In the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” – “a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Mark 1:1-8
John was a voice calling in the desert, just as Malachi and Isaiah had predicted. Wilderness and desert are themes throughout the Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament the nation of Israel lived and wandered in the wilderness for 40 years on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. The individual people of Israel experienced many emotions as they walked in the desert. It was a hot, dry, long, difficult and tiring journey. Many were scared, confused, worried and anxious about getting to their destination – the land of Canaan. I am sure many asked questions like, “Where are we going? How will we get there? What are we going to eat? Will we have clothes and shoes to last the journey?” Living in the wilderness is not easy, but it often brings perspective about what is most important and who we trust for our survival.
In the New Testament, Jesus went into the wilderness after being baptised by John and before he began his ministry. Just as the Israelites were tested in the wilderness, Jesus was tested. He responded to Satan’s questions with scripture and though tempted, did not sin. Jesus knew what his purpose was, and he did not get sidetracked by Satan’s suggestions to gain power or prestige. Mark mentions Jesus was with wild animals, but he also tells us God protected him and the angels came and ministered to his needs.
Have you experienced a wilderness season in your life? While we are in the desert, it can be difficult, God can feel distant, we are often confused about what direction we should be heading in. Often it involves waiting. But being in the wilderness is an opportunity to strip away everything that is not essential, look to God for his provision, his protection, look to his word for direction. In the waiting, try discovering new ways to be with God. Try taking a walk and praying or pray through a psalm that expresses your current feelings. Singing praise and worship songs. Journaling can be a good way to make giant jumbled and confused thoughts more manageable, and shrink down to a problem that can be solved.
Apprentices of Jesus are marked by being with him, becoming like him, and doing as he did. Try these practices.
By Grace Hunter