Bible Devotions:  Lock Stock & Barrel
Devotional Reading for Outdoorsmen
(from the New Testament)

Matthew 2:1-2, 7-10
Biblical Orienteering

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.  And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”  When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

In the 1980’s, some friends and I visited the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, hiking some five miles to one of the park’s most beautiful features, the Sand Cave.  It was late winter, warm in the valleys but cool in the highlands.  A generous blanket of snow greeted us on the mountaintop.

I had been in this area many times and always felt at home.  I pretty much knew how the valleys played out, where the ridges ran, and which way to go if I got turned around.  But I wasn’t quite ready for what happened when we left the Sand Cave.  By then, it was nearly dark.  Two of us unpacked our only flashlights, both of which had accidentally turned on during the hike, running down the batteries.  We quickly hit the trail, trying to cover as much ground as possible before light faded.

Darkness caught up with us in minutes.  As I looked around for one hopeful last glimpse of a landmark, a small, steady light from a distant mountainside caught my eye.  It was the only light seen and we decided to use it as a mark for guiding us off the mountain.  We stumbled through the darkness, at first aided by snow-lit paths but eventually at the mercy of unlit trails, tripping over the little piles of stone we had placed earlier to mark intersecting foot trails.  The little light on the mountainside never moved, never disappeared, except to dart in and out of scrubby timber.

Miraculously, we soon found ourselves walking through a level area of ground that had a familiar feel.  We pressed on in close formation.  Suddenly, the first person in line came to an abrupt halt.  We had nearly stumbled into the bumper of the car!

Although I was experienced with these mountains, the circumstances could have gone against us.  The survival book says to stop and wait for help or morning.  We could have done just that, enjoying friendship around a blazing campfire.  We actually had done all the right things:  informed others of where we were going, marked our trails well, and checked our flashlight batteries before we started up the mountain.  Thankfully, someone’s house light gave us the mark we needed, orienteering skills notwithstanding.

The wise men traveled a much longer distance, perhaps several hundred miles.  As I consider their story, I think about my own experience.  I used landmarks during the day and a small spot of light at night to hike a mere ten miles.  I wonder how the wise men traveled?  If during the day, the ambient light of the atmosphere could not soften the glow of that special star.  If during the night, even cloud cover could not conceal its brilliance.  Day and night, the star led the men directly to the King.  With the light of the star overhead, and the Light of the world before them, the wise men had reason to rejoice.

I’m sure orienteering skills were useful and necessary, especially for finding their way back home.  Without the aid of modern GPS units and downloaded topographic maps, the wise men relied upon their own abilities to find a safer return route.  Their knowledge of astronomy, as well as a general idea of trade routes, equipped them for coming to the crib of the Christ-child and going with the Gospel that a Savior has been born.  Biblical orienteering indeed.

The Christ-child as a grown man taught that we, His faithful followers, are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).  Light is still necessary to lead people to glorify God.  We are that light.  Jesus has given us the command to let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

I love doing orienteering.  In a college physical education class, we were required to demonstrate a recreational activity.  I chose orienteering (a first for the coach).  At first, a few fellow students were a little hesitant to recognize my choice as a real sport.  But within a few minutes of the demonstration course, everyone was caught up in the activity.  Some of us, including me, discovered ways to use orienteering in children and youth ministries.

In life, the believer’s light must shine brightly as we lead people to choose Jesus.  Some people will hesitate to receive that choice.  Others will glorify God through faith believing in His Son, Jesus Christ.  When that Light is seen, all of us will rejoice with exceedingly great joy.

The Savior is, after all, the only way off the mountain.