Day 73: Judges 12-15; Sampson (part 1)

After some a rather turbulent story continuing from yesterday’s adventures with Jephthah, we are brought to what I would consider to be the most well known, and longest story of the judges, Sampson.  Reading about the birth of Sampson, I was struck by some of the familiarity between the foretelling of His birth and the foretelling of Jesus’ birth.  An angel of the Lord appears to Sampson’s mother, and then later to His father.  They don’t necessarily understand what is going on, but they are willing to serve the Lord.  One thing that the angel says about Sampson is that he is to be a Nazirite.  This label and the promise that comes along with it takes us back to Numbers 6 with the explanation of the Nazirite vow.

The angel does a pretty good job of explaining all that comes along with this, but the gist of it is that anyone who takes the Nazirite vow cannot drink any wine, vinegar, or anything from grapes, the Nazirite cannot cut his hair, and he cannot go anywhere near dead body.  This vow is largely a part of the Holiness codes that were talked about in Leviticus and Numbers.  He is to be set apart for the Lord, in a way totally different from the people of Israel.

So as we walk through the story of Sampson we read that the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him at many times to do the will of God and perform miraculous wonders.  God always seems to be with him, giving him great strength and abilities.  What is interesting though, as we read about Sampson is the path that He takes… He is arguably the most controversial judge as well.

As a Nazirite he is not supposed to go near a dead body.  Yet Sampson kills thousands.  He even eats the honey out of a honeycomb found in the carcass of a lion that he killed.  And God was still with him…

As an Israelite he married a Philistine, an outsider forbidden by the Law.  And God was still with him…  God still cares for and provides for him!  His Spirit stays with Sampson and His will is worked through Sampson.

All of these narratives speak to the nature of God, and tell us things about His character.  What do you think this says about God?

Day 71: Judges 6-8; Gideon

Apart from the story of Sampson, Gideon would probably be considered one of the greatest, or at least most well known of the judges.  His story and all that goes with it are the subject of many Sunday School lessons about testing and trusting in God.  There are many facets to the story when we look at it from those angels, but again in this story I think we need to take a step back and look first at where God is in all of this, and how He acts for the people of Israel.

We read first that the Lord visits Gideon by way of an angel and the Gideon doesn’t recognize it until after a rather obvious sign is given to him.  After this sign, the meal he has prepared bursting into flames, Gideon still questions and tests God, just to make sure.  He kind of reminds me of another great leader of Israel that we had been talking about, Moses.  Even after being given signs and the promises of God Himself, still neither one of these men are willing to outright trust God.  Moses resisted so much that God became angry with him, Gideon tests God up to the hours and minutes prior to their attack.  Though I have to give Gideon some credit, he was still willing to go to the camp of his enemy with only 300 people, down from an army of 32,000.  However, it wasn’t until the he heard from the mouth of his enemy that the Lord was going to give the Midianites into the hands of Israel did he have the courage to face them.  I wonder what would have happened if he had heard this and then had to wait a day or two before he attacked.  Would his confidence have waned again?  Who knows…

In all this though, we really haven’t talked about God’s place in this story.  God shows up very clearly at the beginning, being present and hearing the cries of the people of Israel in their oppression.  God reminds them through a prophet of the covenant that they made and how they had broken it.  Yet once again He doesn’t leave them in their misery but raises up a great Judge, albeit a reluctant one.  God goes ever before them, preparing the enemy for defeat before Gideon even arrives, much less when he attacks.  God answers very clearly the challenge of Gideon’s father when he suggests that the people, angered by the breaking of baal’s alter (which they had no right or reason to have in the first place), that baal should contend for himself, if indeed he is a god.  And finally, the Lord is with Gideon and the people of Israel after their defeat giving rest to the Land even when the people “whore” after the ephod that Gideon creates.

Once again we see the true nature of God revealed in this story.  Though He punishes the people of Israel for their sins, God is not unmerciful or unforgiving.  He once again upholds His side of the covenant, a relationship that is kept from God’s side despite the continual unfaithfulness of Israel.  This is the true nature of God’s faithfulness and unconditional love, that even when Israel walks away God remains steadfast and unchanging in His commitment to His people.  He truly is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love!

