In A Howling Wilderness Waste

12 01 2010

Although the earth is greatly populated, there are millions of people who live in a kind of wilderness, daily—parents, children, cousins, uncles, aunts, friends, loners, vagabonds, the unwanted, the unloved, the guilty, and the ashamed people … and so on.  Of all the lonely ones, so many are living in cities today. So many of us, still find ourselves situated ‘in a howling wilderness waste’.

What a phrase, ‘howling wilderness waste’!!

One thinks of hungry dogs, or wolves howling at night. On thinks of being lost, uncertain of the way to go, while being surrounded by the hungry animals, and creatures of the night. On thinks of a person rattling around in the emptiness of life.

These words come from the Bible. They speak of God (the Father), sustaining, Jacob, and thus, his ancient people ‘in a howling wilderness waste’. The phrase is, He sustained him in a desert land, in a howling wilderness waste” (in Deuteronomy 32:10).

One can also think of Jesus immediately following his Baptism:

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wildernessHe was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him (Mark 1:12-13).

I love the open space of outback Australia. I love to go where no one else is around, and experience the open country, and the wind. I even like wastelands, like gibber plains, and desert areas. But the howling wilderness waste need not be this physical, geographical location, at all. It can indeed refer to the person who has lost close fellowship with other people.  And in particular, a person who has close affinity with, and love for, their Maker, their Creator, the true friend of humanity. Indeed Abraham, was called ‘the friend of God!’. He knew this close affinity with God. It made all the difference. He was blessed!

The larger context of the reading is worth a look: Deuteronomy 32:4-10. It refers to this One, the Rock!

4 The Rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is he; 5 yet his degenerate children have dealt falsely with him, a perverse and crooked generation.6 Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you? 7 ¶ Remember the days of old, consider the years long past; ask your father, and he will inform you; your elders, and they will tell you. 8 When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods; 9 the Lord’s own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share. 10 He sustained him in a desert land, in a howling wilderness waste; he shielded him, cared for him, guarded him as the apple of his eye. 11 As an eagle stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads its wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions, 12 the LORD alone guided him; no foreign god was with him. 13 He set him atop the heights of the land, and fed him with produce of the field; he nursed him with honey from the crags, with oil from flinty rock; 14 curds from the herd, and milk from the flock, with fat of lambs and rams; Bashan bulls and goats, together with the choicest wheat–you drank fine wine from the blood of grapes.

God sustained Jacob, in the wilderness.  He also sustained the apostle Paul amidst his persecuted life, following his having met and proclaimed, Jesus Christ:

In Romans 8:26, Paul writes that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”

Yea. And we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with sighs too deep for words, daily, and when we are in our howling wilderness waste!!

Sometimes, the circumstances of life can prove to be a howling wilderness waste, amidst ill health, or the tragic death of loved ones, or just in the sameness of the days, and the seeming unfairness of so much in life.

Sustained ... in a howling wilderness waste

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