Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp…The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.
Exodus 33:7, 11
I have loved stories about George Washington Carver since I was a boy. He was the eminent scientist and educator who once prayed, “Mr. Creator, why did you make the peanut?” Born into slavery in a one-room shanty, Carver was orphaned as a baby. Although he grew to manhood during the height of racial bigotry and discrimination, he became one of the most respected and influential figures of his day. American presidents called him friend, and world leaders such as Gandhi sought his counsel. Thomas Edison told Carver, “Together we can remake the world.” He turned down large offers of money from Henry Ford, believing God had called him to do something.
Among Carver’s many contributions to the world, he is probably best remembered for developing 300 products from the peanut, and 118 from the sweet potato. The words on Carver’s tombstone aptly sum up his life:
“HE COULD HAVE ADDED FORTUNE TO FAME, BUT CARING FOR NEITHER, HE FOUND HAPPINESS AND HONOR BEING HELPFUL FOR THE WORLD.”
There is a wonderful secret to George Washington Carver’s life: he kept a running conversation with God. He would ask God questions, and wait to listen for answers. He literally asked God why He made the peanut and said that God told him.
Carver called his laboratory at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute, “God’s Little Workshop.” It was there he delighted in working with God. He would often lock the door to God’s Little Workshop because, as he put it, “Only alone can I draw close enough to God to discover His secrets.” (Glenn Clark, The Intimate Life Story of Dr. George Washington Carver)
His daylong running conversation with God was initiated early every morning. Carver said: “All my life I have risen regularly at four o-clock and have gone into the woods and talked with God. There He gives me my orders for the day.” (Glenn Clark, The Intimate Life Story of Dr. George Washington Carver)
Today’s scripture speaks of that kind of friendship with God. The text tells us that in Israel’s 40-year wilderness wanderings, God provided a place for people to meet and talk with Him. We read that “outside the camp some distance away” Moses set up a tent that was called “tent of meeting”. It was set up so that literally, “anyone” could meet with God for “inquiring of the LORD.” The Hebrew word (baqash), translated “inquiring”, has a rich history and describes seeking God for help and guidance. It is the same word used in 1 Chronicles 16:11, inviting people to: “Seek (baqash) the LORD and his strength, seek (baqash) his presence continually.”
As God’s people made the difficult wilderness journey, God provided that holy space where “anyone” could meet with God. It was a place set apart, not just for priests or Levites, but set apart for “anyone”. Note that the Tent of Meeting was set up “outside the camp some distance away.” That meant people had to step away from busyness and distraction if they wanted to meet with God.
Moses set aside a place for meeting with God, and so did George Washington Carver. Carver said, “I ask God daily and often momently to give me wisdom, understanding and bodily strength to do His will, hence I am asking and receiving all the time.” (Editor, Gary Kremer, George Washington Carver: In His Own Words) Scripture and experience teach that such a life of intimacy is possible and is to be eagerly sought. There is a way open, scripture reminds us, for “anyone inquiring of the LORD.”
A fellow traveler,