It is easy to write off the accounts from the Bible as completely irrelevant to us today. Some people may write them off as nothing more than great stories or fairy tales, though a closer examination proves historical credibility as genuine as our own historical records here in the United States.
Other people may feel a bitterness towards the stories in the Bible as a result of memories growing up, being forced to attend Sunday school. Others just simply may not see the relevance of the stories in today’s life. That used to be my perspective, but over the past 15 years that has changed.
I was reminded this week of just how relevant the lives of those who lived in Bible times are to my own life when I was reading through the book of Exodus, and a particular story jumped out at me. Let me set this up for you.
Israel was promised a land of their own, but instead found themselves slaves to Egypt. They prayed, trusting God to keep his promise.
Finally more than 400 years after they began to pray, God sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to let them go. Moses didn’t want this task. He gave God every excuse on why this was a bad idea, but finally he reluctantly agreed to go.
I can imagine the different emotions he must have felt as he approached pharaoh, who by all records was a very vicious man. He must have felt fear, mixed with some confidence, as God had promised this would work. I would even imagine at some point once the whole thing sank in, he felt honored that God would choose him to carry out such an important task.
Can you imagine what the people thought when they heard that God had sent Moses to them? I guess there was relief, and joy that finally, after so many years of silence, God was moving. I can imagine there were some daydreams about living as free people rather than slaves. Their minds were likely allowed to go where they had not allowed them to go before.
And then the moment came. Moses and Aaron went before Pharaoh, they did exactly as God said, and Pharaoh responded “No”.
Not only did he say no, but also he shamed Moses for the audacity to fill the Israelites’ minds with such fantasies, and for getting in the way of their work. Even worse, he also figured that since Israel had time to hope for freedom they must not have enough to do, so he increased their work, and their beatings increased as well.
Then Pharaoh went to the Israelites to put all of the blame on Moses. If that were not enough, the Israelites turned on Moses saying to him, “May the Lord take note of you and judge, for you have made us reek in front of Pharaoh and his officials. Putting a sword in their hand to kill us.” (Ex 5:21)
And Moses responded to all of this by going to the Lord with a heart full of questions and sadness to ask, “Lord, why have You caused trouble for this people? And why did you ever send me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name he has caused trouble for this people and you haven’t delivered Your people at all.”(Ex 5:22-23)
Have you been there? You think you are doing the right thing, in fact sometimes you know you are doing the right thing and it blows up in your face?
You pour yourself into your job trusting God will provide, and someone else gets the promotion. You are kind to others, and all you get in return is strife no matter how you yield. You pray, and you see no results. I have been there. I am there now.
Many of us respond the way that Moses and his people did initially. We get mad at God, we get mad at the circumstance, and we give up.
But something in Moses somehow gave him the courage to go back. I think about the intimidation he had to have felt when he went back to stand in front of Pharaoh, and I don’t get it.
After the way it turned out the first time, when God told me to do it the second time I’m not sure I could have done it, even with God’s reassurances.
Moses took an emotional battering and had apparent failure all while being obedient. What does it take to go back 10 more times and face defeat like that? But that is the reality of living in this broken world.
Sometimes it takes tenacity, and determination to keep going before the break through happens. God is always there working behind the scenes, but sometimes we don’t see it.
In the Christian world we all agree that the “victory is in Jesus Christ,” but how many of us recognize that we don’t get to tell God how the victory will come about?
I have heard, and even been guilty of prayers full of details about how God should get the job done, but never do I see it work this way in the Bible.
Moses didn’t get to tell God how that whole thing went, Joshua didn’t tell God how they would win the wars, and the disciples certainly didn’t get a say in how Jesus brought about the ultimate victory.
When it looks like everything is spinning out of control take heart. We are promised to have trouble in this world, but Christ has assured us that he overcame the troubles of this world (John 16:33)
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