Led by the Spirit into the desert
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. NIV
The cry of the church today is for the Spirit to lead us to the river – we want times of refreshing and revival. We want to see a mighty move of the Spirit in our time, in our place. And those times will surely come. But we must not be surprised if the Holy Spirit chooses to lead us into the desert instead!
Are we ready to follow Him there?
The desert is, of course, a difficult place to be in. When I lived in Chile I had occasion to visit the great Atacama Desert – one of the driest places in the world. Standing on the edge of that vast desert and looking out over an infinity of bare rock and sand, a sense of foreboding grips you. And you know without doubt that if you were to be stranded there, you would not survive more than a few days. The desert is a desolate and inhospitable place, a place of hardship and trial, a place of death even.
Yet, it is also one of God’s favourite places. Though He is Lord of the mountains and the valleys, the rivers and the green pastures, He seems to love the desert. And it is to the desert that He invites those He loves.
Notice how just after the Father declared His love for Jesus, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert. All the great men and women of the Kingdom were called to walk with God into the desert. They were all graduates of the school of the desert.
Yes, it is a place of death – death to self, death to our own dreams and desires, death to independence – but be encouraged: though death stalks the desert, it is also a place of new beginnings.
More than anything else, the desert is a place of wondrous intimacy with God, a place where He draws us to Himself. It is where He really reveals Himself to us and teaches us to depend on Him, to trust Him. In the desert, God has an opportunity to take “Egypt” out of us and strip us of all those things that keep us from reaching for God’s best.
Remember that it was in the desert that God reveled Himself to the people of Israel as El-Shaddai (God Almighty), Jehovah Rophe (the Lord our Healer) and Jehovah Nissi (the Lord our Banner).
And on the ashes of death to self, out of the pieces of our broken dreams, He resurrects a new person full of the purpose of God, full of the knowledge of God, full of the faith of God. The boy goes into the desert, the man emerges from it! We go into the desert weak and untested; if we yield to God, we come out of the desert “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). And then, the man or woman of God is revealed to the world.
The desert, you see, is not just about us but about preparing a man or a woman for God’s purpose in the world as well.
Led by the Spirit – into the desert. It is a sign of God’s love, a sign that He wants to do something deep, something special in your life. Don’t be afraid to follow the Spirit into the desert, for God is calling you to a new level of intimacy, power and purpose. Be yielded to Him in the desert and soon enough the man or woman of power will emerge and God would have found a new champion for His cause.
The river is for refreshing and revival; the desert is for tearing down and building up. They are both necessary.
I cared for you in the wilderness, In the land of drought ~ Hosea 13:5