Marahs and Elims

based on today's sermon

Numbers 33 tells us that when the Israelites were coming out of Egypt, they camped at Marah and then went on to Elim. That's the short story. Exodus 15 gives us more detail.

The Israelites had crossed the river and had been in the desert for three days. In three days they had not found water until they got to "some sort of body of water" (the Bible doesn't say). Alas, the water was bitter, so they named it "Marah", which means "bitterness".

So, they grumbled. Moses is the one who cried out to God, who showed him a log; Moses threw the log into the water and the water became sweet, the Israelites were satisfied, they camped there and then they moved on. The next place they camped was a place called Elim, which must have been wonderful. There were many palm trees (the Bible says 70, which could be a number of fullness) and 12 springs. This was a real oasis - a fertile place of rest in the middle of the desert.

This was only the first of many tests in the desert. They would have difficulty, cry out to God, He'd rescue them and then they'd move - until next time.

Life is like that. We all have our Marahs and our Elims.

God's "rhythm of life" tells us that we need to have a Sabbath; a day of rest - a "mini-Elim" that God has given to us each week.

The bigger "rhythm of life" tells us that "life is a testing ground, not a resting ground." This morning the pastor quoted Elisabeth Elliot, "God is not interested in growing spiritual dwarfs. We only grow in the trials of life." (I don't have that exactly right, but it's close enough.)

Think of it like weight lifting. Your muscles only grow if you give them a workout - if you don't work out, you don't get stronger. But I've always been told that it's important to take a day off in between pushing a muscle group to give those muscles time to rest and heal. It's important that we not expect to see a life in Elim - if that happens, it may be because we're not working out enough.

God knows when we're ready for a workout. He also knows when we need an Elim in our life.

The Israelites needed Marah in order to appreciate their Elim. We're like that also - and it's important that when we're in the midst of our Marah that we recognize God's hand, either in causing it or allowing it - that's our workout. It's just as important that we recognize our Elims as God's sovereign rest.

Elim is not the "Promised Land" - we'll see that soon enough. It's a resting place along the way, an oasis in the desert.

We all have enough "Marahs" - for this day, I wish you Elim.

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