“The Threshing Floor ”

September 30, 2022

Ruth 3

“Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.”

My friends and I sat rejoicing at the return of electricity after Hurricane Ian last night and discussing trees in the Bible.  Downed trees, branches, and “stuff” are a big point of interest as we look out on our yards!  We barely missed the eye of the storm but experienced blackout and wind impact.  As we chatted, I realized I had skipped one of my favorite “tree stories” as we have been ambling through the forests in the Bible, Ruth.

     Ruth, the Moabitis, a non-Jew, marries into the family of Naomi who had moved to her country because of a famine.  All the men die and Ruth decides to follow Naomi back to Bethlehem to jump-start life again after the all the chaos.  In the face of starvation, Ruth gleans in the fields of Boaz who is actually a “kinsman redeemer” in the Jewish system, that is a potential marriage.  Naomi advises Ruth to wash, dress, and go to the threshing floor at night and lay at Boaz’s feet and offer to have him put the corner of his blanket over her.  My husband, along with many, think it may have been a steamy sexual offer.  I feel it was a culturally appropriate way to express availability for marriage in those days.  Ruth had no future as a widow and foreigner.  She was one of those ordinary people God seems to delight in using.

         Threshing involved the people taking long sticks and beating the grain till it let broke away from the stalk of the barley and the hull cracked, releasing the grain.  Then the grains would be tossed in the air to blow away the chaff.  We did it in Kenya.  It seems to me that often we go through threshing experiences that beat us up.  A hurricane can be one of those times when we hold our belongings lightly and “hunker down” praying the worst will not happen.  We feel threshed and winnowed as we are tossed in the air and the chaff of our life is blown away. 

         Electricity went off Tuesday night so Wednesday morning we had no communication and my aging friend and I convinced ourselves we did not need that morning cup of coffee and pulled out the weather radio to try and figure out how it worked.  We replaced batteries, turned buttons and generally had to laugh at ourselves and seeming incompetence.  Likewise, Ruth and Naomi had gone through traumas that threshed and winnowed their lives.  At one point Naomi says to old friends in Bethlehem who welcomed her return, “Don’t call me Naomi that means “sweet” but call me Mara that means “bitter.”

     Perhaps today you feel like you have been threshed, beaten with the sticks of life.  Or perhaps you feel like you are being winnowed, tossed in the air and floundering.  Ruth becomes the mother of Obed by Boaz.  Obed is the grandfather of King David.  Ruth is listed in the genealogy.  God sees, God knows, and God’s plans to bless even if we feel threshed with sticks.  Blessings on the rough spots in your life today and as you recover from your storms.

“Sticks and Stones ”

September 28, 2022

1 Samuel 17

“Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?”

One of our favorite childhood stories is the story of the encounter between David and Goliath.  The Israelites tire of the ups and downs of communicating with God through judges.  They demand a king and Saul is anointed.  Saul goes to battle with the Philistines who have a seven foot giant Goliath who challenges to fight a one on one with any Israelite to determine who serves who.  David, then a shepherd boy, comes to the battle to bring food to his soldier brothers, hears the bellowing challenge of Goliath and engages with his sling, the defense device possibly made of the Y of a branch.  Goliath is insulted at being attacked by a boy.  David wins with his sticks!

45 But David said to the Philistine,

‘You come to me with sword and spear and javelin;

but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts,

the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

David knew that it was not the sticks that were winning his battle.  The sticks, the pieces of the tree, were only as effective because the God who made the tree grow and who had protected his life as he guarded his father’s sheep from lions and bears was with him.

         We are taught the rhyme, “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me” as children.  But we know words hurt.  We know God’s word is only as good as his strength behind it.  Think of a verse that strengthens you today and meditate on it and thank God for his faithfulness that backs that word.

