Author’s note: As I enter and re-enter the living story of Avi’s testing in the wilderness, I come away even more convinced that the testing that he endured was really a predetermined trap set by the Godhead. One that they kept secret until the right time came to spring it.
The public declaration of the Father over his Sons at the Jordan was nothing less then out right challenge—a throwing of the gauntlet. They purposed to enticed the adversary into their trap in the wilderness, in order to created a legal precedent in Yeshua, as both Son of God and Son of Man, before heaven and earth: A man who knew no sin.
By doing this, Father provided for us a legal pathway within His Son for restoring the legal access, rights and privileges, and ownership of all that was lost to us in the Garden at the Fall.
This secret operation was perfectly planned, brilliantly executed!
For me the testing of the wilderness was really the greatest entrapment of all time. If Yeshua’s death and resurrection were a bookend to the three years of his life and ministry, then I would consider this poignant moment to be its opposite.
Although, the scriptures don’t provide a whole lot of detail about what actually happened to Yeshua in the wilderness, with a few textual hints and contextual understanding, a more expressive story does reveal itself.
Using this as my backdrop, and keeping creative license within the spirit of the text, I present this short story. I hope it stirs the imagination, and provokes a greater awareness of His love for you.
The gauntlet had been thrown. The crowd had been small, but that didn’t matter. It wasn’t for them. Other eyes had been watching—listening from the unseen. It was for them.
It had been weeks since those words reverberated upon the shores of the Jordan, but the energetic vibrations within him were just as strong as they were at their first hearing. “This is my beloved son…”
Most of those present that day had mistook it for rolling thunder or something else. But again, it wasn’t for them.
And now he was forty days into it. “One for every year of their wandering in here,” he thought to himself. His words at the Jordan had given him strength to press in, to go further, deeper into this desolate land. It had sustained each step along this barren track.
He came to an outcropping and stopped to look back down the path he had come. Day by day, he had managed the growing fatigue well. But now, on this last day, as he watched the sun began to dip in the west, the weariness felt heavier, and hunger pulled more acutely at him.
“Good. The trap is set,” he spoke softly to himself. “It is time.”
He took a deep breath and gazed out upon the surrounding wilderness. To the natural eye it was barren and worthless, but his discerning eye saw something different. He saw a land vibrating with a deep energy—pregnant with potential, waiting to be woken. He could feel it in the ground beneath him, and in the dry air he breathed.
He smiled and took another deep breath. “Perfect,” he sighed.
After savoring the moment, he stooped down to gather several stones scattered on the ground. He stacked them neatly upon each other to make a simple seat on which to rest. Then he sat and waited for the evening and the darkness.
He sighed again looked westward. The last bit of pink sunset was giving way to the coming night as the first stars pricked the clear evening sky above. “There will be no moon tonight,” he thought.
As he waited, he continued to chew upon the same words that had nourished him for many weeks. Their energy filled and warmed him, helping to dulling just a bit of the sharp edge of hunger that worked at his belly. It was enough. He closed his eyes and stilled himself for what was to come.
Finally, darkness fell.
Then came the emptiness.
He felt it a long way off. A gnawing lack, a biting want. Distant but growing.
Then he saw it—a shadow at first, in the desert wash below him. It blended in with the silhouette of rock and shrub, moving between the casted shadows made by the dim, gray light of the stars above. Were it not for its sporadic and unnatural lurking, its subtle creep would have gone unnoticed by unsuspecting eyes. But he was keenly aware of it—slinking nearer and nearer to where he sat.
Suddenly, the shadow materialized up from the ground before him. His weakened body winced a little, and he felt its vampiric energy attempting to draw out what remained of his strength. But he maintained his peace and smiled. It had taken the bait.
Out of the sucking emptiness that writhed in front of him, came a rasping breath, followed by a strangled whisper. “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to became bread,” it wheezed in the dry air.
Yeshua looked down at the pile of stones he was resting on. He chuckled inwardly, and then looked back up at the disembodied apparition. “You’re going to open with that, huh,” he thought to himself. “Alright, then. Here we go.”
