The Biblical 'Wilderness'.....Peaks and Valleys
Scripture quite often refers to the “wilderness”,.... usually barren, dry and quite inhospitable territories.
The same scriptures also speak about “the Promised Land”, a land “flowing with milk and honey”. These references don't only indicate actual geographical locations in the Middle East Holy Land. I believe they also pertain to the subjective realm of the human spirit...an “inner terrain” of consciousness and conscience, the heartfelt longings and desires of the soul.
All of us must travel through this inner region. We all have embarked on a pilgrimage of the heart, and as such, each individual must journey through his/her own “spiritual landscape”. We wander. We wonder. We seek. We stumble and stagger, and sometimes we fall. But then we get up and move forward again toward a goal,... an eternal “promised land”..., that somehow... we all sense lies ahead. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
Along the way, we discover springs and oases, places of rest and refreshment. These are places of peace and comfort and encouragement . These are the welcome places that whisper:
“This is the right way. You're on the right path. Rest here for a while before moving on..”
But there are just as many crooked paths, dead-end gulches and bone-dry ravines, perplexing places that frustrate, disappoint, damage and deeply discourage us.....These, of course, are the “wilderness” rough places that threaten to derail us, and we all must find our way through them as best we can.
Biblical 'High Places'
And in this regard, the Bible also teaches that there are certain “high places” in this land... this “inner terrain”. In the scriptures, we are told about two types of “high places”. On the one hand, we learn about enticing high places [Hebrew: 'bamah' ] where false gods, false promises and idols of all shapes and sizes vie for our attention, affection and worship. (In scripture, these are the high places dedicated to such gods and goddesses as Molech, Topheth, Asherah, Chemosh, Baal and more.)
On the other hand, the scriptures also tell us about a different type of high place . These are the high places where God has chosen to reveal his eternal attributes, his purposes and plans to mankind. In both the Old and New Testament scriptures, these high places have names like Mt. Sinai (Mt. Horeb), Mt. Nebo, Mt. Carmel, Mt. Tabor (the Mount of Transfiguration), Mt. Moriah (Mt. Zion) and more....
As we make our way through our personal “inner terrain”....( this “valley of the shadow of death” as the psalmist put it)...we are invited and advised to look up and to take careful note of the different “high places” that beckon to us along the way.
Lord, teach us to discern and to distinguish between the “voices” of both types of “high places” in our lives. Help us to choose our path wisely.
High Places that Deceive
“Now one of Saul's servants was there that day....He was Doeg the Edomite, Saul's head shepherd.” (1 Samuel 21: 7)
[In the Hebrew, the word “doeg” means “to worry”, “to be anxious”, “to doubt”, “to fear”]
If you are familiar at all with the Old Testament record of King Saul (1st and 2nd Samuel), you will recall that his career was one that began with blessing and promise. However, as his life and reign unfolded, he fell into persistent patterns of prideful disobedience before God, and, as a consequence, his emotional and spiritual state tragically began to spiral downward. He was increasingly plagued with spiritual dis-ease: doubt, fear, worry and paranoia overwhelmed him,.... eventually to the point of death.
A High Place in His Presence
Now if Doeg's your head shepherd,
Rest assured, you'll find no peace.
“No Shalom” will be your pasture,
And confusion will not cease.
His Anxieties will lead you
To 'high places' that deceive....
And where idols tempt... then taunt you,
And where Sin and ill's conceived.
It's where Mammon may consume you...
And indulgences are sold.
It's where Asherah seduces,
It's where Baal collects his toll.
It's where grace and rest elude you;
It's where busy-ness prevails....
And where noisy-rebel chatter
Is a cliff you cannot scale.
It's a pit that has no bottom...
It's a night that has no dawn.
It's a never-ending treadmill...
It goes on...
But there is another Shepherd...
He is Good and Kind and True;
And a High Place in his Presence
He's preparing now for you!
Yes, his voice is calm and gentle
Like a brook that gently falls....
Living water for the dying,
Like a soothing harp...
This Good Shepherd knows high pastures
Where the skies are clear and rare,
And His springs provide still water....
If you ask....
He'll take you there.