This is the third blog in what is now a series. I have decided to call the series “Welcome To The Wilderness”.
The first blog was entitled “Embracing The Wilderness” and it was on Holy Love’s passionate pursuit of Gomer, a broken women who was desperate for a revelation of her true identity.
The second blog was “Transformed In The Wilderness” and it was about the total transformation of the Bride as she has spent quality time with her Beloved. She goes into the wilderness as just another person in the community but she emerges clothed in majesty and glory, leaning on her Beloved.
In this blog, called “Prepared In The Wilderness”, we will study a small portion in the life of Paul the apostle.
Paul, before he met Jesus was known as Saul of Tarsus. Saul was a common name for Jewish boys in this era. Saul was anything but common. He had great aptitude and attitude. He was a lover of learning which led him to Jerusalem as a youth to study under the influential Gamaliel.
Gamaliel was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, a teacher of the Law and held in high esteem by the Jewish people. Paul said this in Acts 22:3, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today.”
Obviously Paul’s training was some benefit to him after his conversion but he had an encounter with Jesus that led him to re-evaluate what he learned.
In the Book of Galatians Paul gives us a glimpse of his life not long after his conversion. He says this in chapter 1:15-17. “But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood [other people], nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.”
I want us to focus on verse 17. Paul said that he “went away” to Arabia. The phrase “went away” means to go away to follow someone, to go after him, follow him as a leader, to go away from evil.
The word Arabia is of Hebrew origin and it means desert and barren. There is always a sweet spot in every barren place. The root word means to pledge, to give and receive pledges, to exchange, to share, to have fellowship with and to be intimate with.
This sounds just like our previous two stories. Paul goes into Arabia, whether literally or not we do not know. He later refers to Arabia as allegorical in chapter 4 of Galatians. Paul also said that he went into Paradise, the third heaven. He was not sure if he went physically or spiritually [2 Corinthians 12].
Whether he went to Arabia, or he had an Arabian experience with Christ is irrelevant because he did have a wilderness experience of some sort.
What transpired while he was away was just as remarkable as what happened to Gomer in Hosea 2:14 and the Bride in Song Of Solomon 8:5. Paul’s experience in the wilderness allowed for what had exploded in him on the road to Damascus [Acts 9] to explode out of him for the rest of his life and ministry on earth.
So what happened in Arabia? I am glad you asked. What happened is this [my opinion] ~
Jesus had a come to Jesus meeting with Paul and Paul had a come to Jesus meeting with Jesus.
Jesus and Paul consummated their relationship. They gave and received pledges. They exchanged commitments. They fellowshipped with one another and they were intimate [they got very real]. They shared their dreams and their concerns.
Paul had a zeal for God but without experiential knowledge. His zeal was dangerous. He was a religious terrorist. Luke wrote this about him in Acts 9:1, “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord . . ”
In his wilderness experience Paul got a lesson in God’s contriting machine. He was turned from a terrorist into a tremendous asset in the Kingdom of God.
In this wilderness experience Paul and Jesus agreed to the terms of their covenant relationship. Paul hears about all the things he is going to suffer as God’s point man to the Gentiles [Acts 9:16]. Paul develops some core values that guide his life until the end [Acts 20:22-24].
Paul was able to come to these conclusions because of the commitment of full support that Jesus gave to him. Jesus never promises “no trouble”. He always promises “I will be with you in trouble”.
Covenant is a huge subject and I am not going to attempt to address it in this blog. But I do want to touch on the subject of covenant some more.
We must remember that Arabia is a place of covenant making. As believers we are a part of the Covenant God made to the father of the faith [ful], Abraham.
We find it in Genesis 15:12-18. To save time I am not going to write out all the verses. You can read the story if you would like. God makes a covenant with Abram [later to be named Abraham]. In this covenant God puts Abram to sleep and then He makes promises to Him. God walks between pieces of animals that were killed to symbolize His commitment to keep His word.
The point is this, Abram slept while God worked [walked]. It is a great picture of the covenant of rest. There still remains a sabbath rest for those in covenant with God through the blood of Jesus. He works through us as we rest in Him.
To eternally seal this covenant Jesus died on a cross, His body shredded by the Roman cohort’s cat of nine tails whips as a picture of the slain and halved animals in Genesis 15. Paul said this in Galatians 3:13, 14, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law [perform for love and acceptance] by becoming a curse for us [He not only died for us He died as us], for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”, in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the Promise of the Holy Spirit by faith [not by performance].”
What an arrangement!
The wilderness preparation is worth the process.
For HIS Glory!
Dr. Kevin M. Drury