A desert is generally a very dry and barren place. There are stretches of sand and nothingness, and it’s not the kind of place most people would willingly spend time in. In the Bible, the desert is also depicted as an unfriendly and lonely place. Jesus was led by the Spirit of God into the desert to be tempted by the Devil for forty days, and, because of their disobedience, the Israelites had to wander in the desert for forty years. God had to provide them with water and food, as these were in short supply in the desert.
So why would God lead His people into the desert? When pondering this I realised that the desert generally does not have much that could distract you. There isn’t much in the line of sightseeing, and the view around you may be pretty mundane. When you pass through a desert area your goal is to get to the other side – to your destination. Your needs are basic – food, water, and shelter from the blistering sun or wind storms.
There are times when our own disobedience and sin may result in us finding ourselves spiritually in a desert place – a place where God seems far away and silent. But in our scripture God says He is going to allure her (Israel) and lead her into the desert in order to speak tenderly to her. Wow! It struck me that God could be the One Who decides to lead us, His own treasured possession, into a desert place. In those times He may also feel far away, and we may seem to struggle to hear His voice and to understand why we’re in the dry, weary place. Yet He says that He would speak tenderly to us in that place – that place of little distraction and an urgent drive to get through it.
When you find yourself in a lonely, dry time in your walk with God, remember the great things that came from desert experiences in God’s Word. Moses met God in the burning bush in the desert (Exodus 3). Elijah received very clear direction for the next step in his ministry after he ran and hid in the desert, following his altercation with the Baal prophets and Jezebel’s subsequent threats (1 Kings 19:15-18). Jesus came out of the desert after His temptation ‘in the power of the Spirit’ (Luke 4:14), and started His public ministry immediately following this. We also read of multiple miracles God did for the Israelites in the desert.
The desert experience can be a dry, barren place, but when God leads you into such a season, He has a purpose for it and He WILL speak, if you will listen.
‘A gem cannot be polished without friction nor a man perfected without trials’ (Chinese Proverb).
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the desert seasons. Help me to submit to the times You lovingly lead me there, and forgive me for doubting Your loving-kindness when I struggle to understand. Speak tenderly to me, Lord. Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening. Amen.
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