WILDERNESSES AND SOLITARY PLACES

I lost my precious mother a few days ago.  The ten days leading up to her death were long and draining.  I suffered as I watched my mother suffer, as I watched my sisters and brother suffer.  We spent most of the time everyday of those ten days together, with hospice nurses and CNAs coming in and out.  There was hardly any time to be alone—alone with my thoughts—alone with My Lord. 

I thought of this post that I had planned next,  WILDERNESSES AND SOLITARY PLACES. I thought of my own times in the wilderness and my own need of that solitary place.  When those times of wilderness happen, it's usually pain that leads us there.  In our wildernesses, we almost always initially feel abandoned... like God has forsaken us... like He doesn't care.  Then, after a while, we begin to realize that He is calling us to a more intimate place with Him.  We begin to see that those are the sweetest times with Him... that He, through His Word, is whispering sweet truths and promises to us that penetrate deep into our hearts and will remain there forever.  It's in those times when He has our attention, when we are hurting and longing for something, that we realize He is what we are longing for. 

It's those times that are preparation for the times when we can't be in that place of solitude and quiet.  Preparation for the times that are noisy and chaotic and when our schedules get changed, and demands are put on us.  Times when all we can do is trust and abide.  That abiding and resting come a little easier when He's had us in the wilderness and taught us there.  When He's taken us to the solitary places and given us specific words that never cease to amaze us.  He invests in us every time we are alone with Him and in His Word, so that when our lives are commandeered by circumstances, those investments yield returns.  He brings to mind the sweet promises He spoke to us.  Or, we just see how what we thought was so hard to walk through, was really the most precious time of Him growing us in Him and showing us more of just who He is.

So with that, I leave you with this study.

WILDERNESSES AND SOLITARY PLACES

One could say that the Gospel of Mark could be captured by a single verse:  "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many."  Mark 10:45

We know that Matthew portrays Jesus as the Messiah and focuses on His Jewishness.  Luke, being a gentile himself, focuses on Jesus' humanity and portrays Him as the Son of Man.  John portrays Jesus as God, the great I AM.  

Mark focuses on Jesus  the Suffering Servant, as He ministers to the needs of others to the point of death.  He tells His disciples the cost of discipleship in chapter 8:  'When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's sake will save it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."  Mark 8: 34-38.

I discovered something interesting when I was reading the first chapter of Mark.  Verses 9-11 tell us about Jesus being baptized by John.  Verse 12 picks up with "Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him." 

Notice, the Spirit, immediately after Jesus' baptism drove Him into the wilderness.  The Greek word is ekballo.  Strong's gives the meaning:
                to eject (literally or figuratively); —bring forth, cast (forth, out), drive (out), expel, leave, 
                pluck (pull, take, thrust) out, put forth (out), send away (forth, out).

There is an implication of force and at times, violence with this word.

Also, look at the word wilderness.  The Greek word is eremos.  Strong's defines it as
                 of uncertain affinity; lonesome, i.e. (by implication) waste (usually as a noun, G5561 being
                 implied); —desert, desolate, solitary, wilderness.

So we see Jesus being thrust out into the wilderness, a lonely desolate place, by the Spirit.  There He is tempted by the devil and then the angels minister to Him.

Mark informs us of Simon and Andrew and James and John being called to be disciples.  Jesus cast out an unclean spirit in the synagogue in Capernaum and then Jesus and the four disciples enter into the house of Simon's mother-in-law, who is sick with a fever.  Jesus comes to her, takes her hand and lifts her up and immediately the fever leaves her and she serves them.  Then, at evening,  when the sun had set, they started bringing to Him all who were sick and demon-possessed.  It says the whole city was gathered at the door.  Jesus healed many and cast out many demons and didn't allow the demons to speak because they knew Him.

Notice verse 35:  'Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place, and there He prayed.'  Interestingly, the Greek word for solitary place is that same word eremos for wilderness.  We see Jesus after a long night of healing the sick and casting out demons, rises up long before daylight to find a solitary place to be with the Father.  The first time He was driven to this eremos.  This time He goes on His own.

