Returning to God in the Wilderness

This pastoral passage was first written for LRBC on October 16 2016.

John the Baptist was a bit of an enigma. Not much was known about him, and he carried the otherworldly air of a prophet – something not seen for centuries when he appeared in Israel. When people asked him who he was, the answer he gave them is that he was a voice: the voice that Isaiah had spoken of, crying out in the wilderness for people to prepare themselves for the arrival of the Lord (John 1:19-23; Isaiah 40:3).

John was a voice that called on people to be ready for the coming of Christ. But he did not go to the cities, as you would expect of a man with an important message. He went to a rough and remote area near the Jordan river. In order to repent and turn back to God, John required people to go out into the wilderness. I wonder if this was on purpose. In the Old Testament, the wilderness was the place where Israel began its relationship with God. Perhaps John’s residence in the wilderness was to call the people to symbolically return to the relationship they had with God at the beginning.

“I remember the devotion of your youth,” the Lord once said to Israel (Jeremiah 2:2), “your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land that was barren.” When Israel first followed the Lord, they had nothing but him. Perhaps John thought that this was a good place to be. Has your relationship with God grown for the better since you first began? If so, that is great. But if not, perhaps a returning to God could be best done by returning to the kind of dedication you had when you first began to follow him, when you were happy to have Him even if you had nothing else.