Note: In January 2011 my wife and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This post is part of a series of blogs I have written to convey what I learned while on this life changing trip. You can read about the entire trip in the devotional book Touching the Footprints of Jesus.
The Bedouin are a nomadic people who have been shepherding camels in the Middle East for at least 3000 years. In recent generations the Bedouin have added sheep and goats to their inventory. Though the Bedouin are scattered across the Middle East, most of the Israeli Bedouin have become less nomadic and more settled due to the political and economic conditions that exist in Israel. But their long nomadic cultural memory has kept from investing in building fancy homes. Instead, they tend to find what most others would consider scraps and cobble together shacks that look like they will fall over if a big wind came through. The shacks were so insubstantial looking that it was almost comical to see a big satellite dish beside almost every home. The satellite dish must have cost more than the entire house, and yet there they were, everywhere we looked.
My wife and I saw countless numbers of these Bedouin shacks and their accompanying satellite dishes as we road back and forth on various roads through Israel. The tour guide that was assigned to our group shared a surprising fact about the Bedouin that we could not have known just by looking at their shacks. Our tour guide revealed that many of the people living in those shacks have sacks of money hidden in those shacks. Since they obviously do not pay much for the house, and most are set up on land that is owned by someone else, their housing costs are almost nothing. The United Nations provides food packets for them on a regular basis. Other charities help provide health care and other basic necessities. The end result is that the particular Bedouin who live in that area have no need to spend their own money. They simply put it in a sack under the bed or in a cabinet behind the dishes. Though it would appear at first glance that they are terribly poor, the reality is that they are relatively rich.
I realize that there are Bedouin in other places who may indeed be struggling. And perhaps there are individual families even in Israel that are not as well off as others. But as a general rule, the Bedouin around Jerusalem who appear to be so poor are not poor at all. As I reflect on this reality, I realized it is a great illustration that not everything in the world is as it appears. We are all good at putting on one face in front of others and a different face in our own private lives. We tend to hide the details about ourselves that shed a different light on us than what we want other people to see.
From a spiritual perspective, we must remember that the Lord does not judge by the outward appearance, He looks at what is on the inside. The Lord knows what we have hidden under the bed or behind the cabinets in the darkest places in our hearts. He sees. He knows. He points these things out to us when we least want to listen. We can pretend we do not hear Him and continue to live in spiritual shacks, or we can let His light shine through us burning away all the falsehoods and leaving only pure truth. That is something to contemplate as we seek to tune up our spiritual satellite dish today.