Tested at the Rock

In distress you called, and I delivered you; answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah Psalm 81:7 ESV

The Bible makes it quite clear that God will never tempt us or even allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to deal with it. However the scriptures are equally as clear that God does test us. He is our Good Teacher as well as our Savior and our teacher often hands out pop quizzes. In the Old Testament the children of Israel had their first test at the Red Sea and when they cried out in fear God answered, parted the waters and destroyed the Egyptian army. On reaching the safety of the far shore they had a celebration of the great victory God gave them. But just a little over a month later God set up another test for them. He had Moses lead them out from the nice oasis of Elim which came complete with springs and palm trees to a desert place called Meribah, which in Hebrew means complaining or strife. Remember that only thirty days had passed since God had miraculously parted the Red Sea. And what did they do? Pretty much the same as we do when things aren’t going right – they complained. I do not know about you who are my readers in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia or Europe but I can attest that we Americans (myself included) are professional complainers. We complain about politics, money, culture, our own family and sadly even our pastors. We invent so many excuses for our weeping and wailing that I often wonder how God puts up with us. Why would He be even interested in such spoiled brats as we sometimes are? The good news is that He not only tolerates us, but He willingly and gently tests us to help us grow. You see while the children of Israel were busy belly aching about God’s travel plans, He was busy preparing to show them a miracle. He told Moses to get the people together in front of a huge rock. Maybe the muttering of the crowd stilled a bit as the people craned their necks to see what Moses was doing. They couldn’t imagine why they were gathered in front of a big rock. “How is this going to make things any better?” they wondered. Then God instructed Moses to take his staff, the same one he had held over the Red Sea when it parted and use it to strike that rock. As Moses obeyed a loud crack was heard and it split wide open and amazingly fresh beautiful water flowed out!

What a wonderful picture of the cross. Maybe because of our tendency to complain and doubt, Jesus told us to remember His death each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Jesus knows how easy it is for us to start complaining, and yet instead of giving us the punishment which we so richly deserve, He allows the blow of the staff of the law to fall across His own shoulders. He was pieced for our miserable complaining and unbelief and from His side flowed a healing stream of blood that quenches our thirst in a way that no water on earth could do. What a wonderful Savior we serve! What a blessed and gentle Teacher. He brings us through the times of testing at the rock so that we can learn and believe and walk closer than ever by His side!

Complaint Department Upstairs

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Luke 23:46 ESV

I have a small confession to make – there are some days that I love to complain! I complain about the weather, my church, my kids and even my wife. Some nights as I lay my head on the pillow and replay the whiny remarks which I made, I wonder how I could have been so unkind and wish I had kept my lips sealed. Jesus on the other hand had no shortage of things to complain about. Think about it; on the worst day of his life, Jesus encouraged a thief; made sure His mother was taken care, forgave His enemies, and with his last breath trusted his life into the Father’s hands. How did He do that? What was His secret?

Some years ago, I was bringing a truckload of branches to our local landfill. As I pulled up to the entrance of the one-story weigh-in station I noticed a small sign by the side of the operator’s window that had an arrow pointed up stating, “Complaint department upstairs!”

But how can we be patient like Jesus when others mistreat or abuse us physically or verbally? The answer is in knowing where the complaint department is located. Telling our neighbors, our family or our enemies the way we feel doesn’t help. Remember those WWJD bracelets we used to wear in Sunday school? They asked the question; “What would Jesus do?” Well today’s verse reminds us of what Jesus did – He gave His life trusting God would work all things together for good. So maybe, just maybe if we stopped looking for the complaint department and started looking to invest in God’s trust fund, we might be amazed at what He could do today!

Belly Aching

  True Confessions of a Bellyacher
 I complained that I was lonely
 Till it forced me to make friends
 And I griped how big my church was
 Till I saw folks came for Him
 I worried over this and
 I fussed too much on that
 Which I had lost control of
 Till I found God had my back
 Then in big ways and in small
 That I never understood
 I found God in every circumstance
 Working all things for my good
 So if He soon calls me homeward
 Or if He gives to me long life
 I am choosing to be thankful
 For His great love in Jesus Christ!

True Confessions of a Bellyacher by Peter Caligiuri
Copyright 2020 all rights reserved

Though True Confessions of a Bellyacher has appeared in Purpose Magazine as well as on this blog, I included it today for those of us in danger of a grumpy start for 2021. Whatever way elections, lockdowns or our personal situation is, we need to remind ourselves that praise begins with a bit of humility and reminds us that He who is ultimately in charge has our back.

I’m not exactly sure why I started writing poems. For me it has been a bit like making jam from the blackberries we used to pick on hot Summer afternoons. Once those fresh berries were mixed with sugar and sealed in mason jars, their sweetness could be preserved for the long cold days of Winter. For those interested in having some of my poetry on your own shelf, I released a collection in 2020 titled Seasons of Song. It is available in either e-book or print format from Amazon. I am posting the link below or if you prefer you can find the title by searching Amazon by the title – Seasons of Song by Peter Caligiuri – These times ahead we all need to stay close by the side of Jesus and listen to His opinion before hearing the news. May God bless each of you with a season of the sweetness of His presence this morning.