The idea of parallel universes is widespread in fiction. Popular examples include Alice through the Looking Glass (Alice in Wonderland) and A Christmas Carol.
We have to look to the Bible, however, to find a parallel wilderness. While parallel universe stories are entertaining and provide a rich landscape of speculation for theoretical physicists, the parallel wilderness can change your life.
Let’s begin in Exodus 24. God has just delivered the Israelites from brutal tyranny and slavery in Egypt. As God leads them toward the promised land, their first stop along the way is at Mount Sinai in the wilderness (this is the first wilderness in our parallel pair). Here we see God’s interaction with Moses starting in verse 15.
15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. 18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
During these forty days, the Israelites are in the wilderness at the base of the mountain. Let’s pick up the story in Exodus 32. We only need verse 1 to see the outcome of their forty days of testing.
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
What follows is the debacle of the golden calf. To summarize, the people entered the wilderness for testing and they failed. Quickly. Spectacularly.
Let’s now jump several hundred years forward to Matthew’s account of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In Matthew 4, Jesus is led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit (this is our second wilderness). After forty days of fasting (sound familiar?), he is tested by the devil three different times. Jesus does not fail and, in the end, rebukes the devil: “Away from me, Satan!” (verse 10).
Here’s the good news that can change your life. It is Jesus’ victory, not our perfection, that repairs our sin-broken relationship with God. Jesus entered the wilderness of this world, lived a life without sin, and then gave up his life as payment for our sin debt. His resurrection marked the completion of a story that split history into “before” and “after”. We have victory over sin because Jesus did.
We all fail in the first wilderness, but you are safe in the second. Admit and turn away from your sin, accept Jesus’ sin-erasing grace, throw away your shame, and enter into a new reality with your savior, Jesus Christ.