The Wilderness Experience – Week 1

Matthew 4:1-2   “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. ”

Readers often look past these first two verses of Matthew 4 in a hurry to read about the temptation of Jesus. However, these first two verses are important all by themselves.

Jesus was led into the wilderness by God’s Spirit. He had just been baptized in the Jordan near Bethany. The “wilderness” that Jesus entered was the desert, as some translations accurately translate. I used to think wilderness meant trees and forests, because that is what I grew up to refer to as “wilderness.” But there is a HUGE different between the two, obviously.

The Greek word used in the original written manuscript of Matthew is the word “eremos” which is used to refer to places that are abandoned, lonely, desolate, uninhabited, void of people or animals, without life or the ability to sustain life.

Where does this remind you of? What words would you use to describe a desert?

Why would God lead Jesus into the desert? Realize God gave Jesus (His incarnate self with all the frailties of humanity) the choice. It wasn’t forced on Jesus, yet he freely chose to enter the wilderness. Jesus’ entry into the wilderness was…

  1. symbolic and prophetic – Jesus entered the wilderness like others that God had called and led into the wilderness: Abram, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, and John the Baptist. It seems God’s blessing is on those He calls into the wilderness.
  2. proving ground – the wilderness tested character, calling, and resilience. What difficult task or experience has been a proving ground in your life?
  3. mission preparation – Jesus’ time in the wilderness was preparing him for the trials he would face and subsequently call his followers to face. The number “40” throughout the Jewish and Christian sacred texts was a number synonymous with “preparation” and “transformation” in addition to “testing” and “trials.” Only difficulty can prepare us to face difficulty…with Christ, we never have to face it alone.
  4. trust and dependence on God – the wilderness experience teaches and trains us to depend on God to provide. The wilderness reveals our weaknesses and addictions. God offers to replace them by providing for us as was done for the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years with Moses, or for Elijah in the wilderness for 40 days, as well as for John the Baptist and here Jesus.

SO WHAT?! So what Lance? What does this have to do with my life?

Exactly, what does the wilderness look like in your life right now? What feels like the wilderness in your life right now?

The wilderness you are experiencing may be a proving ground or maybe its preparing you for something more. Either way, what provided Jesus with the resilience to make it through was his trust and dependence on God.

Today, what/who might you need to trust God to take care of while you’re in the wilderness?

So GO… May you grow deeper in your trust and dependence on God as you walk into the wilderness of your life. May God’s Spirit fill you up with resilience while you’re inside the proving grounds of life. And may God give you strength as He prepares you for the mission ahead…in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

(Chapel Service – Sunday 09AUG2015)

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