Tag Archives: Exodus

The Lord Who Heals You: Jehovah Rophe

This spring as the Coronavirus pandemic gained momentum, my husband and I got ready to start a construction project at our house. We found a contractor, met with him a couple of times to talk about the plan – we even had masking tape lines on the floor where a new wall would go.  Supplies were scheduled to arrive on a Friday and work would begin on that Saturday. And then, the stay-at-home order went out. I started having second thoughts about the timeline.  Was it a good idea to start a construction project in the middle of a pandemic? Would we or the contractor get sick? Would we be able to buy the supplies we needed throughout the project?

Really, my core concern wasn’t whether we could start, but whether we’d be able to finish. The only thing worse than a construction project is a half-done, stalled construction project.

Any half-done project is frustrating. It’s messy, unusable, a constant reminder that there’s more work waiting. Usually, you can’t see a half-done, stalled project with any satisfaction. Instead, it’s a reminder that there’s more work to do – every time you walk past it.  We put construction on hold.

Thinking about the construction dilemma makes me acknowledge that what I won’t tolerate in my home, I often tolerate in myself. I am not a finished project.  I am still being formed in the image of Christ. My wounds are still being healed. My relationship with God has a lot of room to grow and deepen. All of that is okay. Those things will be “under construction” until I am done with my earthly life.

The problem is that – at times – I let those projects stall. There have been times I settle for them when they’re stalled out, half-way done, no new progress made for stretches at a time. That’s the problem.

But we love and serve a God who finishes projects. God completes what he starts. God doesn’t just want to save us – to rescue us and then leave us as we were. God wants to bring us into the safety of communion with him and then begin the work of restoration – of healing. We love and serve Jehovah Rophe – the God who heals.

The Lord is Healer

Early in the biblical story, God introduces himself to his people as healer. In Exodus, God refers to himself as Jehovah RopheThe Lord Who Heals You.  Some of the names of God were given to him by people as they had significant experiences with the Almighty. Like Hagar who called God Jehovah RoiThe God Who Sees Me. But in this case, God doesn’t wait for someone to notice through experience; instead, God announces it.

Look with me at Exodus 15:22-26:

Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water.When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.

There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”

A few days before this event at Marah, God orchestrated a mass exodus of his people out of slavery – out from under Egyptian control – and into freedom.  They were free – but in many ways, they were still dragging their broken chains with them. They bore damage done by generations of enslavement. They had been mistreated, abused, threatened, their babies killed, their lives and dignity stolen.  They were officially free – but not yet in a way to live the abundant life that God promised them. They needed a God who heals.

If you read those early moments of their exodus, you know that healing didn’t happen overnight for them. This event at Marah was the first of many events orchestrated by God to heal. Look at the passage again.  Do you notice the signs that God’s people needed healing? They panicked when faced with adversity; their resilience was tapped out from repeated trauma. We can’t underestimate their suffering here, from our well-hydrated, air-conditioned, padded seats.  This was a tough spot: three days walking in the desert without water means significant suffering. In their group are babies and children, elderly people, thirsty animals.  And then, to their suffering, they add disappointment: the water they do find is undrinkable.

Their response to the situation shows that they need not only water, but the deep, inner freedom of healing. They panicked, fight or flight kicking in: “What are we going to drink?” And they grumbled not to Moses but against him; under pressure, this traumatized group of people turned on Moses.

Moses is dealing with the same situation. He is thirsty too; and he is responsible for leading this group.  But Moses does something helpful: he cries out to the Lord.  Healing had already begun in this leader. God had been working Moses’ healing during his time in Midian.  He knows to bring his problems to God. Sometimes, people grumble when they need a God who heals; but people cry out to God when they’ve begun the process of healing.

Moses cries out and God responds. God tells Moses to throw a piece of wood into the water; instantly, the water is turned from bitter to sweet.  On the surface, this is a practical move to provide desperately needed water. In another way, it was like a parable acted out: God’s kind and gentle way of saying, “Hey, Israelites, do you see yourselves a little in this bitter water? Here’s good news – I am a God who heals things. Would you like to be healed?”

God could have just yelled, “Stop being bitter!” Instead, God patiently introduces himself to this people as The God Who Heals. God heals the diseased water as a demonstration of his goodness and his healing power. Then God asks: “Will you let me heal you?”

