The Christian Church celebrates Lent, the period leading up to Easter, for forty days in remembrance of the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness in preparation for His public ministry. He went to the wilderness to fast and pray and draw close to God His Father. In Lent, we as believers prepare ourselves for the commemoration of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection through prayer, denying our selves, and a concerted effort to draw closer to our Heavenly Father.
This lovely hymn, originally written for a children's collection, compares Jesus' experiences in the wilderness to our "modern" experience.
One of my personal hopes for this Lenten season is that the Lord will show me my sin so that I may mourn appropriately. I believe that many people in the Christian Church do not take sin seriously enough - but sin is a very serious issue to God. So serious that He sacrificed His sinless Son to pay the price for our transgressions. Jesus went to the cross for me - it was my sin that sent Him there. I don't ever want to take that for granted, or to take it lightly. I want to not sin - and like David, I pray that my sin may be ever before me so I can confess it and turn away from it.
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Psalm 51:1-3
When Jesus spent those 40 days in the wilderness, He was tempted by Satan several times. I am always encouraged when I read how Jesus answered the devil - with Scripture!
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'" Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,
'HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU';
'ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP,
SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'"
Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'" Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'" Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. Matthew 4:1-11
I pray that God would give me the strength to fight against the Devil. That I may know God's word and be able to counter all the ways Satan would try to tempt me or make me believe something contrary to God's word. We have an arsenal available to us and we must use it! I pray that the Spirit would write God's word on my heart as I study that I might take up the Sword of the Spirit - the word of God - in battle against the evil one.
This next stanza of the hymn is one I find most challenging. I do want to die to self. I do want to be selfless in my actions. This is so much easier said than done. I recite this verse to myself often, as a reminder that to live like Jesus, I must live selflessly when my first inclination is to look out for myself/protect myself/serve my own interests.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
Finally, I pray Abide with Me, Lord. I want Jesus to walk with me, through these 40 days of Lent, through my whole life, and when He ushers me out of this life to spend eternity with Him in heaven. I pray along with Paul that I may attain an Easter of unending joy!
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days
Words by Claudia Hernaman
Lord, who throughout these forty days
For us didst fast and pray,
Teach us with Thee to mourn our sins
And close by Thee to stay.
As Thou with Satan didst contend,
And didst the victory win,
O give us strength in Thee to fight,
In Thee to conquer sin.
As Thou didst hunger bear, and thirst,
So teach us, gracious Lord,
To die to self, and chiefly live
By Thy most holy Word.
And through these days of penitence,
And through Thy passiontide,
Yea, evermore in life and death,
Jesus, with us abide.
Abide with us, that so, this life
Of suffering over past,
An Easter of unending joy
We may attain at last.