It is intrinsic to our human experience to love a good story. In my mind’s eye, I can visualize Adam and Eve sitting around the campfire with their children, telling them firsthand what it was like to have The Lord come and visit them every evening and then the hard testimony of how it came to be that they no longer lived in beautiful Eden.
Sad, funny, romantic, exciting, tragic, embarrassing, mundane or heroic, we are drawn to these personal stories that knit together the threads of our family history; the ties that form community, trust and continuity. True stories from those we know carry weight and credibility. I believe that is why there is such an emphasis placed on personal testimony in scripture.
When many of us hear that term “personal testimony” we think of sharing how we came to be a Christian…hopefully with some dramatic “before and after” story to illustrate the transformation from heathen to saved and heaven- bound. Although these stories are important and relate-able. What I refer to is the continuing saga. The story after that story.
Moses began his long journey in front of a “burning bush” that audibly spoke to him.God called Moses to go back and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:4) Nearly everything The Lord tells Moses throughout the next few books relates in some way to His Testimony and how important that is for His people to see, take note, remember and repeat.
We know from a close look at the Exodus story that Moses led the Hebrew folks out of Egypt. The Red Sea miraculously curls back, allowing dry passage to the other side, saving them from the Egyptian army. This may seem incredible to us, but it is estimated that there were at least 3 million men, women and children as well as a few Egyptians who witnessed and experienced this miracle. We would have heard about it if it were inaccurate in any detail.
The Ark of the Covenant is alternately called the Ark of Testimony. Inside were placed items which testified of God’s miracles, and mighty moving on behalf of the Hebrew chosen people. The 10 Commandments– the testimony of God’s law to lead us to Him. A bowl of Manna– another picture of God’s constant provision. A beautiful picture of the Coming Messiah. The Rod of Aaron– the staff that leafed, bloomed and fruited all at the same time. A symbol or testimony of Christ but also of the Authority the Lord had vested in Moses and Aaron. The Tabernacle was also called the Tent of Testimony. Each and every element a screaming picture of the Coming Messiah and shows the ONLY WAY one may approach the throne of God.
As the people proceeded thru the wilderness they were assured of Yahweh’s constant presence. A cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Always preceding their travel; always hovering above His Mercy seat. Pastors and teachers often focus on the sad lack of faith when the Hebrews chose not to believe God and grasp hold of the Promised Land. Let us remember however, they were long residents in a saturated pagan culture. Then as now, the dark influences we encounter by association in a worldly environment, (that is clearly still Satan’s playground) are not easily thrown off.
It takes transformation time and a cleansing process to shake off the old ” Egyptian influence” and to come around that learning curve of just how big the One True God is. We learn that by daily seeing, hearing, reading who He is and How much He loves us. ( Romans 10:14)
Testimony then, is the written or oral proclamation of how God is moving. It is vital. It builds faith, it changes hearts, it lends credibility to those who have not read what we’ve read, been where we’ve been, seen what we’ve seen up close and personal. I may not be a Bible expert but I can share my story of what God has done over and over in my life. Powerful stuff.
So, in that vein, here is my story: In the spring of 2009 in Tucson, Arizona, I was in my front yard pulling weeds. These were big bushy weeds that, left to their own devices, would soon become gigantic tumbleweeds. As I was performing this odious chore, I was mulling over our current, very bleak, financial situation and the looming foreclosure of our home.
Behind me- Audibly- I heard a voice say, “ Sally!“ I whirled around in surprise, thinking some man had sneaked up on me, unawares. There was no one there. Hummmmm. I went back to my weeding. “ Sally!” Again with the Voice! ” Sally, it is ALL about the Joy!” Simple and straightforward. The Voice repeated the message. Perhaps thinking me a bit slow on the uptake. “Sally, it is All about the Joy!”
No visible person materialized, no burning tumbleweeds lay in my path. However, immediately I was given a short spiritual ” download” that explained in small, easy to understand words that IF I worried about things ( finances, marriage, children, life) allowing them to take root, what I was REALLY expressing was that I didn’t think that MY GOD was big enough to handle that situation. He was not really LORD of my life. This little lesson came silently downloaded into my brain, complete with scripture references. I left off my yard work, went inside and wrote the whole thing out.
I grabbed my Bible intending to look up the “given” verses and the Bible fell open to Ezekiel 3 and my eye went immediately to verse 10 and 11 in a confirming message and mission: …He said to me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto you, receive in your heart and hear with your ears. And go, get you to those of the captivity, to the children of your people and tell them, “Thus says the Lord God”; whether they will hear or whether they will forbear.
So, what does it mean? ” It’s all about the Joy?” Well many prayerful little word studies later: Jesus is the JOY. Good times, Bad times, tragedy or sorrow. I don’t ever need to be fearful or worried about my circumstances. He is the Cloud by day and the Pillar of fire at Night, the Manna I need to feast on, the Tabernacle I need to abide in, so that while I am here in the wilderness I KNOW that He is always there. Constant Love, showing me The Way.
This was a lesson that was startling and lovely in it’s simplicity. It was also an important preparatory lesson. The financial worries that had loomed so large that day in Tucson were totally insignificant compared to the tsunami of pain that would soon follow on it’s heels.
Had the Lord not prepared me early on, that unexpected wave may have undercut my footings and swept me out to sea. Instead, here I am, sitting on my mountain top, testifying to you that: I heard The Voice, it changed the course of my life, and whether you listen and believe or not, He told me to tell you: That it IS all about the Joy!