Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Even in the Wilderness

The Gospel lesson for this coming Sunday, the first in Lent, is Matthew 4:1-11.

In it, something strange happens that, in all my years of reading and studying the passage, I had never noticed until I saw it pointed out in a commentary I was reading last night:
  • God's Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 
  • Then, the devil takes Jesus to the temple in the holy city of Jerusalem.
That's sort of counter-intuitive, isn't it?

But it makes some important points:
  • There's nowhere you can be that's so removed from God that He can't reach you.
  • There's no place so holy that the devil won't try rob those who go there of life and joy.
The place in which you find yourself that you hate may be precisely the place you need to be to grow closer to God, stronger in your faith, finer in your character, more sure in your witness for Christ.

The place you find so comforting because you're certain that God's people, God's power, and God's presence are palpable may be a place of grave spiritual danger where unnoticed temptations more easily trap you and steer you away from dependence on God.

God can meet you (and help you) anywhere. Corrie ten-Boom, the Christian evangelist who, along with her father and sister, helped Jews escape the Nazi-occupied Netherlands and was later incarcerated in a prison camp for it, kept a daily prayer and worship appointment with God in the only place she could without being detected. It was the camp garbage dump and after a time, she said, it was the sweetest place she could imagine. God met her there.

Psalm 139:7-12 includes these prayer musings addressed to God:
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. 
So long as we live in the wilderness of this sin-saturated world, evil will tempt and trail us. But if we invite the God we meet in Jesus to live with us, evil won't have the last word over our lives. Jesus has given a promise to all who trust in Him: "I am with you always, to the end of the age." He's still good for that promise...even when you feel you're in the wilderness.

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