We may think of the wilderness as a place to avoid, a place of testing. Yet the wilderness is also a place where we encounter God.
The wilderness is where my thoughts are this morning. So often in America when we hear the word we think of a dense forest with lots of trees and even water in such a place. But my eyes were opened in 2006 when I traveled to Egypt and Israel for 16 days. I learned that when the Bible mentions the wilderness, it is speaking of a place that is barren, waterless, cold at night, hot in the day, a lonely place.
I’m reminded of Jesus being “led” into the wilderness by the Spirit, to be tested for 40 days and 40 nights. As I contemplate this passage it stands out that Jesus was alone as far as anyone could see but the fact is the Spirit who led Him there was always there and sadly Satan was there as well.
Matthew 4:1-11 (NLT)
4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. 2 For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. 3 During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, 6 and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you.
And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.”
7 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.”
8 Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”
10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say,
‘You must worship the Lord your God
and serve only him.”
11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.
In this time of pandemic it feels like we are in the wilderness. We are under stay at home orders and that can be a secluded and lonely place. There is a lot of fear among people who wonder when will this pass and even, will this pass. The fact is, it will pass and things will get better. But while we are in the wilderness my hope is that we see and hear everything we can to prepare us to be better when things around us get better. Lets look at just a few things from the passage today.
One, Jesus was led to the place of wilderness by the Spirit. I have learned that anyplace the Spirit leads is a place where God wants to speak to us and make us stronger. When a person knows Jesus we are never ever alone. The Spirit comes to dwell in us and be our constant companion. So go ahead, the next time you feel like you’re alone and have no one to talk to, just start talking to God. You might just hear the still small voice speaking back.
Two, there was temptation in the wilderness. That’s right, we often think it is only when things are going good that we are tempted. What better time for Satan to come along and offer to make our situation better than when we are feeling all alone and without hope. Don’t fall for it. If you have time on your hands spend that time reading Gods Word and praying, talking to God. There is an old saying, “Idle hands are the devils playhouse.” That can sometimes be true, but it doesn’t have to be. When we know we are in a place of testing, that’s all the more reason to be vigilant and not to let our guard down. We are in a time of testing today like no other. When we are being told to shelter in place and we can’t be with our friends, we can’t even go to corporate worship services. Beware of the temptation and don’t give in.
Three, it lasted for 40 days and it was over. This too shall pass. It may seem like an eternity but I promise you this will pass and sadly most won’t even remember it a year from now. Learn everything that you can and determine to never forget it. Make a plan for things to be different when things return to some form of normalcy. Know that God has something for us to learn during this time that is valuable and don’t let this time of being alone with Him go to waste. Don’t waste your time wishing it away, spend your time looking for the blessing that is here. And I promise there is a blessing someplace in this midst of this.
Four, Jesus stuck with the truth. Every time Satan came and offered something to Jesus that would seem to make life better, Jesus said, NO! It doesn’t appear that Jesus even once hesitated to stand with the Word. If we will follow Jesus in staying with God’s Word during our times of wilderness, it will end a lot sooner and be better for everyone. Don’t even open the door to consider anything Satan has to offer. He is a liar and the father of lies, there is no truth in him. He comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. Remember that.
Five, Jesus told Satan to leave. Satan wasn’t wanted and he wasn’t welcome. And when Jesus took such a bold stand, angels came and tended to His needs.
If we will follow the leading of Holy Spirit, understand that there will be temptation, realize this time will pass, stick with the truth, and command Satan to leave us alone, we will come out of our wilderness better, stronger, and more on fire for God than when we began.
In the wilderness we are given the opportunity to surrender and trust God before there are any answers.