My living room had a holy atmosphere. The phone was unplugged, the cell phone switched off, and the neighbour's knocks at the door unheeded. In an attitude of prayer, I recorded these words in my journal.
I'm at the cusp of a new stage of life. Have a new home, a new community, a new role. Those first 8 years in this Chinese province seemed so aimless. The break back home was great. Lord, give me your direction for this new stint, I beg.
Considering my options for seeking guidance, I jotted down the headings 'work', 'social life' and 'hobbies' in my journal. What should I begin praying about?
A quiet inner voice prompted me. "Give your apartment a name."
Hang on, there. I've got more important things to get on with.
The thought persisted. Maybe it was from God. Okay. "Lord, what should I name this apartment?"
Maybe I could cross-stitch a pretty sign with roses around the border. Maybe I could have a calligrapher write some beautiful Chinese characters. Maybe I should just find some nice paper, print out a sign on the computer then laminate it.
It must be a beautiful name. A meaningful name. A name that works well in Chinese and English.
'Name it, 'Meribah'."
Where did that come from? I know my Sunday School stories. 'Meribah' means 'quarreling'. It is where Moses hit the rock to get water instead of speaking to it. I don't want a home full of quarreling, or bad tempers.
In the holy atmosphere of my distraction-denuded living room, I inquired of the Lord. "What would you have me name this apartment, Lord?"
My usually fertile imagination remained almost blank. Except for that one word, 'Meribah'.
With a sigh of resignation, I picked up the Bible and turned to the 'Meribah incident'in Numbers 20.
The people were tired, irritable and depressed. And no wonder. For forty years they'd wandered in that stupid desert. Their punishment was almost complete. They were more than ready to move on. Yet nothing seemed to be happening.
Arriving at Kadesh, they were dealt another bitter blow. Not only were they desperate for water, but their beloved matriach, Miriam, was taken from them in death. The people were heart-broken. And thirsty. Very thirsty.
Moses and Aaron, grief-stricken at the loss of their sister, went out of the camp to the 'Tent of Meeting'. As in times past, the people stood outside their tents and watched as the Glory of the Lord descended. Moses and Aaron dropped to their faces in awe.
Eventually, the two elderly leaders returned to the parched mass. The people started chanting in desperate anger. "Water, give us water."
Moses' face reddened. "What do I have to do to satisfy you whining mob? Do I have to hit this rock to give you water?"
Taking his well-worn holy staff, Moses gave the towering rock a resounding 'thwack'.
Life-giving water flowed out of the stone. With shouts of joy, the people and animals alike fell to their knees and slurped from the fast-flowing stream.
Only Moses and Aaron stood back, shoulders slumped and faces somber.
Aaron spoke first.
"That was wrong, Moses. You were meant to speak to the rock, not hit it."
"I know. The Lord Himself showed His holiness today, and the people will remember this day for generations. But I have not upheld His holiness. My temper has cost us dearly."
"You're not wrong, brother. Because of your outburst, the Lord says that you and I will soon join Miriam in death. We will not see the Promised Land."
A tear slipped down the deep crease radiating from the old man's eye.
They renamed Kadesh 'Meribah', meaning 'quarreling', as a reminder of that day for the generations to follow.
Indeed, within a year, Aaron would have symbolically taken off his priestly robes and put them on his son, then immediately died. Within a year, Moses would have given his magnificent farewell speech to the people, instituted Joshua as leader, and dramatically walked up Mount Nebo, never to be seen again. And within a year, the people would be fighting battles like they'd never experienced before. In so doing, they would claim the Promised Land as their own.
A sharp knock at my door jerks my thoughts back to the present. Remaining still and silent, I ignore it, and again consider the name 'Meribah' for my apartment.
At Meribah, God showed Himself holy. I want His holiness to be seen in my home too.
At Meribah, the people had a major change of direction. Meribah marked the end of their years of wandering, and the beginning of the focused conquest of the Land. Indeed, on the map in my study Bible, the colour changes from a red 'wandering in the desert'line to a blue 'taking the land' line. I too am on the cusp of something new, and have begged God for direction.
Meribah later became the very edge of the territory of Israel, belonging to Judah, although known by its original name, 'Kadesh'. Perhaps this stage of my life will also be a time I can look back on as the beginning of a new focused stage of life.
After leaving Meribah, the Israelites faced many battles. I hate conflict, but realistically know that if I'm to play a part in expanding God's kingdom, spiritual warfare is unavoidable.
Okay, so perhaps I'll name my apartment 'Meribah'. But I still need a Chinese name.
I flick open my Chinese Bible. 'Meribah'is transliterated 'Mi li ba'. 'Mi'means 'rice'. 'Li'means 'to benefit somebody. 'Ba'means 'to hope'. Rice - provisions from God, just like the water back there at Kadesh. Benefiting others - that is what I want to do. And hope is the glue that holds my whole purpose in being together, and what I long to offer to others.
'Mi li ba'. Beautiful.
Standing up, I reconnect the phone, and quietly open then loudly close the door to alert my neighbours that I'm now officially 'at home'. It is time to start using God's rich provision of my home to benefit others. To radiate God's holiness. And to offer hope.
'Meribah'. That is where I live. Now all I need to do is make a pretty name plate for the door.
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