“And the child grew and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80).
In the accounts of many men in the bible, the desert represents a significant place of development, proving and progression. We read of Moses who kept the flock of Jethro in the desert of Midian before being summoned to lead Israel out of bondage. John is mentioned as being the voice of one crying in the wilderness preparing the way of the Messiah. Jesus too was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil before His manifestation as the Son of God. Many significant events of Jesus’ ministry also took place in the dessert from His baptism, the feeding of the multitudes, and many of His teachings and wonders.
But before His wilderness temptation and before the appointed time for His manifestation as the Son of God, we read that the child was in “the deserts until the day of his appearing” (Luke 1:80). However, this is not referring to Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. The child dwelt, lived and grew strong in spirit in the deserts. Of course, we know that Jesus grew up in Nazareth where He worked as a carpenter.
The Greek word used for ‘deserts’ leads us to look beyond the place or physical location of the wilderness to point us to its spiritual meaning. The Greek word for ‘deserts’ is ‘eremos’ meaning solitary, lonely, desolate. For instance, the word is used in scriptures which state: “he went out and departed unto a solitary (eremos) place” (Mar. 1:35) or “behold your house is left unto you desolate (eremos)” (Matt. 23:38). Phillips rendering of Luke 1:80 reads: “the little child grew up and became strong in spirit. He lived in lonely places until the day came for him to show himself to Israel.” The word is also used in reference to people, to mean; deserted people, deprived of the aid and protection of others.
The wilderness is where sons are produced. Like our Lord Jesus, every son who has heard the call to sonship will certainly experience the lonely places. These are wilderness experiences which signify solitude and loneliness. It represents a processing that will break the most willed of men. The heat of the scorching sun by day, the cold of the night, the lack of shelter, the sand which drains one’s vigour and the overwhelming storms make the desert a formidable place. In addition to these harsh elements, it can be the most secluded of places.
Despite the difficult conditions and the solitude, the call to sonship requires that those elect sons that God is processing in this hour remain in the desert until all that the wilderness is intended to accomplish in them is complete. Only then will they be prepared for their showing forth unto creation. Like Moses, solitude is not a choice but our portion on our journey unto mount Horeb.
Indeed the wilderness does not come by our choice. The call of sonship and the divine life that God is developing within each son will cause us to separate ourselves to follow the Lamb out of the city where many congregate and abide. Many love the city and can’t thrive without it. It’s comfortable, it’s eventful, it’s warm, it’s entertaining, it’s socially appealing, it’s convenient. In the city there is shelter and protection from the elements. It’s also easy to assimilate and go through the motions there.
We read of many accounts in scripture regarding coming out of the city. The instruction of the two men that came into Lot’s house was: “whoever thou hast in the city bring them out of this place” (Gen. 19:12). Moses too “went out of the city from Pharaoh” (Exo. 9:33). But we read that “out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion and shall destroy him that remains of the city” (Num. 24:19). There are many who are of the city.
Today, as in the time of Jericho, the trumpet – the divine word of God – is being sounded outside the walls of the city. In fact much of Jesus’ ministry took place outside the city, away from the opposition and legalism of the Pharisees. On various occasions we read of great congregations that came out of the city to encounter Jesus: “behold the whole city came out to meet Jesus” (Matt. 8:34) and “when much people were gathered together and were come to him out of every city, he speak by a parable” (Luk. 8:4).
It’s no coincidence that God’s divine work through Jesus predominantly took place outside the city. For the natural man, the city is its fortitude. But the city brings with it many entanglements, crutches and dependencies. There you will also find man’s order and carnality presiding. The city represents religion and the masses that congregate there. Thus, Jesus told His disciples to shake the dust of their feet when they departed a city that had not received their message.
There is also much testing and indeed dying outside the city. Regarding Stephen, we read that they “cast him out of the city and stoned him” (Acts 7:58). Our Lord Jesus also died on the cross outside the city. We read in the Phillips rendering of Hebrews 13:12: “Jesus, when he sanctified men by the shedding of his own blood, suffered and died outside the city gates. Let us go out to him, then, beyond the boundaries of the camp, proudly bearing his ‘disgrace'”. Come out unto Him is the call for the apprehended “for here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Heb. 13:14).