Day 70: Judges 4-5; Not for your Glory

As I said yesterday, some of these stories would are familiar while others are not… but many of them are graphic.  Tent peg to skull is surely not a way that I’d like to die.  However, I think this particular story is familiar for several reasons:  it is, to my knowledge, the only account of a female judge in the Bible and it is one of the more unique ways that the oppressor is killed.

Even with that in mind, I think that this story should gain its fame not from the judge, but from her testimony of the God that has empowered her.  She says to Barak, after getting him to agree to attack the overwhelmingly powerful force of Sisera and the Canaanite army, that though the victory would be won, the glory would not be his but would go to God.  As the story continues, where do we see God?  He goes before the people of Israel and He routes the army of the Canaanites so that they are destroyed to the last man.  All of what has happened here, Israel’s victory and the rest that would come to the land, was because of God.

Again we see His faithfulness in keeping the covenant with Israel.  He punishes them for the evil that they do, yet He hears their cries and has mercy on them in their time of need.  This is the cycle of the judges, back and forth again we will go.  It is important to see where God is in all of this.  It can look like He is absent or even mean, but these narratives tell us so much more about God and His faithfulness.  As we have seen and will continue to see, Israel is completely incapable of holding up their end of the covenant.  They broke it on the first day that they had received it with that Golden Calf.  Here again, and again and again they continue to break the covenant.  By the terms stated, God had every right to walk away and leave them in their punishment, but He doesn’t and He won’t.

Like a parent disciplining their children, so too does God discipline Israel using the power of other nations.  Yet like a loving parent, discipline does not mean that there is no longer love, and it is only for a time.  Interestingly, God upholds both ends of the covenant, becoming in Himself and His power, the means for the people of Israel to turn back to Him.  God knows that the people are sinful and He knows that because of our sin and our rebellion we wouldn’t choose Him if it were left up to us.  And even if we did, He knows that we wouldn’t ever be able to sustain that choice in our lives.  Which is why God has to take the initiative, He has to act first.  And this is what He does for Israel, providing a judge and the power to defeat their enemies and thus draw the people back to Him.

This is what He has done for us as well, even when we were lost in our sins.  Ephesians 2 tells us that we were dead in our sins and transgressions, and yet God, because He is rich in mercy, sent His Son to die for us.  We wander, all the time, like the people of Israel.  Yet God has taken the initiative for us too, providing a sacrifice for our sins!  He has kept His covenant and continues to be faithful to His people now and forever.

Day 67: Joshua 19-21; Conquest of Canaan: The Inheritance (Part 2)

“Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there.  And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands.  Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”

And so it is done.  The inheritance of the land has been divided up and the people have gone to take possession of it.  Each tribe has received their lot, their cities, and their promise.  I don’t know if you caught it, but even in this there was some trouble with the natives when the tribe of Dan went to take their possession.  However, even then, God was faithful and the usurpers were wiped out and the land possessed.

We read in here too, according to the law that we had read in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, that the people set up “cities of refuge” for people to flee to.  These were safe-havens for Hebrews and Gentiles alike, in which people that were accused of something could flee to as a way of protecting themselves.  They could stay there until the due process of law had taken its course at which time the person would either be found guilty or innocent.  If they were innocent, they could stay in the city.  If they were guilty… well… not so much.  They would be stoned in the valley outside of the city that was usually reserved for trash, waist of all sorts, and other assorted things of an unclean nature.

Also, according to the Law, the Levites who did not receive an inheritance (because God is their inheritance) were given towns to dwell in.  Remember with me that the Levites were chosen for service at the Tabernacle, service to the priests and to the worship of God.  This is a direct result of their response to Moses during the Golden Calf incident when we are told, they were the only ones that stood up for the Lord.  They, therefore, were not given land, but cities in which they could dwell and pastures in which they could graze their flocks.

This returns us again to the verse we began with.  This is not necessarily a passage of Scripture that we read and see God very clearly acting.  Yet, in the Bible, God is the primary actor, the primary character… always at work in the world, which is why this last verse is so important:

“Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there.  And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands.  Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”

It was not the people of Israel who made their own peace, it was the Lord that gave the land to them, it was the Lord that gave them what He promised, it was the Lord that gave them rest on every side and peace in their time.  It was the Lord that had given all their enemies into their hands… and it was the Lord that completely fulfilled all of His promises to the people of Israel.  It all begins, happens, and ends with God.

