Tag Archives: Sojourn

Into the Wilderness

The Israelites are to set up their tents by divisions, each of them in their own camp under their standard.
Numbers 1:52 (NIV)

Today we begin a sojourn through the book of Numbers. It’s one of the most ancient of texts in God’s Message and the fourth of five books known by many names such as the Torah, the Law, the Books of Moses, or the Law of Moses. It picks up the story of the Hebrew people’s  “exodus” from slavery in Egypt. Having escaped from Egypt into the Arabian desert (as told in Exodus), they camped at Mt. Sinai where Moses was given the commandments and the law (as laid out in Leviticus).

Every sizable journey begins with preparation. In today’s opening chapter we pick up the story as Moses carries out a muster of the twelve tribes and a census of men capable of fighting. They are preparing for a march, and the tribe of Levi is given the role of the set-up, take-down, and transportation of a giant tent called the Tabernacle, which served as a traveling temple for the nation. The destination of the wandering nation is “the promised land,” but first they have to traverse the wilderness.

We’re heading into the wilderness, which is a crucial, prescribed path for every spiritual journey. Moses had his years of exile in Midian. Elijah had his flight through the wilderness to Mount Horeb. Jesus went “into the wilderness” for 40 days to fast and to be tested. Fascinating to connect that at Jesus’ transfiguration it was both wilderness wanderer’s, Elijah and Moses, who appeared on the mount with Him.

The hero’s journey of every great epic includes a journey into a wilderness of unknown territory. Bilbo had his mountain and Mirkwood. Luke Skywalker had his Dagoba, Harry, Ron, and Hermione spent almost an entire book alone in the wilderness seeking the Hallows. The wilderness is where we find ourselves (the good, the bad, and the ugly). The wilderness is where we are tried and prepared for the purpose. Without the wilderness, we will never be prepared for the ordeal through which we reach the reward and begin the road back.

This morning I’m looking back at my own life journey. There have been various stretches of wilderness wanderings spiritually relationally, artistically, and vocationally. I’m quite sure there are more to come before the journey’s end. Wilderness is a part of the process and, as we’ll find in our sojourn with the Hebrews, the longer I refuse to embrace the process and learn the lessons I need to learn, I will continue to wander.

Time to lace up the hiking boots. Here we go.

Counselors and Confidants

source: dmcordell via Flickr
source: dmcordell via Flickr

Ahithophel was the king’s counselor.
Hushai the Arkite was the king’s confidant.

1 Chronicles 27:33 (NIV)

Along life’s journey I have had many counselors. Many were trained professionals and I paid for their services. Many were personal friends or relatives with wisdom and a willingness to listen when I needed to bend their ear; Those whom I trusted to provide me sage advice.

I have also had close friends and associates who have been confidants along the journey. These were not necessarily the same a counselors, though some were and are both. A confidant is a person whom I can entrust to know, keep and safely protect personal information and possessions – though I may not be looking for their counsel or advice with those things.

As I read the verse above, I meditated on the fact that each of us need good counselors and good confidants for our respective life journeys. Some may be with us for a lifetime, some for a small stretch of the sojourn, but they each play an important role in our story. Some, as in the case of Ahithophel, may prove to be unworthy of our trust. Ahithophel sided with David’s son Absalom in his plot to overthrow David, and committed suicide when the plot did not succeed. It’s a reminder to be wise in our choices of who we trust. I have my own tragic stories of confidences betrayed, though I choose to let those things go. I have enough to struggle with each day without adding on-going bitterness and animosity to the pile.

This morning I am thinking through the names and faces of those who have been my trustworthy counselors and confidants over the years and how blessed I have been to have each of them in my life.

Spiritual Arteriosclerosis

Schematic of a transplanted heart with native ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way? 1 Samuel 6:6 (NLT)

The events described in the past few chapters occurred some 400 years after the Israelites were delivered from their captivity in Egypt. How fascinating that the events of the Exodus were well known to Israel’s neighbors hundreds of years later. Not only were they aware that the events happened, but they knew the story of the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. The pagan priests of the Philistines knew the story, and believed the story, well enough to warn their own leaders against making Pharaoh’s mistake.

