“Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?” – Song of Songs 8:5
There is great purpose in the wilderness periods through which God brings His children. To our human understanding, the wilderness seems unsuitable for children of God called to a high, holy calling. How could a man like Moses, with such a great call upon his life, need to spend forty years looking after sheep in the wilderness in total seclusion before receiving his call? How is it that John the Baptist had to be dwelling in the wilderness in order for the Word of the Lord to come to him (Luke 3:2)? Why did Elijah have to walk forty days and forty nights into the wilderness before he was able to hear the still, small voice of God (1 Kings 19:8-13)? Most shockingly, when the Holy Spirit came to rest on the Son of God, why was He led into the wilderness for forty days of fasting and temptation? Have we pondered why this pattern recurs?
To the pragmatic mind, the wilderness looks like a pointless waste of time. But the Holy Spirit is actively doing something precious and utterly valuable – even essential – for what will transpire afterward. In our lives, God is forming and building character here; He is shaping the person He is about to use. (As for Jesus, the wilderness did not shape Him, but the character He already possessed was tested, proven, and established.) God’s eye is on the end result, when His chosen vessels will “come up from” the wilderness. He breaks down self-reliance, self-seeking, and self-will, and we become a picture of the bride who is “leaning on her beloved” (8:5). Moses learned that he would never help his people by self-will or youthful vigor! John the Baptist was set apart from the plans, aspirations, and even the diet of other men! Elijah learned that his limited vision did not include all that God could see. Jesus became living proof that “man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
I would argue that every child the Father loves He blesses with a wilderness period. He cares enough about the quality of our character and the depth of our knowledge of Him so as not to thrust us into “great” things. He puts a broom in our hands or places a boring job before us. He puts us in an obscure place where we may feel a million miles from our “purpose” in this life. But our master Potter is busy at work shaping the raw clay of our being. This is really the mark of His love for us. “Love is as strong as death,” meaning that, just as death is sure to put an end to our earthly life, the love of Jesus Christ is sure to put an end to our self-life (8:6). He conquers the inner autonomy by which we feel we have no need to lean on our Beloved. If we submit to Him in the wilderness, we come out different. We go from self-ruled to Christ reigning in us.
I would be lying to say the wilderness is fun. But it is real, it is formative, it is deep, impactful, and you meet God there. You will find that He is a jealous God; He is not willing to share you with the world or your own selfishness. His “jealousy is severe as Sheol,” meaning, just as the fire is unyielding in hell and consumes the entire person, so the “flame of the Lord” when He begins to work within you is a consuming fire that will leave no stone unturned (8:6). He claims every part of us and begins to burn away our impurities. What joy when we allow this work to happen. We come up from the wilderness leaning on Him, because His life is within us. Lord, teach me dependence on You and help me see Your divinely-ordained methods to get me there.
The Rock Church