He replied plainly, “Moshe wrote that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word coming out of the mouth of God.” (Deut. 8:3)
As if reacting to searing pain, the dreadful shadow drew back with a violent hiss that sounded like steam escaping deep fissures underground. Its wasting anger surged, and then it moved to surround him. Like a suffocating whirlwind, it encompass him and the starry night went black.
Then with a great violence, the engulfing shadow lifted him quickly into the dark sky and carried him away. He was borne only briefly, until the whirlwind dropped him carelessly upon a hard, smooth surface. Then whirlwind abated and starry sky returned.
The impact was excruciating to his distressed body, and recovering from the aching took several moments. When sufficient strength returned, he stood to his feet and began scanning the area around him. It was then that he realized that he had been brought to the rooftop of the Temple in Jerusalem. From his pinnacle point, he looked down upon the outer court, alit with a multitude of torches. He could see the great bronze basin and it’s water reflecting the light in the heavens. He saw the altar with its horns, still containing the smoldering remains from a multitude of offerings. The pungent smell of the day’s sacrifices still hung in the night air above the Temple mount.
A small remnant of people still meandered around—pilgrims desperate for an answer, waiting for the morning, and hope. He saw a priest scurrying across the court yard. A look of worry and irritation on the man’s face for having been bereft of his sleep, and purposely avoiding any interaction with those still remaining in the courtyard.
This sight caused his heart ache more then his body.
But then the withering shadow returned with a rasping breathe, and he heard a wretched groan behind him. He turned to see the slandering shadow manifested, yet again—this time shrouded in malignant energies. Yeshua breathed deep and girded himself with inner strength. “A second time,” he thought to himself.
With contempt his attacker spat at him another test:
“If you really are the Son of God, throw yourself down there. Didn’t David write, “He will give orders to His angels about you, and they will lift you up with their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone?”
At these words, Yeshua burned. With fire in his eyes he spoke with forceful authority, “Again, Moshe wrote, do not test the LORD your God.” (Duet. 6:16)
In a sudden shriek of boiling anger, the malevolent power charged him and snatched him up. Exhaustion and fatigue prevent him from fending off his assailant, and he was swept away by his antagonist, yet again.
This time it ascended deep into the atmosphere: taking him to an exceedingly high mountain. Reaching the apex of its flight, it flung his ragged body down upon the craggy peak. His haughty accuser soared over him and transformed into a thick cloud that smothered the entire summit.
Yeshua laid there, barely able to lift his head. He took another breath, and quietly exhaled “One more time. Almost done.”
Then his adversary showcased its power through lighting and thunder in the towering clouds. Boastfully, it put on display all the kingdom of the cosmos in all their glory under its dominion. From its elevated place, it boomed with arrogance:
“All this, I will give you,” it said with swelling pride, “if you will but prostrate and kiss the ground before me.”
For a moment Yeshua remain motionless. Silent within. Then from the depths of his being came the words of his Father. “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” Like a geyser under great pressure, a surge of energy irradiated his body and caused strength flow into his limbs. He pushed himself to his knees, and the energy transformed into a zealous anger and a mighty voice!
“Get away from me, Adversary,” he shouted.
A nuclear surge brought him to his feet, and roared with a jealous fire, “Again, Moshe declared: prostrate and kiss the LORD your God and serve Him alone!” (Duet 6:13-15)
In an instant, the hideous shadow, furiously cast itself off the peak and down the side of the mountain in wailing rage. The echoes of its tormented howl faded back into shadows of the night. Then the thick cloud that had swallowed up the summit suddenly dissipated, revealing again the starry sky now giving way to the break of dawn and the brilliant morning star coming forth on the horizon.
Upon the mountain top, Yeshua, greatly worn and weary, stood in the glorious light and looked to heaven. With a radiant smile upon his face he shouted aloud, “Father, We’ve done it! They fell right into our trap and we have overcome them!”
Then looking back towards the east he breathed deeply, and spoke, “The beginning of the new day has come.” Then he began to twirl about in great delight before his Father, and upon the wings of that morning there came joy and renewed strength.