AN APOCRYPHAL ACCOUNT OF THE 70 PALM TREES
“Wonderful sermon today Moses” said the appreciative Israelite worshipper as she left the assembly and headed back to her wilderness tent. “May Jehovah be praised” respectfully replied her desert pastor as he shook her weathered hand. The warm sun was pouring down its dry heat onto their sandy sanctuary, and it seemed as though he could feel the very smile of God upon them. “It was an unusually effective message,” he thought to himself, as he recalled some of the pointed expressions and powerful illustrations that were artfully weaved into the fabric of his Sabbath sermon. More grateful expressions from the thankful congregation greeted him as his flock made their way toward the wells where they gathered to wet their thirsty throats. “Many dry mouths,” thought Moses, “but not many dry eyes today.”
That illustration with the wells really hit home. He could almost feel the Spirit descend upon the church as he pointed to each of those twelve wells surrounding them, reminding the wanderers of Jacob’s twelve sons and how the Lord had built for Himself a people out of nothing. “They were like twelve wells,” he had said, “out of which the Almighty drew forth a living nation as great as the sea.” Ah, that was good. “And just as the Eternal ‘I AM’ preserved our people in Egypt, so He is preserving you His children here in the desert.” Then, departing somewhat from his notes, but sensing something of the Lord’s leading, he had said “And I wonder, I just wonder, if this same great God of ours will one day raise up twelve more men who will carry His glorious message of salvation to the very ends of the earth itself.” You could see it on their faces. They knew they were a part of something much greater than themselves. They were worshipping like they had never worshipped before. A sobering sense of the awful majesty and awesome wonder of the Lord surrounded them. As the preacher pondered these things he could begin to feel a little surge of pride at this accomplishment. It was as though someone were secretly whispering in his ear “Moses…what would this people do without you? You are their leader, their prophet, their guide. Moses…you are the man! There is no preacher in all of Israel like you! Moses…you are their god!”
Moses shuddered. Without wasting another moment he cried out in his heart to the Lord “O Lord, humble me, make me to know my own meanness and lowliness and weakness. Forgive these proud and blasphemous thoughts. Crush my arrogant heart. Make me meek and lowly. Have compassion on me, O my God. I am an unprofitable servant at best. O LORD, deliver me.”
As Moses finished his silent prayer he opened his own wet eyes and saw little Benjamin walking toward him. He loved this boy. And Benny had seemed especially attentive today. Moses reached down and gave the lad an affectionate pat on the head. “I saw you making some notes in the sand during the sermon Benny,” said Moses, “what were you writing?” “Oh,” said Benny, “I was counting.” Moses grinned. “Ah, I see,” he said “counting the wells I presume, checking my numbers. Good boy. Contemplating the mercies of the Lord God, the provisions of the Almighty, the emblems of salvation planted here in the desert for our instruction.” Moses felt satisfied with himself again, and could feel those bubbles of pride beginning to rise to the surface of his heart. “Oh no,” said young Ben, “just counting the palm trees in the camp. There are 70 you know. I counted twice just to be sure. Oh, did you preach today?” And with that young Ben made his way over to a gathering of his friends.
Moses smiled and offered up a brief prayer of thanksgiving to the LORD. He walked back to his tent and pulled out the manuscript of their travels he had been working on. With a grateful and humbled heart he made a little inspired alteration to his journal. “Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters” (Exodus 15:27). He wondered if he should include a little explanation of the story of how the palm trees were counted. “No,” he thought to himself “I’m sure they will figure that one out all on their own.”