I've been thinking a lot about the Israelites lately. About what it would have been like to travel with a tribe of people more "numerous than the stars in the sky" and live my daily life as a nomad amidst thousands of people in a tightly knit community. So much so that, last night, I dreamt about a tree that had large clusters of grapes hanging from it just like in the Promised Land. I didn't realize they were grapes, though, when I was far away - they simply looked like large, dark purple spheres suspended from the branches. It wasn't until I was closer that I realized they were bunches of colossal, lush grapes. I've always read about the Israelites in the context of their wanderings in the desert in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. It always seemed pretty point-blank, and I would generally see it from a sky view in my mind; I'd picture the tribes from above - small oatmeal-colored dots kicking up plumes of red dust with their sandaled feet amidst beige, animal-hide tents and camels. I'd picture the dunes covered with manna some mornings, white like flowers, and I'd always picture that classic painting of Moses with his white beard flowing in the wind while majestically holding the two tablets that listed The Ten Commandments.
Lately, however, I've been wondering what daily life was like. I'm sure there's a class specifically on this at NWC, and if so, I would love to take it. I keep thinking about the culture and how they cooked their food and what their relationships looked like. Did they have their own marketplace, amidst the traveling, to sell their wares or did they simply share everything? Did they gather around great bonfires at night to dance and worship the Lord and socialize or were things more solemn than that? I wonder especially what life then would have been like for a girl of my age. Maybe at twenty-one, I would have already been married for six years and have several children of my own, or maybe I would be tending to the sheep and drawing water from the river each day to help out the rest of my family. Would the Lord have spoken to me? Like when Elijah saw the wind and the earthquake and the fire pass by, but the Lord was not in any of them - He was in the gentle whisper. One so overwhelmingly potent with God that Elijah had to throw his cloak over his face. Or would I have seen the Lord as a pillar of fire and seen His power rumbling outwards in great swells of black smoke on top of the mountain?
Maybe I would have snuck out, under the cover of night, to swim with my friends in the Red Sea or sit near the coast and feel the hot wind on my face while I talked with Him. I wonder if I would have woven clothes and blankets or if I would have known how to strip and de-gut an animal. I wonder what my dreams would have been like and how I would have handled emotions and love and deep grief. I suppose that even amidst that kind of kinship and clan, there were still many people who felt lonely or awkward or out of place too. I bet my feet would have always been caked in dust and dirt, maybe even animal poop.
I bet everything was caked in dust.
I always thought of the desert as filled with a dry, sandy kind of silt - the kind that just slides right off once you splash water on it. But maybe it was a brick-red, clay dust - the kind that stains everything and makes cleanliness difficult (shows how much I know about Middle-Eastern deserts). I bet the women hated being dirty all the time. Or maybe they just got used to it and didn't even notice. I bet the men loved it...I always feel like men feel a little more masculine when they are covered in dirt or grime.
Anyway, I am praying that God would give me eyes to see these people as more than the simplified, flat characters placed on the felt storyboard in my second-grade Sunday School class. They had lives that were not only epic but often monotonous too. They each met the Lord in different ways, and they felt passion and anger and joy in all the intensity as any human would - maybe more so.
I have lots of thoughts on this. More might come out.