“The Oak Tree of Ophrah”

September 28, 2022

Judges 6,7

Following Judge Deborah came Judge Gideon.  After God delivered the Israelites from the Canaanites to their West using Deborah, Barak and Jael, the Israelites did evil and the Midianites from their East side oppressed them.  An angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak tree of Ophrah near where Gideon was threshing wheat secretly in a wine press.  He greeted Gideon as a “mighty warrior”.  Gideon was flabbergasted, “15 He responded, ‘But sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’” He was a nobody secretly threshing wheat!  God uses nobodys like us!

         Gideon secretly pulled down the idols to Baal that night.  The town objected.  Gideon has become famous, not because of the oak tree but because in his doubt he checked to make sure he was listening to God.  He asked God to confirm that he was revealing a plan to him.  Gideon used a “fleece.”  Would God allow a real fleece laid out over night to be wet in the morning and the ground to be dry.  So it was.  Gideon realized that was actually possible so returned to God and asked that the fleece be dry and the ground wet!  And so it happened.  The story of deliverance is another miracle story but Gideon has become synonymous for “laying out a fleece” to confirm God’s will.

         My husband and I were debating where to build a village house among the people in the famine relief camp we were working at.  We prayed that God would make it clear as we were divided, by having someone invite us.  The next day as I walked through the camp a woman came up to me and said, “When are you going to build a house here?”  No “hi” or “hello”, just the words I had prayed.  Another time we prayed that the God would speak through our pediatrician we would come down country to see for our son who was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.  We walked into our jovial pediatrician’s office and he looked up from his desk and said point blank, “I have only one word to say to you.  You need to move to Nairobi to be near medial help for your son!”

         The angel chose to sit under the oak tree of Orphah to speak to Gideon.  Gideon made sure that he was hearing God’s will.  Many of have used “fleeces,” ways we confirm we are hearing from the Lord.  We may double check with Scripture and Bible study.  We may seek the advice of friends.  Think of a time when you have needed leading and how you confirmed your decision.  Perhaps you did not meet with God under an oak tree but for sure God is ready to meet with us and help us sort out our doubts.  Let’s thank him today that he is the God who speaks with us and confirms his will!

“A Tent Peg ”

September 27, 2022

Judges 4

God spoke to Deborah when she sat under the tree and the Israelites came to her to settle their disputes.  God gave Deborah a plan for defeating the Canaanites who were oppressing her people but she was not a solo act.  She called Barak and had him gather 10,000 men whom God used to defeat Jabin’s army led by Sisera with his “900 chariots fitted with iron” plus his marching soldiers.  When Barak was winning, Sisera fled and hid in the tent of Jael, a housewife.  She gave him milk to drink and covered him so he could rest and as he slept she took a tent peg and drove it through his temple.  Sisera was not killed by a tree nor in battle but by a piece of a tree in the hands of an ordinary woman.

         The victory was won and history changed by a woman who listened to God while sitting under a tree and by a woman who looked at what she had in her hand, a tent peg, a piece of a tree, and used it to free an oppressed people.  I think that often we think we need some great platform or miracle to show God’s power but God seems to like to work with people who are willing to sit and listen and bring their problems to him.  He uses ordinary women like Jael who saw the potential for good in the tool in her hand.

         So today as we ponder the challenges facing us, may we take time to listen for the voice of God.  May we be humble and realize the team of people who support us.  And may we be aware of the tools we have in our hands to help.  Maybe it is smile, or a lift in a car, or a word of encouragement but God is willing to use each of us to help someone who is struggling.  Blessings!

“Tree for Disputes ”

September 26, 2022

Judges 4

Fast forward from Moses; through the leadership of Joshua while entering the Promised Land, to a period we call the Judges.  The children of Israel were faithful to their God, Jehovah, but then would lapse into sin and syncretism with other local religions.  God would punish them and they would repent so God would send a “judge” or leader who spoke in God’s name and rescue the people but when the judge died, the people would lapse back into “doing what seemed right in their own eyes.”  The book of Judges talks about these leaders and the conflicts of settling the Promised Land.

