They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Manna Story and the Garden of Eden

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions….
… That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.
Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.
Genesis 2-3, Exodus 16

This is just an interesting observation that I heard on manna and how the Israelites would have looked at that provision that was given to them while they were in the wilderness. In the Garden of Eden, everything that man needed was there for him to freely use. He could have anything he wanted to eat and did not have to work or sweat to get it. It was just there for the taking. After the fall from the Garden, man had to work and only by the sweat of his brow could he get something to eat. To get bread he had to plant and cultivate, harvest, then grind, knead and bake just to get a meal.

In the Exodus story, God took them to one of the most remote, hottest places on earth and then told them to count on him for something to eat. God said,   “I’ll give you something to eat every day. All you have to do is go out and pick it up, no sweat or work needed”.  God didn’t leave big bags of wheat and tell them to turn it into bread, he just left it on the ground for them to pick up and eat. So, in a sense, God was giving them the Garden of Eden back. I’ll provide for you, just like I did before you messed it up in the Garden. He was starting over with the people that he so desperately wanted to have fellowship with. He gave them some of the Garden of Eden back while they were in a hot and dry place.

In the same way, God gives us Garden of Eden moments while we are in the middle of our desert experiences. While we are going through our hot and dry wilderness tests, there will be some incredibly wonderful moments along the way where God miraculously provides some manna, water and shade that we need to keep going. “Give us this day, our daily bread,” Jesus said when he taught the Lord’s Prayer. Give us enough of the Garden of Eden to get us through the trials and problems that we have today. Jesus also said that, “He was the bread come down from heaven”, in John 6:30-35. He is that manna; He is our daily nourishment and what we need to make it through each day.

Sea of Gallilee vs. the Dead Sea

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Gallilee is a beautiful fresh water lake that is fed from rain runoff from the mountains of Gallilee and the Golan Heights. It is 695 feet below sea level and is five miles wide and thirteen miles long.  The lake is only 150 feet deep  at the deepest point and is really a lake more than a sea.  However, it is the main water source for all of Israel. It is filled by the Jordan River, which has it’s beginnings on Mt. Hermon, an often snow capped peak at the north end of the land of Israel.  The Jordan then flows out of the Sea of Gallilee, down to Dead Sea.

Dead Sea

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is much larger than it’s northern counterpart.  It is forty eight miles long and eleven miles wide and reaches a depth of over 1000 feet. It is the lowest place on the face of the earth  at 1300 feet below sea level.  The Dead Sea is dead because it is so salty. Twenty five percent of the water’s contents are salts. The water is clean and beautiful looking, yet it is bitter and nauseuous  to the taste.  The salts in the Dead Sea are worth billions of dollars and are as valuable as any oil field.

The Dead Sea is so salty because it has no outlet. The reason the Sea of Gallilee is so sweet, is that it has both an inflow and an outflow.  It both receives and gives. The Dead Sea, however, only receives and never gives. It is full of riches but there is no life in it.  The difference between the two lakes make for a very good spiritual life  lesson. The desert continues to speak!!


A lot of the Israelite’s Exodus experience was one of testing. God used trials and testing to get Egypt out of the children of Israel. We talked a lot about testing during the time we spent in the Sinai wilderness on our trip. I learned several things from the trip that I thought might stimulate your thinking on testing.

