Tag Archives: Wilderness

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.

Peace Amidst the Crazy

WildernessOnce again David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him….
1 Samuel 23:4 (NIV)

The story of the outlaw David and King Saul continues. Saul and the army of Israel are on the march looking for David and his rag tag contingent of outcasts. In chapter 22 David had about 400 men, in today’s chapter his numbers had grown to about 600. Whenever there is good intelligence of David’s whereabouts Saul goes after him. David and his men are constantly on the move, camping out from place to place in the remote areas of Judah like the picture in this post. He even wrote a song about this specific period of time. It’s known today as Psalm 54. I would give it a better title like “Backroad Blues.”

Beneath the story line, we continue to see an underlying theme of contrast between David and Saul. Consider that in today’s chapter we find David constantly looking to God for guidance:

  • [David] inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” (vs 2)
  • Once again David inquired of the Lord (vs 4)
  • [David asked ] “Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.” (vs 11)
  • Again David asked [God], “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?” (vs 12)

Even the song David wrote at this moment in time has, as it’s central lyric, a clear expression of David’s reliance on God’s provision:

Surely God is my help;
    the Lord is the one who sustains me

Contrast this with Saul who continues to go his own way. He seeks out spies. He depends on rumors. He seeks out any solid intelligence he can gather about David’s whereabouts. The one thing that that we never read is, “and Saul inquired of the Lord.”

As I look back across my own life journey, I can see God’s hand at work guiding my path. As I have written on more than one occasion, I am nowhere near the place in life I had envisioned when I set out on this faith journey 35 years ago. And yet, all along the way I have actively sought divine guidance in choosing my path. Even my restless wanderings from the straight and narrow path included many conversations with God. I am thoroughly convinced that I am right in the place where I am supposed to be, though I don’t have the time nor space in this blog post to share all of the reasons for my assurance. Buy me a cup of coffee or a beer sometime and I’ll be happy to tell you my stories.

Today, I am reminded of the person I wish to be. I wish to be a person of simple and active faith like David. It’s doesn’t always lead to comfortable places or situations, but I have found that it always leads to a place of inner peace amidst stressful circumstance. I would rather be on the run, hiding in the caves of En Gedi with the assurance of God’s presence, then living in a comfortable palace without Him.

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 11

Wilderness These are the chiefs of David's Mighty Men, the ones who linked arms with him as he took up his kingship, with all Israel joining in, helping him become king in just the way God had spoken regarding Israel. 1 Chronicles 11:10 (MSG)

Great leaders aren't great leaders without great followers.
Great followers are made when a leader earns their devotion.

The prophet, Samuel, anointed David as God's choice for king when David was just a young boy. David did not ascend the throne of Israel until he was 40. Between his being anointed king and his ascension to the throne, an epic story unfolds. After his initial headline grabbing defeat of Goliath, David's rise to fortune and fame was short lived. King Saul, jealous of David's popularity and God's favor on him, puts a price on David's head. David spends the better part of 20 years on the run living in caves in the desert with a rag-tag band of warriors and mercenaries.

It was in the Judean desert that God prepared David for the throne. It was in the wilderness that David became a great leader. As he and his men scratched out a living and hid from Saul's army, David earned the respect and devotion of his men. A select group of highly gifted warriors rose from the ranks. Like comic book heroes, the Mighty Men became legendary and helped David inherit the promise God made to him in his youth.

Life's journey has its share of stretches through the desert and wanderings through the wilderness. They are difficult paths to walk and they often seem endless. Nevertheless, they acheive God's purposes for us. They prepare us for what God has in store down the road. They prove us and refine us. They develop maturity and wholeness. King David would never have been King David unless he'd spent half of his life in the desert earning the respect of the men who were single-heartedly devoted to him.

Press on. There's a reason you find yourself in a difficult place.

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 2

Wilderness wandering. Pharaoh heard about it and tried to kill Moses, but Moses got away to the land of Midian. He sat down by a well. Exodus 2:15 (MSG)

It's amazing to think about how much story can be crammed into one verse; how much life experience can be condensed into two short sentences.

Moses, the "chosen one" now stripped of every luxurious blessing that was afforded him as an adopted son of Pharaoh. Moses, the murderer. Moses, the man on Egypt's "Most Wanted" list. Moses, the man on the lam. Moses, the rich and famous member of the King's household now alone, broke, and homeless in the barren wastelands.

How often do we find God's people alone in the wilderness? Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden, and flung into the wilderness outside. Abraham leaving his comfortable home to become a nomadic wanderer. The nation of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 years in search of the Promised Land. David, anointed king of Israel, flees from Saul into the wilderness of Judah and waits almost 30 years before ascending to the throne. Elijah, the triumphant prophet, flees into the wilderness in fear for his life. John the Baptist, preaching repentance from his desert pulpit. Jesus, led into the wilderness for 40 days of testing and temptation.

Life's road leads us all to barren places. The wilderness is an unavoidable stretch of the journey for any who desire to follow in Jesus' footsteps. You don't learn about perseverance in Pharoah's palace. The lifestyles of the rich and famous do little to build the necessary character qualities God desires from His disciples. Purity is acheived in the refining fire. Maturity is found on the journey through the hinterlands.

And, you never know what divine appointment God has for you when you stop at the well for a drink.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Hamed

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