And the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go toward yourself…’

– Genesis 12:1

The significance of the crisis generated by Abraham’s encounter with God is learned by him in the desert.  In Hebrew God’s words in Genesis 12:1 may equally be translated go forth as go toward yourself.  It is only in the desert that both leaving and finding yourself happen.

In biblical Hebrew there is:

  • caravah – the uncultivated land from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba
  • khorbah – a desert wasteland marked by the psychology of long-forgotten ruins
  • yeshimon – a trackless wilderness
  • midbar – the inhospitable expanse inhabited by ravenous animals, thorns bushes, and scrub brush

The biblical desert is physically characterized not by sand, but by beasts, raiders, temperature extremes, erosion, wind, storms, and even evulsion; it is psychologically characterized by wantonness, predation, implacability, dependency, desertion, exposure, vulnerability, and victimization.

In the midbar [the inhospitable expanse]
God is revealed as the medabber [the one who speaks].

– The Talmud

The desert is bipolar.  The desert is where God speaks; the desert is the site of rebellion and grumbling.  The desert is the only place of education for all who encounter God; the desert teaches only essentials.

The desert sharpens vision.

The desert creates vigilance.

A desert-dweller recognizes the presence of the desert-God

A desert-dweller discerns idolatry.

People of the desert have hands that point to the Messiah, eyes that discern sin, bodies carved out by erosion, eating frugal food, clothing that is prophetic, and are greatly, personally decreased in every aspect.

The desert itself is the mystery of God.

– Le Saux

You cannot be a Christian without being a desert dweller.

St. Anthony the Great
St. Anthony the Great