By Kirk Roberts, Elder

Why the desert?

Everyone has a favorite place to vacation, to truly get away and rest, and for me that place has always been Hawaii.  It’s always been a special place for me, to appreciate a different kind of beauty and experience relaxation like I can’t anywhere else in the world.  But several years ago I had a different kind of experience there: sitting on our lanai, looking over what in my opinion are some of the most beautiful sights in the world listening to some of the most peaceful sounds, and I found myself in the middle of this hardly being able to breath – nothing physical, but…

I had been reflecting on everything God has blessed us as a family and me personally.  I was thankful, humbled and yet completely discouraged by what it all meant.  My Bible was opened to Ecclesiastes and never had the word of Solomon, as he began his search, been so relevant to me:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.
-Ecclesiastes 1:2-11

I began to reflect on: quite a bit in my life was going through the motions, spinning wheels and being consumed by things I knew should not be priority. 

And my realization: Solomon was talking about me!  On one level that is disheartening – I should be past that.  At the same time somewhat comforting – knowing that I can’t get to any other level by myself.  At its face Ecclesiastes focuses on vanity, and how meaningless wisdom, endeavor and accomplishment are as ends.  But on another level Ecclesiastes helps prepare us and focuses on our Savior and how He is the only end that gives true meaning to any of this

So I began to think: if Jesus Christ is to be my focus, my meaningAnd if He as fully God became 100% man to lead us to God by exampleAnd if His perfect character as a man provides us with a model of how to live.  Then I better have a better hold on who He is, what that character looks like!

Jesus’ ministry had a curious beginningI have often wondered why the story of Jesus’ adult life starts here, after His baptism and public declaration of who He was, in the desert to pray, fast and to be tempted…Before He called his disciples, before he began to teach, before any miracles (Matthew 4:1-11).

When you hear the word “desert”, just think about what it symbolizes to you: maybe loneliness, fear, lack of ability to survive, isolation, dry, thirst, desolation, hopelessness, unique beauty.  It’s definitely a symbol, the desert/wilderness used throughout scripture and the pictures we get in our minds are pretty universal.  Which brings us back to the question that has been pondered for generations: why did the Spirit lead Jesus there to be tempted???

Spiritual deserts are places I try to avoid, often missing the point of being there.  And though fully human, we get to see one of the best contrasts of Jesus v. sinful human.  As a human have you ever compared/contrasted the setting for Jesus with that facing Adam and Eve?

Similarities: Both tested not only for their sakes but on behalf of others.  Adam and Eve represent the human race, their fall is our fall.  Jesus also stands for all humanity, redeemed humanity.  The subject/methodology of the enemy’s attack was similar: to be God

Contrasts: Desert: spiders, snakes, rocky, barren land, hot and dryGarden: paradise, land of luxury.  Jesus was alone, Adam and Eve had each otherAdam and Eve were in the middle of plenty, Jesus in the middle of nothingAdam and Eve had all they could eat, yet they fell over one additional piece of fruitJesus stomach was totally empty, probably almost delirious from hunger

Which brings us to the key difference – their focusAdam and Eve’s focus, character really, was on themselves, and what they could gainJesus’ focus was much different, much higher – and that first important character we get to see in Jesus Christ as a human is that every single time He faced a crisis, or a need, he turned to the Father, in prayer.  And that is where we will return to tomorrow…

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