“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. 2 For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.” (from Matthew 4 NLT)
“Led by the Spirit into the wilderness…” Why on earth would the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil? Everything about that phrase bothered me and nothing about that phrase brought much comfort …until recently.
While in my own wilderness journey, I’ve been walking miles and miles toward where I’d hoped would end up in the promised land! You know…that place of joy and freedom without dragging along behind you the baggage of anxiety, self-doubt and a wagon load of other negative emotions chained to your ankles. Yeah — that place!
In my almost-there-but-not-yet-state, a surprising turn in the path opened up before me. God made a way in the middle of my journey to help facilitate a simple devotional time in several locations throughout our city. The topic…”The Sermon on the Mount” found in Matthew chapters 5-7. I think He knew that in teaching others, I would end up being the student.
As I was preparing to move forward with the lesson, the Holy Spirit seemed to lead me to back up into chapter 4 to give context as to what was happening prior to this famous sermon delivered by Jesus.
The temptation of Jesus. 40 days. 40 nights. No food. Wilderness. Deserted in the desert. No-man’s land. Barren.
Ironically, Satan comes in person to deliver up one of his text-book temptations to Jesus — the Deliverer of man-kind.
As I read the passage, the phrase, “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” still baffled me. I began to read it out loud and the Spirit began to share something of the Father’s heart for me in this story.
Here’s what I’ve come to know…
The Spirit of God will never lead into any place that He can’t carry you through!
If the Spirit is leading you — no matter what the situation–He is leading you from a place of victory that He longs to give. The starting point is determined as well as the finish line. You are starting from a place that will lead you through to completion. You are carried along by the Spirit throughout the entire journey. He never leaves you and is always there to give strength and insight as He teaches you needed truths the Father wants you to know. These truths are vital to equip you and train you to live a life of joy and peace in this life. It’s a time for you to grow and mature into the you God knows is the better version of you.
Where the Spirit of God leads you, He will see you through.
The path has been pre-determined with an outcome that will bring a deeper intimacy and strength to your walk with Jesus.
But the infamous question still lingers…”Why?”
One man at our Bible study leaned into his thoughts and shared that he saw the temptation of Jesus as an example of what we’re supposed to do when we’re tempted by the evil one…a model for us so we have a guideline when we experience our own temptation in the wilderness.
Yes! What you said! Of course!
But I also believe there may be another reason. What if for each wilderness experience there may be certain areas of our lives that Jesus wants to shore up …solidify …giving us a strong anchor to His truth.
Hosea chapter 2 talks about how God was going to take his people back into the wilderness to have a “come to Jesus moment” to deal with their sins; yet there is also the mercy of the Father as you read these healing words of restoration as well …
“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor[b] a door of hope.
There she will respond[c] as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
(from Hosea 2 NIV)
The “Valley of Achor” represented the valley of trouble. God was making a way out by actually using the wilderness wanderings and the times of trouble to build a door of hope to the other side! The very place we’ve come to know as trouble and agony can become the very door that leads us to a place of hope.
It also seems interesting to me that after Jesus went through the temptation in the wilderness, His public ministry began. Wilderness experiences often birth a new season of purpose and direction in life.
After Mama died, I started a long wilderness journey. I thought it would just be the valley of grieving but while walking it out, it seems the Spirit has been dealing with many deep-seated issues that have been lingering in my heart for years — loss, abandonment, rejection, identity, lack of confidence and feelings of worthlessness and inferiority– to name a few.
You see, painful situations you may be going through now may actually be a limb sprouting up from roots long-buried.
As each one presented itself, the enemy accused me and battered me with situations that pelted me like hail on a metal rooftop leaving divots on my heart. The arrows came through daily experiences that seemed to re-open wounds of my losses and inadequacies.
God needed to take me back into the wilderness to speak tenderly to me and remind me who I am …who He says I am and that He is all I need for every longing of my heart. He needed to show me my sin of wanting the approval of others …of seeking identity and significance through relationships and accomplishments …likes and follows …expectations of others to respond in the way I thought I needed to be loved.
Idols I had erected in my heart needed to be torn down and thrown into the fire. The Father knew the wilderness would be a good and open space for me to deal with that so He lovingly took me there so we could have those one-on-one conversations without humiliation.
His love drew me there. His grace covered my sin. His mercy never let go of me. He was never any more than an arm’s length away.
He’s a gentleman, you know. He shared in private a better way for me to walk in public.
“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deuteronomy 8:2 NIV)
As for me? Well, I would tell you I’m still trudging inch-by-inch toward that spacious place but I’m starting to see the light shine through the valley of trouble and that door of hope is now in sight. And as the Light shines through, turns out … Jesus has been carrying me all the way!
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.
His love endures forever…
to Him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.
(From Psalm 136 NIV)