It takes great vision to see something where there is nothing.
Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, saw the vast expanse of Israel’s Negev as something that offered great potential. In 1953, he settled in the kibbutz Sde Boker, urging Israelis to help him tame the Negev into a new society for Israel.
To many, the idea seemed no more than a pipe dream. As a result, the plea fell on deaf ears, for the arid region receives barely eight inches of rain per year.
In the Negev, life has one uncompromising requirement: water.
Through this simple need in the same land, God taught His people a life-giving lesson.
We can drink from it as well.
At Tel Arad, the whole land of Canaan lay before the Hebrews.
They had waited and wandered forty years in the wilderness. The Promised Land was theirs for the taking. Right there before them!
Instead, God led the Hebrews on a major detour.
Tel Arad in Israel’s Negev offers many benefits to its visitors. It’s an oasis of ancient archaeology. It gives a rare glimpse of Judah’s idolatry.
And it speaks to us today of the need to tap the brakes on our impatience with God’s leading.
Just say the name, “Beersheba,” and images come to mind of an old, crusty patriarch leaning on his staff in the dry winds of the wilderness.
I imagine Abraham squinting through the head covering that shelters his wrinkled face and thirsty lips. He scans the barren Negev for thieves.
Not for thieves who would take his flocks or possessions, but for those who would steal water—the Negev’s most precious and indispensable commodity.
Beersheba epitomizes the faith God required to live in the Holy Land. Standing in the arid winds of Tel Beersheba, the truth seems both overwhelming and irresistible.
God used this unassuming, barren place to shape some of the most significant lives in the Bible.
God had promised a son to Abram. At the same time, God prevented conception.
This is the will of God? Go figure.
(Photo by Daniel Skorodjelow (Own work CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFD), via Wikimedia Commons)
This tension eventually proved too much for Abram’s wife, Sarai. It seemed the only thing worse than the barren land she lived in was the barren womb she bore.
So Sarai pointed to Hagar, her Egyptian maid, and told Abram to provide a child through her (see Genesis 16:1–16). The culture allowed for this custom, but it was never the will of God.
The story is anything but ancient. These are decisions we’re tempted to make every day.
But there’s a wiser choice.
I thought I understood the wilderness wanderings of Israel.
Then I traveled through the wilderness. On my summer visits there, I never had to check the forecast. It only fluctuated from blistering to broiling.
After a searing hike through this wilderness, a traveling companion of mine boarded the bus, his shirt sweat-soaked. He collapsed in his seat, and someone asked him if he now understood why the Hebrews grumbled and failed in obedience to God.
He took a long gulp from his canteen and then blurted, “I’m with them!”