Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hazy Horizons

Day 4: Central Transjordan: Medeba Plateau, Moab
Sites visited: Kir-hareshath, Arnon River Valley, Dibon, Medeba, Mt. Nebo

This morning I woke up in Kir-hareshath (modern-day Kerak), next to a Crusader castle! Last night, Ashleigh, Naomi, and I walked around the town after dinner, popping into stores to chat with shopkeepers. I have been continually impressed with how friendly and talkative the Jordanians are.

Of course, the first thing we did this morning was explore the Kerak Castle. Cold desert wind caused us to huddle close together whenever we stopped for a lecture, and Dr. Wright reminded us that this desert land reaches over 120ยบ F in the summer yet also plummets below freezing in the winter. To live in this desolate land, people must develop strong survival skills. Interestingly, the Bible often speaks of the desert wilderness as being a place where true wisdom is found. For instance, this is the land of Job, who learned after his testing here, confessed to the Lord: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (42:2).

From there we headed to Medeba and Dibon, where we discussed several Biblical events: Elimelech and Naomi (Ruth), Ehud and King Eglon (Judges 8), and Mesha’s rebellion (2 Kings 3). At Medeba we also saw the famous map on the floor of the Greek Orthodox church.

Finally, we headed to our last stop of the last field study: Mount Nebo. This is where Moses stood with the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land after forty years of wandering in the wilderness. During their time in the desert, God had given them “skills for living”—Torah—and they had grown in true wisdom, just as Job did in the desert. The Israelites became acclimated to life in the desert and became comfortable and skilled as Bedouin-type people. As they stood on this mountain and surveyed this new land, I wonder what they felt. Not knowing what lie ahead, many probably felt anxious or maybe even fearful. Thinking back on the past, I bet some of them felt frustrated. Remember how easy we had it back in Egypt, where we owned sheep and cattle and could grow food by the Nile? Remember how tough the wilderness was at first? But we worked hard and learned how to survive, and now we’re quite comfortable as desert nomads. I don’t really want to settle down and learn how to live in a new place all over again. Why do we have to go to this “promised land?” Why not just stay where we’re comfortable already?
On the brink of yet another major life change for the Israelites, Moses the leader reminded the people of their past and of their renewed covenant with God. He read the law, which contains instructions specific for this phase of life. He reminded them of the blessings and curses of the law, and sang some songs (Deut. 29-34).
As I stood on Mount Nebo staring off at the hazy horizon line, I could relate to the Israelites because over the past few years I have often been in transition. Sometimes it’s frustrating, because just when I get comfortable, God moves me again! Currently, in just four weeks, I will be leaving Israel to finish up my last year and a half of college in the States. After that, I have no idea what lies ahead. Will I get married? Will I go overseas? Will I continue my education? I have dreams and plans for the future, but they are uncertain, and I know that the journey ahead will not always be easy. Sometimes, like the Israelites, I feel anxious, fearful, or frustrated when I look to the changes in the near future.
However, Moses’ words reminded me of several things as I stood on Mount Nebo. First, I must remember that my future is rooted in my past: who I am, where I came from, and all that Jesus has done in my life. Second, I know that when I go through periods of “wilderness wandering,” God will meet me, give me more skills for living, and teach me true wisdom. Most importantly, the story of the Israelites is my story, and however hazy my horizons might be, I will trust God with my future.

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