A Fugitive of Righteousness

man in shadow

Are you in a situation right now where you are oppressed and mocked just for standing up for the truth—whether at work, on the road, or even in your own home? Do feel like you are in the wrong place at the right time? You are certainly not alone. Millions throughout history have gone through situations similar to what you are experiencing right now. Some made it through successfully, although not always the way that they had envisioned that the outcome would be. Thousands of years ago, even mighty King David of Israel struggled daily with enemies who would have swallowed him up.

David wrote about his situation in the book of Psalms: “Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me. Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High” (Psalm 56:1-2). This was a very difficult period of his life. He was on the run from King Saul, who continually refused to surrender to the fact that God had appointed David to be king of Israel instead of Saul. David even escaped once into the land of the Philistines, a perpetual enemy to the people of Israel. But to his dismay, the Philistine king, reminded of great victories David had won against his enemies, did not approve David’s entry into his land. Then David pretended that he was insane to escape the king. King Saul had given up his pursuit of David for the time being, but the Philistines picked up where Saul had left off. So David ended up trading one enemy for another, who had many more to fight against him!

The first few verses of this psalm state that every day David felt that his enemies were about to devour him. In verses 5 and 6 he made it known: “Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.” This appeared to be a most hopeless situation. But David didn’t give up or give in to his enemies, because He knew someone infinitely greater than all of his opposition combined. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me” (vss. 3-4).

In spite of the great number of enemies bearing down on him, David put his trust in God. He knew God could take care of the situation. He declared a second time: “In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me” (v.11).

David did not let his situation pull him down to a level of murmuring and complaining. Instead, he turned to praising God. Four times in this psalm he mentions giving praise to God and His Word. This is a definite quality that we, as children of God, need to make note of. In times of distress and impossible situations, our recourse should be just like David’s—trust and praise. When we let our stubborn and rebellious self, or ‘flesh,’ control our walk with God, then many of the problems we encounter will hopelessly overwhelm us. By trusting in God and giving Him praise, we demonstrate that He is in charge, not us. If David trusted in himself or those with him, he would have easily been defeated. Yielding this situation over to God and letting Him resolve it led him to victory.

woman in praise

Our first inclination should never be to worry or despair, but to trust and praise. It is actually a good thing to receive opposition and be a fugitive for righteousness. The devil does not like it when we make the truth known in this world. He will strongly oppose it whenever he can. This does not mean that we are to run away with fear and anxiety, but rather, we are to trust and praise God. Whether open and audible, or deep within our heart, we should always give God praise and thanksgiving in every situation.

We may be inclined to think that David had no pain, anguish or suffering, that whenever a problem arose, he just gave it over to God and everything was fine afterward. But verse 8 tells us otherwise: “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” David spent a good portion of his life in difficulties and struggles, even to the point of joining the enemy’s side. Yet God was aware of all that he was going through, and He kept a record throughout David’s life. No matter what the situation, God stayed by His side.

If the greatest king of Israel—a man declared by God to be one after His own heart—went through trials and problems that nearly killed him as he faithfully followed God, do we believe we will have none? In the end, God brought David through them all because he turned to Him. Even when David committed sins that caused thousands to die (including one of his own sons), he still put his trust in God for forgiveness and mercy, and came to Him repenting of his sins. And God still kept him in His hand. When we become a fugitive of righteousness and are at a loss as to what to do, let’s not put our trust in the world’s solutions. Turn instead to God and give Him our trust. Our hearts should be filled with praise to God Almighty, never to another mortal human being, who has no more hope and victory than we do.

Our resolve needs to be like David’s: “Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee” (Psalm 56:12).

Since Psalms is the largest book of the Bible, full of praises to God both for what He has done and who He is, shouldn’t our hearts be full of the same? We owe it to God to give Him praise and trust whether our situation looks bad or good.

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The Bitter Made Sweet

dead tree in water

“So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they [the Israelites] went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, and said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee. And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters” (Exodus 15:22-27).

Only three days before this, God had miraculously brought Israel across the Red Sea. But they found no water for their desert thirst all three days. Finally at Marah they found some, but it was bitter, unfit to drink. Their first reaction? To “murmur” against Moses, their God-appointed leader. These were the same people that God had just miraculously redeemed! He intentionally brought His children to a time of testing here to bring out what was really in them. Where was that faith that had trusted God to lead them through the Red Sea? Their lack of faith in Him was not hard to expose, unfortunately.

