On experiencing Marah

Thursday, I cried — that is, really cried — for the first time in a long time. The reason? An unfounded judgment, an unjust accusation, an unendurable attack on my character. The 侮辱、委屈 overpowered any attempt I made to remain collected. Fortunately, the persecutor was not among my audience.

I’ve had more than 48 hours to recuperate, so the emotional tumult has largely subsided. But I still have a bit of this sentiment within me:

Strive, O Jehovah, with those who strive with me;
Battle against those who battle against me. …
Vindicate me according to Your righteousness, O Jehovah my God;
And do not let them rejoice over me. (Psalm 35:1, 24)

Quite the vengeful psalm, isn’t it? Well, what my situation immediately reminded me of was the experience of the children of Israel at Marah. The way the ministry unveils this portion is too awesome. The story is simple:

And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter… And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried out to Jehovah, and Jehovah showed him a tree; and he cast it into the waters, and the waters became sweet… (Exodus 15:23-25a)

but its application is profound. At a time when I felt utterly wounded, helpless, and paralyzed by embitterment, when I could do nothing except cry out to Jehovah, He showed me a tree — the crucified and resurrected Christ as the tree of life (cf. Revelation 2:7). This One is the unique “water-changer”: He turns bitter waters to sweet.

Part of the reason this portion came to me so quickly was that it was opened up at the recent Winter Training on Exodus. Brother EM drew an unexpected link to the experience of Hannah…

And her rival provoked her bitterly to irritate her… and she wept and would not eat. … And she was bitter in soul and prayed to Jehovah and wept much. And she made a vow and said, O Jehovah of hosts, if You will indeed look upon the affliction of Your female servant and remember me and not forget Your female servant, but give to Your female servant a male child, then I will give him to Jehovah for all the days of his life, and no razor will come upon his head. … And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord. I am a woman oppressed in spirit….I have been pouring out my soul before Jehovah. (1 Samuel 1:6-15)

Her bitterness, oppression of spirit produced the prayer that brought forth the son who turned the age. How eye-opening to see that this is God’s economy! He arranges our environments, we pour out our soul before Him, and He gains through our cooperation Christ as the unique Nazarite and Overcomer in us so that His kingdom comes just a little more.

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Our destiny

Ordinary days. The Bible tells us how to live them: under the divine dispensing. This song is such a great summary — get the recording here.

Little by little,
The Lord is cutting off all our natural life;
As we grow in Him,
He replaces us with more of His life divine.

(Exodus 23:30Little by little I will drive them [the various pagan tribes, signifying the different aspects of our natural life] out from before you, until you have become fruitful and inherit the land [Canaan, the good land, signifying Christ].)

    It is our destiny,
    To live a normal life in the divine dispensing,
    It is a blessing,
    To be satisfied with ordinary days  in the divine dispensing.

Day by day,
Our inward parts are being renewed by the Lord;
Every day, 
Fresh and rich supply to us He does afford.

(2 Corinthians 4:16 – Therefore we not lose heart; but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed [with the supply of the resurrection life] day by day.

Here a little,
And there a little, Christ reveals Himself to us;
When we read His word,
We are satisfied and we enjoy Him thus.

(Isaiah 28:10 – For his words are: Rule upon rule, rule upon rule; Line upon line, line upon line; Here a little, there a little.)

Morning by morning,
Jehovah He is faithful to awaken us;
He instructs our ears,
With just a word, the weary to sustain we must.

(Isaiah 50:4 – The Lord Jehovah has given me the tongue of the instructed, that I should know how to sustain the weary with a word. He awakens me morning by morning; He awakens my ear to hear as an instructed one.)

From strength to strength,
We’re on the highways to enter into our God;
Though Satan opposes,
We are strengthened to lay hold of more of God.

(Psalm 84:5 – Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, In whose heart are the highways to Zion. 84:7 – They go from strength to strength; Each appears before God in Zion [the church as God’s house].)

Grace upon grace,
The Triune God is processed for us to enjoy;
The law is over,
Now we can partake of His supply through grace.

(John 1:16 – For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 1:17 – For the law was given through Moses; grace [God enjoyed] and reality [God realized] came through Jesus Christ.)

From glory to glory,
We are in the process of being transformed;
Beholding, reflecting,
To God’s image with all saints we’ll be conformed.

(2 Corinthians 3:18 – But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit.)

So what’s our destiny? To live little-by-little, day-by-day, here-a-little-there-a-little, morning-by-morning, from-strength-to-strength, grace-upon-grace, from-glory-to-glory ordinary days — not so ordinary because they’re under the divine dispensing.

(I’m not the only one with a particular enjoyment of the phrase “ordinary days”. Check out this blog.)

Blessings or Grace?

Why did God create the heavens and the earth? Because He had a goal in eternity past: to be mingled with and joined to man in eternity future.

I think we can all identify with having goals. If my goal was to get an A+ in my microbiology class, I’d probably be reading my textbook right now. If my goal was to become a world-class concert pianist (true once upon a time), I’d probably be in music school and practicing 6 hours a day. In (somewhat) the same way, God has a procedure for achieving His goal. In fact, creation was part of His procedure. The things in creation — things we need, things we enjoy, things in the environment — were prepared for and given to man by God as outward blessings. For many people, that’s where it ends: the enjoyment of material things becomes the means unto its own end. The problem? Everything under the sun is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1). That’s because everything under the sun is only God’s procedure; to focus on it is to miss God’s goal. So what should we focus on?

Grace. A simple definition, not from Merriam-Webster: “grace is God entering into man and being joined to man so that man may have His life and nature.”* Grace meets God’s goal. We can receive outward blessings from God without ever touching grace; conversely, we can receive grace no matter what outward situation we’re in. The question is, which do we care for? Why did the apostle Paul consider all things — the outward things treasured by many — to be loss, counting them as refuse (Philippians 3:8)? Because he was after gaining Christ and experiencing the manifested God. He was after grace. So whether he hungered or was filled, whether he abounded or lacked, God in Christ as grace empowered him (4:12-13). Grace became his power, his sufficiency (2 Corinthians 12:9). So here’s a role model for us: one who forsook material good and took every circumstance as an opportunity to receive grace.

Which would you rather have?

*Witness Lee, The Operation of God and the Anointing: Chapter 1.