For those called out of the city to follow the Lord and to partake in the power of His life and the fellowship of His suffering, the revelation of the word of the Lord will cause them to ascend to a higher realm in the Spirit and to be purged from their previous entanglements with the carnal religious systems of man. For such a people, there is no place in the city. Indeed religion is a trapping that keeps men bound to its forms, rituals and doctrine. Many who have been apprehended to sonship have been summoned to shake the dust of the carnal religious system and its teachings off of their feet. They have been called to venture out of the city into the wilderness to be cleansed of the residuals of carnality and to encounter God in a deeper dimension.
This journey out of the city and through the wilderness will bring His sons to a deeper reality and in-working that will cause them to ascend Horeb – the mountain of God (Exd. 3:1). It was as Moses travelled to the back side of the desert that he came to Mount Horeb to encounter the Lord in the burning bush. The ‘backside’ refers to the following part or what comes after the desert journey. It signifies progression, growth and development. This is indeed a holy place.
Spiritually, Horeb signifies the mountain of God within. For this mount, declared by God as a holy place, signifies life in the higher realm of the spirit where we encounter God and where we hear his voice and know Him in a deeper way. It is found in the backside of our inner most being. It’s here that we take off our shoes – the outer covering the natural man by which we use to walk. Here, our heavens must be cleansed from all things that pollute, deceive and destroy in God’s holy mountain. As we ascend to the throne of God to sit in heavenly places, God by His nature of holiness will strip us of all the remaining errors of religious Babylon, from all pride, self-centeredness, and all the spirit of judgment and condemnation.
As Moses received the law on Mount Horeb, we too will possess the law of the Spirit of life being written on the tablets of our hearts to experience the supreme nature of the indwelling Christ as our reality. The wilderness processing will cause each apprehended son to press into this quality of life and maturity. But only on the backside of the desert, having grown and waxed strong in spirit will we ascend to the heights of the mountain of God becoming fully possessed by Christ prepared to minister deliverance unto creation.
Proven in the wilderness
The aim of the wilderness is to develop us by testing our sonship. The wilderness is where our sonship to God is proven. Here, there is a great lesson to be learned from the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. There is no greater condition that tests a man than when he is alone, in solitude, left to his own thoughts, agitations, emotions, anxieties, reasoning and motives with no man or minister or church to guide and console him. Israel is example of this. The wilderness proved them. The word tells us that “with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (1 Cor. 10:5).
The temptation that Jesus faced in the wilderness was a test of His sonship. Before He could step out in the divine glory and power of Sonhsip, He had to be tested. Much is proven in the wilderness. There are many brothers and sisters who initially received the truth of the higher order of sonship and of the Kingdom of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Yet they could not endure the wilderness, they couldn’t stand the solitude. They couldn’t leave the old order of their church system, their friends, and the activities they enjoyed and the ministers they depended on. Perhaps, some got too weary and discouraged because they failed to see any visible manifestation of the deeper revelation they came into. Yet others experienced tribulation or persecution from close friends and family, immediately causing them to doubt and stumble. Too numerous are the snares to list here.
Yet the proving of the wilderness goes beyond this. For Jesus, the wilderness testing was to prove whether He would misuse His power as the Son of God? Would He use it for self-satisfaction in light of his physical hunger? Would He use it for recognition? Would He use to gather a following around His ministry? Would He use it to display His superiority? With these intentions Satan came to side-track Jesus from His sonship.
Notice the first thing Satan said was: “If thou be the Son of God” (Matt. 4:3). And again a second time the tempter came to Jesus and said: “If thou be the Son of God” (Matt. 4:6). Satan was daring Jesus to prove His sonship. The test was to see whether Jesus would use all the power that was at His disposal as the Son of God to His advantage. The test was to see whether He would outwardly manifest His identity by His own way and design. However, our Lord Jesus knew of Satan’s devices. He knew that the time of His showing forth to Israel and the manifestation of the power of the Kingdom appointed by the Father had not yet come.
The first manifest Son of God was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). The word tempted in the original indicates to put to proof. Everything precious is proven. And nothing is more dearer to God’s heart than sonship. All of God’s work from creation to restoration hinges on it. And He will make sure to apply all the necessary pressure to ensure His sons come out of the wilderness refined to carry forth His divine agenda.
From Jesus Christ’s wilderness experience we witness the excellence of the life of sonship. A son only does what His Father wills when His Father wills it, nothing more, nothing less. He speaks what His Father speaks when His Father speaks. He has the heart of the Father and is always in-step with Him. Father and Son have become one. One in spirit, one in purpose, one in nature, one in mind, and one in will. A son does not do what He deems to be right or advantageous in a specific situation no matter how good or moral it may seem.
