God with us in the wilderness

When Jesus was introduced on this planet God called him Immanuel. Actually, that’s not entirely true. 700 years before Jesus was born these words were spoken about Jesus

Therefore the Lord himself will give you[ a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and[ will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

The reason why Jesus came down was simple. It wasn’t to lecture us. It wasn’t so he could give us a set of rules. Jesus didn’t come to guilt trip us. He came for one reason. To be with us. To be with us in the valleys of our lives. To be with us on the mountaintops. To be with us in good times and in bad. To be Immanuel.

Like it or not, one of those places that God promises to be with us is in the wilderness. In my research here’s a fact I believe to be true. Everyone goes through the wilderness. Some hate it. Some get could and anxious and worried in the wilderness. Some feel defeated in the wilderness. But there is another group of people. These thrive in the wilderness. They seem born to it. It brings out their best.

“I won’t sugarcoat this: Standing on the precipice of the wilderness is bone-chilling. Going alone feels so terrifying as to keep most of us distanced from the wilderness our whole lives…I’m convinced that discomfort is the great deterrent of our generation. The wilderness is where all the creatives and prophets and system-buckers and risk-takers have always lived, and it is stunningly vibrant. The walk out there is hard, but the authenticity out there is life.” Jen Hatmaker

In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia. Charles Lindbergh

The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can’t control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand. Brene Brown.

This last week I looked through the whole bible in search of the wilderness. This is what I found. The wilderness can be both frightening and exhilarating. Here’s another thing I found. You might be in a wilderness and not even know it.

Wilderness is a time of waiting

Where is the hardest place to wait?

Let me give you another rough place to wait. This one has the DMV beat. Waiting on God. The bible is filled with stories of people who had to wait.

If you decide to follow God, I have bad news for you. It includes waiting. Over and over God calls us to wait.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6

Do any of you feel stuck in the waiting?
You’re waiting for you kid to come back to Jesus
You’re waiting for test results? You think the wait is long at Vons. Try waiting for test results
You’re waiting to find a soul mate
I think a longer wait is the one you feel when you’ve lost a soul mate. How long will I feel this bad. When will this depression stop.

F.B. Meyer has the best description of why there are times God asks us to wait.

God has his set times. It is not for us to know them. Indeed, we cannot know them. We must wait for them. If God had told Abraham that he must wait all those years until he pressed the promised child to his bosom, his heart would have failed him. So in gracious love, the length of the weary years was hidden. And only as they were nearly spent and there were only a few more months to wait, God told him, according to the time of life, “Sarah shall have a son.” If God told you on the front end how long you would wait to find the fulfillment of your desire or pleasure or dream, you’d lose heart. You’d grow weary in well doing. So would I. But he doesn’t. He just says, “Wait. I keep my word. I’m in no hurry. In the process of time I’m developing you to be ready for the promise.”

If you’re waiting, you’re in the wilderness

Wilderness is a time of wandering

Most of the times that wilderness is mentioned in the Bible it refers to the people of Israel who were wandering in the desert. That was their defining characteristic. The reason why they wandered is because they did not trust God. But just because you trust God, doesn’t mean you won’t wander.

Hebrews 11 gives us a who’s who list of people of amazing faith. Let me read you how the chapter starts and ends.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for…

The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Hebrews 11:1,2,38-40

Feels like as believers we are destined to wander.

You will raise kids to follow God but you’ll see the end product. You’ll be gone while they are still trying to figure it out
You will pour your life into someone but, most likely, you’ll never know for sure it paid off
You’ll pray for neighbors but you may never see a change.

Wandering seems to be a part of this path God puts us on. If you are looking for direction and feel like you are wandering, you are in the wilderness.

Wilderness is a time of loneliness

In the bible David voiced feelings of loneliness more than anyone else. He wandered the lonely hills in the wilderness more than anyone. Let me give you a couple of snapshots of David in the wilderness.

David was a shepherd so most of his days were spent alone in the wilderness. There was no glory to that. The day that David would take down Goliath did not start with glory.

When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” 1 Samuel 17:28

David didn’t just feel alone because he was relegated to the sheep in the wilderness. He was alone in his own family. He simply came to bring food to his brothers and was called conceited and wicked and was accused of rubber necking. His family was a wilderness.

David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands. 1 Samuel 23:14

I wonder if you can relate to any of this
Do you feel like you are misunderstood and undermined and devalued?
Do you feel misunderstood at work. Undervalued. Under appreciated?

Wilderness is a time of temptation

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. Matthew 4:1-11

My counselor warned me about the greatest time of temptation. It is when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. It spells the acrostic HALT. When you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, you need to be cautious. You need to halt. How many of those did Jesus have going for him in this season.

Bad decisions happen when we are hungry, angry, lonely and tired. Jesus felt all of them. That’s why this passage is called Jesus temptation in the wilderness. Temptation hits us the hardest during these times. If you are feeling tempted, you are in the wilderness.

Are you waiting?
Are you wandering?
Are you lonely?
Are you feeling tempted?

If so, you have found yourself in the wilderness.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about people. It’s about leaving the ninety and nine and going into the wilderness after those who are lost. It’s about bearing one another’s burdens, with the ultimate burden anyone can bear being walking through this life without light. Sheri L. Dew