Today we stood in the Jordan river, floated in the Dead Sea and walked the ancient ruins of Massada. While the last couple of days were all about walking in Jesus’ footsteps, today was a crash course in the landscape of the Bible.
We travelled from the green and verdant land of the shores of Galilee to the rock-and-dust of the desert. Where water has cut deep slashes through the hills, and then disappeared, leaving the place looking like an abstract wood carving. It is a hard and harsh land. If the Canadian wilderness is one that will steal your breath away, even as it tries to kill you (I think I am paraphrasing an Alden Nowlan poem, there), the desert places of Israel are ones that will try to drive you insane even as they try to kill you.
This is not a land in which it would pay to be alone. In fact, driving through the tawny hills of the desert, you begin to understand the hospitality laws of the Old Testament in a whole new light.
“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 10:17-19 NLT
A passage like this is less about “being nice” and more about helping other humans survive in a difficult and dangerous land. Israelites were to welcome whomever came to the door, to give them food and lodging. This was a way of loving God by loving your neighbor, but it was also a way of propagating a culture that recognized that we are all in this together…and that you never knew when you’d be the one knocking on someone else’s door, hoping for food and shelter.
It is not surprising that God chose this place to send his Son. This is a place where the people would understand the need for a message of hope, peace, joy and love, in a very profound way. It is in the desert that God meets us and pours himself out for us.