Deserts are arid. Little rainfall. Little vegetation. Hot stinging winds blow dust up to 60 miles per hour. The desert temperatures rise so high that people risk dehydration and possibly death. The desert is inhabited by foxes, coyotes, rats, snakes, scorpions, and lizards. At nighttime, the beastly creatures come out to play. Insects like black widows, camel spiders, and tarantula Hawks paralyze with their sting.
They named one desert respectively Death Valley. It gets 2 inches of rain per year. According to The Sun News, only 320 people live in Death Valley, and two people died while visiting last year:
“Death Valley got its name from a group of venturing pioneers who got lost in the desert in the late 1800’s. They were rescued by two of their young men, William Lewis Manly and John Rogers, who had learned to be scouts, according to the National Park Service.” 
As the men managed to escape, one proclaimed “goodbye, Death Valley,” and a nickname was formed.
A desert is a place many of the main characters in the Bible dwelt for long periods. It was a place the Holy Spirit sent them. Elijah lived by a brook during the famine for over three years, and all his needs were met, but we don’t know what his time there was like. Men were not built to be alone for years, so I suspect Elijah socialized with some. One popular series on the history channel titled Alone gives us a picture of men dropped off in the thickest bush and isolated landscapes to dwell alone. No camera crews. Just them and the unknown. During the series, men built dwelling places, fished, and hunted, but many could not endure 60 or 100 days alone. Others reached starvation and were forced to leave. They left without the prize money of $500,000. However, spiritual Desert dwellings prepare us for future events if we allow them to. Two desert drinking cups are recorded in scripture by the apostle Paul —the cup of Messiah or the cup of Demons.
Sometimes in this life, we venture to Death Valley. Have you ever noticed that at our worst, during our darkest nightmares, our lowest seasons, when we’re crying, gagging, face prostrating, heart monitor beeping, or dealing with a sick child, or the death of a loved one, no one is there? Even if someone is. . . No one can measure our pain or weigh our sorrows. No one knows how it feels to be encased in stinging dust, suffocating temperatures with the beasts that come out to strike, bite, and sting. No one can scrape our pus-filled sores with broken pottery. No one can try on our shoes and feel the weight of our suffering fully; often, when we try to share it with someone, we end up feeling worse. We wanted fresh water and got reprimanded, judged, given instructions or recipes, or felt unheard. Job’s wife speaks, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).
Social Media often paints or portrays photos filled with smiles or encouraging memes. Families look happy or prosperous, and some who shout “Shabbat Shalom”, or “Praise the Lord” have not an ounce of Shalom to give anyone in that moment. Behind the laptop, inside the walls of our dwelling places, we often experience rejection, fear, hurt, and abuse. We long for compassion or empathy for others, but we don’t give any. Many times, eruptions from the bottom of the sea come forth with anger, cursing, weeping, insecurities, sickness, poverty, divorce, etc… At the same time, we try to hold it together for our boss, mentor/ leaders, spouses, children, friends, or even the cashier at the grocery. We place on smiles, express greetings, and try and appear normal when in all actuality, we are one second shy of collapsing, crumbling, or checking out.
The Messiah tells a parable about a “good” Samaritan in the Gospels. The Samaritans were a mixed people the Jewish people detested. They were half-Jews. The story depicts a Jewish priest and a Levite walking past and ignoring a man’s bruised, bloody body lying in the street. A robber had done this, and he was the villain, but these two men acted in some ways worse than the robber because they were to be lights. This Samaritan binds up the wounds and pours in the oil for the man who laid dying. The Samaritan, Muslim, Indian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Russian (Fill in the blank__) man even pays for a hotel so the hurting man can rest his weary head. Has anyone ever done this type of ministering for you? Someone who was there for you when things were too heavy to carry–too hard to swallow–too shocking to grasp. The weight on your shoulders was causing you to be bent over, but someone came with oil and wine.
