26 January 2011

A New Chapter Begins in the Wilderness of Ziph.

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

Bilbo Baggins

When I moved into my apartment at The Lee a little over 2 years ago, I named it The Cave of Adullam, hearkening back to the life of Israel’s exiled anointed-but-as-yet-uncrowned King David in the Old Testament book of I Samuel. Like David, things hadn’t gone like I thought they would or wanted them to, and a period of exile began. During my wanderings in the cave, I have seen God answer many seemingly impossible prayers, as well as a few that have been, from a human perspective, “unanswered.” I’ve encountered challenges I never anticipated, and have developed a self-protective tendency to turn inward, something I was always sort of inclined to do; I’ve always been sort of a loner. But I’ve also met some terrific people I probably would never have met any other way, folks who love me and encourage me, and challenge me when need be.

When David finally left the Cave of Adullam, where he had been hiding from Saul for months, he moved on to the Wilderness of Ziph, a desert area southeast of Hebron, the site of the ancient city of Ziph, and near the modern Palestinian settlement of about 900 by the same name, in the Hebron Governorate in the southern West Bank, The Sovereign Nation of Israel. He was visited there by then-King Saul’s son, Jonathan, a man dearer to David than his own brothers, although Jonathan was likely significantly older than David. Throughout their friendship, Jonathan assisted David, encouraged him, cared for him, and loved him, until the two were bonded by ties stronger than blood. I’m happy to say I have a “Jonathan,” a pair of them, actually. Men who, although they’re a few years older than me, have tremendous common ground with me, and who challenge me, sometimes in words, but more often simply in the way they live their lives, to put feet to my faith, and keep going when the going isn’t easy.

I’m moving this weekend, leaving the Cave and beginning a new chapter in this unfolding story in a new apartment in West Salem. It will afford much more room for me and the kids when they visit, and provide more opportunities to have friends over, for whatever reason I’d ever do that. Financially, it’s pretty much a wash, since I can ditch my storage unit and won’t need three rolls of quarters each month for laundry. I’ll also be able to bring my dog home, after a few months in the loving care of another of those terrific people I mentioned earlier. I’m naming the new place The Wilderness of Ziph, and changing the title of my blog to “Wand’rings in the Wilderness of Ziph.” David left Adullam to be a king. But leaving the Cave didn’t immediately produce a crown. He spent a period of time wandering around Ziph, even being betrayed into Saul’s hands by the Ziphites. 1 Samuel 23 tells how “God hid David” in the wilderness. Notice the subject of the action verb. David didn’t hide himself, God hid him. He [God] also rallied more people to David’s side and added a couple of wives, including David’s beloved Abigail. Is there an Abigail in this wilderness? I don’t know, and in any event there wouldn’t be more than one, but in some ways, I’m not sure I want to even go there.

David spent many years anointed as king, but unable to take the throne. He had to endure a period of exile, first in the cave, then in the wilderness, then in battle. During this time, God honed him into “a man after God’s own heart.” David fought against the unjust ruler who sought his life (Saul), liberated the weak (Keilah) from their oppressors (Philistines), and developed patience and a heart of praise and trust in God (many of David’s psalms were written during this time). It wasn’t easy. Caves are not comfortable, and barren deserts are not scenic. In the Middle East, wildernesses are not lush forests, they are dry, arid, deserted places. But David learned by experience that the mercies of God are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23), there are friends who stick closer than brothers (Prov. 18:24), God takes note of even the least of His own (Matt. 10:29), and that if you…
“Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High, Then call on Me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you and you will give Me glory.” (Psalm 50:14-15)

Will I do the same? Follow along and see.

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