isn’t about if you’re bad or that you are good. Just the mere fact that you’re alive, the fact that you have to work hard to put food on the table – you know, that’s part of being human.
The fact that you’re growing older and as you grow older, you know your body goes through deterioration, it becomes weaker– that’s part of being human,
that’s part of the struggle of being alive. Death is also that struggle.
- Struggles of people who disobey God. That’s a different kind of struggle. You know, God is not a When God tells you to do something, it is to protect you from certain struggles that people go through because they disobey God. That sin is its own punishment. That when God says, do not sin, that’s because He wants to prevent a certain kind of struggle, a certain kind of suffering that He does not want you to have.
- Struggles of people who obey Bro. Bo naman nakakalito— it’s confusing: there is struggle for those who disobey, but there is also struggle for those who obey?
Absolutely. You know, when Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple, carry your cross every day. Come, and follow me…” mahirap naman talagang mag-pakabait, e. – it’s really difficult to be good.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried to forgive someone who did not even apologize. Difficult? Struggle!
What Is Suffering?
My dear friends, if you really think about it… Being patient— Is that a struggle? But God wants you to do that.
So, there is a struggle for being human, there is a struggle for those who disobey, and there is another kind of struggle for those who obey.
But life is filled with struggles.
And so, this is the point: The point is that we always walk in the wilderness.
But we know that the end-point is the Promised Land. This is what Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are talking about.
Now, if you think about it, to reach your God-ordained dream, you must go through suffering.
Do you have a God-ordained dream? How many of you want to have a beautiful family? You want to. Absolutely. Will it take suffering to do that? Uhhmm.
I’ve been married for 25 years to that beautiful woman over there at the front row (Marowe Sanchez, right).
And I want you to know it took a lot of suffering to have this kind of incredible relationship.
Do you know what suffering is? You know, we travel a lot— we do have mission trips here and there. When we stay in a hotel, we use the hotel towels–I have a towel, and she has a towel, and we hang them in the bathroom.
I asked her, “How do you know that’s my towel and that’s your towel?” She told me something that’s very, very clear. We set a code.
She said, “Your towel is on the left. My towel is always on the right.
Because I am always right.”
So, that’s what you call suffering, right? ☺
A lot of people think they ought to have a great dream.
You can just go, “Oh wouldn’t it be wonderful if you’re here in Egypt…” And then, “Beam me up, Scotty, and Boom! I am in the Promised Land!” Does it work that way?
No, it does not! You have to go through the wilderness.
You want to have good grades? You’ve got to through the wilderness.
You want to put up a good business? You’ve got to through the wilderness.
How many of you want to have abundant finances? If you want abundant finances, you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to serve your customers, you’ve got to go through the difficulty of putting up a business. You’ve got to live simply— live below your means.
Ang hirap. It’s so difficult. You invest, for several years…Wilderness. How many of you want to have a healthy body? Does it involve suffering? Our problem is this: We are addicted to comfort.
I like comfort. You know, I enter a room… And there’s this wonderful, soft couch– that if you sit on it, you sink and disappear.
And then, beside it is a hard, three-legged wooden stool. Question: Where will you sit?
It’s okay to look for comfort. But you see, if you make comfort your highest value, you will never achieve anything great in your life.
So, let me give you one example.
Last year, I had lunch with a bunch of friends of mine. This was August last year.
We were talking about push-ups.
One of my friends said, “You know, I do 200 push-ups a day.”
The other one said, “Ako rin. Me too.”
They were comparing notes. These were really healthy guys. I was just listening and I tried to remember when was the last time I did a push-up…
When Rizal was shut in Luneta. I mean, I could not remember when.
But then, I said to myself, I walk naman, I do a little exercise here and there.
So, I said, maybe I can do 9 or 10.
So, I went home. When I got home, I fell to the floor and started doing my push-up. You want to know how many I made?
One—1, measly, laborious, ego-deflating push-up, with shaking hands.
You know, it was so embarrassing. It’s true– when you reach 50, 1.5 percent of your mass muscles disappear. You begin to atrophy, you become weaker— to the point that when you’re 60, and you’re 70, it is a feat to be able to lift a glass of water to your mouth.
And so, I said, “I better do something.”
So, every day I would do my 1 push-up. Every day, because that was all I could do. The following week, I did 2. The following week, I did 3.
And now, I do 100—divided by 5; 20—and then I rest for a while; and then I do another 20– and then I rest for a while… You know, I would do…
MAROWE: Relate first embarrassing acts you do…
BO: So, to do 100 push-ups a day, I made a decision that I would do push-ups wherever I would be.
