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The Wilderness Experiences

Revelation 12:13-17
When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the snake's reach. Then from his mouth the snake spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring – those who keep God's commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus. (NIVUK)

The dragon is Satan, who is also described as a snake. In John's vision he sees Satan thrown out of heaven and stripped of all legitimate spiritual authority because he is eager to be the heir to God's kingdom (Revelation 12:7-12). But that place had already been assigned to Jesus Christ who he hates intensely. Satan behaves as though he is the Prince of this world, in fierce competition to Jesus. However Jesus knows every evil plot - declaring that Satan would be driven out (John 12:31), and that he cannot in any way hold back Jesus or His plans (John 14:30). All who obey the Lord and testify to the lordship of Christ are targets of Satan's evil fury because they belong to Christ (John 15:18-21). They are not simply victims of human aggression.

In the vision, the 'woman' who bears Jesus is the covenant line of promise, the people of God. Israel's purpose was to bring the Son of God into the world (Luke 3:23-38) and to accept Him as the Saviour of the world (John 1:11-13). The church's purpose is to make His Saviour-hood known to the Gentiles as well (Colossians 1:27). Israel and the church represent God's covenant people and so are also objects of Satan's hatred as he unleashes his hostility towards God's people. And yet, God watches over His people to safeguard them. Whatever Satan puts in their way, the Lord is master of the circumstances and He deals with whatever threatens to sweep them away (Exodus 14:1-31).

When God's people came out of Egypt, the wilderness was to be a safe place away from the military power of Egypt, and the corrupting influence of its idols, until they reached the Promised Land. Yes, it was also a place of testing, which many failed; but as long as they obeyed the Lord He provided for every need and kept them safe (Nehemiah 9:21). The period of 'time, times and half a time' is forty-two months; and there may be an echo here of the 42 stages of the wilderness journey in Numbers 33:3-54. Suffice it to say that the wilderness is a place of training and testing under the safety of God's watchfulness; and a place to pray (Luke 5:16) That was true for Moses (Exodus 3:1-10), Elijah (1 Kings 19:3-18), John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-12), Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11), and the apostle Paul (Galatians 1:15-18).

Few people enjoy the wilderness. It seems a waste of time and purposeless to our eyes; a pointless disturbance of the lifestyle we had planned. But in God's economy it is the essential period of refining and equipping for future service. It is often more of a place of safety than we may recognise at the time; and although we feel isolated, God is near to bless us (Exodus 3:4), and to hear our cry for help. Whenever we hold fast to Jesus, the enemy will seek His revenge, but in the storm it is as though God hides us under His wings until the danger has past (Psalm 57:1). Do not resent the wilderness; it is there for your protection and to equip you for the future.

Father God. Thank You that You know how to guard Your people. Forgive me for the times I have resented the wilderness times, even believing that You have abandoned me. Please help me to know that You choose to hide Your people away from trouble, or train them without the distractions of other busyness, so that You can bring them to the point of readiness to serve You in the future. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams