The Scriptorium

Life in the Wilderness

Jesus has some business in the wilderness. Matthew 4.1

Matthew 4: Wilderness Victory (1)

Pray Psalm 95.1, 2, 6.
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

Sing joyously Psalm 95.1, 2, 6.
(Tidings: O Zion, Haste, Thy Mission High Fulfilling)
Come, let us sing with joy to God, our Savior!
Let us with joy to Him, our Rock, bow down!
Come now before Him, grateful for His favor!
Let joyful psalms break forth from all around!
Refrain v. 6
Come let us worship, kneel to our Lord;
worship our Maker: Father, Holy Spirit, Word.

Read Matthew 4; meditate on Matthew 4.1.

1. Where did Jesus go after He was baptized? How did He know to go there?

2. Why did He go there?

This has to be one of the saddest passages in all of Scripture: “It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea. Now it came to pass in the fortieth year…” (Deut. 1.2, 3).

The generation of God’s people whom He delivered from Egypt died in the wilderness, after forty years of wandering in disobedience. They gave in to their lusts; failed to believe in the promises awaiting them in the land of Canaan; grumbled and complained about being hungry and thirsty; disrespected their anointed leaders; took up idols of various kinds; and tempted God in many other ways.

They failed their test.

Jesus would recapitulate their tragedy, but with a totally different outcome.

After His baptism, Jesus “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness”. Mark says that the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness (Mk. 1.12; the Greek is ἐκβάλλει, ekballei – cast Him out). If we ever had any doubt about whether Jesus was full of the Spirit – without measure (Jn. 3.34, 35) – this episode should dispel that. The wilderness was a frightening place, inhabited by wild beasts and demons, and offering nothing of sustenance to any who might venture there. It would have been bad enough to trek into the wilderness just for the fun of it. But to go there to confront and be confronted by its master, the devil, was an altogether different proposition.

The wilderness is a symbol of the world under the devil’s dominion. For thousands of years, the devil and his minions had spread the lie and nurtured its attendant miseries over all the earth, all in an attempt to mock God and, hopefully, to capture His throne. The drama that unfolds in the book of Job is a microcosm of the world under demonic dominion. But all that was about to change.

Jesus marched into the wilderness with one multi-faceted purpose: To wrest from Satan all his dominion; to establish the irresistible authority and power of the Word of God; to bind the devil and his ilk before beginning the plunder of all his possessions; and to claim the promise of the promised land for all the groaning and travailing world.

He had come to bring the Kingdom to the wilderness of the world, and He would need the fullness of the Spirit, and skill in wielding God’s Sword, to achieve these aims.

1. Why did Jesus go out into the wilderness? Why was this important for His work?

2. How does Jesus’ experience in the wilderness draw on Old Testament narratives? Why?

3. Why is it crucial for us, as followers of Christ, to understand what is about to happen in the wilderness?

The Lord does whatever is necessary for our salvation by both acting and being acted upon. He submitted himself to being led up there to wrestle against the devil. Now we should not be troubled if, after our baptism, we too have to endure great temptations. We should not treat this as if unexpected but continue to endure all things nobly, as though it were happening in the natural course of things.
John Chrysostom (344-407), The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 13.1

I need Your Spirit to fill me for this day, O Lord, because I…

Pray Psalm 95.3-11.
As you go out into the wilderness of the world, into your Personal Mission Field, listen to and listen for the voice of the Lord, to use you for His Kingdom and glory.

Sing Psalm 95.3-11.
Psalm 95.3-11 ((Tidings: O Zion, Haste, Thy Mission High Fulfilling)
Great are You, Lord, a King above all nations.
All of earth’s depths lie hidden in Your hand.
Yours are the mountains, Yours the sea, You made it;
You by Your hands created the dry land.
Refrain, v. 6
Come let us worship, kneel to our Lord;
Worship our Maker: Father, Holy Spirit, Word.

You are our God, we are Your sheep, Your people:
Speak, Lord, and let us hearken to Your Word.
Let not our hearts grow hard through sin, and feeble,
as when our fathers sinned against You, Lord.

Long years You loathed that wicked generation,
who in their hearts, rebelled against Your path.
Them You forsook, and kept from Your salvation;
them You subjected to Your fearsome wrath.

T. M. Moore

What really happened in the wilderness? What did Jesus accomplish? Our book Satan Bound: A Theology of Evil, can help you to understand more completely the magnitude and importance of Matthew 4.1-11. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).



T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore