“It was there at Marah that the Lord set . . to test their faithfulness to him.”
– Exodus 15:25 –
One of the last statements to reach my ears directly from the mouth of my college sweetheart was: “Now I can finally live happily ever after” – words that would coincide with the marriage to her “new” husband. In the rear view mirror was a 21 year marriage and divorce where quite possibly she was more married to an idea than to a man . . an idea of a kind of life as a Pastor’s life that was free of hardship, unplanned transition, uprooting of the family home, politics in the church, a “faith-forward dive into the unknown” spirit in her husband, children “marred” by the horrors of discipline, accountability and responsibility (she was raised in a strict religious and legalistic home) and financial instability . . but instead, she (and we) got a full dose of all the above and more.
Problem: when your idea of happy is tied to a set of external “white picket fence” circumstances that for the most part are beyond our control, you are just a couple of dramatic detours away from a season, if not a lifetime, of bitterness . . the kind of bitterness where there must necessarily be a truck load of blame to dump and a fall guy (in my case) to dump the blame on.
I tried to live and serve the Lord with all my own flaws and shortcomings in that environment but I discovered that I naturally drifted towards just existing and surviving. I could never do enough, be enough, love enough, lead enough, speak up enough, say nothing enough, be sorry enough . . my assigned label was “failure” . . and my nightmare was that while I preached freedom in Christ on Sunday, I was far from free to be the me He purposed because I was bound to a soul in love with “happy ever after”.
God understands the dark side of “happy ever after” and knows perfectly how “the good life” may look wonderful on the outside for a time, but just under the surface is a soul that has yet to find freedom that only comes when we set our highest affections on God Himself and entrust our whole life into His hands and purposes… this IS the working man’s definition of holiness.
Unlike my college sweetheart, God has never been about coddling and smothering His children for His own security. He is most pleased when our faith is anchored on the things of the Kingdom that are far greater than the temporal pleasures of this world.God is most pleased when our faith is anchored on the Kingdom, other than temporal pleasures. Click To Tweet
You would think that after 400-plus years of slavery and a wipe-out victory over the entire Egyptian army at the Red Sea, capped off by a rousing chorus of “We Are The Champions”, God might want to go easy on His people. But the first 72 hours in the wilderness (Exodus 15) offered no water and the first key stop was Marah… an oasis of sorts…
But the water was rancid and of little value to survival.
Then we discover that God was about to issue part 2 of a major exam to His beloved nation. The first test came in Exodus 14 when Moses charged the fearful nation with this order when being hotly pursued by raging Egyptians: “Stand still and watch the Lord”.
Sure enough, God came through BIG TIME.
But God knew something of deeper importance: We can be free of external brutal enslavement, injustice, unfairness, hardship and poverty, but still imprisoned by our own internal pride and idolatrous self-sufficiency. Indeed, we can be physically free on the outside but lifeless souls on death row on the inside… until we move from “happy ever after” to “holy ever after”. That kind of life where God and only God is our security, our wholeness, our healing, our refreshment, our peace and our provision.
In His mercy, God provided a piece of wood to Moses, the man who had 2.4 million sets of eyes asking one question: “Got water?”
When Moses threw the wood into the waters at Marah, Scripture tells us that the water became drinkable. What might have amounted to the largest mass mutiny in history was quelled – the message was received. For the moment.
And because the Israelites didn’t dig in and get stuck at Marah and heeded God’s presence and Moses’ leadership, they found their way to Elim – a lush Oasis with 12 wells of life-giving water and 70 palms of much-needed shade.
Have you ever got stuck on “happy ever after”?
What complaints have you thrown towards God on your day in Marah?
Been tempted to turn your back on God and retake control of your life?
Where has God’s mercy met you in your moment of uncertainty?
Sometimes God takes to us to the place of nothing so that we can be reminded that He and only He is our everything.
Imagine what the Israelites would have missed if they had stopped at Marah.
He has already prepared and planned ahead to meet you at your Marah… to turn your bitter into better… and to turn your better into overflowing blessing.
We can find ourselves finding Elim… if we will only choose… holy ever after.
“If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the LORD who heals you.”
– Exodus 15:26 –
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