Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Journey Begins :: Marah :: part one

Though written centuries ago, it is as relevant today in our own lives, as it was thousands of years ago. I’m amazed, again and again at how rich passages of Scripture are and how much can be learned from them. Especially passages, like the passage in Exodus, where Israel journeys to Marah. The following are a few principles regarding spiritual formation and discipleship that we can learn from Israel's experience found in Exodus 15:22-24.

Israel had just finished singing their song of triumph. Deliverance from the bondage of Egypt wasn't the destination, rather it was simply the beginning of their journey with God. It is with this journey, that God began the process of forming Israel into the people He had called them to be.

There comes a time for all of us,
where the songs of our lips are tested by the fortitude of our hearts and the way of our feet.

The journey isn’t just about getting us out of Egypt,
it’s about getting Egypt out of us.

We often think of Israel's time in the desert as dreary experience, but consider how the prophet Jeremiah portrays God's perspective. 

 2I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you love me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown. 3Israel was holy to the LORD. Jeremiah 2:2-3

As the echo's of Israel's song can still be heard on the banks of the Red Sea, God leads them away from that which was comfortable and represented safety into the desert.

22aThen Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur.

Our journey with God isn’t designed to always be comfortable.

Moses speaks up as the celebration of song and dance calms down. It is in this place of calm, comfort that he reminds them that the sea banks are not their final destination.
We all need voices in our lives that remind us
(regardless of how good our present circumstances look)
that this is not our destination…

The Hebrew word used for "led" here, carries with it a level of intensity. It infers that the Israelites would have been content to stay along the sea banks. Moses had to compel and strongly urge them to move into the unknown.

Throughout Scripture, everyone with a God-sized mission,
seems to be on an ardent journey into the unknown.

1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. ~Luke 4:1-2

22band they went into the Desert of Shur.

Intestingly, God did not lead them along the quickest and most direct route from the Red Sea to the Promised Land. On contrary, God lead them in seemingly the opposite direction. Why? One of the reasons is,

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” ~Exodus 13:17

On our journey, God knows exactly what we need
and what we are able to handle.

In addition to Exodus 13:17, it seems that there were a number of lessons God wanted to instill within Israel along the way. For instance, it was a number of months before God even brought them to the place of sending in the spies to the Promised Land.

God’s journey & plan of discipleship for us is not mass-produced,
rather it has been custom-designed.
The journey of true discipleship (and discipling relationships) always brings us to the crossroads where we have to face the enemy-in-a-me.
22bFor three days they traveled in the desert without finding water.

Water baptism, for a Christian, likewise symbolizes the death to our old self. Discipleship then, is the ongoing journey, where we are now continuously learning to live out of the reality of that death and in particular, learning to live out of the new life brought to us in Christ.

23When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.)

24So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

Our thirsts and hungers, especially when not quenched,
have a way of exposing what drives us.

God knew that they’d need the character and fortitude of perspective to stand up and be His beacon of light and truth into the nations. And, before they could stand up to the prince of powers of the nations around them, they had to conquer the prince of powers within them. And this development of person-hood and character has no shortcuts or quick fixes. As one author says, You can’t take an epidural shot to ease the pain of giving birth to character.

13In your unfailing loved you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling… 18The LORD reigns for ever and ever… ~Exodus 15:13, 18

One of the first lessons of every disciple, is the lesson that it is not about us.

10The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. 11But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. 12It is a land the LORD your God cares for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. 13So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— 14then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. 15I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. 16Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. ~Deuteronomy 11:10-16

24So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

Where do we look (and who do we blame) when our thirsts (wants and needs)
have not been met according to our expectation?
A Question to Linger:

  1. Are there areas where you’ve become comfortable and you sense God is “leading” you away from…?

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