I was thinking recently about times when I have seen pictures of desert places in the world. Some would be described as wildernesses with sun-baked rocks and sparse vegetation, while others are vast furnaces of endless sand. There’s a stark beauty about such places, but it struck me that, apart from the severe challenge to survival for someone travelling through them, seeing the same unchanging scenery each day would seem monotonous to the weary eyes of that traveller. My thoughts had wandered to thinking of deserts because I had struggled during the recent months of lockdown and isolation. Most days had borne a striking resemblance to those that had gone before.
There are so many examples in the Bible of God meeting with people in desert places, in life-changing ways. Hagar, the rejected mother of Ishmael, was twice rescued there by an angel in her desperation and need. Jacob, sleeping in a dark and lonely place, dreamt of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven and discovered that God was in that place. Moses in the back side of the desert encountered the burning bush and received his commission to lead God’s people out of Egypt.
Many of King David’s psalms were inspired during his years in wilderness places, evading the pursuit of King Saul. Elijah ran into the desert in his lowest moment, only to meet with the care of an angel preparing his meals. In Hosea 2:14, we see wayward Israel allured into the desert to hear the tender voice of the Lord.
If we fast forward to the New Testament, we see John the Baptist, growing up in the wilderness and becoming the one calling Israel to prepare for the ministry of Jesus. Then, after His baptism by John, Jesus Himself was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to spend forty days being tempted by the devil. Later on we see the Apostle Paul spending time in Arabia after his conversion, being prepared no doubt for the hardships he would endure in his future ministry.
A common characteristic of being in a desert is the lack of food and water. Deprived of those two essentials, our bodies cry out to be satisfied. Wilderness times in our lives, as in our verse for today, remind us that the true nourishment for our souls isn’t found in the day-to-day circumstances of life, but in God. In His love for us as our Father, the Lord will sometimes lead us into wilderness places to draw us into new intimacy with Him. If you’re in that humbling place today, ask the Lord to meet you there.
Prayer: ‘Just let me hear Your finest whispers, as You gently call my name. And let me see Your power and Your glory, let me feel Your Spirit’s flame. Let me find You in the desert ‘till this sand is holy ground. And I am found completely surrendered, to You, my Lord and friend.’ (Geoff Bullock)
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