September 4, 2022

Passage: Mark 1:4-11
Service Type:

MARK 1:4-11

As I sit and reflect on the past couple of years, I have noticed several lessons that God has taught me. I don’t know about you, but for me, there were times where I felt as though I was out in the wilderness and yet I always felt God there.

Many times – let me be truthful – every time I felt in the wilderness, I didn’t appreciate it. I considered it a bad thing to be in the wilderness. In the wilderness we often face major challenges – illness, hardship, family difficulties – and you can think of others. But remember the wilderness is a time of preparation.

The children of Israel were in the wilderness. Exodus 13 tells us: 17 Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, "If the people face war, they may change their minds, and return to Egypt." 18 So God led the people around the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt.

God was looking out for Israel when He led them through the wilderness. The one thing that we must remember is that Our God is in the wilderness with us, His people.

As we look again at our text from Mark 1 we are told “John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

Doesn’t it seem strange that God would lead John to go to the wilderness to preach repentance? Jerusalem would have been a better place; yet God sent John a day’s journey away to preach.

This is where we must be very careful. This is the thinking of the world. This is what we would do without asking God what should we do. Have you noticed that often God does things out of the ordinary?

Paul tells us in I Corinthians 1: 26 For you see your calling, brothers and sisters, not many of you were wise by human standards; not many powerful; not many of noble birth. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are strong; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh might boast in His presence.

God wants to make sure that we don’t try to take credit. All credit belongs to God! As a matter of fact, Mark starts this chapter by quoting two Old Testament passages.

Mark 1: 2 As it is written in the Prophet Isaiah: “Behold I send My messenger before your face who will prepare your way before you.” 3 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make his paths straight’.”

God had already planned to have John coming as a messenger of Jesus to be revealed in the wilderness. Everything that is happening today is not a surprise to God; He knows all things.

As the COVID pandemic hit, God gave us a chance to have a wilderness experience with Him.

God caused us to pause and turn to Him.

God caused us to remember who is in control.

Just as Moses turned aside and saw this great sight, “Why the bush did not burn.” (Exodus 3:30) We need to turn aside to see just what God is wanting from us.

God is giving us the opportunity to hear him call our names so that He can use us. It is time to become either hot or cold; we cannot continue to stand on the fence. We are more than 2 years from the beginning of COVID and life is slowly becoming “A New Normal” – but not the way it was before. We are struggling to find this “new normal” in all aspects of our life; many are still wandering in the wilderness of uncertainty.

Look at what happened with John out in the wilderness. Turn back to our text from Mark 1: 5 “And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”

God will use our wilderness experiences so that we can tell others about what Christ has done for us.
He will send people our way to hear a true word from the Lord. It does not matter where you are as long as you are speaking the truth about God. People want to hear the Good News, especially after time in the wilderness.

Every time I turn around I hear and see people acting and saying crazy things. If that’s not bad enough, we turn around and only want to talk about what crazy people are doing and saying. I’m tired of hearing about these activities - tell me what Christ has done for you today.

We must take the opportunity to let others know that Christ is coming again!

Pause and let others know that you are not afraid because you know the risen Savior who will come again with all power in His hands to redeem His children.

Here’s the challenge. We don’t want to look or be different. Since everyone else is talking about how bad it is, we go along so that we don’t stand out. John didn’t have a problem looking or being different. Our text tells us (Mark 1:6) Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.”

The main reason John didn’t mind is that it wasn’t about him – it was all about Christ. When we are focused more about Christ than ourselves, Christ will receive the glory and He will empower us to do His will. How do I know? I’m glad you asked…

I look back in the Word and I recall the prophet Elijah who ran from Jezebel and hid in a cave. This was right after Elijah had seized 450 prophets of Baal and had them executed. While Elijah was in the cave God came to him and asked him “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Scripture in I Kings 19 goes on to tell us: “11 Then God said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”

Yes, God spoke to Elijah in a small voice to encourage him and give him direction.

There are often wilderness experiences in the middle of tribulations.

I think about Paul when he had warned the people to not sail and told them that there would be disaster, and the leaders disregarded Paul’s warning. Yet Paul maintained his peace. When they ran into the storm we are told in Acts 27: 21 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. (i.e. “I told you so”) 22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve. 24 saying “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.” 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.”

I could go on and on.

Do you remember Ruth being faithful to her mother-in-law and gleaning in the fields of the wilderness and God sent Boaz? (Ruth 1-4) Hopefully, everyone remembers this story since it has been Charles’ sermons the past few weeks!

Do you remember Jonah being in the wilderness of the belly of the fish when He chose to answer the call of God on his life? (Jonah 1-4)

I love how the Prodigal Son found himself in the wilderness where he wanted to eat pig slop. Finally he came to himself and God brought him back to his father. (Luke 15:11-32)

We can’t forget about Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue. When he found himself in the wilderness of a sick daughter he sought and found Jesus for help. (Mark 5:22-43; Luke 8:41-56).

And yes, we all remember how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan. After Satan threw all that he had at Jesus, we are told in Matthew 4:11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

Yes, our God is in the wilderness.

It is in the wilderness that we are able to draw closer to Him.

It is in the wilderness that we are able to be nurtured by Him.

It is in the wilderness that God is able to use us to bring Him glory.

We must embrace our wilderness experiences and see Christ in the midst of each one.

We are Briarwood Presbyterian Church and must take these wilderness experiences and reach out to everyone over the airways as we are doing today to expand the cause of Christ.

We have nothing to fear in the wilderness because Jesus will be right there with us every step of the way if we will only turn aside and listen to Him…learn from Him…and obey Him.
We know that Jesus will come to the wilderness because we are told in our text of Mark 1: 9 “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on Him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Yes, Jesus wants to have a relationship with us and He will meet us in the wilderness in order to develop that relationship if we will allow Him to come into our lives. Time is drawing near. We need to get nearer to Christ while the blood is running warm through our veins.

We must remember that we are to do God’s will. Nothing more. Nothing less. Even in the wilderness. Amen.