Day 66: Joshua 15-18; Conquest of Canaan: The Inheritance (Part 1)

Today’s reading is not necessarily a thrilling one, I know… lots of names of cities and demarcation of boarders.  Here, for the third day in a row, is a map from Visual Unit that might give you some idea as to what the allotment of the land looked like.

Plan for the Promised Land


This map shows some of the cities that are used in the descriptions we read in these chapters.

There are, however, multiple parts of this reading that talk about how “the Israelites did not drive them out” and “they lived among them as forced labor.”  I want to point these sections out to you today and tomorrow because these people that Israel allows to dwell among them against the expressed command of God, are the people that continue to cause trouble for them throughout the whole of Israel’s future.  From the Philistines to the Canaanites that are left among them, we will meet these people again and again in the time of the judges and in the time of the Kings as well.  Here are some notable groups still living among them:

15:63 – “the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the people of Judah could not drive out, so the Jebusites dwell with the people of Judah at Jerusalem to this day.”  These will not be vanquished until the time of King David.

16:10 – “ However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.”  These would also remain here until the time of King David.  We also see at the end of chapter 17 that the people of Ephriam and Manasseh do not go down and take care of these peoples because they are afraid of them.  It is hard to believe that, after all they have accomplished, they are afraid of a anyone at all.

While I would hesitate to condense this down into some pithy moral teaching, I think it is important to note here that the people of God did a great deal of work and followed the Lord in this whole time of conquest.  However, they didn’t finish the job.  In fact, Scripture tells us that the people of God were content to live in the hill country, which was much more like living in the wilderness, rather than going down and taking the land that God had given to them.  How sad it is that, really, the total conquest of Canaan is more than 100 years off yet.  God is faithful to His people though, even though this oversight will cost them repeatedly for many years to come.  Oh what things they could have avoided if they had just finished the task.  I wonder what this says to us though?  I think to myself right now, what things has God called me to in my life that I have only done a halfway job of?  I wonder what life would be like if I pursued them until they were finished?

Day 65: Joshua 11-14; Conquest of Canaan: The Northern Campaign

So continues the saga of the conquest of Canaan.  After defeating the southern kings, Joshua returns to Gilgal and then starts off on the northern front.  This map, from Bible Mapper shows pretty well the conquest of the northern Canaan.


Joshua and the people of Israel, with the Lord fighting for them, are able to defeat the united armies of the North.  All the kings that joined together against the people of Israel are vanquished in one battle.  Joshua takes their cities and destroys them, and they pass into the list we read of the conquests of Moses and Joshua.  This map from show briefly the whole of the conquest of the Promised Land.

Conquest of Canaan

There is a troubling part in today’s reading that I am not entirely sure about.  God comes to Joshua and says that there is still land to be conquered.  Then God goes on to say that He will drive them out.  The next thing we hear is that the land is being divided up.  God’s statement is somewhat ambiguous in that He speaks like He has been speaking when the people of Israel were conquering Canaan, and they the people don’t follow and, what we’ll find out fairly soon, the rest of the Canaanites don’t get removed from the land and continue to live among the people of Israel.  This is something that was expressly forbidden.  God knew that if there were people left, they would draw the people of Israel away from Him… it confuses me as to why they are left and allowed to stay.

However, this is what happens and will be the subject of many narratives to come from Judges through the time of the Kings and beyond.  In the mean time, the land receives rest from war and the people of God receive their inheritance.  God has once again shown Himself to be faithful and true to His word, even if the fulfillment of the promise take over 400 years.  God has grown the people of Israel from 1 man and his wife to a nation easily numbering over a million men, women, and children, and given them a bountiful, plentiful land in which to dwell as His people.

Day 64: Joshua 8-10; Conquest of Canaan: The Southern Campaign

I think that, on occasion, it is helpful to use maps to help gain a perspective on what is going on in this story.  The first map, from Believer’s Magazine shows how Canaan looked prior to the Conquest by Joshua and Israel:

Canaan at the time of Conquest

Though this doesn’t give a us a really good idea of where Israel starts off, it does show fairly accurately where scholars believe the different people groups lived.

