John the Baptist would have been raised to learn the Torah, the Talmud and the oral traditions of the Jewish faith. Many would have thought he would become a priest like his father Zechariah. But God had other plans for him and he lived in the wilderness.
Matthew has told us that he looked and lived like the wilderness. We have images of a rugged wild man who hadn’t combed his hair in a while or eaten a decent meal for years. The impact on lockdown!
In the last lockdown people laughed at how long my hair had got and I am doing all I can to make sure in this lockdown I don’t put on weight!
Wherever you are reading this blog from. Whether you are in lockdown or simply describing your circumstance as somewhat of a wilderness experience then please be encouraged that what you are struggling with is having a positive impact on you.
We may not realise this fully yet, however, when you are going through difficulty whether a war, a debilitating illness, persecution or the lockdown of a pandemic, it changes you. Deserts change you. This could be a season of refinement for us. There may be losses. Some may walk away within the wilderness but those that emerge could come forward changed. Let’s read some verses:
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3 v 7-10)
Whatever you think of John the Baptist he had courage!
So what had the lockdown done to this wilderness man?
Maybe you can describe your life as a period of wilderness, it has been difficult for you and you know you have changed. Let me suggest what may emerge from you from these verses.
He could see through the united front of two parties that were usually opposed to one another.
We will have a greater discernment. Seeing what is false and what is behind masks of pretence. Being able to spot strange alliances. Not being taken for a fool. The wilderness has slowed us down and we know what matters now.
He called for change.
Going through the motions of Christian duty are not enough for us anymore. Church going is over. Being the Church that Christ died for is all that we want to give our time to. Fruitfulness is not weighed within the Church building but in how we conduct our lives outside it.
He wasn’t enamoured with the past.
Our heritage will always be something to be thankful for. However a fresh experience of God with a daily in-filling of the Spirit is crucial to us now rather than how many ancient stories you know and how many people know you.
He believed God can start all over again.
We will want to do this. We do not want to return to what we once had and were. There is a repositioning of our lives. We will come out of our wilderness from a different place than how we went into it. People died in there and out of honour to them we cannot simply go back to life as normal. Everything is special now. Life has become even more precious. Thankfulness for what was normal before is on our lips and in our hearts. A new day is dawning.
He didn’t want to waste time on trees that were useless.
A major clean-out will happen. As when we throw out clothes and items we have never used for years there is a radical need to be real and if it doesn’t work then we stop it. ‘Because we have always done it’ will be scrutinised.
I am really looking forward to coming out of the wilderness to see the impact of what God has done in and through us within it.