Israel spent a total of forty years in the desert, but they wandered as punishment for their unbelief for thirty-eight years (Deut. 2:14). This is signiﬁcant because it ties into an often-overlooked detail that is vital to understand the healing Jesus performed at the pool of Bethesda.
After this there was a Jewish feast, and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem there is a pool by the sheep gate, called Bethzatha in Aramaic, which has ﬁve porches.
Now a certain man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. Seeing him lying there and knowing he had been that way a long time, Yeshua said to him, “Do you want to get well?”
The invalid answered Him, “Sir, I have nobody to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I’m trying to get in, somebody else steps down before me!”
Yeshua tells him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!”
Immediately, the man was healed! He took up his mat and started walking around. Now that day was Shabbat. (John 5:1-2, 5-9)
The number of years this man was an invalid connects to the number of years Israel wandered in the wilderness due to their unbelief. Thirty-eight is the numeric value of “his heart” (Hebrew, libo). By asking the man if he wanted to be made well, Yeshua was testing him to see what was in his heart (38).
The generation of adults that came out of Egypt had such a slave and victim mentality that they kept testing God and died in the wilderness. Yeshua did not want that to happen to this man. Part of the reason John recorded this miracle was to demonstrate that this victim mentality does not have to happen to us. There is hope—if we choose to believe and have faith in the greater than Moses, Messiah Jesus. Yeshua healed this man to a new normal. God’s creative and healing power began to ﬂow through this man, and he walked—immediately.
You don’t have to die in the desert. You don’t need to spend the next thirty-eight years in your desert waiting for a miracle. The desert was intended not to be the end but rather a place that births you into a new beginning. I encourage you to declare, “I don’t have to live in the desert wilderness. I can get up and follow Yeshua!”