Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. – LUKE 4:1-2 NLT
The Judean wilderness was a desolate place. Yet the Holy Spirit leads Jesus to wander this dead zone. The purpose of this journey is to establish Jesus as the only worthy sacrifice for humanity through temptation by the humanity’s greatest adversary: Satan. We must not miss the meaning of the setting. We often picture a wilderness as containing gnarled trees and shrubs, endless wastes, and an overriding sense of lifelessness; a perfect representation of the state of humanity. This is preparation for the ministry Jesus is about to embark on: bringing life where there is only death. It’s not surprising Satan shows up on scene, for he is the master of all things gnarled and lifeless; setting all things to waste. This wilderness is his, and the Spirit is sending Jesus into it to prove that God will conquer Satan’s domain, and abolish the power of death.
On a personal level, we often find that following Jesus, and the path of the Spirit, leads to the wilderness. Sometimes we’re enjoying the tranquility of the river, then in a heartbeat, we’re called into the dead zone. Maybe this comes about through sickness or emotional issues, but whatever the physical reason, the Spirit leads us into the wilderness to see how dependent we are on God for His provision. It’s easy to sing God’s praises when we have health, wealth, and family. But if these things went away, would we still praise God?
It’s a bit like Job.
Satan argued this point to God:
“Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” – JOB 1:9-11 NLT
God allows Satan to test Job by taking away everything but his life. When this happened, Job wavered in his faithfulness (though he did repent of this in chapter 42). But Job represents our human tendency to abandon God (even blame him!) when we are in the wilderness. But as we will see, Jesus, unlike Job, demonstrates complete dependence upon God in the wilderness, and this should be the example we follow.
Like the events in Job, and like what we find in Jesus’ testing, Christians are in the middle of a cosmic war that has real implications for our lives. Jesus proves that the outcome of this war is not favourable for Satan, but we must endure the wilderness until the Lord’s return. We must remain faithful in God’s provision; even when we’re at our breaking point.
A Prayer of Repentance
Then Job replied to the Lord:
“I know that you can do anything,
and no one can stop you.
You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me.
You said, ‘Listen and I will speak!
I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.’
I had only heard about you before,
but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
I take back everything I said,
and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” – JOB 42:1-6 NLT