June 25, 2016
Today was our last day in the desert. We began it with a scorching endeavor into Engedi, the place where David hid from Saul in 1 Samuel 24. It is there where Saul brought 3,000 of his best men, or ‘Remmi’s as Rod calls them – after our Navy seal on the trip, to go after David and his men. The hike in was similar to our previous days of hiking, very hot and full of dust, yet there was a stream that flowed through Engedi that came from the mouth of a waterfall. It’s at this waterfall that we discussed two kinds of water. The first water, dead water, is still. It is dirty and often riddled with disease. The second water is known as ‘Mian Kiam’, or living water. Mian Kiam is water that comes from a stream, a river, lake, or the rain. It is active and moving. When David writes Psalm 42, he looks at this water, and proclaims, “As a deer pants for living water, so I pant for you”. In other words, David looks with hutzpah at the water, after having lost everything, and from the depths of his soul screams, ‘God! That is what you are to me. All may fail, I might lose everything, but you Lord, are the only one who can quench my thirst’.
We were asked to consider what, or whom do we run to in times of Desert. What is it that we are truly thirsty for? Is it God our Father? Or is it something else? We’ve been learning how God brought Israel out into the desert in order to get the Egypt out of Israel. For us as westerners, comfort is a huge deal. In the desert, comfort does not cut it. We need living water. We need a Shepard.
After this we went to a hidden waterfall still within the boundaries of En Gedi. Coming across an Arar Tree, Rod took a moment to teach us. The tree had the appearance of beauty. Its fruit was plumb and green. Honestly, one of the more vibrant trees we had come across in the desert. Yet, looks are deceiving. Rod had us read Jeremiah 17:5- 7. There it says that the man who puts his strength in himself is like an ‘Arar’ tree. Nothing good will come from him. Taking the fruit of the tree, he pressed it between his hands, revealing that the fruit had nothing inside but seeds. Those seeds, if eaten, are poisonous. Contrasting this to the Acacia trees we saw on Timnah this hit home. The Arar tree is appetizing in beauty and the Acacia looks dead. Yet, it is the Acacia that has the hardest wood, and when it interacts with water, ‘Mian Kiam’, it bears fruit that can feed Camels for up to a week. Looking at the community aspect of things, God calls us to be Acacia trees to the people around us. Are we providing rest and nourishment to the hurting of our coworkers, or our family and friends? In receiving living water are we bestowing living water to our neighbors? Rod pressed us to understand that this is a community role. As individuals we cannot be the gushing stream our world needs. Yet, as a community banding together to add the ‘Mian Kiam’ we are given, God can works through us as a gushing waterfall to restore and make him known.
En Gedi is the largest oasis along the western shore of the Dead Sea. The springs here have allowed nearly continuous inhabitation of the site since the Chalcolithic period. The area was allotted to the tribe of Judah, and was famous in the time of Solomon (Josh 15:62). Today the Israeli kibbutz of En Gedi sits along the southern bank of the Nahal Arugot.
Our last stop was at the Qumran community. It is the location of where the dead see scrolls were found. Here we learned about the deeply affectionate hearts of the Essenes’ and how they dropped everything to venture out into the desert to learn the ‘way’ of Yahweh. By the time we got there the sun was glaring, and as Rod taught us round a cliff, we were sweating hard, but it was totally worth it. This community and their drive for the Lord are the reason why our oldest known texts of the Psalms, Isaiah, Deuteronomy, and Genesis exist. One beautiful thing about the Essenes’ was their heart for repentance. They were serious about being repentant before God, that they had many washing pools for it. Yet, it wasn’t a guilt or shame ridden experience, as we often think of in the west. It came with joy too, because it meant returning to a father who loves them. There is a lot that we can learn from the Essene’ community in regards to how they view the Father and how we can interact with our world today. Tonight we’re staying on the Mediterranean Sea. Tomorrow we’ll be farther north than we’ve been the entire trip. We appreciate your prayers and encouragement! Here’s to the rest of the week, as we take rest at the end of this Sabbath day.
10 miles south of Jericho, Qumran was on a "dead-end street" and provided a perfect location for the isolationist sect of the Essenes to live. Requiring vast amounts of water for their daily purification rites, the Essenes had to channel the water from the wadi during the infrequent winter storms.