was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness" (Matthew 4:1).
Often when God is about to do a great work in someone, he first drives them into the wilderness. We have the example of Jesus, who just before the start of his earthly ministry, spent forty days and forty nights in a desolate place. Abraham left the wealth of Ur of the Chaldees to dwell in tents. Moses fled the courts of Egypt and herded sheep in a scraggly land for forty years before leading Israel to freedom. Israel sojourned in the wilderness for forty years before taking possession of the promised land. David fled Saul and was holed up in the desert before taking the throne of Israel. Elijah disappeared into the wilderness for long stretches, and John the Baptist did the same.
Even Paul spent three years in Arabia before his ministry, where many believe he was instructed personally by the risen Christ. (Gal. 1:17-18)
The pattern is one that should encourage us. The wilderness spoken of in scripture is often a dry, desolate place, and quite often in our lives we can feel that we have been driven into our own spiritual dry places. Trials come our way, and we naturally struggle trying to square our circumstances with our concept of a loving, generous God. Maybe we struggle with the pressures of life, or financial pressures not of our own making, or depression, or family problems, or a job that seems more like a prison term. Whatever it is, we all go through the dry places, and so often we just can't see why.
I doubt that Moses knew God's purpose when he fled Egypt and lived in a hardscrabble land, but God was preparing him for one of the landmark events of history. If David's Psalms are any indication, David must have fought terrible bouts of depression when fleeing from Saul. We know that Elijah became so distraught that he wanted to die. Yet for all these men, God had a great work for them to do, and their time in the wilderness was nothing less than necessary training for the job God had for them.
If you feel like you are in the wilderness right now, take heart. God knows what he is doing, and he just might be preparing you for greater things.
Excerpted from The
Sabbath Morning Companion, March 12, 2004, by Lenny Cacchio.