Monday, January 16, 2017

The Wilderness

Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 16: Today, I am grateful for the wilderness.

A favorite hymn... and hymns are not my favorite... is "Joy to the World". I wish we sang it year round. For a season, we did with the kids. One VBS CD rocked it out a little and the kids wouldn't let go of it. So, we kept on singing. Children always recognize good praise. I've learned to let them lead.

The ancient lyric is familiar... "and heaven and nature sing". It is repeated within the tune. The rhythm really sticks. It is wide open praise. 

Where do we find "heaven" and "nature" singing? It can be found in the wilderness. We have to get out under a starry sky or into the country by day. There we can listen to the heavens and nature sing. Sounds a little like camping, but camping is not necessary. It might be beneficial, but not necessary. ( Whew! Have I mentioned I am not a camper.? Perhaps, someday I will be... and then again, maybe not.)

I have been pondering "the wilderness" for about two weeks. I ponder like Pooh... until I understand. Usually, the understanding comes when it suddenly seems simple. 

Sometimes, I hear wilderness and picture a desert. In Hebrew, the word "midbar" is what we often translate into wilderness for our English bibles. I have read that it is from the Hebrew root word "dabar" which means "to speak", "to commune" or "to promise".  I find this fascinating. 

When I looked it up, it actually said that the wilderness... the midbar... is "fit for feeding flocks, not a desert". Now, we know. 

What if the wilderness places in our lives were actually the places where God speaks? Let that sink in for a minute. 

In the wilderness, with no distraction outside of the heavens and nature's song...God speaks. In the wilderness moments in our lives we can hear him ... and feel his breath. 

Sometimes,"the wilderness" comes to us. It might be in a hospital chapel, a hospice bedside chair, a NICU, the car outside of the unemployment office, a cemetery, a fishing boat, a morning walk or run, a courtroom hallway, a prison cell, a hiking trail or a prayer closet. 

Jesus, before his showdown with the devil, spent time in the wilderness. The Holy Spirit led him there.

"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."-Matthew 4:1

With prayer and fasting, he grew stronger. His body was spent, but his soul was ready. 

"And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness." -Luke 4:1

"Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, "‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him." -Matthew 4:10-11
He was ready.

The wilderness, midbar in the Hebrew.  It is defined as "uncultivated and fit for pasture". In other words, there is nourishment there. It is ready and waiting. In the Greek, the word for wilderness ... eremos...  the word implies a lonely, desolate place with no friends, family or support. In fact... in the Greek... one part of the definition includes "bereft" or "like a woman whose husband withholds himself from her". Intimacy withheld. It is a place of deep longing left unfulfilled. 

God leads us to the wilderness places for a purpose... for His purpose. Relationship. Communication. Fellowship. Intimacy. Peace. Nourishment. He waits for us to return to him. He longs to be our enough. He is enough. 

In simple summation: In the wilderness, free of distractions and filled with heaven and nature's praise, the lonely place becomes a place of communication, communion, nourishment and renewed intimacy through prayer. 

Jesus modeled it for us. God provided this scripture from yesterday's message at church.

"But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray." -Luke 5:16

Today, I am grateful for the wilderness.

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