Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he approached to look, there came the voice of the Lord: ‘I am God of your ancestors, the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have surely seen the mistreatment of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to rescue them. Come now I will send you to Egypt.’
Wilderness does appear regularly in the Bible and what more can we say than agree that it is not a pleasant experience at all. The wilderness, desert? Why would anyone want to spend time there? To walk the path of wilderness may seem stressful, lonely, inaccessible, dry and the like. The current verse is Stephen’s reminder to the Jews briefly presenting what Moses had gone through. Unlike the Israelites who complained and cried for proper food (reminding themselves of the meals they had in Egypt) in their wilderness experience (Psalm 78:17-20), Moses’ wilderness experience could be read as finding himself when he encountered God, and reconnecting with him. Being found in the presence of God, he was brought to the ground of humility, despite his earlier status as being in the presence of human power and wealth at the palace of Pharaoh in Egypt.
The defining characteristics of wilderness spirituality, which we fail to understand, is that it is here where we find the feeling of connection and interrelationship with other people and nature; a heightened sense of awareness and elevated consciousness beyond the everyday and corporeal world, embracing peace, tranquillity, harmony, happiness, and humility. Just as this experience was a realization time for Moses, let us make such an experience to draw near to God with humility and let God’s purpose unfold in our lives.
God we admit that many times we fail to see your presence in our words, actions and thoughts. We ignore the way you want to teach us and make us worthy of your call. We submit to your hands to make us and mould us according to your will. Amen
Dr Bendanglemla Longkumer, Senior Lecturer in Theology and Ethics at Pacific Theological College in Fiji Islands, South Pacific.