         Deborah, a wife and prophet, was one of those leaders.  She “held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided.”  How interesting.  We do not settle our disputes under trees but in courts that look official.  Later we will see Boaz settling the marriage to Ruth at the city gate where elders met.  But for now the elders sit under a tree and they acknowledge the wisdom of a woman as a God appointed leader.

         It is here that God speaks to Deborah about delivering the Israelites from Jabin, king of Canaan, whose army leader was Sisera.  Many like this story for it portrays strong, God chosen female leaders … but we are pondering trees.  Trees are like silent, impartial witnesses.  We carve the initials of our loved one in their bark.  We hang swings from their limbs.  In the United States we have the story of the “Liberty Tree” that stood in Boston and was the rallying point for colonialists to protest the Stamp Act imposed by the British in 1765.  The tree marked the start of the struggle that led to the Revolutionary War and American Independence.  Deborah’s tree marks the start of the struggle for independence of the Israelites.

         Perhaps you do not sit under a tree to sort your struggles out and seek God’s will.  Perhaps you have “your chair” where you go to talk to God.  Maybe you journal.  I have been known to get in my car and drive or swim laps.  We each have ways we handle our disputes, the struggles we are involved with.  Violence is a decision that starts “under a tree” as we meditate on our wrongs.  It is seldom a helpful solution – but perhaps sometimes necessary.  Yes, we live in a fallen world.  So what is your tree?  Where do you turn when you feel cornered?  The important part is not the tree but the search for God’s way in the situation you are involved in. 

         As you ponder the conflicts you are caught in today, may you find a “tree” to seek advice and God’s will.  Blessings.

16th Sunday after Pentecost

September 25, 2022

First Reading: Amos 6:1a, 4-7

1aAlas for those who are at ease in Zion,
  and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria,

4Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory,
  and lounge on their couches,
 and eat lambs from the flock,
  and calves from the stall;
5who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp,
  and like David improvise on instruments of music;
6who drink wine from bowls,
  and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
  but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
7Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile,
  and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away.

Psalm: Psalm 146

1Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
  I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3Put not your trust in rulers,
  in mortals in whom there is no help.
4When they breathe their last, they return to earth,
  and in that day their thoughts perish. 
5Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help,
  whose hope is in the Lord their God;
6who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
  who keeps promises forever;
7who gives justice to those who are oppressed, and food to those who    hunger.  The Lord sets the captive free.
8The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.
9The Lord cares for the stranger; the Lord sustains the orphan and  widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked.
10The Lord shall reign forever,
  your God, O Zion, throughout all generations. Hallelujah! 

Second Reading: 1 Timothy 6:6-19

6Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; 7for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; 8but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

11But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
17As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

Gospel: Luke 16:19-31

 [Jesus said:] 19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house—28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  We have an idiom that we use today, “I drew a line in the sand.”  What do you think it means?

         Historically in the States it goes back to Col. Travis at the Alamo after receiving a letter from Santa Anna leading the Mexican charge, demanding his surrender.  The Alamo was surrounded and outnumbered.  Travis drew a line in the sand with his sword and asked for people who were willing to fight to the death to cross the line and stand with him.  All, including Jim Bowie, Davie Crocket and Daniel Boone fought to the death.  Jesus draws some lines today that differentiate the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of heaven.

Let us pray.  Lord may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.


Life is Unfair

“There was a rich man.”  This opening to a parable is beginning to sound uncomfortably familiar.  Last week the rich man, was calling his manager to account for squandering the master’s wealth.  This week the rich man is enjoying life, eating, and dressed royally.  Perhaps none of us would say we are “rich” but likewise we are not in the war zones, neither struggling with the refugees at our border nor sitting in the hospital waiting for a bed to open or medicines to arrive.  Most of us lead a comfortable, perhaps even “blessed life.”  This man is unnamed.  I suspect he is “every man” for we are all better off that someone else

         Meanwhile Lazarus sits at the gate, on the other side of the line, covered with sores, begging, eating the scraps of life, visited by the dogs that licked his sores.  There seems to be a gate, a line in the sand that divides the haves from the have-nots in the kingdom of this world.  The parable does not give context that assigns blame or responsibility.  Rather it is a statement about the facts of life.  Some are born into wealth and talent while others are born into poverty and struggle.  Some battle with addictions that seem biologically based while others deal with challenges that are socially or geographically based.  Luke is just giving the facts, nothing but the facts.  Some have and some don’t.  In the kingdom of this world there are lines that divide and label people.

