Seeking Relief in a Spiritual Desert
God has given me many adventures in my life. One of these adventures is traveling with my Boaz. When our church decided to gather a group to go on a tour of Israel with our pastor, I saw my hubby scribbling on the interest card. Upon closer inspection, he had marked “Interested.” “How much does this cost?” I sputtered.
“I’m just marking that we are interested. That’s all. I want to get more information,” he calmly replied.
So guess what? We took that tour of Israel’s Bible sites in 2017. This experience was exhilarating, knowing we walked where Jesus walked. It was worth every penny—okay, dollars—we paid. One interesting place we visited was Masada. This region easily hit 110 degrees Fahrenheit in October, the cooler part of Israel’s seasons. The temperature averages there are between 127-186 degrees Fahrenheit during the year (The Traveler). We visited on a cooler day! Our tour guide warned us that we would need to take water with us and frequently sip it to avoid dehydration. I can’t imagine drinking soda or anything else in that environment. The sun relentlessly beat down on us. Looking down the side of the mountain on our lift, we watched a handful of brave—or foolhardy—people walking on the hiking trails of Masada National Park below. It wasn’t easy exerting energy in such dry heat. I couldn’t imagine hiking the inclined trail toward the top. The land was barren, tan sand, and mountains as far as the eye could see. The skies above us were void of clouds because there was no water to evaporate into the atmosphere.
We did venture for a few hours to the Dead Sea, the lowest part of the world. The salt content of the water stung a scrape on my leg as I waded with our group into this water barren of animal and plant life. Signs posted warned visitors to spend no more than twenty minutes and to avoid getting the water in our eyes and mouths. We were told that drinking the water could cause death, although I’m not quite sure what happens to a person’s body if one were to do such a thing. Who would want to? Floating was ridiculously easy, but returning to a standing position proved difficult for many. You cannot sink due to the concentration of salt mineral content of the water (Traveler). Even though it was fun to visit, you couldn’t live here without outside resources of food and water because there was nothing there to support life.
Main Bible Passage: John 7
Focus Passage: John 7:37-39
Memory Verse: Psalm 63:1
O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
The climate of Masada was such a place where Jesus wandered in the wilderness, tempted by Satan for 40 days (Matthew 4). Isaiah referred to a scorching, barren desert like this in his writings. In fact, Jerusalem is also very sweltering. Despite the heat, the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River make this nation part of the Fertile Crescent allowing them to grow a number of crops. The Jews can grow olives trees, a grove that stood for centuries lies across Jerusalem’s Kidron Valley washed white with tombs below. Standing on the Temple steps made me feel like I’d melt on the 100-degree day. People easily live here because they are surrounded by water that feeds vegetation underground. Wells were used at that time, like Jacob’s Well outside of Bethlehem. But in places like Masada, in the southern region of Judea near the tip of the Dead Sea, are hot, barren wastelands—the wilderness of the Judean Desert along the edge of the Dead Sea. You can’t drink the water of the Dead Sea, or it will make you vomit. (Holy Land Tours)The Judean Desert has little to no plant life, with Masada seated atop a mountain in this unforgiving region. In fact, Jesus wandered in the Judean Desert for his 40 days of temptation (Wikipedia). Clear, clean water is a necessary life-giving compound.
Jesus avoided Jerusalem, the spiritually hot, desolate climate of his time, because Jewish leaders sought to kill him. Instead, he spent time in Galillee, a fishing region that sat on the shore, a body of freshwater. After encouraging his disciples to go on to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, he secretly went to Jerusalem for the Feast, too. He entered Jerusalem at the midpoint of this holy celebration, the city teemed with Jews from the surrounding areas. The Jewish leaders would see the disciples without their Teacher and wonder what happened that he was not there. Jesus sought to prevent the prematurity of his death that he might fulfill the prophecies concerning him.
It was the midpoint of the Feast that Jesus taught in the Temple courts. His teaching stunned the people who wondered how he could know the Scriptures so well since he never studied, that is under the tutelage of a Jewish teacher of the Law. Jesus had the most incredible draw of audience at this time. Because the rulers didn’t see him come in, he could go into the Temple to teach. He never lied to his disciples because he said to them in verse 8, “You go to the festival. I am not yet going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.”
As he taught in the Temple Courts, the people wondered whether he truly was the Messiah or not. They thought the Messiah’s origin would be a mystery, meaning they had not paid attention to the prophecies about him. They knew he was from Bethlehem, confusing who he was. This prompted their murmurings. He had already been teaching quite a while when the Pharisees caught word about him from the conversations at the Temple. In this spiritually hostile, dry atmosphere of Jerusalem during a high holy Jewish festival, Jesus revealed himself as the Living Water. He taught them that rivers of living water would flow out from them, referring to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in believers that would come described in Acts 2:
“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “‘ Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’] 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
Some proclaimed him as the Messiah, while others scoffed because they knew he came from Nazareth, not a well-acclaimed town. However, those who believed in him drank of the Living Water that day.
Considerations for Our Lives
We live in a hostile, spiritually dry environment today. Christians are mocked, scoffed at, and harassed. As a personal trainer, the health and fitness terrain is hot, dry, and hostile to the Christian faith. It promotes Buddhist and Hindu teachings through yoga, transcendental meditation, mindfulness, balancing chakras, and emotional intelligence. I feel like I walk through a spiritual desert, a desolate wasteland. I’ve watched people drink deep of the unpottable waters of Namaste’ in yoga classes and gulp down the scorching dry sand of self-glorification. Several Christ-followers have stepped into this deadly desert, fell for Satan’s lies, “You can be like God.” They believe that they not only can be like God, but they are gods, and god is in everything. Yet Jesus still tells us to come drink from him, the Living Water, fresh, pure, and clean. We will never thirst with Him. We simply need him for the Life he promises us.
Why do we fall for Satan’s lies like those he used to tempt Jesus within the barren, dry Judean Desert? Wealth. Self-gratification. Power. Satan follows these temptations with a call to bow to him (Matthew 4:9). He offered Jesus what was not his to offer. Jesus was God in the flesh. He owns everything yet did not sin. The illusion that we can be like God, or be gods, is actually worshipping Satan. The religious jargon used in the New Age Movement fools Christians. This is a worldwide religious movement. Until we are willing to say, like Jesus did, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 NIV. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God comes down to Earth, offers us Living Water through faith in him as Savior. Living Water will flow out from us because of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. We will never thirst. We offer others refreshment in the hot, barren landscape of our world. Oh, how the Holy Spirit must groan when we guzzle down the New Age sand and undrinkable waters instead.
Our Call to Action
Let us not grieve the Holy Spirit, who seals us for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). Let us long for the Lord in our hot, dry world without Living Water, finding our refreshment that only comes from him. Seek him in the sanctuary of the church where we receive Living Water that this Living Water might flow out of us day after day to those around us. Let us draw from his well in Bible study and prayer daily that we may live out God’s Word to us. Let us pour into others this life-giving Water that only comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ.
New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.