If you read the rest of Exodus, you’ll see that the people didn’t initially get God’s deeper purpose in this miracle. They were distracted by their thirst and the water; they moved onto the next thing. Once the crisis was over, they forgot to circle back and confront their own bitterness. They continued in survival mode.

Is it tempting to stand back and admire God who heals, but to neglect allowing God to begin the healing process in you? It’s one thing to know that God can heal; it’s another thing to experience God as the One who heals you. Knowing about God only gets you so far. You and I need to experience God – not just once but many times.

God didn’t want the Israelites to be a half-way done, stalled construction project. God doesn’t want to leave you half-done and stalled out, either.

God has the power to change the very essence of something. How long had that water been bitter? Long enough for the locals to name the spot Marah – which means bitter. That’s how deep the bitterness ran.

How long had the Israelites tasted bitter suffering? For generations. As long as they could remember. But the God who heals can turn what is into what can be.  How long have you been bitter, or sad, or angry, or shamed? Do you have ways of thinking and responding that are so deep you don’t even recognize them as broken? What has become your normal?

Maybe you’ve been angry or sad or hurt or sick for a long time – maybe for as long as you can remember. God’s not put off by that. The God who heals can change the very essence of who we are. Just like God changed water from bitter – so diseased that people dying of thirst couldn’t drink it – to sweet – a life-giving joy to experience.

The water was healed much more quickly than the Israelites were; it takes time to earn trust. So God began a process of healing with the Israelites – a 40-year process.  The Israelites didn’t have a lot of patience for the process; do any of us? Do you expect an instant of salvation to resolve what can take the process of sanctification a lifetime?  Sometimes if we get frustrated with the process, we opt out.

Let Yourself Be Healed

Sometimes healing happens suddenly. I know of physical healing that’s happened in a moment. You may know someone God has instantaneously healed of emotional wounds.  But other times, healing happens in the slow lane. That was certainly the Israelites story. God healed them in stages. 

You won’t just see this in the Old Testament, you can see it in the New Testament as well. Think about the disciples’ three-year-long journey with Jesus. There’s an interesting account of healing found in Mark 8:22-26:

They came to Bethsaida. Some peoplebrought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the manlooked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesuslaid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.”

Jesus heals this man, but in a way that is unique from every healing story in the Gospels. For some reason, Jesus doesn’t heal him instantly like he did all the others. It’s certainly not because he couldn’t. Jesus healed people left and right. It’s not because the man lacked faith for full healing: Jesus raised the dead man Lazarus back to life, and dead people don’t have any faith.

I don’t know why Jesus took two turns at healing this guy, but I’m glad he did. It gives me hope.  For me, healing has come in stages. I don’t think I’m alone. So this story gives my story context – a way of understanding why something can take so long.  What can we learn about the healing journey?

I love these stories of Jesus interacting with people one-on-one. They are each unique and personal.  The blind man’s friends want him to be healed; they must have heard about or seen Jesus heal people. So they bring the man to Jesus and beg for healing for their friend. 

Jesus offers his hand to the man and leads him to a quiet spot where they can speak privately. Then – Jesus spits on the man’s eyes, touches him, and asks, “do you see anything?”

Each of us might handle being in the blind man’s shoes differently; I think I would have felt some performance pressure to be a success story.  Everyone else had been healed instantly. Why wasn’t I? But the way Jesus asks the question, “Do you see anything?” sets up the man to answer honestly.  “Well…I see what must be people, but they kind of look like trees…”

From this brave man’s example, I learn to be honest about where I am in my healing journey: honest with myself, with God, and with others. We all have areas that are works in progress. We all see more than we used to, but not everything clearly yet. Can we admit that? 

Sometimes in faith communities there’s an expectation that because we go to church or believe in Christ that we are done – healed – good to go.  We struggle to make room for the process of healing.

This man honestly reported exactly what he was experiencing. Jesus didn’t blame him, question his faith or intelligence, yell at him, or get frustrated and quit.  Instead, the man’s honesty led to more healing. This man didn’t settle for half-a-healing. Jesus stood right there – present, kind, patient, through the whole process. Not an eye roll. Not a sign of irritation or frustration.

And the man didn’t walk away, either. He could have said, “well, people looking like trees is better than nothing,” and settled for that. He could have decided he wasn’t up for being smeared with saliva again. Instead, he spoke honestly with Jesus, and waited while the healing continued. Jesus did all the work. All the man had to do was stay present.  And just like God transformed the water from bitter to sweet, God transformed a blind man into someone who could see clearly.  Polar opposites: bitter to sweet, blind to 20/20 vision. Jehovah Rophe: The Lord Who Heals You.

