Why Three Days Journey?
Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.'” But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.” (Exodus 5:1-3 ESV)
“Let my people go into the wilderness!”
Why did He call His people to leave the big cities of Egypt to go camping in the wilderness three days journey away from civilization? Here God gives a clear reason: “So they can hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”It was time to 1) free His people from bondage and give them an opportunity to 2) come together as a worshiping community. His agenda for sending them camping was to establish them as a people of worship and trust in God.
But Why so far Away from Civilization? Couldn’t they Have Just Gone for a Nature Walk in the Local City Park?
God wants His people’s uninterrupted attention. That goes for us too.
The distractions of the Hebrew people’s slavery and pagan cultural baggage of the Egyptian cities was going to get in the way of Israel hearing God’s voice and discerning their new identity. God is jealous for His people and He is not going to risk having his message drowned out by the loud voices and strong visual attractions of the world. God took them camping in the wilderness so they would hear Him and see Him clearly. He took them camping so they would understand His mission for them in the world. Jesus did the same thing when He took His disciples up on a mountain to give them the Great Commission.
Going camping today doesn’t have to be merely recreational either, for Christians it can and needs to be a time to enjoy solitude with God and to renew our sense of identity and calling to the Great Commission.
God Wants His People All to Himself
When you look at the wilderness in the Bible, we see a recurring theme in wilderness theology… that “throughout all of history, the wilderness has been a special place for transforming His people (Denton).” It is a place God takes His people to remove distractions so they can hear Him clearly and respond to his call.
Get Some Space!
We need to get out into God’s Creation today as well… away from the noise and distraction of city life so we can enjoy uninterrupted solitude with God. The book, Christian Outdoor Leadership: Theology, Theory, and Practice goes into great detail and offers practical advice for how to use time in the wilderness and backcountry adventure camping for leadership development, evangelism, discipleship, and spiritual formation. It is chocked full of experiential learning and Bible study resources as well.
- Consider developing a regular routine of getting away from the city for a day a quarter and a week a year to go meet with God in the wilderness like the Israelites did.
- Be intentional. When you head out into the outdoors, realize that this is an opportunity to combine the fun of recreation and adventure with an opportunity to connect with God, hear his voice, and realign your mission in life to glorify Christ.