We enter back  into the story post-AI defeat.  After a time it seems, God comes to Joshua and gives him a little kick to get going.  The people of Israel have punished the offender and have stayed the wrath of God against them.  And God says “alright, time to go to work.  I’m fighting for you.”  So Joshua devises a plan and goes after AI, which is “devoted to destruction” like Jericho.  Some of the imagery used in these stories is graphic, people being hung on a tree and so on… this makes it difficult to read.  I wonder though if this imagery seems familiar to you?

Way back in Genesis 15, God is promising Abraham the land of Canaan, but is not going to deliver on this promise until now?  This is because, as God says, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”  Here, now, we see the punishment they are receiving for their sins.  God is using the nation of Israel as an instrument of His justice toward the people of Canaan because of their sin and idolatry.  (This is foreshadowing as it will happen to Israel later on).  That being, as we learned in Deuteronomy 21, any man that is hanged on a tree is cursed.  Do you remember anyone else in the Bible that was “hung on a tree?”  Indeed these kings were punished for their sinfulness and cursed in their death.  Jesus Christ was guiltless and yet still died a sinner’s death, taking on that curse for us.

Another thing that is notable here today is the deception of the Gibeonites.  Scripture tells us that neither Israel nor Joshua sought the Lord in this time of questioning and, as such, the people enter into a covenant with a people they were meant to destroy.  This stand in direct violation with the task to which God has appointed them.  And, oddly enough, God remains decided silent on this whole subject.  What that means, I’m not entirely sure…

Finally, we precede to the Southern Campaign of the Conquest of Canaan.  It seems to go off without a hitch.  The people are in right standing with God and it is clear by how God blesses them in their efforts, even stopping the sun at some point for them, an act which defies the very laws of nature, yet does not defy the power of God.  The following is a map of the Southern Campaign from a website called Bible Mapper.  After defeating all of the kings of these cities, Joshua goes and takes them, sacks them, and utterly destroys them, according to the will and command of God.

Conquest of Canaan: Southern Campaign

Day 63: Joshua 5-7; Obedience and Disobedience

It’s nice to be into an area of the Bible with familiar stories again.  The battles of Jericho and AI are probably the most familiar in the conquest of Canaan.  Our reading today is a narrative that directly comes from four(ish) particular passages that we have already read this year regarding the life of Israel and their living at God commanded them.

1.  Circumcision/Passover:  Joshua 5 happens right after the Israelites have crossed the Jordan River.  Scripture tells us that the hearts of the people in the land melted because God had dried up the river.  Like the Egyptians, the people of Canaan worshiped many gods, one of which probably had something to do with water.  God’s showing of power here would have been a sign that the God of Israel was stronger than this god.  When they have crossed the river, the chapter says that they all perform the act of circumcision.  Scripture explains that none of the children were circumcised as they were wandering in the wilderness, but if we remember back to Abraham in Genesis 17, we will know that the sign of the covenant relationship between Israel and God is circumcision.  As the people have now been, in a way, baptized, they once again recommit themselves to the Lord performing a sign that they belong to God.  Scripture also tells us that rather than going up immediately and taking Jericho, they spend time (7 days) encamped across the Jordan celebrating the Passover.  If you remember back to Exodus 12, God commands the people of Israel always to remember the Passover on the 14th day of the 1st month.  Joshua 4 says that Israel crossed over on the 10th day of the first month, after which they were immediately circumcised, healed for 3 days, and the celebrated the Passover.  That’s a whole lot of remembering and being re-membered, or once again claiming their identity as God’s people in one week.

2. Obedience (Jericho):  The Battle of Jericho, apart from being a miraculous victory that is attributable to none other that God, is a narrative about the blessings and victory that are found when the people of Israel obey God.  You see in this story that there is no disobedience, the people do as they are told, and everything goes right.  If we remember back to Leviticus 26 or Deuteronomy 28 we see that there are specific blessings that the Lord lays out for the people of Israel when they obey him.  The Battle of Jericho is a narrative that remembers all the good that comes from obedience as well as the faithfulness and power of God.

