Albu van Eeden
If God leads us into something, there are heavenly mysteries involved which we may not have had the faintest idea of when we started off.
Edwin gave me the marriage text quite a while back – even before the Youth Conference. At the time the theme of the youth conference was unknown - especially to him. Yet, the theme he gave spoke about The Way. We have just had a youth conference about the broad and narrow way.
The text Edwin selected for today is Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
It is God’s way that leads a young person through youth, to engagement and into marriage. Edwin and Estelle, we know what you have gone through because we know that in this world there are many challenges and temptations that keep a young person from marrying in the way you are marrying today.
Moses said to Israel:
For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing. Deuteronomy 2:7
This life, as a young person, is a life through a great wilderness. The way in which a young Christian walks as he matures and reaches marriage is very similar to the Israel’s journey to the Promised land. Marriage can be likened to arriving in the Promised land. You must have left Egypt before you can walk this way. Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. We are born in sin and must be saved from it so as to hear the voice of God as He leads us through this wilderness. We must be washed in His blood - which can wash away the stains of sin that nothing else will wash away. Otherwise, we are still where Adam and Eve were when they became aware of their own nakedness.
Although the marriage bed is part of marriage, a child of God should never marry because of lust and carnal love. A child of God who has experienced the cleansing of his life while walking through this wilderness will realise that everything must be part of God’s will for his life. For lack of a better word, a person ‘stumbles’ upon marriage as he walks the way of God.
God speaks constantly of ‘the way’. The people of the first church in Acts were known as the ‘people of the Way’.
Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. 3 For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. Exodus 14:1-4
The great pharaoh of this present age is Satan and his forces. We walk in a wilderness where our enemies are principalities and powers in the air which influence people’s actions. It is a pity that Christians are sometimes oblivious to the principalities and powers which influence their behaviour.
If young people walk God’s way as Edwin and Estelle do, there is much more glory than just marrying and having a wonderful family. If it is in the will of God, He says He will glory over pharaoh. The way in which you have married, in holiness, has given glory to the omnipotent God. God was given glory over Satan and a third of the angelic host.
…and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.
Look at the details of God’s instructions. He did not give simple statements. With every step of the way, God had plans for them. People do not realise that when a Christian couple marry, they have followed the guidance of God in every step.
Look at how God guided the Israelites in the beginning. He told them to take that way because Pharaoh would think that they had got lost in the desert and so he would follow them. ‘I am doing this because I have a plan with the route you are taking. I want to lead Pharaoh into a trap. I know Pharaoh’s heart. He will become jealous.’ There are many things said about psychologists that are negative, but God is the master psychologist. He understands how a man’s emotions and logic work. God led them on a specific road. God did not simply send them into the desert on the way to Canaan. He led them on a specific road.
God speaks about the Christian life being a ‘road’. During the youth conference the film of Ms Dube’s vision of the broad and narrow road was shown and how she walked on the narrow road. In Pilgrim’s Progress, pilgrim walks along God’s ‘road’. Nowhere does God tell us to cut out a road for ourselves. Even in a desert, there is a path, a specific ‘road’ which God wants you to walk.
How do some people reach marriage? By chopping open their own road. They enter the bush and slash open the road with a bush knife. A person chops open a way according to his will and ends up marrying in his own way. This couple did not slash open their own way. God had a road for them and they followed His way until they reached this point. It is a blessed thing to continue on God’s road.
Israel reached the Red Sea while Pharaoh chased them from behind.
They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Exodus 14:11
Instead of trusting that God would be with them, they complained. God had led them to the Red Sea where He cared for them. Edwin and Estelle, you will face challenges once you are married. God might bring you to a place where you feel you are up against the Red Sea, but as long as you walk in God’s path, you have nothing to fear. Israel lost their faith at that moment. You are marrying in faith. You cannot live the marriage life without faith. You have started off in faith and you cannot continue without faith. Never allow the devil to get you to a place where you throw your hands in the air and criticise God for what He has done. God had a plan for them.
Look at the level of intimacy that Israel had with God as opposed to that which Moses had with God. Moses walked more closely with God. He spoke to God as to a friend - face-to-face. God revealed to Moses why He had led them to the Red Sea; He wanted to lead Pharaoh into a trap. People walk with God on different levels of intimacy. May we strive for a deeper walk with God, where He can reveal deeper mysteries as to why He allows certain things to happen. Look at how rich marriage becomes. It becomes a spiritual experience. Look at God’s grace. Even though the Israelites did not understand everything God did, they had no reason to doubt God at the Red Sea. There are people who walk closely with the Lord. They grasp hold of mysteries like Moses did. Walk closely to those people and continue to walk with them. It will only make your marriage richer and more wonderful.
