This is a long post but please read to the end!!!
In Exodus we read about Moses and Pharaoh and the plagues…and on through the beginning of the Israelite’s 40 year journey through the dessert. Several things speak to me…
From the time Moses escaped Egypt to the time God called him to free the Israelites was approximately 40 years (according to bibletimeline.com). Many of us are going through the day to day motions wondering what God’s will is for our life. Maybe feeling like we are called for something more but not fully understanding what that is or what it would look like in reality. Are we willing to wait 40 years to find out? I think about the person I am today and the person I was 10 years ago and they’re practically two different people. I didn’t take my faith seriously until about 5 years ago. I didn’t take God’s Word seriously (as in reading the Bible regularly) until about a year ago. I am still woking on my prayer life. God will not impose Himself on you and He will not entrust you with things you are not spiritually equipped to handle. What if you are what’s standing in the way of God’s calling for your life?
When God speaks to Moses and sends him back to Egypt, like so many of us, his initial response is to argue. We often argue with God because we’re afraid and/or we feel unqualified to do what He asks us to do. We fail to realize that that’s precisely the point. When we function outside of our qualifications, it brings the attention to God – where it belongs. When Moses informs God of his stutter, as if He didn’t know, God tells Moses, “And who do think made the human mouth? And who makes some mute, some deaf, some sighted, some blind? Isn’t it I, God? So, get going. I’ll be right there with you – with your mouth! I’ll be right there to teach you what to say.” God made every perfect imperfection…and He intends to use them for His Kingdom…so don’t let your imperfections be an excuse to disqualify yourself. AND…as much as Moses and Aaron doubted and argued, they still obeyed.
When Moses asks, “Suppose I go to the People of Israel and I tell them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you’; and they ask me ‘What is his name?’ What do I tell them?” God responds, “I-AM-WHO-I-AM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘I-AM sent me to you'” God is everything and anything. We too often limit God’s ability to work in our lives because we confine Him to our limited understanding. Why? What if God wants to do miraculous things in your life but you won’t let Him…because you’ve placed barriers He won’t cross. He wants to use you, He wants to do great things in and through you, but God will never impose Himself on you. AND…His Will will be done with or without you.
God warned Moses that Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened and that he would refuse God’s command. Not only did Pharaoh refuse time and time again, he actually punished the Israelites and made their lives worse than before. In this life we will have obstacles…foretold, predicted, guaranteed!! On top of that, throughout the entire book of Exodus (and beyond), Moses caught all kinds of flack from the Israelites, the very people he was fighting for. Even still, he remained faithful to God and stood his ground according to God’s calling on his life…ON THEIR LIVES!! How often do we act on someone else’s behalf and they can’t see, receive or comprehend what God has in store for them? How often in ministry do we find ourselves frustrated by someone else’s inability to effectuate change in their own lives. In today’s generation this is probably one of the most important lessons…to stay the course in spite of the impopularity, in spite of the obstacles, in spite of other’s lack of spiritual maturity…not to allow the obstacles to steer us off course. (We also need to have discernment when it’s time to stop feeding into someone/something that isn’t producing fruit…but that’s another topic)
There were a couple times that Pharaoh asked Moses to pray to God to rid them of the plagues. Moses prayed. God responded. Understand this…everything Moses did was in response to God’s instruction. This was God’s plan…He knew (even caused) every step before it happened. Even still…Moses prayed and God responded. I am probably the worst at this aspect of my faith, even though I know it’s the most important. PRAYER!!! I talk to God throughout my day but it’s so awkward to sit and carve out time to spend with Him in focused prayer. It feels like talking to the air. My mind can’t focus and I end up babbling. And, if this is how my private prayer life goes, don’t even get me started on public prayer. Have we ever stopped to think the reason it’s so hard is because it’s so important?! I have been reflecting on this a lot lately. What if the things I want most, the things I worry about the most, my biggest fears, my biggest desires, are going unanswered because they’re going un-prayed for? And not just prayed for once, or flippantly mentioned to God throughout the babbling of my day, but fervently brought before the Lord time and time again until I see breakthrough…and even beyond (praising Him for answered prayer). What if we’re all one prayer away from victory, but we never see victory because we don’t pray the prayer? Don’t get caught in the trap I so often do, thinking God knows our thoughts so we don’t need to articulate them. So many of the miracles Jesus performed started with Him asking the person what they wanted, or instructing the person to take a step. Someone wise once said, “God does nothing except in answer to prayer.” That plays in my head so many times when I’m struggling with something in my life. When I’ve wrestled with something long enough and God nudges me to bring it to Him. If it’s important enough to spend so much energy thinking and worrying about, but it’s not important enough to spend so much time in prayer about, how important is it actually?
