Man, Desert, & God...
by Benayah Blum

Since  Man was expelled from Heaven, the desert was always the place where he could find the way back to his pure self, and especially the direct and undisturbed connection to the Creator of the World.

Hence the Desert is also a place of redemption and purification of the soul: Cain, the first murderer, is expelled to the Desert, a place where the Earth does not give it’s strength, and where you can only survive by living as a nomad [Gen. 4:12]. The Desert is a place where you can separate yourself from the harmful influence of society, and God revenges even the killing of a Murderer by 77 times! [Genesis, 4:24]. God engraves this idea of the Desert as a place of Atonement unto his Book of Law: During the holy Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, a goat carrying all the sins of the People of Israel has to be sent to a place called “Azazel”, in the Wilderness  [Leviticus, 16:10]. Scholars assume that this Azazelis located in a place that is called today Jebel Montar, a place that can easily be reached by Jeep from Jerusalem. 

Even today, when Man’s Technology has been able to change the places inhabited by him, he has rarely been able to intervene in God’s Creation in the Desert. Hence the Desert is the place that God has chosen in order to recreate the Bindings and Trust between the Creator and Man. In Psalm 23, a Psalm that is equally popular for Christians as for Jews, King David, whose character was shaped during a long period as a shepherd and warrior in the desert, describes how God leads him safely “in Circles of Justice” through the different types of Desert to “the House of the LORD” [Psalms, 23:6]. Although this Psalm became a Biblical Classic, only those who have themselves experienced the true life of a shepherd in the Desert can really understand what this popular Psalm is all about. 

Still, King David was not the only one. Actually, almost every significant figure in the Bible started his Period of Prophecy in the desert:

Abraham, the first Patriarch, is commanded by the LORD to leave his homeland and go “to the Land that I will show you” [Genesis, 12:1]. After a long journey through the Promised Land Abraham finally settles down in Beer Sheba, in the Desert, where he is permanently rooted in the country by planting a Tamarisk Tree there [Genesis, 21:33]. Abraham was followed by his son Isaac, who lived and digs wells in the same area [Genesis, 26:12-21]. His grandson Jacob is described by the Bible as “a quit man, dwelling in Tents” like a Bedouin, and not in a House, like we could expect [Genesis, 25:27]. When the time comes to bring the Children of Israel out of the Land of Egypt, Moses is led by God out into the Desert, and only after a long “Basic Training” in the Desert, God appears there for the first time to HIS People by the Burning Bush [Exodus 3:1]. Then, of course, the Children of Israel had to go an intensive training-period in the Sinai Desert before they were allowed to enter the Land of Milk and Honey. This period, according to the Prophet Jeremiah, is the peak of good relations between God and his People: “I remember for you the Kindness of your Youth, the Love of your Espousals, when you went after me in the Wilderness, in a land that was not sown.” [Jeremiah, 2:2] Jeremiah, a native of Anatot in the Desert, is not the only Prophet with desert-based Prophecies. One of the most fascinating encounters between Man and God is the Encounter with Elijah, which happens, naturally, in the Desert: Elijah, originated from the green and fertile Northern Kingdom of Israel, is drawn into the Desert in a miraculous way. Here God appears to him, not in a shattering Wind, not in an Earthquake, and not in Fire. God appears in the "gentle Whisper" of the Desert…      You just have to “Go out and stand…in the presence of the Lord!” [Kings I, 19:11] and everything else is a matter of the Nature of the Desert…

The same ideas that we encounter in the Old Testament, we can meet in the New Testament, because the very Preaching of Christianity begins in the Desert:

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius… …the Word of God came to John, son of Zechariah, in the Desert!” [Luke 3:1-2]       “And so John came, baptizing in the Desert Region and preaching…” [Mark 1:4, see also Matthew, 3:1]  -The Word of God always begins in the Desert!!! John himself cites the Desert-Prophecy of Isaiah before him: “A voice of One calling in the Desert: Prepare the Way for the Lord!” [Isaiah, 40:3 / Luke 3:4 / Mark, 1:3-4 / John, 1:23]

Jesus himself, like always in the Bible, starts his Preaching in the Desert: “At once the Spirit sent him out into the Desert, and he was in the Desert forty Days…” [Mark, 1:12-13, see also Matthew, 4:1-10 / Luke 4:1-4]  

One of the peaks of God’s appearance through Jesus Christ is Jesus’ Transfiguration [Mark, 9:2-12 / Matthew 17:1-11]. Here Jesus meets Moses and Elijah, thus creating “the Desert triangle” of those who after forty days in the Desert, without eating or drinking, had a direct Encounter with God. The same can be said of Mohammed, of "The Wise in the Words of Allah" – founder of the Druze Religion, "Al Bab (The Gate)" – founder of the Bahai Religion, and many more…

Like in Elijah’s case, the Encounter with God must not be through great visions, fire, wind, or earthquake. The Encounter comes simply through the gentle Whisper of the Desert. Even non-believers who come to the Desert claim they get to know “the inner me”, “Nature”, “Creation”, and feel “some positive Energies”, all of those being practically descriptions of the Encounter with God. This is the Great Power of the Desert that once it bites you, you can never let it go. Like the first Christians and early Byzantine Monks, today more and more people prefer the direct connection to God in the solitude of the Desert, instead of the regular Churches and Sites of Pilgrimage. 

 Like all those before me, this “Desert Bug” bit me too. …And I was not alone: I met many people who heard about me from different sources and want to gain from my Knowledge as a Licensed Tour Guide who was educated in a Biblical High-School, as well as my Experience as a Field-Guide in the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and other organizations operating Nature- and Ecology-oriented Tours.

The special Off-Road Desert Tours give us the opportunity not only to get an Adventure in the Desert and a direct and natural look into the way people lived and worshipped God in Biblical times. The Desert Experience brings us to the Roots of Man and his connection to God, and, regardless where we come from, brings us back to our own Roots!

 
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