Where Stories Merge

Here is a suggestion for how to read during Holy Week. Before you begin, ask the Lord to use His word to help you see the depth of your own sin and the beauty of His grace within that day’s reading. Then, as you read, be aware of the words or phrases that seem to catch your attention or the questions that come to mind. What is that word or phrase saying about God? What is it saying about you? Why won’t that question go away? In short, look for the places where your story intersects with God’s story, write it down and then carry it with you throughout the day, referring to it from time to time.

 

Here are a few passages that stood out to me recently and the lessons or questions I carried:

 

Exodus 16:4: When introducing them to manna and the Sabbath God said, “I will test them in this to see whether they will follow my instructions.” Since God is the same yesterday, today and forever, I wonder where He tests me. Do I recognize the food on my table as His gift to me even as the manna on the ground was His gift for them? How well do I set aside one day in seven as a Sabbath rest to honor Him? What other “tests” may He be giving?


Exodus 16:8: Moses said, “[God] has heard your complaints against him. Yes, your complaints are against the LORD, not against us.” When I am moved to complain, is it possible that I am actually complaining against God rather than the circumstance or person that seems to be at the root of it all? How might my complaining actually be a statement of my lack of faith?


This grumbling motif shows up again and again. In fact, when reading through chapters 15 to 17 I was struck by how many times the Israelites grumbled. Even though God had confirmed His presence to them, given them promises and done great work in their midst, when things got tough they complained about their circumstances and allowed their anger to impugn God’s motives. “You brought us out here to die.”


Assigning motive is not the only thing born by grumbling. In Exodus 15:24, the people grumbled and asked “What are we to drink” but in 17:2 they made it a command, “Give us something to drink!” As I stayed with this thought, my mind turned to 1 Corinthians 10. This is a warning to me so that I will not follow their example! Grumbling is a slippery slope that leads to nowhere good.


Could this Holy Week be a good time to practice thanks-giving instead of complaint-giving? What would happen in my soul if I chose to exchange a complaint for a statement of gratitude? How might this one choice alone deepen my experience of God’s love expressed to me through the events of this week?


Exodus 18:11: In response to Moses’ stories of God’s work on their behalf Jethro said, “I know now that the LORD is greater than all other gods, because his people have escaped from the proud and cruel Egyptians.” Can you imagine what it was like for Moses to share the stories with his father-in-law? What excitement was heard in his voice? How expressive were his non-verbals? Not just him, but how many others in the camp were still energetically sharing the stories too? How did the stories increase their faith and reduce the amount of grumbling that could have happened? If the food on my table is just as much from God as the manna on their ground, what other great works has God done for me that I miss and don’t even talk about? They had the pillar of cloud and fire; we have the Holy Spirit. They forgot and missed it; we certainly are prone to that too. Open our eyes, Lord, and then loosen our tongues to retell the story of your work in our lives.


And, as you think about these things, remember to include God’s grace. No matter how many times you “blow it,” He will never give up on you! In fact, He has already given you His spirit as a down-payment, guaranteeing that He will finish what He started in you….even if you complain along the way. Now that is something to give thanks for!


During this last week of Lent—this Holy Week—I encourage you to do what you can to see how your story is already merging with God’s story.


Enjoying the journey with you!


Rob