3. Disobedience (AI):  The Battle of AI is, in stark contrast to Jericho, a narrative about what happens when the people are disobedient.  Remembering once again Leviticus 26 or Deuteronomy 28 there are also lists of specific curses that will come with disobedience.  Where the people found victory in the Lord at Jericho, they met with the defeat of themselves at AI.  Sad as it may be, the sin of one person reflects on the whole community, which may not seem fair to us, but is none-the-less true in this situation.  The anger of the Lord “burns against the people of Israel” because of Achan. and until he is punished for his sin there will be no blessing for obedience.  Again, this is one more way that God is teach the people of Israel about the need for obedience, and showing them what it truly means to have their identity in Him as His people.  They are to be holy ans He is Holy, which cannot be accomplished or realized if even one has sinned and disobeyed the command of God.

Day 62: Joshua 1-4; Crossing the Jordan

I can’t believe that it’s already been two months since we began this journey!  We’ve made it through the first 5 books of the Bible, commonly known as the “Torah” or the “Pentateuch.”  These books are classified as the books of the Law.  We are passing now into the realm of the books of history, from Joshua through Ester.  You will probably note fairly quickly that these books are marked by a rather different writing structure: Narrative… mostly.  A rather large portion of the coming books are the retelling of Israel’s history from the time after Moses through to times of the Exile.  They are not all in Chronological order, and later when we get into the prophets, we’ll jump around as far as the timeline is concerned.  We’ll do our best to make sense of all that while also allowing the Scripture to work on us and speak to us through the Holy Spirit.  Every one of these narratives is not simply a story, but tells us about God, as He is the main character in the Bible.  Be sure to pay attention to how God acts, even if it is not expressly stated.  As you read narrative, look for God… continually ask yourself, “where is God in this reading?”  The picture below is Christoph Unterberger’s depiction of the Crossing of the Jordan.  I found it on The State hermitage Museum website.  Notice where God is in this painting.  I think it is a powerful image of the power of God at work in this story.

Notice where God is in this painting.

Notice where God is in this painting.

So now we have entered into the book of Joshua.  Moses has just died and the there’s a new sheriff in town.  God waists no time in telling Joshua what to do next.  Once again He promises to be with Joshua and the people of Israel, to go before them and deliver the land and the people of Canaan into their hands.  This is quite evident in how God immediately provides for the people of Israel in two very specific ways.

First, the ordeal with the two spies and Rahab.  This is likely a familiar story to most people, especially if you ever heard the story of the Battle of Jericho before.  Yet I think that there are a few lesser known parts of this story that perhaps need to be brought to light.  Do you find it interesting that the only action taken by the spies that is recorded for us is that they go right to the house of a prostitute?  Men from the people of God, the holy ones set apart to be a “kingdom of priests” go right to a prostitute.  Well, giving them the benefit of the doubt, in many pagan cultures of that time, these prostitutes worked as a sort of ‘welcoming party’ to visitors.  They also often ran ‘inns,’ or more appropriately, had places for travelers to sleep.  It is very interesting to me though to look at how God chose to use this prostitute, working through her to protect the spies.  I doubt that anyone from Israel would be overly thrilled to enter into the promised land if their two spies were killed right off the bat.  God uses this woman, and later on, because of her obedience to Him, incorporates her into the people of God and, get this… into the lineage of King David and thus Jesus Christ as well!  What a wonder that God would use such a lowly, sinful person we might say… but then again God always upholds the least, last, and lost in the world.  So, for anyone who is keeping track, the lineage of David, and Jesus now includes Tamar, the tricky daughter-in-law of Judah turned prostitute of Genesis 38, and now Rahab the Prostitute as well.  God clearly can use anyone which shows us that we shouldn’t be looking down on anyone for any reason.  For more information on this, you can see Matthew 1 for Jesus’ genealogy.

The other thing about this particular reading that might seem vaguely familiar is the narrative of Israel crossing into the land of Canaan.  Like their escape from Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, God once again has stopped up the waters of a route that couldn’t be crossed so that His people can cross on dry ground.  If you remember reading the crossing of the Red Sea post, the crossing of a body of water is very symbolic and carries a great deal of meaning and foreshadowing in it.  We liken this event to Baptism, the going down into the water and rising up as a new individual, washed of the old self and rejuvenated, with a new identity.  From Slaves to Free, from Wanderers to a Nation.  And this time they do something a bit different.  Remember that, when Israel passed through the Red Sea, they were told to remember this event and they were reminded of it time and again in the last 40 years.  Here they set up 12 standing stones, a memorial reminder for all who see it.  As chapter 4 says,

“When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’  then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.”

