To endure pain, heat, shock, all of the desert hardships, all of the agonies of life–to endure.”
“It was no place for a fellow who didn’t have a lot of sand in his craw and a boundless store of hope in his heart.”
Have you ever traveled in the wilderness? Even in the security of one’s care the terribleness can be seen and felt. It may come from oppressive heat, the ruggedness of the topography, or the vastness of the solitude. Leave the car and begin to travel on foot, and the former thoughts deepen and can almost overwhelm. Gaze into the vast canyons and gorges, stare into the heat waves as they float above the desert floor, behold the awesome grandeur of the majestic peaks as they push through the clouds. The dreadful solitude of nature looms over you as you move about in it.
The wilderness may suggest danger, it may also beckon you to come to it. Moses is requesting that the Israelites enter so they can offer sacrifices to God. There is more truth here than meets the eye. The wilderness demands attentiveness and sacrifice, diligence and solitariness, endurance and fulfillment. To enter the wasteland of the wilderness may be to die to self so that you may live unto God. Maybe that is the illusion that Paul leaves in Romans 12:1-2, to become, now, a living sacrifice.
I have pondered over and over why they had to go to the wilderness to meet with God and offer His sacrifice there. Could they not have done this in the safety of Egypt? Maybe it was because they could not properly meet with God in that location. Possibly the atmosphere “of the world” would be a great hindrance to them; that part of worship required them to come apart and be separate. That thought alone should make us wonder why we now use the tools of the world in our worship.
One more thought for today. It is important to remember that their leader was a man of the wilderness. Moses knew life there. He knew what it was to meet God in the wasteland, the desert, the rocky crags of the mountains. Could it possibly be that to really come to know God a person must face the same perils as Moses, a wanderer of the wasteland?
“They will pay heed to what you say; and you with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt and you will say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.'”
–Exodus 3:18 (NASB)