Mercy for a generation

How can we image the state of this man, the wonder and awe of being before God? He must have been filled with hope as God himself had given him the law for a new people, a new nation and a promised new country. Then the sad report from God himself, the slaves he had rescued from Egyptian masters, those He had set free with great miracles, the people that he had hoped to build into a great nation had betrayed Him for a god of gold that could not speak or hear. (Exodus 32:7-14)

He told Moses I will wipe Israel from the face of the earth and begin a new nation with you.  What an honor, for God to choose you for such purpose, then the surprise. Moses said no!

Who could have blamed Moses if he had lost all patience and begged for their destruction?  Who would have faulted him for taking such an honor? Instead he pleads their case. God had surely chosen the right man.

Moses had been a shepherd accustomed to protecting the flock and placing his life on the line for them. He argued, “What would Egypt think to see God free these people only to destroy them in the wilderness”. God’s mercy reined and the Israelites were given many more opportunities to be faithful.

Often we see a world, a society or perhaps a given group that we think worthy of condemnation. Are we prepared to be good shepherds like Moses and plead for mercy? Is our goal to see the lost saved or are we filled with disdain for a world that has forgotten God? We should not be hoping and waiting for destruction as Jonah did. Let us remember what John says “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) He also said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Let us with much prayer and supplications continue to intercede for the lost, that they may someday come to know their Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us continue to proclaim the message of Hope to a fallen world.

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Surviving the wilderness

No Walmart, no Costco and plenty of empty stomachs! (Exodus 16)The Israelites couldn’t even find a 7 eleven. Naturally they began to complain that life was better in Egypt where their masters provided everything they needed for their pitiful existence. (Exodus 16:3)The fact that they had no freedom, no rights and could suffer all types of imaginable abuse without any protection was incidental. The point is that they had plenty to eat as long as they depended on their Egyptian masters.

Why had God taken His people to the middle of the dessert and given them nothing to eat?  The Israelites had grown dependent on their cruel masters. It was time for them to learn to depend on their God, the God who with His mighty hand freed them and whose purpose was to make a great nation of them in the Promise land.

In the desert there was nothing. No distraction, no help, and no way for the Israelites to provide for themselves. It was a wasteland perfectly designed to cause God’s people to look to heaven for help. Sometimes in our lives we too are going through the desert or wasteland.  Life seems to offer little hope. We are starving for the satisfaction of some of our most basic needs, such as love, health, comfort, companionship, perhaps food and even a roof over our head. Only God can save us and we finally turn to Him.

It is no wonder that God made it necessary for the Israelites to freshly gather manna every day.  They could not save for the next day and were forced to repeat the same lesson of dependency on their divine maker. God is the most remarkable teacher. It took more than a generation but the Israelites did learn to trust in God and a mighty nation of faith was formed, able to conquer the promise land. God is still making men and women of faith, capable of great achievements. But to do this we must pass through the wilderness of pain, problems and challenges, where there is little that can be found. Alas we are left alone and must learn to turn to the one that will forever be faithful and will never leave us. He will supply every need as the shepherd boy said “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1)

 

 

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Stubborn Unbelief

Moses stood before the mighty Pharaoh and asked rather politely to let his people go. Pharaoh was not interested in losing his wealth of slaves, forcing Moses to perform the first of many miracles. He had his brother Aaron cast his rod on the ground and it turned into a serpent. Pharaoh must have thought it a simple trick and did not believe. (Exodus 7:1-8)

Moses then met pharaoh by the Nile where with Aaron’s rod he turned the Nile into blood. That was a major trick and must have been devastating for the Egyptian economy and the health of their people. However Pharaoh still would not believe. (Exodus 7:14-24)

Many plagues later Pharaoh still would not change his mind. Then came the most devastating lost of all for Egypt, the slaying of the first born. Finally Pharaoh would let them go. But he rescinded only temporarily, still not accepting or understanding the power of God. He would send his army against the defenseless Israelites most likely expecting an easy victory. Was he surprised when he witnessed what had never been seen before? God had made a path through the sea. There were the lowly Israelites, former slaves, passing through the midst of the sea on dry land and on either side of them a high wall of water. Surely now pharaoh would believe that these people were God’s people and that perhaps he should just let them go. Perhaps he would wake up to the reality that slavery was just wrong or that people do not have the right to make subjects of other people just because they have a stronger army.

Pharaoh did not have any of these great revelations. Instead he was consistent in his unbelief. He ordered his army to pursue the Israelites through this path created by God. Then he would witness the collapse of water on his army. They were destroyed. (Exodus 14) Pharaoh could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he would have believed from the very beginning. However the price of unbelief can be even higher.

The price of unbelief can be as high as all eternity. John 3:18 says “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Christ is still trying to reach the most stubborn hearts, so do not be dismayed. Our responsibility is simply to “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15)

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A slave to fear

Acting on fear is the downfall of so many of us. In the bible the Israelites are the perfect example. Several times in their history they acted on fear instead of having courage and faith in God.

First they were in Egypt for centuries getting stronger. Pharaoh himself claimed that the Israelites were stronger than the Egyptians. (Exodus 1:8-10) However when the decision was made to enslave Israel, according to biblical records, Israel did nothing. For centuries they were enslaved without a rebellion recorded. (Exodus 12:40-41). After God used Moses with a mighty hand to free them and bring them through the desert, they were confronted with the Canaanites who were living in the promise land.

Once again they lacked faith and reacted with fear. They declared that they could not defeat the Giants who live there. They did even worst. They wished they had died in the wilderness or had never left their masters in Egypt. (Numbers 14:1-4)Their fear was truly remarkable considering they had seen a multitude of miracles provided by an almighty God with the sole purpose of freeing them and delivering to them the promise land.

