Monday, October 18, 2010

What is Going on Here? The Story of Moses, You and Me

[This entry follows a sermon preached by John Tierney at Gray Road Baptist Church, titled "Why Do Bad Things Happen...?"]

Today's blog has been written by John Tierney, who preached in my place during yesterday's service. John writes:

On an otherwise non-descript day, Moses saw a bush that was burning, but wasn’t burning. In the ensuing encounter with God, he learned that he would be going before the Pharaoh of Egypt, in order to procure the freedom of God’s people, the Israelites. “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go, except under compulsion” (Ex. 3:19), said the Lord. So Moses loaded up the family and headed back to Egypt. Along the way, God again spoke to Moses, reminding him that Pharaoh would not acquiesce to his demand: “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go” (Ex. 4:21)

In time, Moses did come before Pharaoh. Along with his brother, Aaron, Moses told Pharaoh what God had said. At God’s direction, Moses requested a three-day reprieve, so the Israelites could go into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord. And wouldn’t you know it? God was right. Pharaoh was indignant at the request, and accused the Israelites of being lazy.

Perhaps also sensing the dangerous notion of freedom beginning to make its way through the Israelite camp, Pharaoh responded, not only by denying the request, but by increasing the workload of the Hebrew slaves. Whereas before, the Egyptians supplied the straw necessary for making bricks, now the Israelites were forced to gather it themselves. And, “let the labor be heavier on the men”, Pharaoh said, “let them work at it so that they will pay no attention to false words” (Ex. 5:9). And so, the Egyptians turned up the heat on the Israelites, and the plan worked to perfection.

The Israelite foremen, whom Pharaoh had ordered to be beaten if the quota of bricks diminished, accosted Moses and Aaron: “May the Lord look upon you and judge you”, they said, “for you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hands to kill us” (Ex. 5:21). Shaken by this dreadful turn of events, Moses returned to God. “O Lord”, he cried. “Why have you brought harm to this people? Why did you ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all” (Ex. 5:23-24).

Poor Moses. All he did was obey God, and as a result he lost any chance whatsoever at the “Emancipator of the Year” Award. So Moses cried out to God and asked, “Why? Why have you brought harm to this people, and by the way, why did you send me to do it?” But if the truth be told, you could make the case that Moses’ cry was, “Why me? Why me?!?”

Now, somewhere in the back of his mind, Moses probably knew. After all, God had told him what would happen, and it was coming to pass right before his eyes. What God didn’t do was give Moses all the details. He gave him some, but definitely not all. He gave him a mission, and he told him how it would end, but He didn’t give him step-by-step snapshots of each day’s excitement. Still, unless Moses had completely forgotten the details of his one-on-one conversations with the Omnipotent Creator of the universe, he probably knew.

If you think about it, Moses’ personal journey into, and out of, Egypt isn’t all that different from the life of the New Testament believer. We read God’s Word, we accept its truth, and we launch our ship of faith. But quite often when the storms come, we’re shocked. “Hey, what’s going on here!?” we scream. “Well, I told you this wouldn’t be easy,” says the Lord’s Word. “Yeah, but come on,” replies the heart, “this is HARD!” We READ that in this life “you WILL have trouble”, but we tend to SEE, “you MAY have trouble”. That sort of hoping against hope (and hoping against reality) only sets us up for unnecessary shockers along the way.

But praised be our God; He is patient, He is kind, and He is longsuffering. And – He loves us. And so when Moses or Gideon or the Psalmist or you or I ask, “Why does it have to be this way?” God doesn’t respond harshly. (As He could!) Instead, He teaches us, grows us, points us to His Word, carries us, and loves us. Again, praised be our God!