Do you remember your Baptism?  If you were baptized as an infant it is likely that you don’t.  But I’d be willing to bet that you’ve seen others baptized since then.  At Overisel, we practice infant baptism.  It is a sign and seal of the covenant relationship between God and His people.  It is a sign that we are included into this covenant through no merit of our own, even before we know anything about it.  People say that it is a shame that we don’t remember our own Baptism.  While I would agree that it would be nice to remember the event of my baptism, I also would say that we have the opportunity to remember our own baptism every time we worship.  We keep the Baptismal font in a visible place every Sunday to remind us of our Baptism.  We publicly Baptize new babies and new believers, not just because its a nice ceremony, but so that we can remember our own Baptism.  These are our standing stones, our physical way of remembering that we have gone through the waters and are included in the Covenant, made new in Jesus Christ.  And it is to this that we can attest when our children ask ‘what does baptism mean?’

For more on the meaning of Baptism and the RCA’s stance on this sacrament, please visit the RCA webpage: what is baptism?  I’d love to interact around this topic too if anyone has any questions!

Day 60: Deuteronomy 30-31; A Matter of Life and Death

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”

There is so much that is said in these last 5 chapters of Deuteronomy.  This really is Moses farewell address; his last effort to impress upon the people of Israel the importance of the Law and of following God.  Reading this, it doesn’t take long to realize either that this section of Scripture, Deuteronomy 30-34, is inextricably linked to the reading of the Law, and specifically the Shema of Deuteronomy 6.  It is about loving the Lord with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength!  God is impressing upon the people what will happen to them if they don’t, but also reassuring them that when they return to Him, His blessing will again be with them.

Again, the distinction is made between the life that comes from following the Lord and the death that comes from not.  These words, spoken some 3000 years ago have held their meaning throughout the ages.  I think of my own life, when I am following God, loving Him as best I can, and trying to stay in tune with Him in my life, I see myself being happier, joyful, and prospering (not necessarily in a monetary sense but within my soul).  When I become disconnected from God, life seems empty and messed up.  Other things try to fill the void that is left to no avail.

God also impresses one more thing on to this command, the point that these things are not too lofty or difficult to do.  He points out that they are not difficult to understand, with some hidden knowledge that people might not be able to comprehend.  It is made clear too that the things being asked of them are not too difficult that some might be unable to accomplish them.  The life that God calls us to live is made abundantly available to us in a manner that is easy and understandable, attainable for all people.  And yet, even this is not enough to get us to God or to get us in right standing with God.  The physical actions must be accompanied by inward transformation (circumcision of the heart).

These people have just come from the wilderness, a place that is often barren and desolate.  The wilderness is a powerful image in Hebrew Scripture.  “Wilderness signals the reversal of creation, a land that moves from the centered, ordered, predictable, secure places of home and city to the de-centered, chaotic, unpredictable, fragile, and sometimes hostile regions beyond the borders of cities and outside the purview of home.  Wilderness features a transition from that which is familiar to that which is unfamiliar, from safety to fragility, from known to unknown, from structured to unstructured, from close cloistered spaces to wide open spaces. The wilderness strips you of everything superfluous and reduces you to that which is most essential, most necessary, most vital for life. In this way the wilderness plays an indispensable role in shaping and forming identity.”  -Travis West

God intentionally led the people of Israel into the wilderness and kept them there for a time, intentionally stripping them of their identity of being slaves to Egypt.  In that time they were re-identified as the people of God, given new purpose through the Laws set down for them.  It is only after this process is “complete” that they were allowed to enter into the promise land… allowed to become what they were intended to be.

In many ways we too face the wilderness in our lives.  In the year of this writing, we are currently in the time of Lent.  This is a time in which we are invited to enter into the wilderness of life, as Israel and Jesus did, to be stripped bare of all those things we don’t need.  We are to be un-identified with all the things that we would use to find our identity in, and then re-identified and re-centered on Christ.  In a way, we choose to be “dis-membered” so that as we approach the time of Easter and remember the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday, we can come and be “re-membered” in Christ as we remember Christ’s death.  And even in this time we hear the words of God through Moses echo in our ears, “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.”

May it be that we choose Life!