I was reading in Jeremiah this morning when I came across what struck me initially as something of a contradiction. It had to do with the concept of ‘wilderness’.
Most often, based on a kind of synopsis of Old Testament history that I have in my head, the “wilderness” in biblical context usually refers to a place of wandering, the destination of the wayward. The wilderness is a place of dry desolation and isolation and, as in the temptation of Jesus, the place of testing. However, these words spoken by the Lord to Jeremiah challenged my simplistic thinking;
Those words fell like pebbles, setting off ripples in my thinking that intensified into waves of emotion as I glimpsed a portrait of God’s people much less like sojourners on a mapped out journey and more akin to the Great Explorers of history stepping out into the unknown.
I imagined a faith burgeoning with youthful vitality and dauntless courage, compelled by a passionate romance with the Beloved to leave safety and comfort to venture into the wilderness, into “a land not sown” to chase after God.
The words in Jeremiah were speaking directly to me. As the prophecy continues Israel is told that she has sought after Assyria and Egypt – the most cultivated civilizations of that day and furthest removed from the hardships of wilderness life. They had traded sustenance from the “fountain of living waters” for water from man-made wells that cannot satisfy the soul.
I regret to say that I am right there with Israel. Somewhere along the line, I have gravitated toward the culture of the world and the illusion of security it offers.
If you recall, just yesterday I posted an entry in which I poured out my heart over the “losses” I feared my daughter would experience in living out her life on the mission field. This morning I was brought to my knees. Shame does not describe the lament of my heart upon reading this passage in God’s eternal word.
I see now that my daughter has chosen the better way. She has chosen the wilderness. By faith she is setting out into a “land not sown”, to live among the uncultivated to plant the seeds of the gospel.
My mother’s heart led me astray in this matter, and I failed to see my daughter’s calling to a foreign land within the eternal picture. I praise the Lord she has not taken the road to Assyria. Like the patriarchs and apostles before her, she has set her eyes on something far beyond what this world has to offer.