Luke 3:2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
The wilderness. When it is a tidy, safe setting it is a place of wonder and awe.
Our recent trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons provided us with some jaw dropping vistas and natural wonders that filled us with admiration and awe for God and His creation. That is, as long as we stayed on the trails in the designated areas.
A couple of weeks ago, a 19 year old Russian girl decided to leave the beaten path while visiting the lower falls of the Yellowstone Canyon. She went out on a ledge which gave way underneath her sending her plummeting 400 feet to her death.
It is estimated that 600 grizzlies make Yellowstone their home. Wherever there is a sighting, there is a park ranger on hand to keep gawkers at a safe distance from the beautiful yet dangerous creatures. Both times we saw grizzlies, it was a mama bear with a couple of cubs. The most recent mauling in the park was due to a mama bear feeling her whelps were being threatened. She was spared extermination because she was deemed to have been within her rights to protect her young.
I am saying, the wilderness can be a treacherous place. When you are lost in the wilderness, survival becomes paramount. When you can no longer determine your direction, panic begins to rise up in you. Your throat restricts, your brain imagines all kinds of things. Rationale becomes limited. Basic instincts outdistance critical thinking.
This happens in life doesn't it? A reversal of fortune that leaves you perched precariously on a dangerous financial precipice causes your breath to come in short gasps. A deviance from the marked trail may cause a relationship crisis resulting in cold sweats and light-headedness as you consider foolish alternatives. A loss of direction in spiritual matters leaves you alone and stranded in the thick woods where predators lurk to maul and devour your devotional life.
But the wilderness can be a place where the Holy One does some of His best work. It is in the wilderness where He can attain our undivided attention. It is there many a believer pulls out his compass, the Word of God, which never fails to provide our true north.
In the wilderness, He provides us with the tool that can do most any task, the Swiss Army Knife of the Christian, the Sword of the Lord. The Word is our defense against the onslaughts of the lion which seeks to devour us.
If the wilderness proves barren and dry, it is the water of the Word which soothes our parched existence.
Jesus faced a wilderness experience after 40 days of fasting. He was assaulted by a triumvirate of temptations from the wicked one. It was the Word that He skillfully wielded to fend off the enemy.
And so, we find in this verse a man of God, clad in camel's hair, living on locusts, hunger abated with honey. His task was enormous. He had to make the crooked paths straight, knock down the hills and fill up the valleys in preparation for the Lord's appearance. His job was to lay the axe to the root of the trees. Though thousands came to hear him, he was in the desert of loneliness. His voice was the voice of one (not a fellowship, not a denomination, but one) crying in the wilderness.
And it was into this wilderness that the Word of the Lord came unto John. We don't know that he ever enjoyed a temple worship experience. We don't know that he had a rabbi to guide him or a Sabbath school at his local synagogue to aid him in his exposition of the Bible. But we do know that, in his wilderness experience, he had the Word of God and that was enough.
As I write, I feel very akin to my spiritual progenitor, John. I am experiencing one of those Romans 3 types of days in which I conclude that there is none righteous, no not one. There is none that seeketh after God. They are all swift to shed blood.
And so I pull out my compass, the old black-back Book and it points me toward the streams in the desert. Once again, the trusty double blade is razor sharp and capably does its intricate spirit/soul/body surgery.
I thank my wonderful Lord for the well-marked paths which provide me with memorable experiences and the lakeside lunches in the designated areas of the park. But this wilderness experience, with all of its dangers, toils and snares has provided another opportunity for the Word to do its work.