cigarette? To bully others who get in your way? To end it all?
To find the perfect get-rich-quick scheme? What do you seek
after instead of thirsting for your God?
If you fail to see yourself in this first question, don’t relax too
quickly. The second, more difficult question captures all of us.
Ask yourself, “If my desires in the wilderness are not sinful in
and of themselves, do I crave these things so much that they
diminish or replace hunger for God Himself?”
To face this second question with honesty, consider the
times you have become worried, anxious, fearful, angry, or
bitter. What happened the last time your son or daughter
disobeyed you? Did you respond with angry words and miss
an opportunity to point your child to Christ? How did you
respond when your husband failed to listen carefully to the
events of your day? What did you do when your wife met you
at the door when you got home from work and wanted to
share her heart with you? What went on inside you when you
sat down to pay the bills or opened your retirement savings
account statement? How did you respond the last time you felt
overlooked at church?
Keep going. Be honest with yourself. Where do your sinful
responses reveal that you seek after your own interests more
than you seek after God? Where do your desires for power,
love, peace, comfort, respect, control, autonomy, or something
else seek to wrest the throne of your life away from God?
Our anxiety, fear, anger, and bitterness in the wilderness
reveal the hungers of our hearts that compete against our
desire for God alone.
We demonstrate trust in God when we hunger and thirst
for Him above all else. Nothing short of seeking the Father in
the midst of sorrow will transform us into the image of His
dear Son, Jesus Christ.
David’s altar of reflection
In the wilderness David reflected on God continually.
Because he desired God above all else, he fixed his thoughts
on God’s character and works. David said, “When I remember
You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.” As
he found himself fleeing for his life, he re-created in his inner
man the record of God’s character and works. Instead of succumbing to the temptation to believe lies about God, himself,
and his situation, David erected an altar to God in his heart.
He went there to trust, worship, and think. Instead of spinning all the possible what-if scenarios or plotting revenge in
intricate, embittered detail, David meditated on the wonderful
nature and works of God.
First David reminded himself that the God of
Jerusalem—the God of the wilderness too—was his God. “O
God, You are my God,” he cried. David laid the foundation of
this altar in his heart by meditating on the fact that the creator
God was his. David belonged to God. God belonged to David.
Then David fixed his mind on God’s holiness, power, and
glory. In his heart’s prayer, he expressed his desire to see God
in “the sanctuary.” David remembered the dwelling place of
the holy God and went there in his mind, fitting the stone of
God’s holiness into his altar. David longed to see the power of
God in the tabernacle at Jerusalem, but instead David’s inner
being became his sanctuary.
David declared, “Your lovingkindness is better than
life.” Even in a harsh wilderness, God loved David with an
unchanging, loyal, and zealous love. David treasured this
loving-kindness more than he treasured life itself. He added
the stone of loving-kindness to the growing altar.
Not only did David build this altar from God’s character
and attributes, he also laid down stones that reminded him
of how God had worked faithfully and lovingly on his behalf.
These stones pulled David’s attention away from his difficult
circumstances: “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and
fatness.” David reminded himself that God satisfied more than
the finest foods in the most lavish feast back in his palace.
“Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of
Your wings I will rejoice.” David had observed how a mother
bird protects her children in the harsh wilderness. Though in
the wilderness and vulnerable, he dwelt at that very moment
under the protective wings of his God.
“My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds
me.” David pictured God as the strong arm of his deliverance.
He knew God would safely hold him.
Finally, David meditated on the ultimate deliverance when
God will right all wrongs. “But those who seek my life, to
destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth. They shall
fall by the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. But the
king shall rejoice in God; everyone who swears by Him shall
glory; but the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped.”
David’s God is holy, powerful, glorious, and full of loving-
kindness. He satisfies. He protects. He delivers. He rules with
holy justice. Meditating on the one true God in a dry and
weary land, David built a true altar to the Lord. Then David
bowed in his inner man and worshiped God.
Christ’s fixed attention
As with David, so with Christ. In Jesus’ wilderness experience, He fixed His attention on His Father, praying, “Father,
if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless
not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22: 42). Christ knew
what He would face. He submitted Himself to His loving
Our anxiety, fear, anger, and bitterness
in the wilderness reveal the hungers
of our hearts that compete against
our desire for God alone.