To many extents, this just follows on (in a less wordy, theological way) from yesterday’s longer post. But sometimes getting a big picture does a different thing from seeing something up close. I remember standing on top of some of Europe’s tallest cliffs and thinking that really they weren’t anything amazing. Until I zoomed in with my camera on a large sea bird wheeling around in the air 100m below, and saw just how small it was.
A moment of realisation.
And that’s where travel experience can sometimes stir the imagination to greater degrees than the experience of simply reading Scripture and hearing God speak. To the person who has never seen snow or knows nothing of the concept, reading “your sins though red like scarlet shall be white as snow” probably doesn’t mean that much.
And so it is with desert wandering. If you’ve never been in a desert, it’s hard to fully appreciate how easy it is to “grumble like an Israelite” (see Numbers). Now I don’t think most of these things will radically alter anything we believe (I’m not sure anything extra-Biblical ever has, or will), but they may affect the depth of appreciation we have for God, His word and His world.
When you’ve spent a night in the desert in a pop-up tent, or walked a gruelling day without seeing anything but sand around you, or driven a day in a car that isn’t designed for desert driving and that is fast running out of petrol (so much so that you turn off the air conditioning, just to preserve fuel), then you can start to imagine what walking purposeless days on end must have been like for the Israelites.
Discipline for continually doubting God’s good purposes, even after He had rescued them from slavery in special ways. For 40 years they wandered the desert, until the next generation were prepared to accept that God might just have a future for them, as well as a past redemptive narrative.