Updated: Oct 27, 2018
desolate (adjective): a place that is uninhabited and giving an impression of bleak emptiness
In the Bible, the word desolate is used a number of times, usually when a curse is placed on a place or people. To cause a place to be desolate would mean that nothing could survive in that place and that, I think, is a pretty serious thing. In Job 15, Eliphaz accuses Job of foolishness and uses the word desolate (v.28) to describe the place where a foolish man resides; ‘desolate cities’. The phrase that springs to mind here is an empty vessel...
Now we all know that Job was not in a desolate place; God had plans for the man! The Bible also says that God hates desolation so Eliphaz using that word to describe Job's state was pretty significant. In Job 16:7, Job replies to his friends words and uses the same word to describe the effects of the words used in Job 15; desolate.
A desolate place is basically an invitation for unwanted guests. Imagine building a house and leaving it empty for months on end. At some point, someone who you didn't invite will see the emptiness as an opportunity to fill the house with something you didn't plan for and definitely didn't want! God knows this which is why in Exodus 23: 29, He tells the Israelites, I'm not going to leave the land desolate in case the 'beasts of the field become too numerous for you.' It's hard to get rid of unwanted guests - if you've ever had someone overstay their welcome, you'll know what this means.
So far I have only referred to desolation in the context of a place but let's be clear, our bodies are temples and are absolutely game for the enemy too! In Mathew 12, Jesus uses the parable of a demon being driven out of a man and when the man remains empty, the demon returns with 7 other demons to occupy the now sparkling empty man! Although this parable was for the nation of Israel and the need for them to return to God, we can definitely relate as individual beings. The same principle applied to anyone who chooses/allows themselves to be filled with things of the world instead of the things of God. The things of the world will not provide the fulfilment that God brings to our lives and will not fill the voids that we have when we do not allow God into our hearts.
Do not be comfortable in a desolate place and do not leave that space empty for too long. It is possible to be resigned to a place of desolation - the Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years because they kept slipping back and taking up idols. It became a vicious cycle because they would complain about the emptiness of the desert but wouldn't do what God required of them to enter the promised land!
Are there any areas in your life where you feel empty and you need God to come and occupy?