Matthew 4:1-11 — Pursuing the Desert

19 Mar

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.

During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,

‘People do not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”

10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say,

‘You must worship the Lord your God
    and serve only him.’”

11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

Matthew 4:1-11

Dear God, I heard a great sermon on this passage last week, and now, sitting down to spend time with you this morning, I picked up a book by Steven Purcell called Even Among These Rocks: A Spiritual Journey I opened to a page on this passage. What Purcell wrote about it is worth putting here:

Throughout biblical and church history the people of God are frequently found living in the desert. The desert is the geographic setting of the Exodus, Christ’s temptation and home to the desert fathers of the fourth century. But the desert has also been used to symbolize the geography of the human heart. With desert metaphors we are able to express the barrenness, aridity and vulnerability often felt within our souls. Many people have purposefully entered the desert in order to submit themselves to physical as well as spiritual conditions that expose the soul. On the other hand, many of us find ourselves in spiritual deserts against our wills. Nevertheless, the effects are the same: The desert exposes and lays bare. In it we are tempted and suffer as Christ was tempted and suffered. The significance of the desert experience, chosen or not, is that by if God is able to reveal the true condition of the human heart. The wild, trackless and vulnerable experience of the spiritual desert exposes our personal vulnerability to all sorts of evil and our absolute dependence on God’s grace. As the first steps of Christ’s ministry began in the desert, so too our Lenten journey home begins there. Having accepted Christ’s invitation to follow him, our journey has begun.

As I am going through Lent, as I go through deserts both chosen and unchosen, I cannot help but wonder what you would like to “expose and lay bare” for me.

I was talking with a friend yesterday, and his comment to me was, “I can tell you are really hurting.” I accepted it as truth at the time and I sat with it all day. Yes, I am hurting. I’m not doing well right now. A friend asked me recently how I’m doing and I told him I’m about a “6” on a scale of 1-10. Most of my life is good, but the parts that aren’t are incredibly painful. That is the desert I didn’t choose. But now I’m going through Lent and a specific kind of desert that I did choose. A denial of myself out of respect for what you did and to also use it to reveal what you are “exposing and laying bare” for me to see.

Father, I suppose this is the thought I will sit with today. What are you exposing and laying bare. How are you making my desert count for your glory–not only for me, but for others as well? The first thing I have to do is re-enter this discipline of spending this kind of time with you every day. Ironically, I think listening to the daily Bible-in-a-year podcast has somehow taken me from this discipline of worshipping you. So while I would still like to keep that up, I think I have to do this first. I have to spend this time with you. I love you. My hope is in you. My faith is in you. My only certainty is in you. It is not in my wife, my children, my parents, my job, my country, or my world. You are my only hope. I will rest in you today.

Oh, and one more thing before I finish this prayer. I was with some pastors this week through our local ministerial association and the Seventh Day Adventist pastor talked about the Sabbath. The part of the conversation I internalized was that it’s more than talking about having a restful day. It’s about having a restful and restorative day with you. It’s allowing you to minister to me through my worship of you. He talked about taking his day off each week and using that as his Sabbath. As he was complaining to you about his week, his job, etc., he heard you say, “Leave all of that behind. Today, just be with me.” So as I figure out what to do with a weekly Sabbath and my desert, help me to find some time to leave it all behind and allow you to restore my soul through me just being with you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,


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Posted by on March 19, 2022 in Matthew


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