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Into the Wilderness

"David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands."

1 Samuel 23:14 NIV

In the Bible, the wilderness marks a turning point for those who enter it. There are typically two reasons for venturing into the wilderness: either one is running away from something, away from danger, or one is driven into it for a time of testing. Either way, the wilderness can be a frightening place, lots of unknowns as they enter in, plus the sheer terror of the experience of being alone. The crucial questions for these wilderness moments are: When faced with such a challenge, how do we respond? Does it drive us toward God, or away from God?

In 1 Samuel chapters 23-24, we read of the encounter of David being pursued by King Saul. Saul was jealous of David, jealous of his military conquests and his popularity with the people and wanted to kill him. David ran into the wilderness (although he was not alone for his army accompanied him). Saul was so obsessed with hunting him down, that he personally went after him with his military might.

David hid from Saul going from cave to cave. At one point, Saul entered the cave where David was hiding. David could have easily killed him. But he did not. For Saul was still the King of Israel.

Later when Saul and David meet and Saul learns how his life was spared, he was very moved. Saul saw God’s hand in what had happened. And gave up his pursuit of David, for the moment at least. In the wilderness, Saul, with blinders on, was running after David. That is all he could see. Meanwhile David, in the wilderness, was running after God. And found him. David was able to comprehend that God filled the wilderness. The desolate wilderness was still filled with God’s presence, security, and generous love.

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