Time and again, Jesus’ passed this test. Every time people requested for a sign to prove who He was, He refused. Instead He attributed all credit to His Father. Jesus declares: “I assure you that the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing ” (John 15:19). Again Jesus states: “I do always those things which please the Father” (John 8:29). Notice the words ‘only’ and ‘always’. These two words reoccur whenever Jesus talks about the Father’s will. This is the attribute of the Son – to do ONLY the will of the Father and ALWAYS the will of the Father.
These two words – ‘only’ and ‘always’ indicates that it’s not just having a momentary knowledge of the will of God about a matter but rather to have His will dwelling in us perpetually. For it’s one thing to obey a command and it’s another to walk in the essence of Him who commands. It’s one thing to have the mind of God about a matter and entirely another to have the mind of God. For the former condition indicates duality. But our Lord Jesus Christ possessed the mind of the Father. Thus, He always walked in the perfect will of the Father. Accordingly,Paul instructs us: “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). Only those possessed by the mind of Christ can walk in perfect harmony with the will of the Father. This is life of the highest order.
The fall from sonship
Solitude, loneliness and the harsh realities of the wilderness can push one to succumb to reacting out of emotions, impulses and self-interest. However, any frustration, quick response, and impatience that we may encounter has to be submitted and taken captive by the divine nature of Christ. The real essence and substance of sonship is found in the routine of daily living. It is at this level that the qualifications for sonship is being made to be revealed in due time. This a spiritual position where we fully subdue our self-life to the Father’s will in all circumstances.
This is where Adam fell. He was deceived and enticed to the temptation of self-exaltation. His own desires and motives were to ascend to a higher realm where he would be like God. Notice also the subtlety of the serpent’s deception in appealing to the self-nature. God was never opposed to Adam and Eve being like Him. In fact this was the very agenda of God in creating man in His image and likeness. But the path Adam and Eve pursued to attain to this higher realm was contrary to the will of the Father. It was motivated and energized by self or the soul exalting itself to the stature of Christ. No amount of self effort, positive thinking, religious activity or righteous exertion will produce the nature of Christ in man.
Brother Preston Eby shares wonderful insights on this: “Adam did not fall from grace, he fell from sonship! And it was a supposed HIGH REVELATION IN A HIGHER REALM OF THE SPIRIT that caused the fall…There is a fine line between the highest truth and the darkest error, between divine sonship to God and our own self-godhood as presented by the serpent to Eve and by the devil to Jesus in the wilderness of temptation!”
A son does not to do anything he wants motivated by grandeur and status – this is self-godhood. But he always does the will of the Father. That is where Jesus was tested in His sonship before ever His ministry of power and glory began. There is no greater place that would force one to abandon all conviction and submission to the Father than the wilderness. But there is also no greater place for one to be proven and come out prepared for manifest sonship than the dealings and processing of God in the wilderness. To the inward man, there is beauty in the wilderness for it can be a holy place where we encounter God in a greater dimension causing us to remove the shoes of the old order in which we use to walk. This includes the way in which we ministered in the transitory order of Pentecost.
Today, there may be some who would like to spread the message of sonship every chance they get like the evangelists and missionaries of yesteryear. However, sons speak out of divine order that emanates from the divine nature of the indwelling Christ.
During the days of His flesh, we witness in the life of Jesus Christ that every encounter was not a divine opportunity to speak or minister. The Psalmist writes: “a word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (Psalm 15:23).
The Lord is moving in His sons to speak a quickening word in season so that the apprehended first-fruit company of sons would be caught up. “The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He wakens me morning by morning, he wakens my ear to hear as the learned” (Isa. 50:4).
A son speaks only that which Father whispers in their ear to speak. A son speaks when Father puts the burden in their heart to declare. Only then will illumination come, only then will divine impartation take place in the hearer of those words. All else is futile for a son can do nothing of his own accord.
A place of nourishment and growth
Thank God, for He is strengthening the spirit man that He may gain the ascendancy day by day to manifest and minister from the fruit of His inward life in us. In the wilderness preparation of our Lord Jesus for His sonship ministry, we read that He became strong in spirit (Luke 1:80). Those who endure the proving of the wilderness will indeed grow strong in spirit. To be strong in spirit is truly the mark of sonship, for “as many as are led by the Spirit of God these are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).