There is a consistent theme in God’s Message of people being afflicted with spiritual arteriosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries. Pharaoh had it. The Philistines warned against it. Solomon warned of it’s consequences in his proverbs. Belshazzar was afflicted with it in Daniel’s day. The prophet Zechariah warned the people of Israel against the condition.  Jesus said that many did not understand His parables because of the spiritual hardness of their hearts and later chastised many in the throng of those who followed him because of the condition. Paul warned in his letter to the Jesus followers in Ephesus that the condition leads to darkened understanding and continued separation from God.

Thank God there is a cure. The prophet Ezekiel wrote that God desires to perform a spiritual heart transplant on each of us. When we enter into a relationship with Jesus and receive Holy Spirit into our hearts He takes away our “heart of stone” and gives us “a heart of flesh.” It’s actually a simple procedure. Better yet, it’s totally free to us because God paid for the operation Himself. All you have to do is agree to it.

Our culture is well aware of the risks of heart disease and cardiac health. Today, I’m thinking both about the condition of my physical heart, but also my spiritual one. As long as I sojourn in this life, I want my spiritual heart free of the plaque that builds up over time and slowly reduced the life flowing in me. Even as my body ages and fails, I want my spiritual heart pumping life in and through me.

A Unique City in All the World

Photo I took from the window of my hotel overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem.
Photo I took from the window of my hotel overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem.

Regarding Jerusalem it will be said,
    “Everyone enjoys the rights of citizenship there.”
    And the Most High will personally bless this city.
Psalm 87:5 (NLT)

Jerusalem is one of the most fascinating places on earth. It was true when the descendants of Korah penned the lyrics of today’s Psalm, and it is still true today. The Old City which lies at the heart of modern Jerusalem is sectioned into four “quarters.” There is a Jewish quarter, a Muslim quarter, a Christian quarter and an Armenian quarter. Within the old city is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which the traditional site believed to be the empty tomb of Jesus. The Church is controlled by different groups  including Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox who share responsibility for it.

When I visited Jerusalem ten years ago the famous Dome of the Rock was closed to tourists by the Muslim authorities who control it. Me and my fellow travelers wanted to see if we could get in to see it. For that, we had to talk to the Muslim authorities in a building just outside the entrance. Before we could talk to the Muslim authorities we had to get permission of the Israeli security officers outside. One of the Israeli security officers, as it turned out, was one of the few Christians who served in that position. As it turned out, we were not given permission to enter the Dome of the Rock, but we were escorted to the roof of the building and permitted to look out over the grounds for a few short (and admittedly tense) minutes.

Different nationalities, different cultures, and different faiths all claim Jerusalem home. It is just as the descendants of Korah pointed out almost 2500 years ago. It is a unique city in all the world and the setting  of many of the most climactic events in God’s story.

This morning, I am reminiscent of so many good memories. As I wrote this post I was reminded of Psalm 122:6: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And, so I shall.

 

Questions for the Sojourn

Hiker near Chiginagak Volcano
Hiker near Chiginagak Volcano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many years have you lived?” So Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning.” Genesis 47:8-9 (NASB)

Anyone who reads more than a few of my chapter-a-day posts knows that I regularly speak of life as a sojourn and a journey just as Jacob did with Pharaoh. I’m often asked about the name of my blog, Wayfarer, which simply means “someone on a journey.” In fact, one of the translations I read of the above verses this morning used the world “pilgrimage” instead of “sojourn,” which I also liked.

We are all on a life journey. Life is a sojourn. It is a pilgrimage.

So the questions I regularly ask myself are…

  • What direction am I headed?
  • What am I leaving behind?
  • What am I trying to take with me that I should be letting go?
  • What is my ultimate destination?
  • Is there a better road for me to take?
  • Have I chosen good companions? Do they spur me on or do they hold me back?