Like, in the morning, of course, I do it wherever. I’m in a restaurant, and I would do push-ups right there beside my table. I would be in a hotel lobby, and I’d do it.
So, there was this one time, I was in a restaurant, and I was eating with my family—my two boys, Francis and Bene, and my wife. And so, I dropped on the floor and I started doing my push-ups. And my two boys—you know. what they did?
They walked away, as if saying, “We do not know that man…”
AUDIENCE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20!
MAROWE: Hindi naman nakakahiya, ano? Not at all shameful… Except that he does that here and there…
BO: The thing is, para akong engot—I am like a jerk.
No, really. Why do it? What’s the purpose? It’s almost like … You know—up, down, up, down…
It’s going nowhere…
Like wilderness. The Israelites were just going round and round…
And the point is this: The reason I do it is to become stronger. It’s painful to do it. But you see, it takes pain — pain is the only way to become stronger.
Do you experience pain right now in your life? Emotionally, mentally, financially, physically? It is the only way to become stronger.
Wilderness… Before Promised Land
You know, I teach entrepreneurship. And I need to say this to people: How many of you want to become an entrepreneur?
I teach this: Do what you love. The money will follow.
It’s got to be passion.
But a big BUT: You know, a lot of times, people misunderstand that statement. They say, “Ah, if I don’t like to do something, then I won’t do it.”
No. That’s not it. The point is this: Before you become successful, you will have to do a lot of what you hate.
You will have to do a lot of things you don’t like.
And then one day, you’ll be able to do the things that you love and focus there.
At the start, there’s going to be a lot of wilderness—before you go to the Promised Land.
And I repeat: To accomplish something great, you have to go through massive amounts of pain.
The second truth I want to share is: The wilderness journey is extra-long. Egypt. Exodus. They walk through the wilderness.
And they arrive on Mount Sinai. Book of Leviticus.
For one year, they stayed in Sinai.
From Sinai, to the Promised Land. How many years did it take? We read this in the book of Exodus already.
Exodus 16: 35 says:
My dear friends, how many years, does it really take? What’s the distance from Egypt to the Promised Land (Canaan)? There’s a little detour to Sinai. And then all the way to the Promised Land. How long is the distance?
Will the trip really take 40 years?
Do you want to know the answer? May I shock you? Hold on to your seat, you might fall.
It will take only 11 days to go from Egypt to the Promised Land.
So, why did it take 40 years?
Maybe some of you are saying, “Ay, Bro. Bo, alam ko na! I know: Logistic nightmare! They are so many.”
And anybody of you are parents? When you travel—husband and wife— the trip is fast. But if you bring along small children—there are many
wee-wee breaks, tantrums.
“Maybe that was the problem of the Israelites, Bro. Bo.”
Pwede—can be. But were that so many wee-wee break among the Israelites?
11days to 40 years. Not likely…
“Ah, Bro. Bo, maybe they walk slow…”
Hey, I’m an expert on slow. My wife says I’m so slow. I bike slow. I drive slow. Last week, for the first time, I rode on a jet ski. I was so low, one banca, the guy using paddles, overtook me. That’s how slow I am.
How can the Israelites be so slow? 11 days to 40 years.
Here’s the answer—here’s the truth: The journey took long not because of logistical reasons. But spiritual ones.
This is what we are going to find out in the book of Numbers: The people of Israel—they were disobedient.
In the first 10 chapters we’ll find out – we’ll find this out next week—they ate obedient. First 10 chapters.
After that, it goes downhill. They are disobedient.
They are stubborn. They rebel against God.
They are just like Adam and Eve—in the Garden.
Same pattern. They wanted to be God. They wanted to do what they wanted to do. They define good and bad – apart from God.
They were like, “We know better God. God, you’re no longer our God. We’re going to be God.”
That’s what the Israelites were doing in the wilderness. And so, what God did was He prolonged their journey.
How many of you failed in your life? Have you failed—in school, love life… If you failed in life, question: Were there lessons? Yes. Did you learn the lessons? Yes.
If you learned the lesson, then the failure is no longer a failure. But if you do not learn the lesson, guess what? The lesson will be repeated. Ouch.
And so, people fail again, and again, and again—and the same failure, and the same mistake.
Author Elizabet Elliot has something fascinating. She says this:
Because we do not obey. Because we do not trust. Because we do not submit to the will of God. And we resist. We struggle. And it is the second type of struggle that we talked about a while ago—the struggle that comes from disobedience.
My story, that I remember, is when I was 17 years old—not too long ago☺
I had my first girlfriend. And I was happy. Then one week later, I met the great Mike Joseph, spiritual leader, amazing, amazing man. And I met him, and I told him I wanted to be under his leadership. And if he could mentor me. By the way, he’s in Heaven now.
