The Wild Places Bible Guide – 2

The Wild Places – Day 1

Tuesday, March 12

We’ll spend the first two weeks of Lent reading passages from the wilderness narratives that sit between Israel’s deliverance from slavery and their arrival in the Promised Land. The founding stories of this people of faith include rescue and promise, but also the chaos and confusion of wild places.

Exodus 15:22-27 (CEB)

22 Then Moses had Israel leave the Reed Sea and go out into the Shur desert. They traveled for three days in the desert and found no water.23 When they came to Marah, they couldn’t drink Marah’s water because it was bitter. That’s why it was called Marah. 24 The people complained against Moses, “What will we drink?” 25 Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD pointed out a tree to him. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

The LORD made a regulation and a ruling there, and there he tested them. 26 The LORD said, “If you are careful to obey the LORD your God, do what God thinks is right, pay attention to his commandments, and keep all of his regulations, then I won’t bring on you any of the diseases that I brought on the Egyptians. I am the LORD who heals you.” 27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees. They camped there by the water.

Points of Interest

  • The Shur desert lies to the northeast of Egypt. It’s a dry place on the road away from the fertile Nile delta. The word “marah” means bitter. The final place, Elim, is likely connected to the ancient Canaanite root word for god, “El,” meaning this name for this oasis might mean something like “Land of the gods.” Coming out of a hard and dry season of life, it’s easy to lose our way in bitterness before we reach the land of God.
  • I find Moses and God’s reactions to bitterness to be interesting. Moses is stressed out, as leaders usually are when managing bitter or angry people. That’s normal God is not stressed out. God recognizes that embittered people need to taste something sweet, and God’s glad to provide that.
  • Let’s notice the bargain God does and doesn’t strike. God doesn’t criticize them for their bitterness or tell them to never again feel embittered. God says to them in this wild, empty place: Follow me, do what I say. I know the way out of here. I am the one who heals you, again and again, as I just did. God’s response to our problems is healing, not judgment.
  • The people have the good sense to not just fuel up at the oasis and move on, but to camp out for a while. In busy, hectic times, it seems to me we rush on from most of our sweetest experiences of relief, without pausing to enjoy and savor a bit. Life is a journey – we always keep moving – but there’s time and space to camp out a bit and enjoy the best parts.

A Direction for Prayer

Pray for any of your friends or family who seem lost or embittered, that the God who heals would drop that tree of sweetness into their lives, bringing the kindness and relief they need.

Spiritual Exercise of the Week

Honest Prayer and Requests for Encounter, Discovery, and Rescue – This week, you are invited to name a place in your life where you are out of your element, beyond your resources, or out of control. Tell God about this. How is it that you want to experience God’s faithful love with you? What do you hope to learn in this season? How is it that you would like God to rescue you?

The Wild Places Bible Guide – 1

The Wild Places – Introduction

Monday, March 11

We begin our guide with our longest passage – a poem of encounter and discovery in wild places. 

