As we have begun our journey through three weeks of reflection and consciously facing our pain, I wanted to share a former Set Table piece I wrote that expresses my faith that it is in the midst of desolation that the miraculous power of God can shine forth and conquer...
Much of the work of Messiah as presented to us in the Besorot has to do with overturning forces that keep the body and soul imprisoned. In fact, it is this very overturning that threatened all establishments; his radical invasion of governments, power structures, villages, homes, bodies, souls, and hearts. This theme is found in the Torah.
In Exodus, before any Promised Land is given to the nation of slaves coming out of Egypt, they are called to the Desert (Exodus 5:1). They are called away from the cacophony of an empire in love with the sound of its own sin. Moses prays to YHVH “outside of the city” (see Exodus 9:33). In fact, all of his encounters with YHVH are away from the presence of Pharaoh. This illustrates the need for the silence that comes from isolation in desolate places; it is the beginning of fear of God. Before a connection characterized by love was established, there was fear and apprehensiveness. This apprehensiveness is also a desolate place from which the power of God can become manifest.
YHVH begins to become known in the desolate places, to those who will heed the call…to those who will carry the Presence into “society”. Nothing established is left safe. Tolerance of oppression, tolerance of pain, tolerance of fear, tolerance of men-gods, tolerance of god’s made by the hands of man, and tolerance of empire’s “creating of worlds” (see Rashi’s commentary on Genesis 3:5) are all obliterated by YHVH’s defibrillator for creation: the miracle.
Fast-forward to Mark 1:29-45. It begins with Yeshua casting out the illness of Shimon’s mother-in-law. This doesn’t happen publicly. It happens in the privacy of a home, in the presence of few. Then it is not until the beginning of night that he heals many people’s illnesses and cast out their demons. Finally, he keeps the demons from revealing his identity (see Mark 1:29-34). Mark is showing us that Yeshua was keeping much of His power and identity veiled. The desolation of the not-yet-fully-revealed needed to be maintained.
The mystery of the power of God can be a frightening thing. It is secretive yet penetrating. It is something less than welcomed by crowds. It is something that necessitates the retreat of its bearer before it can become manifest publicly:
“Early in the morning while it was still like night, he got up and went to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (The New Covenant, Barnstone).
After healing the leper in the following section, Yeshua specifically instructs him to keep quiet about the miracle, but the man does not listen. What follows is what the NIV so poignantly translates as Yeshua “stayed outside in lonely places” (Mark 1:45).
Every mother feels her birthing pains alone, and these pains are the antithesis to the joy that results from them. The birthing pains of the miracle, and of its agent, are desolation and loneliness. Maybe it is only in desolation can we learn to need God fully. Our joy is that it doesn’t end with desolation. It ends with homecoming, the building of a kingdom, and the conquering of death!