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Have You Been To The Desert?

There’s a theme that runs through the entire Bible. It’s not love, or hope, or salvation, rather it’s desert. That’s right. It’s barren wilderness. At first glance, this seem rather odd, but it’s there.

When the Jews first met God it was in the desert of Mount Sinai. When Moses was chatting with God by the burning bush, it was also desert. Jacob wrestled with God in the desert.

Flash forward and we have John the Baptist running around the desert wilderness eating locusts and wild honey and baptizing people. He was telling them to change their ways and turn from the idols of this world as a whole new era is beginning. There’s a new sheriff (Jesus) in town.

Then Jesus shows up, gets baptized by John, and heads off on his own wilderness adventure. What’s the message in all this? Why is God in the desert – these lifeless places where it’s tough to find water, food, and anything that sustains life?

The answer, as Tim Keller points out in an audio series on his new book, King’s Cross, is that the wilderness leaves one utterly dependent on God for everything. That’s how we are to come before the author of life – it makes sense, really.

If there is a lesson that’s skipped in Christianity, it’s this one. Few like to give up control and submit to a king. We might pay it lip service, but really relying on God for everything – total submission – in light of all the temptations and options before us (including our own control) – is difficult. We like to keep a little control in our back pocket.

But God is saying, in or out. My way or the highway. If you want to live in the kingdom, you must serve the king – and the king only. All else is worthless. There can be no fence sitters. Choose.

It’s one giant invite. It’s critical to remember that it is pure gift being offered. God is saying, come to the real party! Come experience true life. True joy. Completeness.

Here was Jesus’ response after fasting and frying in the desert for 40 days…

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. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Despite incredible temptation, Jesus, unlike Adam and Eve (who had it quite good in the garden), clung to God even in the wilderness.

Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson


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  1. Now that I’m thinking about it, how incredible that God has made himself known in the desert. It is easy to believe in a faithful and good God when everything we need is all around us. For God to come and be with us in the desert is to relate to us at the most critical time when we are in need of him most. Now that is the God who I want on my side… and the God I want the world to see and know. There is much good in this world, because God had good things in mind when he created it. But it does not take a rocket scientist to see that there are deserts all around us and even in us that are crying out for the water that would bring life to our parched souls. I am so thankful there is a real God out there who is not only ready to help meet the needs of my thirsty soul, but walk with me as I journey through the very desert itself.

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