Thursday, November 5, 2015

Obedience Test

                “If you had listened to me the first time this would have never happened”- I heard these words at 5:30 a.m, as I was frantically wiping up spilt coffee off my bedroom floor and walls. I used to drink coffee morning and night. My last cup was as I was sitting up in bed, reading my last devotion, or current book. One night I sat my coffee down on the nightstand next to me, turned my alarm on, and turned off my light. I heard, very clearly, the Lord tell me that I needed to move my coffee because I was going to spill it in the morning. I looked at my almost full cup of coffee and
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decided that it was fine right where it was. But, sure enough, the Lord was right (Isn’t He always?.  My alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. and I woke up suddenly from my deep sleep, slinging my arms across my nightstand.  The suddenness of the alarm caused me to knock over that cup of coffee. I not only spilled the cup, but the cup itself went flying across my bedroom. Coffee splashed up against the bedroom wall and started to run underneath my bed. My whole room smelled of cold coffee. As I was complaining and moaning and groaning about how this happened, I heard the Lord remind me of the words He had so gently spoke to me only eight hours before. “If you had listened to me the first time this would have never happened.” The lesson I learned that day is that our God desires our obedience, even in the littlest of things.
                In our little study this week in Exodus we have just crossed the Red Sea with the Israelites. Their enemy has been cast into the sea and their bodies have washed up onto the beach. God has given His people a great and mighty deliverance. This caused all the children of Israel to break out into a song of great praise and caused them to worship the God who commands the sea. Moses leads the people in this great song of triumph and then they pack up and head out through the wilderness once again. They travel from Shur for three days and end up in Marah. (Exodus 15:22) Now, they have just gone three days without water and were dying of thirst when they get to Marah, whose name means bitter.
                “When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log and he threw it into the water and the water became sweet. There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there He tested them.” Exodus 15:23-25 ESV
                As I read through these verses, I was reminded of the coffee incident and how the Lord told me not to leave my cup where I did. If I would have listened to Him in the first place, that whole mess would not have happened. But, because I am one of those people who have to learn the hard way, messes have become a natural part of my life with the Lord. The people of Israel are no different than we are. I think sometimes we give the people of Israel a bad rap because we read their story and we just shake our heads at how untrusting and disobedient they are. But we forget that we know the end of the story. The people of Israel were learning as they walked, just as we are learning as we walk. If someone were to read your life story they would probably shake their heads too at how many times the Lord has had to bring us through tests to prove our hearts before Him.
               The children of Israel have just come out of a trial, and now the Lord is bringing them into a test. I never really thought about it, but trials and testing are two different things. Trials are the fire, the furnace that the Lord allows us to sit in to refine us, to help mold us and make us into the people He wants us to be. Trails reveal to us who He is, and tests reveal to us who we are. Tests are His way of teaching us obedience. Tests are His way of making sure we understand why we just went through that trial, and showing us where our hearts are before Him.
                The children of Israel are complaining, they are thirsty, they have just come out of the furnace of the Red Sea, and they need something to drink. But, instead of just handing them a waterfall of refreshment, the Lord God uses this moment to test their hearts. He uses this moment to determine if that trial they just went through grew their faith and trust in Him. He did not test them because He didn’t know their hearts; He tested them because He wants them to know their hearts. He wants to teach us, in these moments of testing, what it means to trust Him, and to obey Him.
                “… ‘If you diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God and do that which is right in His eyes, and give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord your Healer.” Exodus 15:26-27 ESV
                We cannot trust God if we do not obey God. Our obedience to Him begins with our trust in Him. How can we obey someone if we do not trust that they are telling us the truth? How can we obey someone’s commands if we do not fully believe that they know what is best for us? If we don’t believe He can make the bitterness of this life sweet, then we are not going to obey Him when He tells us to throw a log into the midst of that stream. Deuteronomy 8:2 tells us that God tests us to know what is in our hearts, to know if we are going to listen to Him and obey His word. Why would He to lead us and guide us through the wilderness if we are not going to listen to what He says?
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                The Lord God tested the faith of Israel. He tested their hearts to see if they believed what they said they believed. I believe that God knows every little detail of my life. I believe that He knows what is going to happen before it happens. I say that, but do I believe that? If I believed that then I would have listened to Him and not put my coffee cup down where I did. If I believed that then I would have never had a mess to clean up at 5:30 in the morning. Tests show us where our hearts truly are. Trials reveal Him, tests reveal us.
                It is easy to forget that there is a purpose and a reason for every single thing that happens to us when you are running for your life through the middle of the Red Sea. But, I believe the Lord wants us to be reminded, again, that there is a reason for that car to be going slow in front of you, even though you are running behind. There is a reason why God has you waiting at the doctor’s office one hour longer than you wanted to be. There is a reason and a purpose for everything under heaven. We say that God is in complete control and that everything happens for a reason, but do we actually believe it. These moments, these tests we face are to show us what is truly in our hearts. They are to show us that we need to heed His word because He does know what is best for us. It is through tests that we learn obedience, because it is through the tests that we learn our hearts.

                We learn to obey His word in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 that we should pray without ceasing when that test results come back positive. We learn to obey His call to trust Him in Proverbs 3:5-6 when our boss hands us our layoff notice. We learn to obey His command to love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength through the trials and tests of this life. Trials teach us who He is; tests teach us who we are. Our obedience to His word is not a negotiable addendum to His covenant of Grace with us. Trails will teach us who He is, but the tests of this life will teach us who we are. Don’t complain about the test; just listen to Him the first time and you will avoid the mess. Amen.