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January 07, 2006

The Desert Places

I've been reflecting in the new year on the place of the desert in our spiritual journey. It struck me that the Christmas story ends with Jesus being driven into the desert (and on to Egypt) to escape Herod. His ministry begins in the same pattern: driven into the desert following baptism. That two significant events bring the same outcome is worthy of thought and reflection. But when you add in the place of the desert in God's dealing with His people in the Old Testament, you begin to realise that the desert places must have significance.

When I think of "going through the desert" in a spiritual sense, it carries negative connotations. Yet the desert remains a place of beginnings: for Jesus and for us. The message through the prophet Hosea, after God had announced His divorce of Israel, is expressed through the delightful words, "And now I will allure her... I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her... I will make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a doorway of hope... A desert becomes a place of new beginning, a centre of hope and renewal.

Surely things are stripped back to essentials in the desert. You only carry what is essential, you must decide what must be done and what can be let go, and you realise what is truly valuable. And maybe it is that in these places we are prepared to let God be whatever God desires to be, allowing God to escape our preconceived notions.

The desert fathers found God in the dry place - they sought God intentionally in the desert. In our land and time of abundance, can we get to such a place?

Posted by gary at January 7, 2006 08:25 PM


Read a great book a few years ago by Cavan Brown called "Pilgrim through a barren land". Brown is an Aussie who writes particularly well about the desert experience in an Australian context. If you haven't already, it is well worth a read.

Posted by: Mark Holt at January 8, 2006 09:28 AM

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