At times, I have settled for half-a-healing; I have settled for being healed enough to hold it together in public – but falling apart inside. I have settled for seeing through a fog, when I could have been seeing clearly. Does that sound like you?

Why do we do this?  Because sometimes, healing hurts. Ask anyone who has gone through cancer treatments.  The God Who Heals does the work; but we have to submit to it, and it’s hard. If you get into a hard part, you may think you must be doing it wrong. But if it’s hard – you are probably doing it right.  Healing requires us to name our baggage, wounds, hurt, or trauma, and allow God to work there – in a place that’s sometimes quite painful, that we’d rather ignore or hide or protect.

None of us are completed projects. That’s not the problem. The problem is when you begin to tolerate a constant state of disruptive “good enough.” If you let the healing process stall out and come to a standstill. If you know deep down you’re still only seeing shadows but you don’t want to admit it.

Today, do you know God as Jehovah Rophe – The Lord Who Heals You?

Where are you on your healing journey?

Everyone in this world needs healing of some kind. I’m not surprised when you tell me you have baggage. I trust that you will not be surprised when I’m honest about ways in which God is still healing me.

God doesn’t ever just heal us for our own sake, but also for the sake of others. Who are the others in your life who will be impacted when you allow God to work healing in your life?  Your children, your spouse, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors?  In the hard moments, if  you are tempted to walk away half-done, make a list of their names. What difference will it make in their lives when you patiently stick with the process?

It is not self-centered to choose to search for healing. It’s so that you can come out on the other side more whole and healthy. It’s as if God is throwing pieces of wood into the water, saying, “Come on! Taste the water now. I can do this for you, too.”

Where are you on your healing journey? Is the construction in process; has it come to a standstill? Have you settled for blurry, good-enough vision? Do you hear God’s patient invitation to stick with it? Wherever you are, consider some of these next steps:

  1. Ask for help. You might not even know how to frame the question or issue. “Will you help me?” might be all you can say. That’s a perfectly fine place to start.
  2. Reach out. Maybe you know right away what needs healing and you’re ready to engage with God. Reach out to someone and let them walk with you – a pastor, a small group leader, a district confidant, a spiritual director, a trusted friend.
  3.  Tell your story to someone. Sometimes our healing lies in bringing things to the surface that we’ve ignored until we’ve almost forgotten. Tell your story to someone and notice what still hurts. That might be an area God wants to bring wholeness and restoration.
  4. Seek out professional help. Spiritual healing does not happen apart from emotional healing. God uses professional therapists, counselors, addiction specialists and many others to heal.

What is your next step? God is so patient with us. Will you be patient and let God change the essence of your life? God remains Jehovah Rophe: The Lord Who Heals You. God can take your life from:

bitter to sweet

sadness to joy

fear to trust

So how does the water taste to you today? What is it that’s blurry? What can you see?

Tom Fuerst ~ If You’re Wanting More from Your Devotionals, Try This…

I want to propose a different Bible-reading practice that I think will challenge your devotional experiences in ways you never imagined. No, no, I do not have a trendy new interpretative method. I don’t have a magic formula. Rather, I have a very simple (but not necessarily easy) suggestion.

For many of us, when we read the Bible, we read it from the perspective of people who need encouragement, therapy, challenge, hope, or even love. These are all good things that we do, indeed, need. But usually these needs arise from a larger situation that involves someone or something hurting us. For example, we need encouragement because a boss is berating us. We need therapy because of a conflict in our family of which we see ourselves as the victim. We need challenge because we find it hard to keep pressing on. We need hope because our situation seems hopeless. And we need love because we lack self-esteem.

Again, these are all fine to an extent. But I wonder if they don’t eventually become habits of reading that blind us to other things we may need. If we always see ourselves as the underdogs, the victims, the outsiders, the marginalized, etc. then we may in fact be blind to the ways we are not in fact these things.

So here’s my suggestion if you want a different kind of challenge from your Bible reading: Read your Bible as if you’re on top looking down, not the bottom looking up. 

That is, don’t read your Bible as if it speaks to you as a victim, but read it as if it speaks to you as the person/community in the wrong.