I was so happy that I met Mike Joseph. Two minutes after we met, I was no longer happy. Because the first thing he said was, “Bro. Bo, do you have a girlfriend? You’re only 17. You’re so young. This is a time to expand your horizon—to focus on your spiritual and personal growth. If you have a romantic relationship, it does not expand your horizon. It shrinks your world. This is a time when you should take new responsibilities, learn new skills, gain new friends, travel, serve God. And this the time where you expand your world. So, I advise you to give up your relationship and focus—focus on the Lord and on your life.”
And I was just nodding my head.
Then I said, “Thank you, Mike. Thank you so much.”
Then I left and I told myself, “I will never go back to that man again.”
And I did not go back to that man. Because I was in loveabo. I was in love. I was in love with that girl and I was in love with love.
So, the point is this– I just want to share this with you. It’s very important: I began to realize
— on my own– what Mike told me. And I said, it’s true, my world is shrinking.” But then I was so stubborn, I said, “No. I can make this work. I can serve God, focus on the Lord, and focus on my spiritual growth and have a girlfriend at the same time.
But you know, month, after month, year after year—and we lasted for four years. In the middle of that relationship my girlfriend said, “Alam mo, Bo, I think we are not meant for each other.”
I said, “Really? Why?” But then four years later, we broke up.
And then one week later, I go to Mike Joseph, and I say: “Mike, I am ready.” After four years, I say to Mike, “Please mentor me.”
I think what happened was I went through the wilderness. And I prolonged my journey. Instead of obeying and submitting right away, I prolonged my journey.
Tell somebody beside you: “Do not prolong your wilderness journey.”
The main point of Numbers is what I want to preach today: Truth 3: Someone is walking with you in the wilderness.
The Israelites, throughout this 40-year journey, every time they were walking, they had on their shoulders the Tabernacle. And Doc Ryan was talking about that—it was the House of God. Wherever they went, the Tabernacle was there. Every stop of their long journey God was with them.
Right now, you are going through your wilderness. There is pain in your life, there is suffering, there is struggle.
That’s normal. Part of being a human, or it is the part of disobedience, or it’s part of obedience. But whatever suffering and pain you’re going through, maski pinapahaba mo dahil sa disobedience—evenif you’re prolonging it because of disobedience, God is saying, “I am with you. Not only am I with you, my Tabernacle is with you. My House.
I want you to know that the same message in the book of Numbers is spoken again 1,500 years later in the Gospel of Mark. This is what he says about Jesus:
How many years did Israel travel from Egypt to the Promised Land? 40 years. Where? In the wilderness.
What did Jesus do in the wilderness? How long? 40 days.
That’s no accident. Jesus was like saying, “I am the new Israel. Same wilderness, 40 days to mirror the 40 years. The difference is this: You were disobedient,
I’m obedient to the Father.”
Your Pocket of Eden
This is what you should do in your wilderness: If you are going through your own wilderness right now, God is telling you: Do not imitate Israel. imitate Jesus, my Son. He was obedient in the pain, in the suffering, in the problem, in the trial, in the storm.
Obey God. But obedience can only come if you trust Him. Trust Him that at the end of the wilderness, you arrive in the Promised Land.
At the end of the temptation of 40 days this is what happened:
It was a picture of what the Prophet Isaiah said:
The Holy Mountain is a symbol of the Garden of Eden. Because the
Garden of Eden is really Mount Eden. And I want you to think about this:
That what Jesus was saying was like: “In My wilderness, what happened was I was in a pocket of Eden.”
That’s what happened. And that’s what God will do for you. God is with you in your wilderness. And that He will create that small Eden in your wilderness— that Garden while you are going through the storm.
We’re going to talk about this more next week. But I want you to lift up your hand and just say this with me:
Jesus, I want to be like You. I want to trust You and obey You in my wilderness.
Thank You for being with me through my struggles.
In Jesus’ Name. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Commitment. I invite you to renew your commitment to follow Jesus tomorrow, this day, this moment until the last breath of your body. I know that it is difficult to think about death. But you can die tomorrow, today, this afternoon, or 50 years from now. But it does not matter.
My invitation is why not love every single waking moment trusting Jesus and doing what He wants you to do: loving a life for Him. And to serve the people of God. And so, I invite you today. Maybe you can lift up both hands in the air – only if you’re comfortable with this posture. And say this after me:
Jesus, Thank You for being with me throughout my wilderness journey.
Thank You for creating the Garden in my life even in the wilderness. And I know in the end, the Promised Land will come. And so, for the rest of my life, I will love You, I will obey You, I will trust You. In Your Name. Amen