Surviving in the Wilderness

Luke 4:1-13 (NRS)

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.'” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

I have been away from family and home for a while.  I had the pleasure of traveling around Israel with Dr. Doug Cullum as we have done some planning for an educational tour we are organizing with Jerusalem University College; a place I have enjoyed studying at in the past.  

Israel is an amazing place.  With all its modern conveniences in many ways it carries over its ancient culture and feel.  The surroundings provide a rich and diverse image that at times makes you feel as if you are witnessing the biblical narrative. In the passage above the devil takes Jesus to three “places;” the wilderness (Greek: a desolate place), a very high mountain (Matthew 4) and the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem.  

Wadi Qilt

Two of the places mentioned cannot be pinpointed with precision.  What is called the desert or wilderness may likely be the Judean wilderness (pictured to the left).  The high mountain could be anywhere.  The pinnacle of the temple has be identified in archeology and can be seen today in the temple excavations in Jerusalem.

Each location provided the devil opportunity to try get Jesus off track; you’re hungry…make bread from stones, you deserve the world…worship me and you can by-pass God’s plan, prove who you are… test God.  With every attempt Jesus thwarts Satan.  Jesus did not succumb to the temptation of a wilderness experience. 

Where are you today?  Do you feel like you are in the wilderness?  Are you being tempted by desires contrary to God’s will for your life?  Jesus provided you and me with the key.  When tempted, when confronted by things that test our faith, that is the time to dig deep and put your dependence on God.  At times of trial, worship should not be far from your lips and when circumstances seek proof, remember what God has done in your life.  Remembering the past provides assurance for the future. 

The wilderness can be difficult, but when seen in the proper perspective it reveals an amazing beauty.  God brings the beauty.

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