Of course, for certain people in certain situations it may be fully appropriate for them to read the Bible from the position of victim. They may need to see themselves as the Israelites in the Exodus story. But for many of us, especially those of us with social privilege, we need to ask a different set of questions. We need to ask ourselves what the Bible might have to say to us if, say, we are the Egypt of the story instead of the Israelites. What if I am Pharaoh instead of Moses?

The point of this exercise is not for me to prove to you that you are Pharaoh. No. That’s not my job. The point is for you to ask yourself harder questions when reading the Bible. Because, most assuredly, God’s word to the Israelites is liberating, but that same word to Pharaoh is harsh and speaks strongly of repentance.

When we read the Bible as if we are on the top looking down, it jars us out of our easy assumptions about our faith and practices. It forces us to look at things that we have been able to hide from our sight. It calls into question our privilege of assuming the other person/group needs to here “this,” and puts the focus solely on my need to hear “this.”

Such a reading forces me to ask, How am I complicit in hurting other people and how might act on their behalf instead? How are the structures of my society set up to benefit me in ways other people don’t have an opportunity to benefited? Am I treating the people who work for me with dignity and respect? In what ways has my cultural heritage – indeed, inheritance – given me access to resources that others are denied because of race, gender, or economic status? And in all, what might the God of Israelite slaves have to say to me about these things? What might Christ, who said, “Blessed are the poor” have to say to someone who is not poor?

Again, let me be clear about this: Victimization is not restricted to non-white, non-wealthy, non-men. Victimization can happen anywhere and to anyone. Thus, there are times it is appropriate to read the Bible as a victim and seek its encouragement. But that should not be a habitual approach for those who are less frequently victimized because of cultural privileges. Instead, people like me – yes, me! – need to challenge ourselves to read the Bible as if it quite often speaks against us, against our assumptions, against “the way things are” for us.

  • What if I am Pharaoh and not Israel?
  • What if I am King David and not Bathsheba or Uriah?
  • What if I am Saul and not David?
  • What if I am Laban and not Jacob?
  • What if I am Judah and not Tamar?
  • What if I am King Saul and not Samuel?
  • What if I am a Pharisee and not Jesus?
  • What if I am the Rich Young Ruler and not the widow offering her two cents?
  • What if I am the accuser and not the woman at the well?
  • What if I am Cain and not Abel?
  • What if I am the Nephalim and not Noah?
  • What if I am the hard-hearted nation and not the intrepid prophet?
  • What if I am Ruth’s original kinsmen redeemer and not Boaz?
  • What if I am Nebuchadnezzar and not Daniel?
  • What if I am Herod and not Mary or Joseph?

You see, if we read the Bible from this other perspective, it may say radically different things to us. Sure, they won’t necessarily by the typical things you find in a Beth Moore devotional, but they might be the very things that save the soul by bringing about the fruits of repentance, holy love for God, and holy love for neighbor.

Michelle Bauer ~ Connecting with God on the Journey

The recommended reading for this sermon comes from Exodus 13-16.

I love to talk about spiritual disciplines.  Spiritual disciplines are the things we do to intentionally connect with God. In the classic work Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster outlines 12 foundational disciplines. But these quickly become categories when we begin to think about practices such as journaling, truth-telling and caring for the earth.  Intention is the key that ties all of these practices together. When we do something with the intention to enter into God’s presence we are practicing a spiritual discipline.

I am a late bloomer when it comes to the disciplines.  I’ve been a Christian for decades but only discovered the importance of the disciplines about four years ago. I managed to sit through countless Sunday School lessons, memorized hundreds of verses at Awana and even went to Bible college and somehow managed to miss, or ignore, the truth that God and I could be connected on an intimate level.

Because God and I weren’t connected in that way, I got through life by sheer determination. But eventually determination has a way of running out and mine did. In 2010, our family moved from Fayetteville, North Carolina. We left a church that I loved and friends that were like family to me. I thought we would live in this place forever.  I was very sad and resentful that we had to move.  At the time of the move, we had three children under the age of four and our youngest was just a few weeks old. I was tired in every way possible – mentally, physically, emotionally. When we arrived in August we found a church home quickly and I dove into church activities desperate to think about something besides who needed to be fed or changed next.  But while serving was meaningful, it drained away the last little bit of determination I had.

The whole “grit your teeth and get through it” method wasn’t cutting it anymore.  I am very grateful that God chose that season to intervene. He prompted my good friend to give me a book for my birthday about the spiritual disciplines and I began to read it.