One of the biggest changes in my faith came from something called Lay Witness Weekend. Local missionaries from around the United States came and gave their testimonies and took our church through some exercises and activities throughout the weekend. Some people have a testimony about when and how they came to know Christ. I said the prayer when I was younger, got baptized when I was 13, my grandparents were elders at the church I “grew up” in…but this weekend was the moment in my life when my faith became my own, when it became personal and intentional…not inherited. There was a point in the wilderness when God had Moses gather the Israelites so He could show them His glory (directly and not through Moses). “All the people, experiencing the thunder and lighting, the trumpet blast and the smoking mountain, were afraid – they pulled back and stood at a distance. They said to Moses, ‘You speak to us and we’ll listen, but don’t have God speak to us or we’ll die.'” How many of us live out our faith at a distance, content to let others be an intermediary for us? Jesus died on the cross so we could have direct access. The things God speaks to the pastors and preachers and teachers is available to us DIRECTLY. I’ve gone though my faith with this seed of doubt, debating if I had the ability to hear from God. Are those His Words or my thoughts? The only way to know the difference is to know His Words. Through no effort of my own, I am finding it easier and easier to discern God’s speaking to me the more I’m in His Word, the more I know His character vs. mine, and most importantly, the more I focus on Him and not myself.
Back to Pharaoh…so Pharaoh would ask Moses to pray to God to rid them of the plague and then he would let the people go. “But when Pharaoh saw that he had some breathing room, he got stubborn again and wouldn’t listen to Moses and Aaron. Just as God said.” How many times have we found ourselves negotiating with God? God, if you’ll do this, I swear I’ll do this, I’ll be better at this, I’ll stop doing this…if you’ll just… And then when things get better, our prayers get answered, we quickly forget our end of the bargain. Luckily God’s faithfulness is not dependent on our own…or we’d be in BIG TROUBLE! My last worship leader once said, “If the only time you are close to God is when you’re struggling, He loves you enough, wants to be close to you enough, to let you struggle.”
Let’s talk about the Israelites in the wilderness. They complained day in and day out. They questioned God and Moses for freeing them, saying they were better off as slaves in Egypt. They saw the glory of God up close and personal and rejected it out of fear. They, having first hand knowledge of the God who delivered them, made a false god and worshiped it, crediting it with their deliverance!! AND GOD REMAINED FAITHFUL! I get so indignant when I read the Old Testament because the Israelites never seem to get it. They’ll repent, God will save them, and then they’ll reject Him again, and again, and again, and again…shall I go on? This is the most frustrating and the most comforting aspect of the Bible for me…because I know I’m just like them. As much as I cringe when I read about God’s unending grace and mercy for the Israelites, I know I am in desperate need of it myself. As frustrating as it is to read, it reassures me of God’s unending grace and mercy in my own life. I am so thankful for this. And not as a passing thought…a truly deep in my soul thankfulness. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes if you can shift your perspective to be thankful and grateful every day…even in the storm. When God, through Moses, was giving instruction to the Israelites, He said, “No one is to show up in my presence empty handed.” This can, of course, apply to tithing but it’s way less tangible than that. If I am in prayer with God daily, what am I bringing to His presence? Am I coming to Him with all of my requests? I’m not saying those aren’t important, but our prayer lives need to consist of praise and gratitude and thankfulness far above our requests.
So the Israelites would complain and God would come through and then the Israelites would praise God and give Him glory for all He had done for them. They would praise Him when He was doing something for them, meeting their needs, answering their prayers. Who do we think we are believing God is here to serve our needs!! Are we willing to follow God simply because He is God and not for what He can do for us? Is salvation in and of itself enough? Are you able to praise God when the prayers go unanswered? Are you able to trust that God knows better than you, that there is a purpose for what you are going through? I think I’ve mentioned this in another post but…there was a time when we were going through one of the most difficult seasons financially and I sought prayer…not for the financial difficulty to go away, but for us to receive what God had for us through that difficult time. If we don’t grow and mature through our struggles, we’re doomed to repeat them. I read The Bait of Satan by John Bevere and it talked about the process of purifying gold…how being exposed to such intense heat would bring the impurities to the surface, they’d be scraped off the top, and you’d be left with pure gold. If you don’t scrape the impurities off the top while exposed to the intense heat, they sink back down and you’ll have to start the process all over. We don’t have to enjoy difficult times but, instead of simply surviving them, let’s learn how to persevere and grow in our maturity through them.
“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai carrying the two Tablets of The Testimony, he didn’t know that the skin of his face glowed because he had been speaking with God. Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, saw his radiant face, and held back, afraid to get close to him. […] When Moses finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face, but when he went into the presence of God to speak with Him, he removed the veil until he came out.” PEOPLE, ARE WE VEILING GOD’S GLORY IN OUR LIVES FOR THE BENEFIT OF OTHERS?!?!?! Are we compromising the truth because others are afraid to hear it? Yes, we are to be God’s hands and feet, making disciples, being God’s love for all the world…but not at the expense of truth. Those who’s hearts are meant to receive will receive…even the hard truth. This world is not our home and the sad truth is that many have rejected/are rejecting/will reject Christ and we have to have discernment where to spend our energy. Speak truth in love…but speak truth.