Abraham, Chatwin, and Gone
“And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, unto the place of the altar which he had made there at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the LORD. And Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents. And the land was not able to bear them…” – Genesis 13
When it comes to journeys, nomads are expert.
“Nomadism is born of wide expanses, ground too barren for the farmer to cultivate economically – savannah, steppe, desert and tundra, all of which will support an animal population providing that it moves. For the nomad, movement is morality. Without movement, his animals would die. But the planter is chained to his field; if he leaves, his plants wither… Nomads never roam aimlessly from place to place, as one dictionary would have it. A nomadic migration is a guided tour of animals around a predictable sequence of pastures… For life in the black tents has not significantly changed since Abraham, the Bedouin sheikh, moved his flock on his ‘journeys from the south even unto Bethel, where his tent had been at the beginning.’”
– Bruce Chatwin, What Am I Doing Here? (1988) p. 219-220
Another word for nomad is “shepherd.”
Let’s review what we learned from Chatwin:
1. The flock must move forward to live.
2. A shepherd’s movement of the flock is calculated, not random.
3. A shepherd moves the flock for its benefit, not his own.
4. A shepherd knows things the flock does not know.
David was a shepherd when he slew Goliath. He went on to become king of Israel.
One thousand years later, “…there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!’ And it came to pass, when the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, ‘Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.’ And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.” – Luke 2
The 23rd Psalm is one of the most often-quoted bits of the Bible.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside still waters…”
Jesus echoed this Psalm when he said of himself , “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10
Life is a journey through time.
We travel a road passing through it.
It is good to have a shepherd.