These were all things I’d heard of before – prayer, Bible study, fasting. But something about that vulnerable season allowed me to see, for the first time, the purpose behind why God invites us to do them. And it began to change me. The disciplines have opened up a whole new way of being with God for me. They’ve created a lot of mess too. But good mess. Like the mess of a demolition project before new construction can begin.

I am still a beginner at the disciplines but I’ve experienced enough to know they work. My hope is to share what I am learning about how the disciplines work and why they are necessary if we are going to follow Jesus.

And to do that, I need to show you “The Drawing”…

drawing

My pastor, Carolyn Moore, introduced our congregation to this drawing a couple of years ago and we refer to it often because it makes a lot of sense.  You and I are the stick person. God is shown at the top of the picture and God wants to pour all of who he is on us: grace, love, mercy, forgiveness, identity and a bunch of other things.

The problem is that we were born with an umbrella. Usually umbrellas serve a useful function – they keep the rain out.  But in this case, what the umbrella keeps out is God.  This umbrella came to us as a part of the curse.  It makes us feel like God is far away.

Since the fall of humanity, each person is born with an umbrella and the events of life work to reinforce the umbrella. Every time we are hurt, or sin or face a loss, our umbrella gets thicker and tougher.  I was teaching this lesson to a group of older school age kids a few weeks ago and when I got to this point, one of the boys raised his hand and when I called on him he blurted out, “the Devil’s a jerk!”  And what do you say to that except, “yes, he is…” The devil loves our umbrella and has a vested interest in keeping it intact.  Adam and Eve didn’t have an umbrella in the garden but Satan helped them construct one with his lies about God and his goodness.  And he’s all too happy to help us with ours too. That’s why dismantling our umbrellas is serious work.

Which leads us back to spiritual disciplines. When we do things that intentionally put us into God’s presence we are poking holes into our umbrellas. When, by faith, we choose to ignore our umbrella and talk to God and read his Word and confess our sins, our umbrellas get weaker and weaker until the rain of God’s Presence is pouring down on us.

That’s why the spiritual disciplines are necessary for all of us. Don’t hear “disciplines” and think nuns, monks and pastors. If you are a disciple of Jesus, he invites you to practice the disciplines. Because disciples are commanded to “Go!”  – to go someplace spiritually.   And we will need God’s presence on that journey.

In the Old Testament book of Exodus we read the account of the Israelites journey out of slavery, through the desert and into the Promised Land.  This journey provides the ultimate illustration for our spiritual journey and Moses as their leader, demonstrates that the disciplines provide the access point to God’s Presence.

As we pick up the story in Exodus chapter 13, Moses has just wrestled a whole people group free from Pharaoh’s grip and around 1 million people have found themselves in the desert with limited provisions, no protection, and no plan.  God’s presence is what stands in between them and death.  Across what will become a 40 year journey, God’s presence will provide them with guidance and rest and nourishment.   And God’s Presence provides those very same things for us when we become intent on dealing with our umbrella. It is his Presence that takes us from wandering through life, just marking time, to heading someplace with a purpose.

Those are the choices now facing the people of Israel. They are grateful to have been released but now they need to go someplace new and they don’t know which way to go. Moses has been back and forth across this desert before but not with this many people in tow. This time he will need a route that is safe and that provides access to resources like water and food. Moses will have to become totally reliant on God to direct this journey.

In Exodus 13: 17-18; 21-22, God’s Presence first appears to the people as a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night.  For 40 years, when the pillars moved, the whole group moved and when they stopped, so did the people.

Now, I know what you might be thinking, because I think it too… it would be a whole lot easier to follow Jesus if he used the pillar system with me.  I have prayed so many times, “Lord, if you would just tell me what to do, I would do it.”  He hasn’t given us pillars but he has offered us his guiding presence through the practice of the disciplines.  Listening prayer and solitude gives God space to talk. A community that is willing to enter with you into a discernment process can bring God’s perspective through new voices.  Sometimes the disciplines don’t lead to specific answers but they transform us so that we begin to naturally know what the right thing is.

We are just as reliant upon God’s Presence to lead us through our lives as the Israelites were. It is easy to get off course and the results can be damaging.