  1. Should we pray to be tested or not? My first thought was always, No! I was always afraid if I got too serious about religion, God or the devil, one would start testing me. I didn’t want to willingly be asking to put myself in the wringer. I had a wrong concept of testing in the first place.The purpose of testing is to teach obedience. We should pray for obedience – “Lord help me to become more obedient,” and not worry about the rest. If we are serious about becoming a kingdom of priests, whatever God needs to do to accomplish our obedience to him, then let Him do it. Did the test he put me through show me where I need more work? Pain and suffering are not punishment; it is just part of the process of training. We have to change the concept in our mind to not think, “If I get serious, God is going to start testing me.”In conclusion, I am not saying we should pray to be tested, but pray that God would teach us to be obedient. God will do what He will as far as the testing is concerned.
  2. Are the tests we go through pass or fail tests? We may pass or fail, but that is not the important question. It is “How far along in the process are you”? How much progress have we made since we left the Red Sea? Testing is like training an athlete – “No pain, No gain.” When the Hebrew children came to Marah and they complained, did the pass or fail the test? They passed because they learned from the test. That’s testing, not pass or fail, but did you learn? We are to be like an athlete who has been in training in practice and wants to get on the field to see how far we has progressed.
  3. Why did Jesus have to be tested? Was his testing a pass or fail situation? Jesus was pushed to the limit to see if he was ready to go all the way with what God had for Him to accomplish. Heb 5:8 says that Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered. Just like Jesus, we are supposed to learn to be obedient through the tests he puts us through.

To summarize, testing puts you in a position to see how far you will go! The situations we are put in are often illogical, irrational and even unnecessary from our perspective, just to see how far we will go; to see if our heart is in it 100%. God is asking,”Are you ready to go to the wall for me or not”? God walked the Israelites till they were ready to die of thirst and then gave them bitter water. He had them so hungry that they didn’t think they could go any farther, then gave them a subsistence diet of manna – just enough for ever day. He tests our commitment. Are we ready to follow him all the way, even if it’s on a subsistence basis? My question to myself and to you is,” How are you doing on the tests”?

Tamarisk Tree

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.
Genesis 21:33-34.

Another tree that you do not hear much about is the tamarisk tree. It is mentioned in the Bible only a few times; 1 Samuel 22:6, 31:13, and in Genesis, in the story of God promising the Promised Land to Abraham. Abraham said, “I believe you God”, and planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba. Why did he plant a tamarisk and not some other tree? Let’s look at the significance.

Tamarisk tree

Tamarisk tree

The tamarisk tree is what we would call a salt cedar in America. It is of the same family and has the same leaf and color of bark. The tree itself can get much bigger in the Middle East, while ours are more bushy looking. We saw several that were real big trees. It is an extremely slow-growing tree and has to be cared for in order to do well. Very few grow in wilderness settings; they are usually around communities where families plant them on their property.

To a Bedouin or a Jew, you don’t plant a tamarisk for yourself, you plant it for the generations to come. From the Abraham story, they took the idea that I am planting this tree to say, “for generations to come, my family is going to be here”. “This shade is for the generations to come, I’ll never get to use it.”

How much of what we do in life is done for just ourselves? Our comfort, our profit, our satisfaction? Do we do anything to bless or to plant a seed for the generations that are to come? Is there anything that you are currently involved in that will outlive you? A thought, do something this week that will benefit people long after you are gone. The desert speaks…

Shade II

Desert Shade

The idea of God being shade is found throughout the Bible.  Psalm 121:5 says, “The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand, the sun will not harm you by day, or the moon by night.”  “The Lord will keep you from harm, he will watch over your life.”

God is definitely our shade.  But the Bible also takes the shade concept to the next level in that as believers we  are supposed to be shade to other people.  He is shade and since we are his witnesses, we are supposed to be shade to a hurting world.

In Psalm 80:8-10.  It says that a vine would come out of Egypt and the mountains were covered with its shade.”  From the very beginning, the new nation of Israel, born from the Exodus, was to be shade to the rest the world.  Israel’s mission was to be God (shade) to world.

In Isaiah 32 it says.  When the Messiah comes, each man will be a shelter from the storm, a stream of water in the desert, in the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.”  The idea is when the Messiah comes, his followers will show a hurting world what he is like by being shelter, water and shade to them.

It is interesting to see if you apply these thoughts in Psalm 80 and Isaiah 32 to the early church, in Acts 5:12 – 16, just Peter’s shadow falling on people was healing them.

