Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2010
Scripture: Numbers 13, 14; Joshua 14; Judges 1:12-15.
It was meant to be a relaxing hike for 64-year-old Edward Rosenthal. Last week the well-known Los Angeles real estate broker closed a profitable deal on the Clinton Cafeteria—a Los Angeles trademark—and decided to celebrate by taking a day hike. His place of choice was the Joshua Tree National Park. But celebration turned to fright when the experienced hiker made a wrong turn as he was heading back to his car at the end of the day.1
After straying for 13 miles, he realized how lost he really was, and that the best thing he could do was to sit and wait. His wait lasted for six days. Six days without food, and eventually, without water. Six days in the desolate desert where daytime temperatures reached 110 degrees as California experienced one of it’s worst heat waves in years.
When Rosenthal didn’t return home, search teams on horseback and in helicopters began to comb the area. As the days went by, hope of finding him alive dimmed for the rescuers. It also dimmed for Rosenthal.
The longer Rosenthal waited, the more he lost faith that he would be rescued. To pass the time, he chronicled his ordeal daily. He always carried a pen, but since he didn’t have any paper, he decided his hat would do just fine as a journal.
When he felt that all hope was gone, Rosenthal wrote a heartbreaking message to his family, stating that he didn’t think he was going to make it. For now the messages remain private. But his wife of 21 years did say that one note requested that Persian food be served if a wake or party to celebrate his life was held. “He had certain poems he wanted read. A vacation that we had planned, who I should take in his place, that I should still go on the vacation. Some of his clients that he wanted me to thank. It was very heartfelt,” she said.2
Rosenthal’s wife also said that he wrote to her that if she ever felt down, to “just think about him and how much he loved me and there is always hope.” He also left a loving note to their 20-year-old daughter.
Moments after writing what he thought was his final message to his family, he was rescued. Weak and severely dehydrated, he was nearly incapacitated. “I had to carry him to the helicopter and put him in the backseat,” said rescuer Bob Stine. “He couldn't walk on his own at all.” But the six days of waiting paid off. He was flown to the intensive care unit at High Desert Medical Center to recover.
As we learned in this week’s lesson, Caleb was experienced at waiting, too. First, he travelled slowly with the Israelites for 15 months before they reached the boarder of the Promised Land. Then, just as they reached Canaan, God made them wait while He sent spies into the land. Caleb was one of the 12 sent on that 40-day mission. Ten came back with discouraging reports. They didn’t believe that former slaves could conquer the powerful cities. But Caleb spoke up and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But few others shared his “live by faith, not by sight” attitude. In fact by nightfall, most were wishing they had died back in Egypt or while in the dessert! Caleb’s final wait would last 40 long years. An entire generation of Israelites would die off in the desert before they would be allowed to enter the Promised Land. Caleb had to suffer through that waiting, too.
He’s not unlike us, is he? We too wait to enter our Promised Land—Heaven. And the motto of our lives must be to “live by faith—not by sight.” When we’re tempted to grumble, doubt, and give up, like Caleb we need to recall how God has led us in the past. Our day will come, just as Caleb’s did. But for now, we too wait.