My friend planned a scavenger hunt for my boys at the beginning of this summer. She hid clues at different locations at a nearby park and gave each of them a compass and a quick lesson on how to use it.  At each stop on our hunt, we found a new clue, read the directions and headed towards our next location.  It was lots of fun and the boys felt like great adventurers trekking through the woods but here’s the part of the experience that stuck with me.  The clues always started with these instructions, “Get back on the path and realign your compass to North.” At each stop along the way it was necessary for us to first make sure that we were heading in the right direction or the rest of the clue wouldn’t make any sense.

That is just as true of our spiritual journey.  We need to take frequent stops to allow God to realign our compass.  Even if I start my day heading due north, pretty quickly the challenges of everyday life hit and I’ve drifted a few degrees off.  It’s not so dramatic that someone else would notice. The really scary thing is that I might not even notice it. But if I go too long before resetting, I run the risk of getting way off track – in my thinking, my motivations, my desires – and ending up in a dangerous place.  Practicing the disciplines allows God to guide us and reset our compass.

Now the IsraChildren_are_the_amongst_the_most_vulnerable_refugees_(9084604203)elites are following the pillars and heading in the right direction, but after three days the little bit of water they fled with has run out.
Everyone is quick to comment on the grumbly Israelites… But think of them as refugees – fleeing with only the things they could throw into carts or on their backs. They are marching their children and elderly relatives through the hot desert.  I would grumble too.  They had experienced God’s miraculous rescue at the Red Sea and that was an obvious high moment. But the high moments don’t last forever. Someone said to me recently that the “spiritual life cannot be lived only on feelings and moments.”  It’s hard to remember how excited you were a few days ago when you are dying of thirst today. In Exodus 15:22-25 we read that God provides water for the Israelites but not in a conventional way. He leads them to a place where there is plenty of water but it is bitter and undrinkable.

The journey God leads us on is complicated and confusing at times. God knows the Israelites are thirsty. So, why does he lead them to a place where they can’t drink the water?!  See! It’s confusing!

The lesson we learn here is that his presence is the only thing that can make sense of our experiences.  And, in that frustrating moment, Moses does the exact right thing – “He cries out to the Lord.”  He practices a spiritual discipline – he prays.  And God answers him.  He points out a specific piece of wood and tells Moses to toss it into the water. Moses obeys – which is another spiritual discipline – and the water turns sweet.

This reference to “a piece of wood” makes me think of another piece of wood – the cross. Jesus’ work on the cross makes the things in our journey that are bitter into something sweet. But we can only see that perspective when we have been in his Presence.

Once everyone has had enough to drink, they realize just how tired they are. They have had big adventures mixed with intense training and teaching. Journeying is hard work. God knows what they need next is a place to rest. Exodus 15:27 describes a beautiful oasis complete with 70 palm trees and 12 springs.

I’m not a big camper but if I was going to pitch a tent, this is where I’d do it! It has shade and water and beauty. This sounds like the perfect place to rest! Setting aside a day, or even a season to rest, is a spiritual discipline. God calls it Sabbath. The Israelites could have refused this oasis.  “No, no we’ve got this… let’s just keep going. We’ve got a lot of work to do as God’s chosen people… God needs us to keep going.”

Instead they submit to God’s direction and allow him to shade them with the palm trees, and refresh them with a never-ending supply of water from the springs.  Do you allow God to lead you into rest? Or do you consider rest a luxury for the weak?

My husband and I have had an ongoing debate throughout our marriage about when is the appropriate time to get gas.  He thinks it’s when the car is at a quarter-tank and I think we can wait until the empty light comes on. We often have a conversation that starts with him saying “I just noticed that the car is out of gas. We’d better stop.” To which I reply “No, it’s not. We still have a quarter tank. We could go for miles.”  And I’m technically right, but is it wise to watch the gas tank run down to empty? My husband likes knowing that the car is ready to handle any emergency, or that we can go a few extra miles if a gas station doesn’t magically appear at the exact moment we need one.

God sides with Chris when it comes to our spiritual gas tanks. Don’t wait until it’s empty or near empty to fill up again.  A crisis will come whether we are prepared or not and it stinks to have to stop at the gas station on the way to the emergency room. God has led his people to a place to rest and fill up and they gratefully follow him there.

As we pick up the Israelites’ journey in chapter 16, we read that they have now been on the road for about 43 days.  This is the point at which the bread they had brought with them as they fled Egypt has run out. One million people are out of food.  Exodus 16 tells the story of how God brings his presence to work in this new crisis.  He provides meat in the form of quail and bread which the people call manna.