Psalm 107 (CEB)
“Give thanks to the Lord because he is good,
        because his faithful love lasts forever!”
That’s what those who are redeemed by the Lord say,
    the ones God redeemed from the power of their enemies,
    the ones God gathered from various countries,
    from east and west, north and south.
Some of the redeemed had wandered into the desert, into the wasteland.
    They couldn’t find their way to a city or town.
They were hungry and thirsty;
    their lives were slipping away.
So they cried out to the Lord in their distress,
    and God delivered them from their desperate circumstances.
    God led them straight to human habitation.
Let them thank the Lord for his faithful love
    and his wondrous works for all people,
    because God satisfied the one who was parched with thirst,
    and he filled up the hungry with good things!
10 Some of the redeemed had been sitting in darkness and deep gloom;
    they were prisoners suffering in chains
11     because they had disobeyed God’s instructions
    and rejected the Most High’s plans.
12 So God humbled them with hard work.
    They stumbled, and there was no one to help them.
13 So they cried out to the Lord in their distress,
    and God saved them from their desperate circumstances.
14 God brought them out from the darkness and deep gloom;
    he shattered their chains.
15 Let them thank the Lord for his faithful love
    and his wondrous works for all people,
16     because God has shattered bronze doors
    and split iron bars in two!
17 Some of the redeemed were fools because of their sinful ways.
    They suffered because of their wickedness.
18 They had absolutely no appetite for food;
    they had arrived at death’s gates.
19 So they cried out to the Lord in their distress,
    and God saved them from their desperate circumstances.
20 God gave the order and healed them;
    he rescued them from their pit.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his faithful love
    and his wondrous works for all people.
22 Let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices
    and declare what God has done in songs of joy!
23 Some of the redeemed had gone out on the ocean in ships,
    making their living on the high seas.
24 They saw what the Lord had made;
    they saw his wondrous works in the depths of the sea.
25 God spoke and stirred up a storm
    that brought the waves up high.
26 The waves went as high as the sky;
    they crashed down to the depths.
The sailors’ courage melted at this terrible situation.
27     They staggered and stumbled around like they were drunk.
    None of their skill was of any help.
28 So they cried out to the Lord in their distress,
    and God brought them out safe from their desperate circumstances.
29 God quieted the storm to a whisper;
    the sea’s waves were hushed.
30 So they rejoiced because the waves had calmed down;
    then God led them to the harbor they were hoping for.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his faithful love
    and his wondrous works for all people.
32 Let them exalt God in the congregation of the people
    and praise God in the assembly of the elders.
33 God turns rivers into desert,
    watery springs into thirsty ground,
34     fruitful land into unproductive dirt,
        when its inhabitants are wicked.
35 But God can also turn the desert into watery pools,
    thirsty ground into watery springs,
36     where he settles the hungry.
They even build a city and live there!
37     They plant fields and vineyards
    and obtain a fruitful harvest.
38 God blesses them, and they become many.
    God won’t even let their cattle diminish.
39 But when they do diminish—
    when they’re brought down by oppression, trouble, and grief—
40     God pours contempt on their leaders,
        making them wander aimlessly in the wastelands.
41 But God raises the needy from their suffering;
    he makes their families as numerous as sheep!
42 Those who do right see it and celebrate,
    but every wicked person shuts their mouth.
43 Whoever is wise will pay attention to these things,
    carefully considering the Lord’s faithful love.

Points of Interest

  • This is a poem of rescue, to be sung by “the redeemed” – people who God has found and helped while in all kinds of out of control situations. The theme of the song is God’s “faithful love” – that the love and help of God is available for all people, at all times, in all circumstances. 
  • As we consider the tight jams of this psalm, see if at least one describes a time in your past that is mercifully over. If so, thank God for rescue, however it came. Let’s also see if one of these situations poetically describes your own current wild place. 
    • The desert wasteland – a time of hunger and thirst, where there’s not enough of what you need
    • Darkness and deep gloom – the hopeless, hard living that comes with addiction, oppression or any other form of being trapped
    • The distress that follows foolishness – the suffering and ill-at-ease sensation that comes with regret for what we have or haven’t done
    • Over one’s head at sea – what might have started as exhilaration is now out of control chaos that leaves you anxious or discouraged
  • There’s a pattern in these stories: people notice the chaos, they cry out to God, they find God is with them, and God makes a way through and out of suffering. 

A Direction for Prayer

Pray that, by Easter, our church will be filled with stories of encounter, discovery, and rescue, people learning things of great value, and experiences of God with us, and God’s help for us.

Spiritual Exercise of the Week

Honest Prayer and Requests for Encounter, Discovery, and Rescue – This week, you are invited to name a place in your life where you are out of your element, beyond your resources, or out of control. Tell God about this. How is it that you want to experience God’s faithful love with you? What do you hope to learn in this season? How is it that you would like God to rescue you?  

