Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water. They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai…Exodus 15:27 – 16:1
Some time after they occurred, Moses sat down to chronicle the events of the Exodus. In his telling of the story, he included this obscure little detail in a single sentence in Exodus 15:27. It was very early in their journey, just about the time the reality of the wilderness would have set in (no water, no food, vast wastelands). They found an oasis, complete with shade and with natural spring water, and they stayed there for a short while…a very short while…so short, in fact, that nothing meaningful happened there. And then they left.
It seems important to note that nothing particular chased them from that place of comfort. They were no longer running from an Egyptian army. They were no longer frantically fleeing for their lives, running to any safe harbor at all. This oasis was a place of comfort and a place where all their physical needs were being met. Logic alone would have said to stay right there for a while, maybe even indefinitely. Couldn’t this have even been God’s answer to their prayers? Couldn’t this have been a “promised land” of sorts?
But Moses is quick to point out that they did not stay there long at all, that they left almost immediately, and who led them to leave this place of comfort was God Himself. The pillar of smoke and fire with which God led them was leaving this place and was beckoning them forward and outward into a vast wilderness …
Do you remember stereograms? Google it, you’ll remember. I can still recall walking through the mall and seeing people standing in groups staring at these posters and marveling. I would go and stand with them and look at the poster, and all I could see was a bunch of squiggly lines. They would keep talking about the picture that “jumps out at you” if you stare at it long enough. I still didn’t get it. Then they would give you these complicated instructions, trying to help you see it…something about relaxing your eyes and looking through the poster. That only made me feel more incompetent. After a while, the person selling the posters would console me by saying, “Well, some people just never see it.” Oh, thank you. Now I feel much better.
Apparently, it is a fact of life. Some of us have brains designed to easily see the hidden pictures in stereograms, while others of us, well, cannot. I am o.k. with that.
It is like that in the church as well. Even after we get all of the pieces to to the puzzle that is God’s will put out on the table, and after we get them all connected as they should be, there are still plenty of us who look at the picture and say, “I don’t get it…what is it?” This, I believe, is where true pastoral vision comes into play. I believe God has gifted those He calls as pastors with the ability to cast their gaze across the landscape of a congregation and see God at work in the lives of its members. Then, seeing God at work through its members, that vision enables the pastor to see the picture of what God desires and interpret it correctly. For someone with …