God’s presence has provided the people with direction, water, rest and now meat and bread.  Just like the piece of wood in chapter 15 connects us to the cross, the flakes of manna spread across the desert floor reminds us of Jesus breaking a loaf of bread into pieces and asking his disciples to take and eat.

Here again, bread provided by God, is bringing life to his people. All the people have to do is go out and gather it.  And isn’t it fascinating that God understands the people’s instinct to hoard. To just take what we need for that day requires trust in the source and the supply.

God designed manna with a very short shelf life. By the next morning leftover manna was smelly and full of maggots. If the Israelites wanted to survive they had to develop the discipline of gathering the bread each day.

In this same way, we are continually drawn back into God’s Presence because our supply runs out. Our supply of love, grace, patience, forgiveness, humility, everything runs out.  So we are compelled to come often to gather the bread we will need to journey.  It is a mercy when our bread supply runs out.

In July, I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala to take a class “Social Justice and Spirituality.” Early in the trip, a woman named Tita Evertsz came to lecture our group. She had to come to us, because the place where she ministers is too dangerous for us to visit.

Tita ministers in a slum called La Limonada which means “Lemonade” in English. La Limonada is considered to be the largest urban slum in Central America. It is less than 1 square mile in size and has around 60,000 people living in it. It is considered a Red Zone. Which means that the police have given up and gangs have taken over.

Tita came from that slum and returned as an adult after coming to Christ. She began working with gang members but quickly grew very discouraged by all of the senseless violence. In frustration she told God one day that she wished that she could prevent the killing instead of just trying to heal it.   God answered that prayer by giving her the idea to start a school. So she did!  Her goal is to give kids an education so that they can break free of the cycles that keep so many trapped there. But soon, the gangs started preventing children from crossing into other territories to go to school. So, she opened another school across the gang line for those children.  Our professors referred to her as the Mother Theresa of Guatemala.  While she was with us she shared the signs of hope she is seeing but she had many more stories of sadness and what looks to her like failure.

Someone in our group asked her, how she keeps her heart soft with all of the horrible things she sees.  Her face grew sad, she looked down at the ground and said “You know, it is very hard when children get hurt.” Then she paused, lifted up her head, smiled and said “but I am addicted to his Presence.”

Spending consistent time in the Lord’s Presence through spiritual disciplines, allows Tita to go back into the horrible world in which she ministers and serve from abundance.  It provides her direction and keeps resentment at bay.  I’m guessing it would not take 43 days for Tita’s own supply of bread to run out.   But she doesn’t have to worry about it running out because she can run to the source anytime and get fresh bread.

Exodus 16: 21 tells us one more important thing about manna… it melts. Can’t you sometimes feel your manna melting… when you have to have a difficult conversation with someone, or help a kid prepare for a spelling test or listen to someone’s criticism? These are the things that keep us going back to the source.

What would we do if we could collect all the manna we needed for a month in one sitting? We’d only think about it once a month. And for the rest of the month we’d feel pretty self-sufficient and in control.   Instead God calls us to come in and out of his Presence until it gets to the point where we are able to see that we never leave it. Then our umbrella is in tatters and blown inside out and we are soaking wet.

I want to close by telling you about my plant. I have a hard time keeping it alive. It needs a lot of water and unlike everyone else in my house, it doesn’t remind me when it’s thirsty. When it’s gone too long in between waterings, it will fall into this very dramatic droop. The good news is, as soon as I water it, it springs back to life.  But then I usually wait too long again and keep repeating the cycle.  What I’ve discovered recently, though, is that when I remember to water it regularly, it flowers.

Things that are kept on the edge of survival do not bear fruit. Are you able to hear that as a truth for your soul? God designed the spiritual disciplines to open us up to his Presence. And that is where we receive the resources we will need for our journey – guidance and rest and nourishment.

Remember the great old hymn I Need Thee Every Hour?  The chorus says, “I need You, Oh I need You, every hour I need you…”   Every hour… not every week or every month… we need His Presence every hour, every minute. But here’s the problem…  I don’t want to need someone that much. My temptation is to grit my teeth and get through life on my own power. But I just end up thirsty, out of gas and tired.  And my journey gets stuck and I stop flowering.  If you struggle with this too, the question God asks is, “Are we ready to surrender?” Are we ready to admit that we need him and humbly enter into His Presence regularly to receive the provision that he has for us?