12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
The time of temptation and testing was a danger-filled time. The wilderness is not a safe place: Jesus “was with the wild beasts” (v. 13). Adversaries are all around, waiting to devour, but it is a protected place: “The angels waited on him” (v. 13).
This kind of protection in times of testing is illustrated in Revelation. For our purposes, it’s important to know that an evil power, which Revelation identifies as the first beast, “was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months” (Rev. 13:5). Evil is permitted an opportunity to run rampant.
Yet, in these same chapters, we see God’s provision. In Revelation 12, a woman is about to give birth. A dragon (allied with that ruling beast) waits there to “devour her child as soon as it [is] born” (Rev. 12:4).
When the woman gives birth to this child, who is destined to rule all the nations, he is taken away to God’s throne. The woman flees to the wilderness, “where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days” (Rev. 12:6). Both the child and the woman escape.
Let’s do the math: 42 months x 30 days = 1,260 days. The woman is protected for exactly the same amount of time as the demonic powers are allowed to exercise authority.
This might explain what it means that the kingdom of God has come near. We find ourselves in perilous times of evil and testing in this world, but God’s protecting presence is equal to and more powerful than the powers that would swallow us alive.
Repent and go to the God who comes near to you. Welcome his presence and protection.
Prayer: Lord, we thank for your protecting presence. Your power and love surround us and protect us. Come ever near to us and to our broken world, we pray. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
Keith Krebs is a chaplain at American Mission Hospital in Manama, Bahrain.