I had watched a movie on the television, it was an Israeli film about a man called Moshe. He and his wife were religious people, and it was the time of the feast of Booths, a seven day annual festival when the people had to build a 'booth', or temporary tent-like dwelling, and live in it for seven days, rejoicing. It was to celebrate the time when God had brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, and to remind them that all things in this world are temporary, but that God is their all-sufficient provider.
Moshe and his wife had been married for five years and dearly wanted a child, which they had not been able to have up to now. They were very poor and could not even afford to buy the booth which they now needed for the festival. One of the things needed as an offering to God in this celebration was a lemon. When Moshe went to see about buying one, the sellers were asking the ridiculous price of one thousand shekels. In spite of his poverty Moshe was a deeply religious man and believed, as I do myself, that we are tested by God in this world to see if we will trust Him in all situations, and to see if we would react in situations according to God's will and expectations of us. He also believed in prayer, and when his wife encouraged him to ask God for help in their situation he did just that, he asked God for a miracle.
In the meantime, in the Synagogue, the rabbi was asking a man if he had distributed all of a sum of money that he had been commissioned to distribute to the people. The man said that he still had a thousand dollars left, to which the rabbi responded by saying that he must give the last thousand dollars to somebody immediately. 'To whom?' the man asked. 'Just pick a number', the rabbi replied. 'Thirty five', the man said, and the rabbi straightaway pushed a list of peoples' names in front of him and said 'Start counting'. The man counted to thirty five and declared that the thirty fifth name was that of Moshe. He went around to his house and knocked upon the door. Moshe's wife was too afraid to answer, and the thousand dollars was put into an envelope and pushed under the door.
At the time Moshe had been away building a booth that a friend had aquired for him. The friend had aquired this booth under false pretences, but Moshe did not know this. He assumed it had been given as a gift, which to him was an answer to his prayer.
On returning home he was overjoyed to hear of the one thouosand dollars' mysterious arrival, and immediately thanked God for the miracle. After donating one tenth of the money to charity, he paid one thousand shekels for the lemon and he and his wife occupied the booth in extremely high spirits and praising God. At the same time, out in the desert, two convicts on parole were returning to their prison to finish their sentence. They decided to abscond and one of them suggested going to visit an old friend in Jerusalem. The 'old friend' was Moshe.
The knock on the door of the booth was quite loud. Who could that be? Moshe and his wife wondered as they feasted on the sumptuous meal they had just sat down to. On opening the door, there was both recognition and apprehension replacing the joyous expression on Moshe's face. 'Scorpio!' The name gushed from his lips as he stared at the smiling, weathered face of one of the two men stood in front of him. The man's jet black hair was drawn back from his grinning face in plaited mini pig tails, giving him a hard, rugged appearance. Moshe's wife looked with bewilderment at the two visitors. She had never seen them before, and assumed they must be friends from her husband's past, though what she did not know was that her husband's past was very different from his present. Moshe had been very irreligious before he had met his wife, and Scorpio could not believe that his friend had changed into the person he now saw, and began reminding Moshe of the 'good old days' when Moshe had taken on three Americans in a bar when they had insulted him. He had been quite a notorious character.