Simon and those with Him then come looking for Him.  Peter tells Jesus, "Everyone is looking for You." Perhaps they thought they had a good thing going.  People were being healed and set free from demon possession.  What could be better than that?  They had to find Jesus and get him back there to continue their idea of a wonderful plan. Is that not like us?  We think because good things are happening, that God is there and it has to be His will. But Jesus, having been with the Father in that solitary place, eremos, knew what God's will was, and it was to move to the next towns that He might preach, because that's what He came to do. 

As He's preaching in the synagogues throughout Galilee, a leper comes up to Him and tells Jesus if He is willing, He can make him clean.  Of course, Jesus is moved with compassion and heals him.  But then Jesus charges the healed man not to say anything to anyone, but to go to the priest, and offer  for his cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.

Notice verse 45:  'But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places, and they came to him from every quarter.' Guess what?  The Greek word for deserted places is that same word eremos used for wilderness and solitary place.  This time Jesus has to go to the eremos because of the action of another.

Anyone who is serious about her walk with the Lord and has a heart to know the Lord will find herself at different times in these places of wildernesses, solitary places, and deserted places.  Sometimes the Lord drives us there.  (He has me).  Sometimes we retreat there, because we need to shut out all the noise and commotion.  People may be coming at us with their plans and we have to get alone with the Lord to find out what His plan is.  And then sometimes, the actions of others may cause us to find ourselves in deserted  places.  Often, when we are in a close walk with the Lord, we will be misunderstood.  Especially in today's culture—the selfie culture, where the concept of dying to self is completely foreign.

The Christ life can be a very isolating life, in that if we even understand the concept of dying to ourselves, we are in the minority, even in Christian circles.  The mind set of today is so far away from what the Christ life is.  It would seem that a vast majority in the church today has the mindset of taking care of number one.  The frustration of this lack of understanding even in the Christian culture can send us into the wilderness of isolation.

But there's more.  Look at how The Blue Letter Bible Outline of Biblical Usage defines eremos:
  1. Solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited
    1. used of places
      1. a desert, wilderness
      2. deserted places, lonely regions
      3. an uncultivated region fit for pasturage
  2. Used of persons
    1. deserted by others
    2. deprived of the aid and protection of others, especially of friends, acquaintances, kindred
    3. bereft
      1. of a flock deserted by the shepherd
      2. of a woman neglected by her husband, from whom the husband withholds himself
The "an uncultivated region fit for pasturage"  reminds me of the 23rd Psalm.

Now let's look back at the first three verses in Mark, 'The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in the Prophets, "Behold, I send My messenger before your face.  Who will prepare Your way before You.  The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way  of the Lord; make His paths straight.'"'

This last verse is a quote from Isaiah 40:  "Comfort, yes, comfort My people", says your God. "Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended. That her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert; a highway for our God."

One of many ways that Isaiah can be studied is to see that chapters 1-35 are prophetic with a theme of condemnation.  Verses 36-39 are historic with the theme of confiscation.  Verses 40-66 are Messianic with the theme of consolation.

David Guzik, in his commentary in the Blue Letter Bible says, "In any group waiting to hear God's word, there are any number of hidden hurting hearts.  It is important for those hurting hearts to hear a word of comfort from God's messenger."

"Prepare the way of the Lord"—The real preparation must take place in our hearts.  The wilderness is the place where God does His greatest work in us.  It's where we come to KNOW Him.

There are two words in the Greek for know.  The one I'm referring to here is eido.  The Blue Letter Bible Outline of Biblical Usage defines it as:
  1. to see
    1. to perceive with the eyes
    2. to perceive by any of the senses
    3. to perceive, notice, discern, discover
    4. to see
      1. i.e. to turn the eyes, the mind, the attention to anything
      2. to pay attention, observe
      3. to see about something
      4. to inspect, examine
      5. to look at, behold
      6. to see, i.e. have an interview with, to visit
  2. to know
    1. to know of anything
    2. to know, i.e. get knowledge of, understand, perceive
  3. to have regard for one, cherish, pay attention to.
It's those wildernesses and solitary places that we come to know Him, to know better who He is, to visit with Him, to inspect, to examine, to behold, to learn His will, and yes, to cherish.

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