“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’.
The fourth book of the Pentateuch is called in English ‘Numbers’. In Hebrew the title of the book is the first noun of the text which is ‘Ba’midbar’, meaning: ‘In the Wilderness’. In today’s Hebrew, the word ‘midbar’ means ‘desert’. The Book of ‘Ba’midbar’ tells us of the thirty-eight years spent by the Children of Israel in the desert.
The Hebrew for the word ‘midbar’ reveals a very interesting truth. Most Hebrew words are based on a three letter verbal root, sometimes two. This verbal root is vital to us because no matter what the variation in the spelling of the word, the verbal root reveals its etymological meaning, which is important to us in order to understand what the Father is trying to convey to us through His ‘Word’.
The verbal root of the word ‘midbar/wilderness’ is composed of the three Hebrew letters, ‘daleth/beth/resh’. Strangely enough, these letters are also the verbal root for the word ‘lehdaber: to speak’, verb from which is derived the word ‘davar’. Today ‘davar’ means, ‘word’ or ‘thing’, but it is also the ancient Aramaic word used in the Targum (Aramaic layman’s version of the Hebrew Scriptures) to refer to Messiah. ‘Davar’ is the word John used when he said, ‘In the beginning was the ‘Word’ (John 1:1).
Where does all this take us? These interesting facts concerning the word ‘midbar’ have certainly not escaped the attention of Jewish sages and we find illumination in some of their commentaries. Looking at the relationship between the Hebrew words for ‘wilderness’ and the idea of the ‘spoken word’, the sages have concluded that the wilderness is the place where God speaks. God may speak in many places, but the wilderness is usually the place where we are the most dependant on Him and where we can give Him our full attention. Sometimes this ‘wilderness’ can also be the spiritual or emotional wilderness of difficult and trying times in our lives.
The idea is certainly carried in the Scriptures. John the Immerser defined himself using the prophet Isaiah’s words as, ‘the Voice crying in the wilderness’ (Matthew 3:3). The Master Himself when fasting (food and water) for forty days in the wilderness (such a fast should kill a person) said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4)”.
The ‘wilderness’ is certainly the place where we hear God most clearly: the place of total undistracted dependency. May we learn to benefit from our wilderness times, hearing His Voice telling us ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’ (Matthew 3:2). May we not murmur at the ‘manna’ nor at the water shortage. May we learn to use those times for growth, maturation, and consecration as the Children of Israel did.