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WORD STUDY – WILDERNESS – מדברא
Matthew 4:1: “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.”
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau
In January 2017 Whitaker House will release my newest book, Journey Into Silence. In this book I share the journal I kept on three separate occasions when I lived in silence. First at a Benedictine monastery In Kentucky where the monks practice a contemplative life style living in silence. The second experience was when I lived alone for a week in the Catskill mountains and the third records my experiences when I returned to the Abbey.
A week from today I will leave for the Northwoods where I will spend another week living in silence before God. I plan to spend much of this time in intercession and would appreciate any prayer request anyone reading this may have.
Living in silence is like fasting, you really don’t begin to experience the true value of fasting until that third day. Once you adjust yourself to silence in a place that does not have the attractions of cities or populous centers that make life happy, you begin to appreciate the natural majestic beauty of God’s creation. The celestial bodies pour out their limitless light of glory. You begin to experience the living, loving life of Christ in every animal that scurries by and in every blade of glass that grows around you. You begin to feel the presence of God as if He has called His creation to gather around you for a divine hug.
As you draw closer to God it is as if the animals around sense God’s presence in you and come up to you to say hello. You begin to understand what the ancient rabbis taught about yiredu or communicating with animals. Like servants of God every day, almost every hour they bring you a message from their creator. You begin to watch and observe their behavior as they preach their sermons to you.
People traditionally have gone to the mountains or the wilderness to seek a closer relationship with God. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for forty days to be tested by the devil. I have been to the mountains and now I will go to the wilderness. The word wilderness in Aramaic is madbra which is really a place devoid of anything created by man. When we think of wilderness we think of a desert with no trees or grass. This was most likely the case with Jesus but madbra really has the idea of some place where there is no sign of human life, it is barren but for what God created. In other words a madbra can be the forest totally devoid of human contact. It can be a closet, what some call a war room where you go to pray. It is you own private room where no one will bother you and it is just you and God together without fear of interruption.
It is there where you will be tempted of the devil. Now this idea of tempted is not what we think, a struggle and fight to keep from sinning. The word in Aramaic is for tempted is dnethnasey which means to try out or in our modern term, test drive. For instance, when the devil told Jesus that if you are the Son of God turn these stones to bread. There are three “ifs” in Hebrew. One if is “are or are you not.” That is the if we think of. But really it is the other if, which means “since you are.” So the devil said to Jesus : “Since you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” Bread in the ancient world was not bleached like our commercial bread, it was usually brown and looked like stones. In fact many a hungry desert wandering would gaze upon the brown stones and think of bread. So the devil looked at Jesus, not being able to read His mind and said: “Ok, Jesus, you are now human, you know what hunger is like, you have not eaten for forty day. Come on, admit it, you are looking at those stones thinking they are nice, warm loafs of bread and they could be since you are the Son of God, you can turn them into bread and eat.” Jesus answered: “Man shall not live by bread alone.” In other words He said: “Devil, you’re wrong again, I see stones not bread because you know what I live by every word that precedes out of the mouth of God. I am feasting on the Words of my Father.”
Have you ever fasted for a long period of time. On a couple occasions I fasted for thirty days living on just water. The first few days I probably would see stones as bread. But eventually my greatest fear was that I might never eat again. Oh, I was hungry alright, but not a hunger that food could satisfy, I desperately longed for the Word of God and when I should have been eating physical food, I was feasting on the Word of God.
So this time I go to a place of isolation, the Northwoods. I will sit in the midst of God’s creation and I will let the enemy come to me and say: “Come on there is nothing entertaining here, go in your cabin, turn on Netflix or Amazon Prime on your I Pad and watch a good movie.” I am going asking to be tried so I can once again prove to myself that the things of God, feasting with God is far more desirable than what the enemy has to offer.
I do this now at the age of 66 so that when it comes time to die I will know that I have truly lived. Since I plan to have wi fi, I will keep a journal and share it with you each day on twitter. I will also continue my daily word studies on my blog. However, I am building followers on @intosilence so I will be able to share each exciting moment on twitter as I experience them.