It’s evident from these verses that God wants to create a community that will bring shade to a hurting world.  Our mission in life, the reason we are here is to be shade to each other.  That is the whole purpose of the church, the community of believers.  Just as God provides shade to us, so we are to be that same shade to someone else.  We live in a world of intense heat; most people are barely making it and God has chosen us to be a broom tree for them to get some shade from.  We are not only promised shade, we are called to be shade.

To be part of this community of shade requires at least a couple of things.  First, we have to be willing to give of our time to be that shade.  God wants to use you to be shade to certain people, but you have to be willing to get involved to help them see the shade that God is providing.  We probably won’t be able to make the heat go away; the broom tree doesn’t fix the problem, it’s just there for shade.  Our job is to help them get around the next bend in life and let them taste God’s sweetness as He provides some relief from the heat.  This is comforting to me in that when we try to help people, we don’t have to have the answers; usually there’s nothing we can say or do that will fix the problem.  We are just called to be shade – just be there to show what God’s sweetness is like.

Secondly we must also admit that we need help.  We’re always willing to pray with someone else on their problems, but we don’t want to  tell or admit that we are in need of God’s shade also.  We have to be part of the community in this way, also.  We try to set ourselves up as people who don’t have problems – we’ve got it all together.  We’ll pray for you, but…

To conclude, the Lord is the shade at my right hand, says Psalm 121.  It is never longer than your right hand, but it is always that close.  We are called by God to be shade to a hurting world and just our shadow, our presence, can be Jesus’ relief to someone who is hurting.  I remember a story of a woman praying for her mother-in-law after she had  just lost her husband. As they were leaving the hospital, she placed her hands on her mother-in-law’s back from the backseat of the car and prayed, “Lord, please have your hands on my mother-in-law as she goes through this awful crisis.”  God immediately spoke to her in her thoughts and said, “I do have my hands on her right now, they’re yours.”

We call on God in a crisis and say,” God where are you”?  God replies back,” where are you”?  You are my witnesses, you are the living water, the shade, the instruments I use so that the world may know what I am like. God has chosen us to be a broom tree in the desert of life.  May we be God’s shade in a world that is desperate to know what He is like.

Shade: Biblical Imagery & the Broom Tree

Desert Shade

Desert Shade

During the time we spent in the desert we were constantly reminded of the biblical imagery that is so wonderfully found there.  Until you’ve actually been in the desert, there’s no way to describe how hot and desolate it really is.  A lizard can’t live there in the summer; it’s often in the 115° to 125° range.

One of the plants found there that is talked about in the Bible is the broom tree, or “Rottem”.  It is one of the main shade trees of the desert.  Although more of a bush than a tree, it was very important as shade to the early wilderness travelers.  Its roots also produce a very hot fire and make the best charcoal available.

There are two Biblical stories that mention the broom tree.  The first one was the story of Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 21:8-20.  Although the NIV says bush, the Hebrew is “Rikman” which is root word of “Rottem”.  The second story involves Elijah in 1 Kings 19 and here it specifically says, “he came to a broom tree (Rottem) and sat under it.”  These 2 stories both create a desert lesson involving heat and shade.  In both cases, the heat was unbearable and overwhelming and the characters look like they were not going to survive it.  But God came and provided a moment of shade in their desert experience, and they were able to continue on their life journey.

Broom Tree Closeup

Broom Tree Closeup

The shape and size of the tree is itself a lesson.  It is not a big tree at all, barely providing enough shade for one man and then not much. It’s not anything like what we Westerners would call a shade tree.  The image of the broom tree is ,”just enough.”  When you come to a desert moment in life, as Hagar and Elijah did and the heat is excruciating and your think you won’t be able to take another step, God is there to provide you a little shade to get you by.  The image is not deep shade or air-conditioning, but just enough shade.  The world we live in is one of intense heat, but around the bend is a broom tree, where we can get a little shade, a little rest, to be able to keep going on life’s journey.  That leads us to the second part of the shade image, which I’m calling Shade II.

To be continued…