         Perhaps at this point we start to squirm.  We don’t want to leave today feeling guilty for our blessings.  The problems are so big and we are so small.  We hear on the news daily about the inequities of life.  But this parable does not teach that the haves are to change the lives of the have-nots.  Jesus did not praise the folks last week who had their debts lightened rather he praised the shrewdness of the manager.  These parables are teaching us about the kingdom of heaven and how different it is from the kingdom of this world.  The kingdoms of this world are made up of haves and have-nots.  There are many dividing lines we trip over all the time.  There are the rich and the poor.  There are gates that divide people.  Not everyone is invited to the banquet hall.  The rich do not go out to the highways and byways to invite anyone and everyone to their banquets.  On the other hand, a God who wants all to be saved and enter his kingdom characterizes the kingdom of God.  Christ died for all sin, not just the sins of the rich and chosen.

         In this world, we convince ourselves that if we work hard enough, amass enough of the stuff of life; we can ooch our way to the “good side” of the gate, the good side of the line.  We believe our works will somehow change reality.  We believe the gates will open and close and are somehow moveable.  I heard news interviews this week lamenting.  People in the United States have the right to clean water and there is a crisis to provide mothers with pampers.  If only we can get to the others side of the gate, life will be like the rich man.  But the reality is that life is unfair. The parable continues. We all face another reality.

We all Die

         Both men die.  Death is not picky.  Wealth does not save the rich man from death.  Now there is no longer a negotiable line.  There is a chasm.  I do note that angels to the bosom of Abraham carry Lazarus.  After death there is not a gate between our two men but a chasm.  The rich man is in Hades seemingly without someone to appeal to and Lazarus is in the Bosom of Abraham.  No explanation is given. The parable does not say the rich man is being punished for his meanness or that Lazarus dies because of his poverty. This fact of death faces all of us and once we pass, the chasm between the two kingdoms cannot not be bridged.  It is “a line in the sand.” We no longer have a swinging gate but a chasm that cannot be crossed.

          The rich man calls to Abraham, even calls him “father.”  Perhaps he thinks his ethnicity, his church membership, his status in society has made him privileged.  He still sees that he is deserving of God’s blessings.  He is not humble.  He does not cry about the injustice of his situation.  He does not object to Lazarus being with Abraham but wants Lazarus to leave his blessing to comfort him.  He wants Abraham to treat Lazarus like a slave.

Abraham refuses.

         In the beloved Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, the hero George Bailey played by Jimmy Stewart misplaces money and is about to commit suicide when an angel second class, Clarence Odbody, is offered the opportunity to earn his wings if he can stop the suicide.  A darling movie, beloved by many, but Biblical truth does not support it.  We are humans and we do not become angels.  God does not send us back to earth to earn our wings, to earn our place in eternity.  Abraham does not see Lazarus as a servant to do tasks.

The Ripple Affect

Many would say not all parts of a parable have a message for us but I find it interesting that our rich man now thinks of his brothers who are still alive and asks Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to witness to his brothers.  He somehow thinks the line between life and death can be crossed. He somehow knows that his life has touched others.  He reasons that surely if someone rises from the dead then his brothers will believe.  This prefigures the resurrection of Christ.  Christ does not rise to die again but rises to eternal life.  The chasm is a divide for eternity that is not crossable.   The parable now points to us today.  We have the testimony of Christ’s death and resurrection and yet many still work to get through the worldly gates to the better life even as we realize that all die.

