The Wilderness: A Place of Divine Favor

Wilderness.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the word wilderness has several uses:

  • IMG_0288An uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region.
  • A neglected or abandoned area.
  • A position of disfavor.[1]

No Christian travels the journey of her faith without finding herself in a wilderness of some sort. In fact, the Bible is full of literal wilderness experiences that are intended to teach us more about God, more about His glory, more about ourselves—all with the goal that we would be conformed to the image of His Son, whose own wilderness experience demonstrated so clearly that He was God’s obedient Son.[2]

In the apostle John’s vision recorded in the apocalyptic book of Revelation, John finds himself transported into a wilderness (Revelation 17:3). However, instead of viewing this wilderness as an area of neglect or abandonment, we find that this wilderness is actually a place of protection—a place of divine favor. In his excellent commentary on Revelation, Dennis Johnson describes it this way:

Earlier in Revelation the wilderness was the region in which the heavenly woman found protection from the pursuing dragon, where she could not be drowned by the flood of lies from the dragon’s mouth (Rev. 12:6, 13-16). Thus the angel carries John to the wilderness to place him out of reach of the allure of the harlot’s deceptive appearance, so that he can see accurately and testify truthfully against her immorality and violence.[3]  (emphasis added)

What if we could retrain ourselves to look at our own wilderness experiences in such light…to remember that we have been led by God to this difficult place for a reason—and that, ultimately, the reason involves (to borrow Dennis Johnson’s imagery) having our vision adjusted—so we can “see accurately and testify truthfully.”

What if, in our own wilderness experiences, we remembered what the Bible itself teaches us about the way God uses wilderness experiences, the way He reveals Himself in these experiences? What if we remember that…

  • In the wilderness, God provided for Hagar by a spring of water and blessed her, causing her to call Him “El Roi”—the God who sees. (Genesis 16:17)
  • In the wilderness, God provided a breathtaking foreshadowing of the reality of His Son’s sacrifice through Abraham and Isaac at Mount Moriah—providing the Bible’s very first use of the word love. (Genesis 22)
  • In the wilderness, God provided holy ground for Moses at Mount Horeb and introduced Himself as I AM WHO I AM. (Exodus 3)
  • In the wilderness, God provided for His people by leading them by a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. (Exodus 13)
  • In the wilderness, God provided salvation in the parting of the Red Sea. (Exodus 14)
  • In the wilderness, God provided the miracle of manna to feed His flock. (Exodus 16)
  • In the wilderness, God provided water from the rock at Horeb. (Exodus 17)
  • In the wilderness, God provided the Sinai covenant to His children. (Exodus 20)
  • In the wilderness, God provided the picture of the heavenly tabernacle to Moses. (Exodus 26)
  • In the wilderness, God provided the idea of substitutionary atonement through blood sacrifice. (Leviticus 16)
  • In the wilderness, God provided the bronze serpent, lifted up on a pole, to save anyone who would look at it. (Numbers 21)
  • In the wilderness, God provided—after 400 years of silence—a voice crying, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” (Matthew 3:1)
  • In the wilderness, God provided for us a living portrait of His Son teaching us how to glorify Him by walking in the truth of Scripture. (Mark 1)
  • In the wilderness, God provided for the woman of Revelation 12—the bride of Christ—by nourishing her in a place prepared by Himself. (Revelation 12)

What if, the next time we are in that spiritual wilderness that comes to us all—that place that seems uninhabited, neglected, that place of perceived disfavor—what if we remembered that God not only provides in the wilderness, but that He reveals Himself in these places? What if we reminded each other that God has a purpose for this wilderness experience? What if we believed—and encouraged others to believe—Isaiah 43:19: Behold, I am doing a new thing; I will make a way in the wilderness.

My friend, may God use your wilderness experience and mine to bring Him much glory and us much good.


[1] “Wilderness.” Oxford Dictionaries . Web. 30 March 2015.

[2] Hess, Peter. “The Wilderness Temptation of Christ, God’s Obedient Son, in Matthew 4:1-11.” An Exegetical Research Paper presented to Dr. Ed Gravely of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 19 November 2012. Print.

[3] Johnson, Dennis. Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2001. Print.

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