There is always the danger that we will interpret our experiences incorrectly, so that any experiences that are accompanied by pleasurable feelings we may call ‘positive’ while other experiences that involve pain and loss, we will be tempted to call ‘negative’, and we will be inclined, in the future, to avoid the one and pursue the other, to our eventual cost. In every aspect of our life in Christ, scripture provides the best measure of our experiences. This final brief post on the theme of our desert experiences also comes from J. I. Packer….
Dr. Packer wrote… “Three Bible stories of desert experiences highlight these very lessons. Story one is of the original desert journey – a forty year journey, as it turned out to be – that began with Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea to escape from Egypt and ended with Israel’s crossing of Jordan to enter the promised land. The events during those years of wandering in the wilderness by which God tested His unruly people, revealed His holy character to them, drilled them in worship and discipleship, and taught them dependence on His wisdom and power (are summed up by Moses in one of his final speeches- Deuteronomy 8: 2-3, 5, 15, 18 NAB).
“Story two is in 1 Kings 19. It tells how, following triumph over the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, Elijah panicked at Jezebel’s threats, fled into the desert in depression and despair, wanting only to die, and was given a fresh, energizing realization of God’s love and care and wisdom and power, plus a renewed commission, with new instructions, for his continuing prophetic ministry.
“Story three, found in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13, tells how, immediately after His baptism, and full of the Holy Spirit, Jesus ‘was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.’ It shows (Jesus) tempted in three different ways to be false to His calling as Son of God – that is, as the divine messiah, God in the flesh, who came to minister to sinners in the Spirit’s power, and to save them by taking their place on the cross. We see Jesus triumphing over Satan’s three attempts to deflect Him from the Father’s will, as once he deflected Adam and Eve.
“These three stories show us what essentially happens in ‘desert experiences.’ Systematic theology tells us what they mean in terms of God’s gracious purposes, but only as we brood on the stories themselves, opening our hearts to their impact, using our God-given powers of empathy and imagination to identify with the characters, and begging light from the Holy Spirit – the author and interpreter of Scripture – as we go along, shall we appreciate the blend of revelation and realization, humbling and exalting, conflict and comfort, that ‘desert experiences’ bring.”
From J. I. Packer in The Desert Experience