Wilderness Q & A, pt 2.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone . . . "
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God . . . "   

Tomorrow we will continue with a discussion on the power of reality.   I will share with you a day that will go down in Garner Lore as an instant classic, comical classic.


There was a moment, an aha epiphany, when all the pieces came together, the little words, the joyous experiences, and the recurring patterns.   This is the third time I have referenced the two cooing doves.   Each morning from 5am -7am, these two snow-white doves, perched themselves on an old telephone line outside my Presidio sunroom window.  They would coo as they faced our little brick house.   This went on for several weeks, day after day.  I sleepwalked through the whole thing, hearing them, seeing them, but in another very real sense not seeing them and not hearing them, their presence muted and muffled into a white noise of unimportance (Which reminds me of the time.... 

January 2016, reading from Acts 2:17  "young men see visions, old men dream dreams..." in a Sunday sermon, talking about how visions and dreams were the way in which the Spirit moved, transitioned the church into new frontiers.  

+Stephen's vision... frontier of the churches diaspora.  
+Peter's vision... frontier of gentiles inclusion
+Cornelius' vision... frontier of an entire household.  
+Paul's vision on Damascus road... frontier of a new kind of apostle
+Paul's dream of Macedonian Call... frontier of Gospel crossing from Asia into Europe.  

And then I said, "If God gave us a dream or vision how many of us would follow it?"  "Well, let's just ask him right now."   We stopped right there and asked.   Sunday evening I had a dream vivid and clear.   But on Monday when I woke up, although I remembered the dream I forgot about the prayer and didn't even pay attention to it.  Several days passed where I spent my time each morning asking God about what he wanted to speak to the people in the coming week.   Nothing.  Wednesday or Thursday, someone asked me something and Sundays public prayer rushed back to me.   I had already forgotten.  Was thinking about the future and not living in the present.   We miss so much.  And that's why Jesus says over and over "watch and pray")

Back to the cooing epiphany.  So one day I'm on a call with my mentor and I offhandedly mention the doves.

He asks me, "Interesting.  Where in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the Christian Scriptures are doves mentioned?  I wonder if the Spirit is saying something to you, seeking your attention."

As soon as that window was flung open, heaven rushed in.   I noticed them.  Really noticed them.  (I remember the Sunday after Jed and I standing outside and gazing at their perched message,  I pointed up the long alley leading to Julius Khan Park,  there wasn't another set of doves to be seen all the way up the hill.)  

This message triangle is a tool that helps with listening, discerning, and moving into action.  Here is a Biblical example of it at work.

Here is a personal example of how it works for me.

Grabbing my Bible I read the two dove stories (Noah, Jesus)  listening to what the Spirit was saying.  The word transition hit me so hard.  Both stories were stories of transition from the waters of covenant to the land of wilderness.   Both dove stories were a reminder of grace, the Spirit's presence, in the midst of change and transition.   Once that window was open I could see and recall so much more.  I recalled seven years prior when we moved into the Presidio a similar sign,  two doves cooing, and how I had pointed out their peaceful presence to the family.  

As all of this was piecing together, I heard the Spirit say, "You are getting ready to go into a season of transition.  You will come through it safely and transformed.  I brought you to the Presidio seven years ago to teach you how to rest.  You have learned that lesson, now ready yourself for transition."

The Scriptures, as we have already pointed out, play the role of clarifying exactly what is going on, directing Jesus how to be and what to choose, and transitioning the role of the Spirit from guide to empowerer.   Finally, the Spirit's presence in the Scriptures is the tandem through which the Kingdom awakening happens.   


How did Jesus know what Scriptures to use against the Devil?

In the immediate moments leading up to and into the wilderness thrust here's what's going on:

  • John the Baptist prophesies over Jesus, that he will "baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Matt3.11)
  • The setting of the epiphany is the Jordan River out in the wilderness.
  • The Voice speaks from the Heavens, calling Jesus "Beloved son."
  • The Spirit leads Jesus to fast for 40 days and nights in the wilderness and be tested.

Where did John's prophecy point?  Exodus (20.18) says, "The people saw the voice and trembled in fear."  How did they see the Voice?  Jewish Rabbis said the Voice came down from the mountain at Sinai and split from one language into 70 voices and 70 languages at once, a thus creating a thunder.* The words God spoke were also on fire and the fire rested upon each person present at the mountain. (Shemhot Midrash Rabbah 5:9)   Jeremiah describes it as “Is not my word like fire and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?"  The image here is sparks flying from the pounding of a hammer on rocks, so that these flying sparks, words, flickered a flame over each person.  John's prophecy of baptizing with fire is an echo of the Voice on Sinai.    

Considering the prophetic moment with the Baptizer, the epiphany in the waters with the Father, and the message of sonship the Father speaks, the kairos happening in that moment would have led Jesus to begin interpreting it all with the Torah, but where would he go?  He would have first looked for where all the signs were pointing:   

  • "Voice" is mentioned 35 times in Deuteronomy. (most of any book in Torah)
  • "Presence" the way the Spirit is described in Torah is mentioned 22 times (most of any book in Torah).
  • "Jordan River" is mentioned 31 times in Deuteronomy. (most of any book in Torah)
  • "Wilderness" 13 times, second only to Numbers.  
  • "Promise" and "power" are mentioned more in Deuteronomy than any other book in the Hebrew Scriptures.
  • Picture of the Fatherhood of God comes from Deuteronomy, "and in the wilderness . . . God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” (Deut 1.31)

So if you were standing in the Jordan, being baptized and you saw the Spirit and heard the Voice say, "Son" and then if that Presence filled you and led you out into the wilderness.  If you had memorized the Torah you would immediately make the connection to Deuteronomy, recalling the writings, taking mental note of where there was a convergence of these themes and patterns and you would then meditate, engage in transformational praying in these Scriptures, listening for traces of the Spirit as He speaks, directs and guides.   

All the signs pointed Jesus to the book of Deuteronomy as the place he should go for instruction and guidance in the wilderness.   When Jesus faces the temptation in the wilderness he knows the temptations are categorically the same as what Israel faced and failed.  Jesus refuses to imitate Israel and chooses rather to imitate the Father.

We infrequently do this kind of processing intuitively, but Jesus did it intentionally.   We can learn and transform by adopting this discipline.   In fact, Jesus challenges us to discern the kairos and watch for the signs.

“When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?  (Luke 12.54-54

Jesus says we can intuitively discern weather by observing signs, but we do not intentionally interpret the "kairos" (the moment, the now).  The skill of processing the now, looking for the signs of the kairos, is absolutely necessary to encounter the Kingdom, for it will be "good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes." All of this discerning the kairos is said in the context of watchfulness (Luke 12.35-53).

Three times Jesus says, "It is written" as he pushes back against the devil.  Each time he speaks from a specific instruction within the Torah, from the same book and even the same sermon.   The words Jesus quotes come from Moses' final words on how to transition into the Promise Land, as they stand in the wilderness, on the other side of the Jordan river.


Read Devotional.  
Reflection.   What stuck out to you in the reading?  Any signs or kairos to interpret?
Prayer. What Scriptures are you drawn to as an interpretive grid for your transformation?  Pray them.
Conversation.  Have a conversation with Cleopas about all of this.


*Hebrew 'qol' is the word for thunder and voice.   It's also worth noting that in John 12 when the Voice booms over Jesus saying, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."  The people simply heard thunder, Jesus interprets the thunder.