God does not promise that we’ll always enjoy smooth sailing. Sometimes we face howling headwinds and stormy seas. Health, wealth and prosperity are not always God’s richest blessings. Sometimes God directs our paths into the wilderness.
God announced to Abraham that His descendants would experience the wilderness. “Know this for certain: Your offspring will be resident aliens for four hundred years in a land that does not belong to them and will be enslaved and oppressed” (Genesis 15:13, CSB). The Hebrews spent four-hundred years in slavery and then forty years wandering in the Sinai Wilderness.
“Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1–11, CSB). “He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan” (Mark 1:12–13, CSB). It was the Father’s providential plan, His will, for His Beloved Son to experience the wilderness.
Seven hundred years before John the Baptist was born, God announced His providential plan for the forerunner of the Messiah. “A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert. Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled; the uneven ground will become smooth and the rough places, a plain. And the glory of the Lord will appear, and all humanity together will see it, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3–5, CSB). God foreordained John’s experiences and spiritual education in the wilderness.
John the Baptist, like Isaac, was born miraculously to aged parents. Historians can’t tell us how old John was when he left the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah and migrated to the wilderness to live a solitary existence. We do know that John adapted to his harsh environment. He “had a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4, CSB). Yum! Roasted crickets sweetened with raw honey! It’s no wonder that John and His disciples practiced fasting (Mark 2:18).
“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:4–5, ESV). In the wilderness, John invited his contemporaries to repent! Courageously, John called the religious leaders to repent, calling them a “brood of vipers!” (Luke 3:7, CSB).
John lived in the wilderness and ministered in the wilderness. That was God’s perfect providential plan, prepared in the heart of the Father hundreds of years in advance. In the wilderness, God fashioned and used the man that Jesus called great. “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared” (Matthew 11:11, CSB).
If you find yourself in the wilderness, maybe that is right where God wants you!