Written by: Rhonda Sue Page
The Judaean Wilderness is describable….but it’s also a lot like taking pictures of amazing sunsets or epic snowfalls. Never does them justice. True perspective and definition get lost in the translation both verbally and on film. At some point, the person(s) trying to do the explaining of all that grandeur will finally come to the same conclusion….for the full effect, you just had to be there yourself.
Some things must be experienced BY us, for us to be able to grasp their true splendor.
Now, after I’ve prefaced it in that way…welcome to the Judaean Wilderness:
I wrestled with the day we came here. Indiana Jack (our fearless guide) didn’t really tell us what to expect, he just let us experience it. While I won’t be that secretive, I do hope to make you hungry enough to want to go for yourself someday. So, here’s two more:
I picked these two photos to try and show the terrain from both the side and above. Why yes, that is your beloved Pastor’s wife working to get great shots for us.
I know in sharing these, I’m risking Holly being verbally reprimanded by some of you. I can already hear you hollering, “Holly get away from that edge!”
But try to rest assured that most of us already did that for you….to no avail.
In fact, I suspect she’s part mountain goat.
You know, the really adorable kind…like this:
At any rate, I can’t wait to see the shots she got.
Meanwhile, I took all my photos from the fetal position.
…..Don’t judge me.
Did I mention it was VERY high…and VERY steep…and that the ledge was VERY narrow? Just ask Suzanne (although she’ll likely add more “VERY”s to her sentences.)
Which brings me to why I wrestled with this day.
THIS is the wilderness Jesus went into to be tempted directly after being baptized.
Have you ever wondered at that action? Does it seem strange to you at all that Jesus felt compelled to go looking for trouble? (It’s possible it’s just me……but, I’m pretending at least four of you nodded.)
By now you know where I’m headed…..so go ahead and grab your bible.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
Sooooo, which part of that verse grabs your attention the most?
Yeah, me too! (That’s probably why I came up with the questions I did. In my mind, smart people don’t go looking for the devil.)
Now jump back to the verse and focus on the 5 little words nestled after “Jesus”.
OOOHHH, so THAT’S why that went down the way it did.
When I was a little girl up until about the age of 12, I had deep love for all things Jesus. I sang about how he loved me and talked about how I loved him. I loved to mentally picture him everywhere I went doing everything with me. Without really understanding….I trusted simply that in seeing him, I was seeing the Father. Loving him was loving God. I never gave deep thought to the Trinity or the roles they defer to each other in as the Godhead.
But in my 12th year, something amazing happened for me that drew me deeper in my relationship to God and his Spirit. I personally had my first experience with speaking in tongues and being more fully infilled with the Holy Spirit. I attended a church where this was freely practiced and not considered strange, and it wasn’t the subject of theoretical debate.
And although I only ever spoke in tongues for the benefit of the congregation on a handful occasions growing up, I have still steadily used this gift when led by the Spirit during times of personal prayer, or when interceding on behalf of someone else.
I only bring it up now because that day blew the doors wide open on my soul and became a beautiful part of my testimony. I was never the same after that.
With regret, I confess I have tried on several occasions to wander my own path especially during my young adult years. But there was just no walking away from God. He had ruined me up for everything else. There was no higher high than God’s presence. There was no greater joy…and there certainly wasn’t a drop of peace to be had outside of him. In short, I had gone too far with God to turn back, I knew where I belonged. And no matter how awkward that made me seem to this world…secretly, I was glad.
No, maybe I wasn’t like everyone else. Maybe I didn’t always get their jokes, Maybe I was a little odd at parties, and I never really fit in. But I wasn’t meant to….and neither are you.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
We were designed to be led by his Spirit.
Indiana Jack taught us that the wilderness was wrought with challenges that demanded your preparation & attention if you wanted to survive. The dizzying heights meant you wanted to be sure of where you were going. Even if you got down the steep incline safely…….trying to climb back up just to climb down again demanded more of a plan than just that “thing” men normally do when they have a vague feeing of heading in the right direction. (Am I right girls?)
Knowing how to find water and shelter for protection against the predators meant the difference between life and death.
This was the place the Holy Spirit led Jesus for a month’s hiatus. 40 days in dangerous isolation with no comfort food (*gasp* be still my little Horatio), and the guarantee that the least supportive person EVER was going to show up.
Don’t get me wrong, this place is breathtakingly beautiful…….from a safe distance……. and a bus driver waiting around the corner……. with lunch.
But there was no way I was about to go wandering off and lose sight of Jack in this place. Jack had brought me here. I was depending on him to keep me safe, teach me what I needed to know, and get me out again.
Following the leading of the Holy Spirit is much the same way.
So often we sit and focus on all the things we want changed in our lives, and maybe honestly some of it needs changing. But It becomes a real issue when we try to pass judgment on what to change and when to change it. In truth, God may first begin working in wholly different areas of our lives than we would. That’s why it’s just as crucial to not judge and condemn ourselves as it is not to do so to other people.
Be willing to let the Holy Spirit go where he wants inside you, when he wants. He knows everything thing there is to know about you. He may take you to some scary places that you’d rather not visit. But it will always be to show you that you are never alone. He brings the things that hurt us out into the light to be dealt with and made small in comparison to his greatness. Don’t be afraid to take time just to be quiet and still before the Lord. Ask God to help you be sensitive to how he wants to move, then you can confidently follow because you’ll know grace meets you there.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
God’s only obligated to finish what he starts……..not what we start. What a tremendous relief knowing he’s in it for keeps and he won’t give up on us.
Maybe God has led you into a hard place right now, take courage that the Holy Spirit plays many roles in helping to refine you and lead you right back out……. better off for having been there.
I just love this verse from the amplified bible:
John 14:26 “But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you.”
Do you see how VERY active he stays on your behalf?
Now THAT’s the picture to keep in front of you when satan tempts you to think God’s turned deaf or is sitting on his hands with regard to your situation. It is utterly astonishing the lengths the Spirit goes to to put our feet on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.
In truth, life is a bit of a wilderness no matter where you are. We bare the scars of not always allowing ourselves to be led by the Spirit. And wether you like it or not…… you’ve already met up with the tempter a time or two.
To be successfully led we must be willing to spend time asking God to help us sense his leading and to deepen the ties that bind us to him.
Thank God for being everything you need especially if there’s no one around to support you in the direction he calls you to go.
Take comfort that his Spirit will never leave or forsake you on the journey but walks with you step by faithful step allowing you to experience for yourself the full effect of God’s power in your life.
In the end, words will never do that power justice and you’ll be VERY, VERY glad you got to experience HIM for yourself.