After the runaway murder left Egypt, Moses spent forty years in Midian, living in the wilderness as a nomad and shepherd (Exodus 3-6).
After four-hundred years of slavery, the Israelite nation exited Egypt. For forty years they wandered in the Sinai Peninsula, the wilderness (Exodus 16:35).
Elijah spent time alone in the wilderness, first at the Wadi Cherith (1 Kings 17:3-7), and later, on his lonely trek to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8).
The Bible doesn’t disclose the length of time that John the Baptist spent in the wilderness, surviving on “locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4).
Even Jesus spent time in the wilderness. “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry” (Matthew 4:1–2).
Why the wilderness?
“Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some time. Immediately he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: ‘He is the Son of God.’ All who heard him were astounded and said, ‘Isn’t this the man in Jerusalem who was causing havoc for those who called on this name and came here for the purpose of taking them as prisoners to the chief priests?’ But Saul grew stronger and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah. After many days had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plot. So they were watching the gates day and night intending to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the wall” (Acts 9:19–25).
After escaping from the hyper-religious rulers in Damascus, where did he go? Did he immediately go to Jerusalem to be discipled and encouraged by Peter and the other disciples? Did he go to Bible college or seminary? He answers these questions in his letter to the churches in Galatia. “I did not go up to Jerusalem to those who had become apostles before me; instead I went to Arabia” (Galatians 1:17). He went to the wilderness where he communed with the Father for “three years” (Galatians 1:18).
Alone with God, Moses was being prepared to lead a nation. For forty years, the Israelites ate manna and learned to depend upon God’s supernatural provisions. Elijah and John the Baptist attended God’s school of prayer and Jesus’ combat with the devil proved Him worthy to march toward Calvary. They were in the wilderness, but they were never alone. God was with them.
Saul of Tarsus shared similar experiences as he spent an extended period alone with God.
Like Jesus, he was led by the Spirit into that solitary place, the wilderness.
Do you feel like you’re alone? Are you being tested? The wilderness is a place of preparation. It’s a place of prayer. It’s a place to learn dependance upon a dependable God.