         So why does the parable mention Moses and the prophets? We today have the Old Testament, in fact the whole Bible.  We have those testimonies. Yet many sing the song, “I have married a wife, I have bought me a cow, I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum, please hold me excused, I cannot come.”  I think we have come to the crux of the parable worth a thought.

         When we think of Moses, we think of the “law,” the Ten Commandments.  We say the law drives us to the Gospel for we cannot keep the law perfectly and work ourselves to God.  We can’t be good enough to get to the other side of the line.  We hope our goodness is enough because after all, we don’t kill, steal or cheat.  We hope in ourselves.  Many cannot humble themselves and admit they need God’s gift, Jesus.  We need grace.  We must accept God’s grace or we will keep trying to get through a gate that keeps moving away from us.  The cross breaches the gap between God and his creation.   We are saved hot because we are good and share our wealth but because he is good and shares his mercy. No amount of stories about ghosts or people risen from the dead will touch our hearts if we have not come to the point of wanting to do it God’s way.  The kingdom of this world is different from the kingdom of heaven.

         Let us close our sermon today with the last part of the Psalm for today:

3Put not your trust in rulers,
  in mortals in whom there is no help.
4When they breathe their last, they return to earth,
  and in that day their thoughts perish. 
5Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help,
  whose hope is in the Lord their God;
6who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
  who keeps promises forever;
7who gives justice to those who are oppressed, and food to those who    hunger.  The Lord sets the captive free.
8The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.
9The Lord cares for the stranger; the Lord sustains the orphan and  widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked.
10The Lord shall reign forever,
  your God, O Zion, throughout all generations. Hallelujah! 

Let the people of God say, “AMEN!”

“Jesus I am Resting, Resting”

September 24, 2022

This week we looked at various ways Moses used his staff to follow God’s orders.  He raised it over Egypt for the plagues.  He raised it over the Red Sea and it parted.  He raised it to bring water from rocks for the people in the desert.  The stick, a piece of a tree, was not magical.  It has become a symbol of Moses trusting God’s promises and instructions to him and moving forward.  I thought of this old hymn written by Jean Sophia Pigott in 1876 in Ireland.  It reminds me of the quiet times we spend in the morning, perhaps resting under a tree to contemplate our relationship with God, perhaps resting in our favorite arm-chair to pray, or perhaps like Moses, walking in a desert when we see a bush that does not become consumed.  We take a few moments to reflect on God and listen for his voice. We place our trust in God and find a deeper peace.  The story goes that Hudson Taylor during the Boxer Rebellion in China upon hearing of missionary stations being destroyed and missionaries being martyred, sat at his desk and sang this hymn over and over to comfort his soul.  I pray as you listen you will be comforted on your journey today.

A Vine of Grapes

September 23, 2022

Numbers 13, 14

Before we leave Moses, I would like to ponder one more story.  Moses was told by God to send some men to explore the land of Canaan that God was going to give to the Israelites.  Moses chose 12 men, one being Joshua who became the leader after Moses and another being Caleb.  These twelve men went forth to explore.  “When they reached the Valley of Eshkol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two men carried the cluster on a pole between them.”  That was a huge cluster of grapes! A branch of a vine produces such a great blessing that it took two men to shoulder and carry.  Wow.  The blessing from the promises of God are that proportionally bigger than the bush that was not consumed, the staff that became a snake, that was held out over the Red Sea, that hit the rocks and that was the means of symbolizing God’s blessing as Moses obeyed.  Blessings are so much bigger than we can imagine! 

         God asks, “What’s that in your hand, Moses.”  What is in your hand, Reader?  It may only look like a tree or even part of a tree but when combined with the promises of God, it becomes a blessing that needs two people to carry.  12 spies returned with that cluster of grapes hanging from a vine but of those 10 could only focus on the size of the challenge they were going to face.  They became “grasshoppers” in their own eyes.  Two, Joshua and Caleb, focused on God’s blessing and begged the people to trust God.  The people grumbled yet one more time.  Consequently everyone over age 20 died in the wilderness and never saw the Promised Land.  The people wandered 40 years more.