Moshe was fully tested over the next couple of days by his two guests. Scorpio still did not believe that Moshe could have changed that much and began reminding him of more of his past days and ways, much to his wife's amazement, for she had only known him as a religious man. Eventually Moshe could take no more and told his guests that he and his wife were going to go to her mother's home some distance away and that the two would have to go. After they had gone, Moshe's wife finds out he has lied and leaves him, telling him that not only has he concealed his past from her but, much worse, he has now lied. He is not the person she thought he was. He goes after her and tries to encourage her to come back but fails. On returning to his booth he discovers that his two guests have returned, which is bad enough for him, but he also discovers that the booth he has been given was got for him under false pretences. While he is away seeking pardon from the owner of the booth, Scorpio and his friend are busy causing havoc in the local area of Jerusalem, barbecuing and playing rock music in the street. Moshe's wife and the local religious men try to convict them of their blasphemous conduct at a religious festival time, the religious men becoming very unreligious in doing so. Eventually Scorpio relizes that Moshe definately has changed his ways and that he is genuinely trying to live a religious life. He is sorry for the way he has acted and tries to make amends my making a delicious meal for Moshe. On Moshe's return, after he has been absolved from guilt by the original owner of the booth, he finds a sumptuous meal waiting for him, and a completely changed Scorpio. He is encouraged to sit down to eat while his friend admits that he has seen a change in Moshe that indeed has brought a change in himself and also his friend. They have, he informs Moshe, decided to go and give themselves up to the authorities and finish the remainder of their prison sentences. Delighted, Moshe sits down to enjoy the meal, praising the wonderful lemon dressing on the salad. Scorpio humbly accepts the compliment commenting on how difficult it was to find a lemon for the dressing, but how he eventually finds one on Moshe's shelf. 'On the shelf?' asks Moshe 'How.... er.....where....Was -it-in-a-box?' he asks slowly as the expression on his face goes back and fore from distress to fury. He rises from the table and screams as he realizes that one of his sacred offerings to God has been used in his salad. After several more facial contortions he rushes out of the room and runs as fast as he can down the street making noises more fitting to a dog being attacked than a man who has just been celebrating the fact that God has rescued hin and his nation from their worst enemies. He eventually stops running somewhere out in the countryside where, after several minutes his face regains the expression that was on it ten minutes before, when he had realized that Scorpio seeing what walking God's way had done in him, had made an imnpression and changed Scorpio himself. Moshe had certainly been tested to the hilt! He had been required to call on all the resources of kindness, patience, goodness, forbearance, tolerance and forgiveness that God's own love had shown to him when he had sought him in repentance years before. He returned with a totally different attitude, realizing that true religion was far more than festivals and tradition, and the finding of it involved as much testing and trials as his ancestors had experienced the forty years they had spent in the wilderness, and that in realizing this he had just passed another test.l
He entered the booth and hugged his two guests with genuine fondness. Sitting down to finish the meal, they chatted and laughed, all enjoying one another's fellowship. Suddenly the door opened and in walked Moshe's wife, ecstatically informing Moshe that she was expecting the child that they had longed for. The atmosphere was electric! They finished their meal, all together, all praising God and rejoicing at the coming birth.
Finally, Moshe's guests announced that they were to leave on their journey back to the prison to give themselves up. There was much hugging and tears as Moshe said farewell to his two guests, overjoyed that he was coming through his wilderness, and that they were about to enter theirs.
This film was used at the most appropriate time to remind me that there is a spiritual 'travelling through the wilderness' for us when the Lord brings us out of the world, just as there was a phyisical travelling through the wilderness for the children of Israel. Unbelievers had been used to test Moshe and to enable God to discipline him, and so too can outsiders be used to change us. However, if we try to keep our eyes on our Lord, being guided by the light of His word, our ears open to the Holy Spirit, we too shall experience the power and the miracles of God that they experienced while on their journey. There will be testing and trials for us, and there will be times when 'religion' and 'tradition', which has a power to make void the word of God in our lives, will try and sometimes succeed to do just that. We can look into the book of Numbers, or 'in the wilderness', as this book is known in the Hebrew Bible, and sometimes identify ourselves within the characters there. God's people travelled through the wilderness in stages. Each stage is there for us to learn from as we grow in the Lord. Their journey involved learning to rely on God's guidance, God's provision and God's discipling, as does our journey through our 'wilderness'.
Lord You walk with me in my wilderness
I feel Your presence at my side
Lord You talk with me in my wilderness
Your loving voice has been my guide
When I am lost You take my hand
You are my shelter from the wind and hail
My friend and neighbour in a hostile land
You keep me on the narrow trail
There is a season for all things- a time and purpose too
For God has fashioned every day that we must journey through
There's a season to be strong and there's a season to be weak
There's a time to give opinion, there's a time we should not speak
And whether things be good or bad all things are passing by
For this world is a testing place for perfecting you and I
And when we've learnt within this life to be as we should be
This too will pass with all its strife and we shall be set free