WILDERNESS: Twelve Springs and Seventy Palm Trees


April 16, 2020

Exodus 15:27 (NIV)

 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.


The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. 

Elim looks a lot like Psalm 23 before there was Psalm 23.

Twelve springs and seventy palm trees. 

Doesn’t that sound great! After all the trauma of Passover and the turmoil of the Red Sea and the three days of walking without water, Elim looks like the ancient equivalent of the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton. What a relief and respite this must have been for those beleaguered Israelites. Twelve springs and seventy palm trees and making camp near the water. 

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could take all the doctors, nurses and health care workers in this country and give them a few weeks at Elim with twelve springs, seventy palm trees,  and poolside cabanas. Of all people right now, they could use it.  

God knows what we need, and he knows we regularly need retreat and refreshment. We tend to think of this as optional and even indulgent. It is a requirement for a well formed soul. Jesus often took his disciples away for a retreat of rest and refreshment, though as time wore on it became very difficult for them to escape the constant need pressing in on them. 

For the ten plus years my family lived in Kentucky I was blessed to live within an hour and a half drive of a celebrated Trappist monastery, The Abbey of Gethsemane. About once every six weeks or so I would drive over and spend a day walking the historic grounds, following the serpentine trail through the woods to the famed statues, chanting Psalms with the monks and otherwise pretending to be a good Catholic. They were days of re-attuning my hearing and seeing, and listening for fresh words from God. Without fail, as sure as I became still and quiet I would sense the inner impression of God’s voice. It led me to this realization: if I hear from God every time I get still and quiet, he must always be speaking. 

I’m asking myself why I decided to stop here at the end of chapter 15 and devote an entire Daily Text entry to this single verse denoting a rather unspectacular occasion. As I reflect more, it occurs to me that this is the point. Imagine the storytelling and the note comparisons and the remarkable remembrances of what God had done in their midst. This is what retreat is all about.  

When is the last time you enjoyed such a time? For future reference, it is not some kind of indulgence, nor is it optional for a solid soul. Wilderness life demands it. 


Father, reveal to me the deeper wisdom of your will and ways in the wilderness. Thank you for the way you tend to my soul—green pastures and still waters. Thank you for the twelve springs and seventy palm trees of Elim and what they teach us in the midst of the wilderness. Lead me to such a place. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.


When is the last time you took a time away for a restorative and reflective retreat with the Lord? What happened? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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