     The life of Moses challenges me to consider if I focus on the trees and branches in my life to bring me blessings or if I focus on the seeming impossible situations facing me and then grumble rather than turning to God.  Lord, help me never to grumble about your ways and help me wait for the blessings.

“The Staff and the Rock”

September 22, 2022

Genesis 17:1-7

“Massah and Meribah”

The Israelite community continues their journey through the wilderness and again they find no water.  They do not seem to remember the lesson of Marah from yesterday.  The people quarrel with Moses, demanding water and accusing him of bringing them into the wilderness to kill them.  How short our memories are!!!  They have forgotten the slavery of Egypt.  They have forgotten the miracle of Marah.  They have forgotten the palms of Elim.  They are focused on their problems that have become insurmountable.  In despair and pain Moses turns to God, “What am I to do with these people?  They are almost ready to stone me.”  Moses is scared too.

         God tells Moses to go before the people with some elders and take his staff and stand before the rock at Horeb.  Numbers 20:1-13 records a similar incident.  Again the people are grumbling because of no water.  God tells Moses to take his staff and stand before the rock and speak to the rock this time and it will give water.  Moses is angry though.  He takes the staff and hits the rock twice.  Water flows but Moses has not trusted God and not honored him.  Moses will not enter the Promised Land as punishment.  Again it is called Meribah for arguing with God.

         The staff is not the source of the miracle! God is.  Often we think because God worked in one way then he will do the same thing again if we have the same problem.  God is not predictable that way nor controllable.  Our spiritual disciplines do not produce the relationship but are a means of relationship.  Some days the words of Scripture jump off the page and seem to directly apply to our situation but other days it is like reading a foreign language.  Some times of prayer are deep and comforting while others feel like God is busy and doesn’t have time for us.  Each moment is a new adventure with God.

         We see yet again that God is willing to work to resolve a problem but the people are still going to Moses and not to God. Moses is praying but applying an old procedure to meet a new situation that looks similar. 

         As we face our challenges today may we turn to God with eyes and ears and hearts open to see fresh ways to experience God’s power.  Blessings.

“Marah and Elim”

September 21, 2022

Genesis 15:22-27

            26 He said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.’

Moses raised his staff and the Red Sea parted and the Israelites crossed over into the wilderness, the Desert of Shur.  They traveled for three days without water and came to the water of Marah.  Marah means bitterness.  Most of us know the feeling of bitterness.  When things don’t go the way we think they ought and we feel betrayed, it is so easy for our mouth to spout off words that perhaps should not have been said.  Or perhaps we break down and cry and have a genuine pity party feeling alone and vulnerable.  We are convinced we will die.  Genesis says the people “grumbled.”

         Moses cries out to the Lord.  Moses is accused and held responsible for the lack of water.  The people are grumbling and the leader is feeling cornered.  We have two pictures here and only you know which is more typical of how you respond to betrayal and disappointment.  Do you accuse and grumble or do you turn to God in prayer?   God opens Moses’ eyes and shows him a piece of wood.  Not a whole tree, just a piece of wood.  Moses throws it into the water and the chemical reaction turns the water sweet.    

         The picture that comes to my mind is a person who is being yelled at by a grieving person or even by an angry child.  Sometimes a lecture is not needed.  Just a hug.  Perhaps the simple words, “I love you” or “I’m sorry” will break the lie that the other is rejected and alone. Bitterness cripples.  Paul says in Hebrews 12:15,  ‘15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled.”  A small piece of wood was thrown in the water and many hearts were changed and refreshed.  God can use little things in the hands of ordinary people like us to sweeten the bitterness another is experiencing.

         The people then came to Eli where they found twelve springs and 70 palm trees and they could camp, drink and refresh themselves.  God’s promises and his ways lead to life and refreshment.  Grumbling is a rabbit hole we don’t want to go down.  Let’s pray and give our disappointments and feelings of betrayal to God!