Marah’s bitter waters were the first trying encounter on the path God had marked out for His people in the wilderness. They were a type of what life and its disappointments are like, a foretaste of the path ahead for them. These trials that began in their wilderness journey were examples of our trials in our spiritual journey as the redeemed people of God.

How could these waters be healed of their bitterness so the Israelites could drink from them? When they complained loudly to Moses, he took their complaint straight to God. This is the right way to handle setbacks and disappointments—turn to God at once and pray. He won’t begin to help until we begin to ask for it.

Think about this: if Marah’s waters had been sweet instead of bitter, would Moses have prayed? How could the Israelites have then known that it is in God’s power to make bitter water sweet? And how many of us realize that the Marah experience is normal for God’s children? What would we be like if we had no trials or tribulations? We very likely would be rough and hard-hearted, unable to sympathize with those undergoing suffering.

During a bitter-tasting experience many say, “Why is God allowing this to happen to me?” Know that it is not because God is punishing you for something. “In the world ye shall have tribulation…” (John 16:33). This is all part of your preparation and education for the future God has for you.

Realize that there is always a remedy when God puts us in a trying situation. It is close by, but He will not reveal it until we come to Him in prayer. Years before, God planted the ‘tree’ we would one day need to throw into our ‘bitter waters.’ For those who are willing to pray, the Spirit of God is always ready to lead them to the tree that will sweeten the bitter waters. He knows what we will need, and He provided for it long before we become aware of a problem. He holds back the answer until the time is right, but everything we need here in order to get to Heaven He has already provided.

Why did God provide a tree for this wilderness trial? Was there something about that particular tree that would make the sickening waters sweet? It was not so much the kind of tree, but what it stood for. Moses did not discover the tree and run back and say, “I’ve got the answer!” God specifically provided the tree and made Moses aware of it. The healing of the bitter water was a miracle, and God intended for it to teach His people something. For every trial in this earthly life, a remedy has been provided—although we don’t always see it.

Our first parents ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and made life bitter for themselves and all who came after them. But God has also provided a tree of life, with leaves as the remedy for the healing of the nations.

cross with colored sky

Jesus is a ‘tree of life’ whose branches spread far enough to encompass everyone who wants to come under His outspread limbs. And He reaches high, as high up as Heaven. But this Tree was chopped down at its peak of maturity. Then it was thrown into the bitter waters of our life to sweeten the bitterness that we encounter.

He is the ‘tree’ that is our remedy. His cross is also a tree where He succumbed to the deep, dark waters of death for our sake, thereby making them sweet again.

God used this Marah incident to demonstrate to the Israelites their need of Him to survive the wilderness experience, as much as their need of Him to be delivered from the power of Pharoah and Egypt. After He healed the bitter waters and satisfied the thirst of all the people, He told them to strictly obey every one of His commandments. Then He would make their lives ‘sweet,’ just as He had done with the waters of Marah. This would be their next trial in their journey.

“And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters” [v. 27].

After their ordeal at Marah, God led His children to the oasis of Elim—a place to refresh themselves. When God’s people obey Him, He graciously cares for them. Here they would learn about God and His ways in order to prepare them for the trials ahead. Then He would be able to bring them into His full blessings and promises.

The bitter experiences in your life can be changed by God to become sweet. He allows you to taste the bitter water for a reason—it is for your benefit. Accept God’s will out of your love for Him. Then you will find the secret place of peace in your life in the midst of this bitter world of trouble.

Has grief and suffering embittered your life? Remember that Jesus suffered on the tree for you and still continues to suffer with you. He shares all your woes and has deep sympathy for all you go through. He will never leave you, nor forsake you, nor forget you, especially in your time of trouble.

Are you experiencing the bitter waters of Marah yourself right now? Cast the ‘tree’ into the water and cause it to become sweet. The tree makes all the difference. Drink from God’s well deeply. Its water will always be sweet. Remember His mercy and thank Him for His sweet presence. He alone can heal your bitter, troubled waters. He is right there with you.