Devotional Thoughts for Today
Mark 1:9-15 (ESV)
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” 12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Each of the four Gospels begins with differing points of view and emphasis according to each author and audience. The Gospel of Mark begins the story of Jesus Christ, not by tracing His genealogy down a long list of names or even going back to a certain point in time, but it begins with a location. From the vantage point of this particular Gospel, I believe the Spirit of God is interested in teaching us that the gospel had its beginnings in the wilderness. And as we recognize this theme being played out here in this first chapter of Mark, we need to ask ourselves what is the significance of the wilderness.
First, the wilderness represents a separation from the world and a departure from the ungodliness of men. If you have ever gone camping in a very remote location, you will be amazed by the difference that you feel. I remember taking a youth group out to the Sequoia National Forest and taking them to a trailhead at the highest elevation, and hiking in about 15 miles into this very remote camping site. There was no water, no lights, no phone service, and no people. During the three days we were there, I felt utterly separated from the world. In a similar way, when you receive the gospel, you realize that it calls you out of the world, away from its distractions, and away from its sin.
Second, the wilderness represents a place of new beginnings and a place of hope. In the early part of American history, many people went out West into the wilderness in order to start life anew. Most of the people that moved West, into the unknown frontier, came from the poorer class of American society. The rich and the elite had no reason to go out into the wilderness, but for the poor, the discouraged, and those without hope, the wilderness represented a place of great opportunity—a chance for a new beginning. The gospel represents exactly the same thing for every single person who believes. It holds out for us the promise of a new beginning, a reason to hope.
Finally, the wilderness represents a place of intimacy with God and restoration of our relationship with Him. The Scriptures present the wilderness with a sense of romantic nostalgia—a harsh and dangerous place, yet a place where God’s people were wholly dependent on Him. Oftentimes when you look at things in hindsight, you focus on the good and overlook the bad. This is essentially what God does with His people’s time in the wilderness. In passages like Jeremiah 2:2, God remembers with fondness the close relationship that He had with His people and states, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness.” There is a special place in God’s heart for our seasons in the wilderness, because it’s the place where He first courted us, and where we first learned to respond to His love by following Him with a simple devotion. This morning, if you are going through a personal time in the wilderness, count it a blessing!
Prayer: Father, as Your Spirit led Your Son into the wilderness, we know that You will lead us into our own times in the wilderness. Help us to see that it is because of Your great love for us that You bring us into these seasons of our lives. In those times, give us the strength to overcome the sins of the world, the faith to believe in new beginnings, and the courage to depend solely on Your love. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Joshua 22
Lunch Break Study
Read Hosea 2:14-20 (ESV): “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. 16 And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.”
Questions to Consider
- Why does God desire to draw His people back into the wilderness?
- What is the significance of the Valley of Achor?
- What are the conditions of the New Covenant with God?
- The reason why God allures his people back to the wilderness is for the sake of love. Even though we give Him no reason to offer us redemption, but, in fact, give Him every reason to reject us, God grants His salvation to people for reasons that are entirely found within His own heart.
- The Valley of Achor is where Achan was stoned to death for rebelling against God by taking the loot from the conquest of Jericho in Joshua 7. This act of greed was explicitly forbidden by God and it brought on His wrath. In calling the Valley of Achor a door of hope, God is reversing the curse of disobedience and in the place of trouble; He offers hope.
- The condition of our New Covenant with God is to be betrothed to Him in righteousness and justice, and with steadfast love and mercy. As you can see, all of these requirements are provided by God and is the bride-price paid by Christ’s death on the cross. The seal of the New Covenant is God’s faithfulness—which ensures that each of these requirements will be met by God Himself.
How has God revealed His love for you today? Take time to consider how God draws us to Himself during the course of our daily lives. Did you take time to respond to God’s love when you sensed Him calling? Allow God’s kindness to lead you to a time of repentance.