Have you ever asked to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus?
Has God led you by an unexpected path?
Rather than launching you into a powerful ministry, has He hidden you in the backroom with the surplus groceries?
Rather than giving you worldwide recognition, do you find that your name is known by fewer and fewer people?
If this is the case, you may just be EXACTLY on track!
More than ten years ago my heart was set aflame when I first encountered Dr. Brian Simmons’ paraphrase of the Song of Solomon. These eight chapters of sacred scripture have blessed me with many precious treasures as I have meditated on them. Over the course of the coming months I hope to share a selection of these treasures with you.
Today we shall enjoy the Treasure of Seclusion.
‘Who is this one ascending from the
wilderness in the pillar of the glory
cloud? He is fragrant with the anointing
oils of myrrh and frankincense –
more fragrant than all the spices of
the merchant” Song of Solomon 3:8 TPT
The wilderness – it’s a place, an idea, that I despise. I love my comforts too much; I prefer not to contemplate life without them.
And yet our heavenly Father seems to value the wilderness. We might even say that He treasures it. It plays an integral part in the lives of many of His favourite children: Abraham and Sarah, Hagar, Joseph, Moses, Ruth and Naomi, John, Jesus and Paul – all of these spent substantial time in the wilderness.
If the experience of being drawn into the wilderness is so treasured by God, why do we fear it so much? I believe we fear the wilderness for all that is ABSENT from it: our comforts, our friends, our hobbies and possessions. Our daily bread.
But God seems to value it for all that is PRESENT: space, silence, simplicity, air (or ruach as the Hebrews might call it).
In the wilderness our props are removed and everything which has the power to divert our gaze is taken away.
And what are we left with?
Pure, simple, undiluted presence.
God and His child: face-to-face.
That can change a person
That will change a person.
The New Testament seems to insist that the unveiled exposure to God’s presence carries a profound power to transform us.
Paul, the man who famously pursued transformation through compliance to the written standards, abandoned those standards as a means to transformation. He ‘counted everything as loss’ (Phil 3: 8) compared to the unquantifiable privilege of knowing Jesus. He had this to say about the transformative power of God’s presence (in Hebrew thought, the idea of a person’s ‘face’ correlates closely with our idea of their presence.)
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding
the glory of the Lord, are being transformed
into the same image from one degree of
glory to another. For this comes from the
LORD who is the Spirit “2 Cor 3:18. ESV
Similarly John, who had stood on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, placed his confidence in Jesus’ ability to transform us through a face-to-face encounter:
“Dear friends, now we are [already] children
of God, and what we will be has not
yet been made known. But we know
that when Christ appears, we shall be
like Him, for we shall see him as he is!
I John 3: 2 NIV UK
And so, be encouraged. If our Father has thrust you into the wilderness and left you bereft of all that you once held dear, do not mourn the loss of those things for too long.
Rather, turn and embrace all that you now have: space, silence, simplicity and – above all else – His transforming presence.
Photo by Precious Onuohah – Unsplash.com