Galatians 1:15-17. “But when it pleased God, Who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the brethren; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me, but I went in Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.”
In Romans 1:1, Paul makes this same claim, that he was set apart by God for a specific purpose. The Greek word he used is aphoridzo, which means set apart, separate, to divide, to sever. Paul understood clearly that God had something very special for him to do. From the moment of his conversion on the Damascus Road, Paul’s life did a complete about-face, and his sole purpose was to fulfill that which God had given him to do. Christ was not only revealed to him, but was also revealed in him.
In Acts 9, which contains the story of Paul’s conversion, we read that when God told Ananias to go to the street called Straight, he was afraid. Paul’s reputation for hating Christians was well-known. But Ananias was a man of God, and when he met Paul he freely communicated the mind of God to him. I’ve often wondered what the fellowship was like between these two men. It must have been an amazing time for both of them.
There is some disagreement as to where Paul went in Arabia. In Paul’s time, Arabia included all the kingdom of Aretas from Damascus and east of the Jordan down to Edom in the south. Petra was the capital. It was perhaps into the north part that Paul went, which included Bashan. This part of Arabia turned Christian very early, maybe because of Paul’s activity there. But it is almost certain that he spent time alone in the wilderness, communing with his newly-discovered Savior. He wouldn’t be the first of God’s servants to do so. Time alone in the wilderness tends to turn a man’s thoughts in a different direction. Jesus Himself spent 40 days and nights alone, praying and fasting in the wilderness.
It would be pretty hard for most of us to disappear into the wilderness today. We have jobs, families, responsibilities. It would not be good for us to just pick up and leave. But sometimes we can find our own “wilderness” place in our own backyards; in a quiet corner of the house; driving to work; scrubbing a dirty floor, or folding laundry. The only thing we really need is a place where we can allow God to speak to us through His Word.
We all need a wilderness experience now and then.