The Wild Places Bible Guide – Introduction

Lent at Reservoir

Each year during the pre-Easter season of Lent, we’ve become accustomed to exploring a section of Scripture together. You can check out past daily bible guides here if you’re interested. This year, we’re going to explore the concept of wilderness and exile, and our series will be called The Wild Places. Our Sunday sermons will also explore this from 3/10-4/14, so you’re invited to read/listen to those as well.

The Wild Places: Introduction

By choice or by circumstance, we sometimes find ourselves in times and in places, in circumstances and in seasons, where we are out of our element, beyond our resources, and out of control. Let’s call these the wild places.

Sometimes a journey into the wild places is deliberate. We swim in the ocean, we trek into the woods, we travel outside our comfort zone. We know these can be times of profound learning and encounter, opportunities to discover something new about ourselves, our neighbor, our world, even the divine. Other times we end up in wilds we’d never wish for. A loved one dies, a relationship or venture fails, a dream goes unfulfilled, disaster or chaos strike. These can be times that make or break us, that shape us or undo us, or both.

In the Bible’s treasure of metaphors, these places are often connected to the place and experience of wilderness. People end up in the wilderness of nature and praise God for all they see and discover there. People, and whole nations and cultures, are also driven into the wilderness and need to come to grips with their greatest fears and most crippling habits. But again and again, these wild places are times and spaces of profound learning and discovery and formation.

This year, we hope that the Lenten1 season will be for us all a profound time of learning and discovery and formation. This year’s Bible guide won’t examine a single, contiguous section of scripture as we so often do (Revelation last year, Romans three years ago) but will be more of a thematic survey.

Each weekday we’ll present you with a different passage, in the Common English Bible translation. On weekends, you can catch up on a missed day, review a favorite passage, or skip the guide all together.

Points of Interest — a handful of comments, which include literary or historical notes as well as impressions, thoughts, questions, and reactions. These aren’t meant to be exhaustive or authoritative, but simply to give you some more perspective to work with as you ponder the passage yourself. We try to name things you hadn’t noticed but wish you had, as well as give voice to some of the questions and observations you did have but weren’t sure what to do with.

A Direction for Prayer — there will also be a prompt for prayer that you can use. These invitations focus on the prayers for others we encourage you to try during this season:

For your friends and family: Consider some of your favorite people, people you interact with on a regular basis, who don’t seem to have much of a direct connection to God, but for whom you are very much rooting. What does this passage have to say to them, or to you about them?

For your church or city: How can we apply the passage corporately as a faith community?

Spiritual Exercise — each week, there will a different daily spiritual exercise to try, inspired by the week’s passages. Or what does this passage say about or to our entire city?

We hope Lent will be a season of spiritual formation for us – of engaging spiritual practice that increases our health and encourages the flourishing of the life of God in and through us. If you would like to engage in fasting or increased generosity, these are two traditions of spiritual formation that have been traditionally helpful during this season. See the March 3rd sermon on spiritual formation for more. Meanwhile, we’ll be encouraging the spiritual practices of Scripture reading and prayer in community. Attend our Sunday services and join a community group for the season if you’re able. You could also find a friend to touch base with on your own if you like. May your Lent be a place of warm encounter with God and with others, and may it be a time of rich learning, discovery, and formation.


1Lent is from an Old English word meaning “spring”. It’s used to refer to the 6-week period before Easter Sunday. For centuries, Jesus followers have marked this period of anticipation for Easter through prayer, fasting, and giving. In past years, we’ve called this season the 40 Days of Faith. We’re putting that title aside for two reasons. One, it’s our own in-house jargon that isn’t familiar to those outside our church. “Lent” is part of our faith tradition and is still a familiar (if misunderstood) season in our broader culture. The other reason is that the 40 Days of Faith featured an encouragement to people to ask God for a big desire or need. Many individuals have experienced dramatic answers to their prayers over the years. But for others, this practice has been confusing or wearisome. Anybody is able to ask God for their heart’s desire in any time or season. This year, though, we’ll encourage that practice for those who are interested during our Advent season, the time before Christmas when we traditionally connect some of our deepest longings with Jesus’ presence with us and our longing for Jesus to come again.