They finally passed through the Red Sea and look at how things progressed:
22 Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. Exodus 15:22
3 million people found no water - women who were nursing babies, old people who could barely walk, some may have even been carried! They walked for three days in the wilderness without water, but they were still on God’s path. Something had not gone wrong. They did not have to get upset with Moses or God.
There are so many things that can be compared to this experience in the Christian life - perhaps extreme loneliness.
23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 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. Exodus 15:23-25
They reached Marah where they could not drink the water because it was bitter. God was still in control. It was hard. It felt as if they could barely continue. It felt as if they had no strength to cope with this. It was a real test. It was not insignificant. Yet it was still on God’s way. What did they do? The Lord showed Moses a log and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. God is great and merciful. Never doubt God’s goodness. If you follow God and stay faithful to Him, even if you reach a place where the water is bitter, He will care for you.
This happened at the beginning their travels on God’s way through the wilderness. It was not a paved way, but it was a way. There were many trials. There were enemies. What did they do? They wanted to get hold of the weak ones who could not keep up with the rest of the group. They attacked the weak ones from behind. If we experience times where we are weak, we must cling to God.
Part of the wilderness experience is when people use texts from the Bible to justify their lifestyles. Part of the wilderness was their own desires. Part of the temptations were the temptation to return to Egypt. Never look back to Egypt - to look back is a sin. Do you realise that? Go forward and never look back. Remember Lot’s wife. Never look back at the life and pleasures you think you could have had in the world. “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62
There are other things that make this a ‘way’ in the wilderness. Lust and human emotions can be so intense; trials and temptations. They all came across Israel’s way and they will come across our way as we follow the Lord.
Lastly, let us look at the last temptation that may be faced in the wilderness:
4 Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” 10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. And the anger of the Lord blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased. Numbers 11:4-6,10
What made Israel stumble here? A crisis? No, it was an intense craving for meat …the people weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. This was how intense the craving for meat was. They had received bread and now they wanted meat. There was an craving for something they were used to - meat. It is amazing how strong a desire for a habit can be. Christians live in a free world. We marry and live married lives in a free world. We are exposed to the same intensity of temptation that people in the Muslim world are exposed to. We may have a sudden extreme desire for ‘meat’ - a desire for an old habit I once had, that I was used to, a desire for certain comforts. How many people marry because everyone else is doing it and they want to experience the same comforts everyone else has? Or the desire to watch porn, if you did that in the past. Porn is being dragged into the Christian marriage as being an essential part of it.
The problem of the Israelites: they murmured and lusted after their old customs. The whole nation wailed in their tents. I feel pity for Moses when I read this. Imagine, the whole nation wailed in their tents!
Do you know what the main enemy of the church of Jesus Christ is in the western/free world? The desire for certain comforts.
The Israelites all lusted. They did not lust after sex, they lusted after certain comforts. The whole nation was infected like a Covid plague. They were extremely unhappy with Moses - as if he had committed the worst sin the world. It was terrible. May God be merciful to us. How easily we despise God because He does not meet our intense cravings.
Why do I paint this picture of the temptations in the wilderness? This is what this couple today has come out of. In this wilderness they had to hear God’s voice. There are demons in the wilderness. The weak are attacked from behind. There are difficulties. You do not always get what you need. There are 101 excuses why you should not live a pure life up until this point.
Marrying is reaching Canaan. It is a victory. Young people, we are proud of you. Not only do I envision a blessing for your marriage, but you have also made God proud against Pharaoh. You stuck to your guns and remained faithful to God.
And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. Isaiah 35:8
Stick to God’s way. Do not try and chop a ‘way’ for yourself according to your own desires. Although we are in the world, we have been called to live as Christian couples in this world. We must walk on the way while we are in this world. How glorious and what a testimony it is!
Where does it all come from? The man who hung on the cross, who walked the way where there was no way. Who cried out, “My God, why have You forsaken me?” He paid the price for you and me. He paved the way for us so that we will walk that way and so that we will also become people of the way.
We would like to walk that way together with you. I want to live the life you are living. I want to stay faithful to the Lord no matter what challenges we may experience in the world.