A Devastating Wilderness
A Devastating Wilderness
For centuries the Lord had warned the Jews that they were rebelliously moving in reverse, away from Him, rather than towards Him. Finally, they backed into an abyss of bondage. In 586 Nebuchadnezzar, king of the world’s superpower, Babylon, invaded and annihilated Jerusalem. The city walls were destroyed. Houses were leveled. Most traumatic, the glorious Temple was reduced to rubble. All of its immense treasure (worth $392 trillion in today’s currency) was transported to Babylon. And, aside from the poorest, the people were brought to Babylon as slaves. The Jewish nation died.
In the midst of their bondage, the Jews heard unspeakable words of encouragement. After 70 years I will keep my promise to bring you back to Jerusalem. I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will search for me. And when you search for me, you will find me! (Isaiah 29:10-13)
Spiritual maturity, becoming more like Jesus, usually comes by way of subtraction, not addition. You were taught to take off the old self and to put on the new self. (Ephesians 4:22-25) Israel had drifted far away from their Father (Deuteronomy 32:6). So, He subtracted every inconsequential thing in which Israel trusted so that she would return to Him! I will give them a heart to know Me. They will be My people and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.’ (Jeremiah 24:7)
Israel’s wilderness was not punitive; rather, it was therapeutic. I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. The result? You will pray to me, and I will listen to you. When you will search for me with all your heart, you will find me! “The ultimate purpose of the wilderness is to develop a profoundly energetic and rewarding intimate connection with God.” (The Power of Love) Praying and Searching! Are these not steps to deeper intimacy with Jesus? “God wills to be seen and to be sought: to be abided and to be trusted.” Julian of Norwich
God feels far away, distant, absent, and unresponsive. You feel alone, vulnerable, lost, and unprotected. In this experience God will speak, often in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12): “I’m not out to hurt you. Rather, my plans for you are good. Your future will be hope-filled! And above all, remember: there is no power in the universe that can distance [you] from [my] passionate love! (Romans 8:39)