Thus to be strong in spirit is to be fully subjected to the Spirit. To be strong in spirit is to be spiritually mind and to live out of the rigteousness, peace and joy found in the realm of the spirit man. To be strong in spirit is to be caught up unto God and to His throne. It is to sit in heavenly places with Christ and to live out from that reality. It is to walk in the truth that exists not in our natural mind but in the mind of the Spirit. To be strong in spirit is to live according to the dictates of the Father’s will energized by the Spirit of God. To be strong in spirit is for our spirit to swallow up our soul and body that they may be one in Christ. To be strong in spirit is to be fortified and strengthened in the inner man that it may dictate our emotions and impulses.
Those strong in spirit have truly received the spirit of adoption as heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. They are no longer dictated by the urges, instincts, reactions, sensations, and motives of the soul. Nor do they strive and contend to prove their sonship, to prove they are right, or to boast about their election.
Brother Ray Prinzing writes: “Ah, we would like to be recognized as OVERCOMERS, so we glory in the display of accomplishment, and the hero of the battle is openly known and admired. But who sees and exalts that humble, quiet individual who has learned to control his or her own spirit? Who? GOD DOES! Man looketh on the outward appearances, but God is looking at the heart, and the inner conditions of the soul that has been fully subjugated to His will. Till it can be truly said, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name’ (Psalm 103:1).”
In all of God’s dealings, the wilderness will cause the outward man to grow tired and weary while the inward man is renewed and strengthened. Our brothers and sisters in the church system chastise us because we no longer congregate with them. Indeed we can no longer partake in their soul-drive programs because God’s dealings in the wilderness have caused a transformation in us. We no longer think alike, talk alike nor walk alike. Yet one thing is evident, they are malnourished. It seems ironic that those in the wilderness have nourishment prepared for them.
For we read of the woman in the wilderness in Revelation 12:6 – “the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her…” We also read in Revelation 12:14 that “she is nourished there”. There is much mystery and depth to this section of scripture but there’s one truth relevant to what I share here. Firstly, the woman is described by John the revelator as a “great sign” (Rev. 12:1). The woman represents our soul – our mind, will, emotions and desires.
These scriptures signify the wilderness experience the soul enters into led by God. Hosea prophetically states: “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her” (Hos. 2:14). God separates her unto Himself in the wilderness to share His heart with her. Although the woman is persecuted there, the wilderness is a place of safety under the watchful hand of God. There she finds herself helpless and absolutely dependent on God. The Song of Solomon declares: “who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved” (Son. 8:5).
Furthermore, the wilderness is a place of nourishment for her. For those in the church system, their nourishment is more conferences, more revival meetings, more will-worship, more prayer meetings, more healing services, more laying on of hands and yesterdays manna. But all these programs and methods of man are quick fixes to appease the soul. They are gratifications of man’s need for comfort. But there are no quick fixes or shortcuts to sonship.
When God silences all the noise and distraction and draws us out by the Spirit into the wilderness away from everything we have depended on, there, God will start to strip us of all idols, errors and self. In this place, away from all the religious commotion, is where God meets our spiritual needs. It is there that He feeds us with the heavenly manna that causes us to grow and mature in Him.
For we will never know God is all we need until God is all we have. When God removes every religious crutch we leaned on and anything that occupies that place in our heart that is rightfully His, then will we find ourselves alone with God; to talk with Him, to move with Him, to live in Him and to have our being in Him. This is a marvelous dimension of life. This is Zion.
The Psalmist rejoices in this truth declaring: “Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the valley of Bacca, they make it a spring; the rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion” (Psal. 84:5-6).
There is a journey, a testing, a proving, a progression, a development that God takes each of His sons through in the lonely places. The dealing and in-working of the divine life of Christ in every son is carried out by the Spirit. It is glorious, it is authentic, it is powerful and it is life producing.
And to those who will partake in the pilgrimage of the wilderness, it is a place of refreshing and overcoming. For we read that “they did not thirst when He led them through the deserts; He caused the waters to flow from the rock for them; He also split the rock, and the waters gushed out” (Isa. 48:21). Glory to God! The wilderness will cause sons to find nourishment and development from the rivers of living waters that flows out of the indwelling Christ.
Rejoice dear sons! For He who has called you out of the city into the wilderness is faithful and when He has proved you, you shall come forth as gold to minister His glorious life to creation.
To the elect of God, holy and beloved, may grace be multiplied to you!