I have experienced this in many fashions, with strangers and my own family. My youngest son recently came to visit. When I was pregnant with him 31 years ago, it was hot. Desert temperatures. Sam was due in late July, and I was induced in August. We had one air conditioner unit in our shotgun house. We had no items for the baby. No one gave me a baby shower. I had toxemia and other health issues. One day, we came home to find the bedroom full of everything anyone would need for a baby. Diapers, blankets, clothes, powder, shampoo, bottle warmers, a crib, sheets, stuffed animals, you name it, my brother had thought of everything, and he had called a female friend to accompany him shopping to make sure this child would have everything regardless of the poverty situation we had found ourselves in. My son carries my brother’s name.
The Samaritan came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, and he put him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him. Luke 10:34 NASB
How lovely is this parable and verse? And yet how sad it is. The called-out people who should have been there were not. They may have been saying prayers, baking bread, cleaning the oil lamps, and refilling them, but they looked the other way. Sometimes we see the blood in the streets, but we are too bloody to help. We lack oil. We lack wine. We lack health, money, or time. Sometimes, we lack compassion and empathy or an ear that hears correctly. Sometimes we think the person got what they deserved, or our condition is far worse.
The Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial was a trial many did not want to watch, but I watched portions of it, and I learned much. We can learn from anyone. Behind closed doors, we all have demons and things erupting that we pray no one sees. Johnny Depp was willing to expose his worst moments, drunken stupors, cabinet slamming, wine drinking, and drug-taking addictions to prove that even though he had unhealed addiction issues and childhood trauma, he wasn’t physically abusive. Johnny was declaring he was the one being physically abused. A jury sat and watched, listened, and spent hours looking over all the evidence closely. Neither party was innocent, but one person was willing to expose his worst moments to prove he was innocent of one thing, physical abuse.
Sometimes we must bring everything out of the darkness and look at it. Listen to it. Inspect it. Forget the world and the people who watched the court case or stood on the sidelines. It’s not about them. It’s “Search me, oh, Creator of life!” Look inside. What is in there? What needs to be healed from my childhood? What needs to be healed in my communication skills? What needs to be healed that is broken inside of me, my family, my marriage, my ministry. How many people have I stepped across the street and ignored? On the flip side, do I have boundaries up, so I am not run over and depleted by those who are often looking to me as their source instead of journeying alone with the Father of Lights? Sometimes it is in the desert that we become whole.
A desert and a garden are two very different types of scenery. In the desert, we face our biggest fears, but we hear His Word. The Son of Man enters the desert after fasting for 40 days. He later enters a garden and sweats blood. The Messiah needs the Word to conquer all the temptations in the desert. In the garden, sweating drops of blood, He needs prayer, support, or understanding, and even though some of his confidants are there physically, they are asleep to His pain and suffering. They can’t handle the weight of it. They snore while he cries out to the heavens. How could his disciples know or realize the agony or depth of the bitter cup?
Can you picture yourself in the desert sand, with the dunes, the heat, and the beasts– the rattler–the scorpion, with not a drop to drink? Oh, friends, we have been there.
“And he was there in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by the Adversary, and he was with the beasts, and the messengers were ministering to him.” (Mark 1:13).
Angels and beasts.
In every trial, there are angels and beasts. Demonic strongholds and divine messengers. The Messiah comes out of the wilderness full of power. The Ten Words were given in the desert. In the desert, we are stripped down to nothing, but the Creator’s divine grace meets us there. It is in the desert that the Creator brings water bursting with life:
- He turns a wilderness into pools of water, And dry land into water springs. (Psalm 107:35).
In Part II we will look at the two places: “Wilderness” is midbar but “desert region” is yeshimon. Midbar describes particular places but yeshimon has the nuance of devastation and desolation, sometimes associated with the destruction caused by God’s punishment. Being in deserted places does not always mean desolation and devastation. But in this verse, David captures the full range. Israel was not wandering simply because they lacked a good map. They were wandering because they were experiencing God’s devastation.” Dr Skip Moen
We will also look at the oil press and how the oil was collected in jars of clay. The pressing and the weight of the heaviness of the stones completely flattened the olives until there was no oil left.
NO OIL LEFT.
A squeezing. Are you feeling the squeeze? Transitioning from one place to another? Being offered a cup of demons and a cup of Messiah? Both offer death. One leads to life.