Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the tent of meeting. Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp.
From the time I was a boy I have been fascinated by stories about George Washington Carver, the great scientist and educator. Born into slavery in a one-room shanty, he was orphaned as a baby. Although he grew up during the peak in racial prejudice and discrimination he became one of the most respected and influential people of his day. Presidents called him ‘friend’, and world leaders from Gandhi to Stalin sought his wisdom. Thomas Edison told Carver, “Together we can remake the world.” He turned down six-figure offers from Henry Ford because he said he knew what God had called him to do. Among Carver’s many contributions to the world he is probably best remembered for developing 300 products from the peanut.
Knowing just a little about George Washington Carver it is not surprising to learn that his tombstone reads:
He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor being helpful to the world.
Throughout his life George Washington Carver was known for carrying on a running conversation with God. He literally asked God questions, sought His wisdom, and waited for Him to reply. Carver said that early in his career he asked God, “Mister Creator, why did You make the peanut?” He called his laboratory at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute “God’s Little Workshop”, and often locked its door, because, as he put it, “only alone can I draw close enough to God to discover His secrets”.
His conversations with God started the first thing in the morning. Carver described these conversations beginning like this: “All my life I have risen regularly at four o-clock and have gone into the woods and talked with God. There He gives me my orders for the day.” He talked with God, asking Him questions, seeking His help, and getting His orders for the day. Carver said: “I ask God daily and often momently to give me wisdom, understanding and bodily strength to do His will, hence I am asking and receiving all the time.”
Today’s Scripture talks about meeting with God, talking to Him, asking Him questions, and waiting for His reply. In the midst of Israel’s 40-year wilderness wanderings we see God providing a place where people could meet with Him, ask Him questions, and grow in friendship with Him.
The text says that “outside the camp some distance away” God directed a tent be set up where “anyone” could go and meet with Him seeking His guidance. The Hebrew word translated “inquiring” denotes seeking both God Himself and His guidance. It is the word used in I Chronicles 16:11 where God graciously invites: “Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his presence continually.” As God’s people made the long and difficult journey through the wilderness God provided a place where “anyone”, not just Moses, the priests and leaders, but “anyone” could meet with Him.
Notice that God directed the place for meeting with Him be set up “outside the camp…”. People would need to stop what they were doing, step aside from their busyness and distractions, and go meet with God. Like George Washington Carver, they would ‘lock’ the door and converse with God.
Today, we face situations, challenges, and crossroads in which we need God’s guidance and blessing on our path. George Washington Carver set a good example of locking the ‘door’ against the distractions and noise of the world and seeking God. He, along with many through the centuries, bear witness that such a life of intimacy with God is available. We need only to seek Him. Carver’s words are a good reminder and encouragement: “I ask God daily and often momently to give me wisdom, understanding and bodily strength to do His will, hence I am asking and receiving all the time.”
Grace and peace,