“God will not permit any troubles to come upon us, unless He has a specific plan by which great blessing can come out of the difficulty.”
Peter MarshallThe soft glow of light came through a single window. Though faintly seen, it gave relief. I was tired and eager for a soft bed, but my heart leaped with excitement to see the gleam of a lamp through the panes. A rush of anticipation seized my thoughts. To walk to the door. To tap on its hard wood. To hear its familiar creak as it widely opened. To see my mother's small frame standing in her tiny kitchen. To hug her neck and see her rejoice as she held her our little sons. To walk in and inhale the purity of a place that alone could feel so safe and smell so unmistakably distinct. To be home.
Through our early years of long distance living, the same scenario played again and again. Jeff and I would plan the day. We would set a leaving time, a particular hour, and anxiously await departure like two wrens perched two minutes from dawn.
It was a joyful time of forward thinking and living! The hope of soon-to-come distilled our loneliness and added life to our lives. Yes, we had our own sweet nest, which we so loved. And our call to the ministry was without regret. The sacrifice of nearness of extended family was ours to make, and we did so willingly, by God's grace, with joy, and in peace.
But how grateful we were for those few moments of the special soothing presence of mothers, grandmothers, brothers, and sisters and others. It was ease and removal of pain for two young lives who had come to know the grief and stress of bearing God's call; for while our baptism of ministry fire had brought new mothers, and brothers, and sisters, it had also brought new knowledge of the ways and means and labor in God's vineyard. That some well-meaning or not so well-meaning people say and do hurtful things.
We soon came to realize that such was part of our sacrifice. That if God so allowed bitter words, He was only using them for a sweet purpose. And that the cross was our only hope for removing the stinging acid that could eat away our souls.
No one enjoys the thought of drinking from Marah. God's chosen people were dismayed and murmured against Moses when a three-day journey in the desert brought them to that bitter place. Thirsty, dry, exhausted, they discovered waters that seemed an oasis but were quickly declared sour. It may have seemed to them a cruel gesture. They must have hastily remembered the sweet waters of the Nile, widely known for its pleasant, smooth taste.
And the Israelites didn't waste a moment. Their complaints about Moses' leadership were vociferous. "'What are we going to drink?' they demanded."
He didn't know. Didn't have a clue. But, Moses turned to God. He realized his helplessness. The wilderness life was new to him, too. And Moses knew the company was too tired to continue. There was no other source. BUT GOD!
In response, in faith, Moses, lifted his voice to the Lord, and God heard him and showed him a piece of wood, a tree. Moses threw the wood into the water, and the molecules of the bitter were altered. It became sweet, drinkable liquid, perfect H2O. And their thirsty, parched bodies were satisfied.
Now, I have to confess to you that I can feel no judgement toward the Israelites when I read Exodus chapter 15. I am not sure I would have responded any other way than they. No, it's not very spiritual, but had I and my family been without water in a vast nomad's land for three days, my patience would have been thin. In my thirst and desperation, I, too, would probably have cried and complained. I can only hope and pray that I would have ultimately lifted my soul to God as my source.
A sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon speaks to our need to always realize God as our source. And, within that sermon, his remarks about Marah are so timely for us. He talks about the humanness of the Israelites and their struggle with the flesh, their failure to have faith in Him who had just delivered them from the power of the Red Sea.
Yet, Spurgeon also speaks of our deeper need for grace in trials. For the necessary of sweet in bitter. The voice of wisdom while waiting. The lifted hands of faith in a dry place. The source of hope that turns troubled waters into palatable drink.
We must have a flow of the living liquid of life. We must all spiritually survive. But when bitterness challenges us, when words of others pierce our hearts; when we have financial loss; when there's little money for the doctor and nothing in our bank account for medicine; when we see the tread showing on our tires and our children need new shoes; when God in silence dwells; when drained from ministry; when a sudden shock wave collapses the world around us; it is at these points of testing we most need the cross of Jesus. We must cry to God to show us sweet wood.
As I read the thoughts of Spurgeon about Marah, I found his words so compelling. "As soon as we have a prayer God has a remedy. The remedy is near at hand; but we do not perceive it till it is shown us. 'The Lord showed [Moses] a tree.' The tree had been growing for years on purpose to be used. God has a remedy for all our troubles before they happen to us."
Praise God! Rejoice in those words! They are not just for his 1871 listeners, but they are for you today! God has grown wood for you, dear friend. Its sweetness is there, and your faith, your precious voice lifted to Him in prayer will reveal its place and purpose.
That God would so plan our steps amazes me! We have a heavenly Father who allows our trials and in His omniscience sees our future desert places. In seeing, God plans. Makes our ways of escape. Personally, in forethought, God plans our paths of deliverance. He plants the seeds for our pieces of wood. God, dear ones, crafts our destiny.
It is all set in order. And when our Marah moments come, our desperate disposition leads us to choice. Die from despair, drink the bitter before us, or cry to God with every ounce of energy and faith we have and wait for his tree.
Be encouraged today, dear friends. If a vast, dry desert has led you to Marah, do not give up. Do not despair. Do not give in. God has a tree. He grew it for you. For this time. For His purpose. For your good. Accept it. Place it in your bitter water. Then drink its life. It will heal your soul. Dry your tears. Soothe your weary voice. And make alive your desert place, so your way is perfect.
Quote from C.H. Spurgeon from biblebb.com
Scripture reference in Exodus 15 is from NLT.