Many centuries later, after the Israelites had seen many more miracles, fear would show its ugly face again. The Israelites would once again act out of fear and demand a King that could protect them against their enemies. For centuries God had lifted up men who for the most part were good, wise, moral, who feared Him and were dedicated to Him and whose sole purpose was defending Israel, but Israel’s fear was so intense that they were willing to surrender their freedom. Instead of being slaves to Egypt they would now be slaves to a king.

The prophet Samuel explains that the king would take their land, their earnings, their sons and daughters and force them to serve him. But they still wanted to be slaves in exchange for protection. (1 Samuel 8)

Fear has turned many into slaves. Fear stops us and keeps us from doing all we can and from putting our abilities to use. Opportunities can be lost and in the worst case scenarios we can remain trapped in a place that God does not want for us.

Let us all keep in mind what Paul told one of his young leaders, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) God does not want us to fear, but trust in Him and believe or as Jesus said “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

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Faith during hardship

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good,…. Genesis 50:20

When you are the favored son and daddy buys you really cool stuff, life can be like living in a dream; especially if daddy makes you a top manager at the family business, and places you in charge of your older brothers. This was the life of Joseph. He even had dreams about how his brothers were going to bow to him. Life was pretty nice. However his older brothers didn’t think it was that great. They sold Joseph into slavery and told their father he had been eaten by wild animals. Now this was a family with problems!

Life can certainly be unfair. Perhaps Joseph’s bothers had reason to be jealous, but he did not deserve slavery. Joseph did not ask to be loved more than his brothers. He didn’t ask for special treatment. When it comes to being in charge, Joseph really was more competent than his brothers and most likely deserved the elevated position. Perhaps what they all needed was some counseling and a family meeting where everyone could air out their concerns. Joseph was actually a good, faithful, intelligent son who deserved the admiration of his older brothers. Instead he found himself on a caravan of slave traders headed to Egypt.

Joseph is sold to a top general and quickly proves he is capable. He is placed in charge of the entire estate. Unfortunately the general’s wife takes a liking to Joseph and when Joseph rejects her, she makes false accusations and Joseph is placed in jail. By now each and everyone one of us would be absolutely furious. We would be screaming “Where is God in all this?” We would be thinking “I am faithful, hardworking and honest. I am talented, intelligent and I do a great job, how can life be so unfair?” But Joseph never complained. He was one of the greatest examples of faith in history. He must have known “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

In jail Joseph once again proves himself and is placed in charge of the other prisoners. He also proves himself a great interpreter of dreams. This ability made possible by the revelation of God.

Once pharaoh heard of Joseph’s ability, he was removed from prison and made to serve pharaoh. Joseph was then elevated and made the second most powerful man in all of Egypt. From that position he was able to save the nation of Egypt and his family during a horrific time of famine and yes his brothers did bow down to him. (Genesis 37, 39-45)

For many years life was certainly unfair for Joseph. At times we may feel like we are walking in Joseph’s shoes. But like Joseph we cannot lose faith. Nor can we grow angry with God or life. We must approach every hardship we go through as if it is a new opportunity to grow and become even better, because that is exactly the reason why we go through them. Remember God is not done; He is doing something great in each of us.

No more excuses!

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh….(Exodus 3:11)

Moses was having a pleasant time. He was relaxing while tending to his sheep in the quiet stillness of the night. However, for no apparent reason, a bush went up in flames, and didn’t burn up. Then the voice of God was heard. Moses was terrified and hid his face. Then it got worst.

God proceeded to give Moses directions to speak to the mightiest man on the planet. He had to tell the ruthless pharaoh of Egypt to let the enslaved Israelites go.

Moses came up with one excuse after another. First He said “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11) In other words I am not important enough to speak to pharaoh. Then Moses said, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13) The implication was that he didn’t know what to tell the people who were supposed to follow him, the Israelites. God told Moses what to say, but Moses was not done giving excuses he said “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.”(Exodus 4:1). God performed several miracles before Moses to show him what he would do as proof. But Moses was still not satisfied and said “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)

Four excuses, Moses truly had self esteem issues. He was certain that he lacked the qualifications. He must have been thinking “Just let me take care of my sheep, that’s all I am good for.” But he was wrong.

Many of us have had these moments, when we doubted our abilities or capacity. Perhaps we thought “Lord I know you don’t make mistakes, but there must be someone better for this task, responsibility, or position.” But we are wrong also. If God calls us to do something or hold a position he will equip us. He will educate us and prepare us. If He wants us that means we are the best person for the job. It could be a talent or an expertise we have or perhaps a quality in our character that God sees. God can see the gifts he has placed in us, while we sometimes only see our failures and weaknesses.

With Moses the excuses finally stopped and he did go to pharaoh. Ten plagues later, and a disastrous defeat for pharaoh’s army and the Israelites were free. The whole time all Moses held in his hands was a staff, but the power of God was behind him every step of the way.

If we say yes to God’s calling in our lives His power will be behind us every step of the way, the enemy will be defeated and what awaits us will surely be the promise land.

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They clamored for a King

Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us… 1 Samuel 8:19

The people clamored for a king and Samuel, the great and wise, but aging prophet turned to God. Samuel’s revelation was, to put it simply, scary. He goes on to explain that the king will take their land, their children, their profits and use them for his own purpose. He explains that they would all become servants to the king. Loss of freedom, property, income and even your children does not seem like an attractive offer. However, the people clamored even more. Why? They were scared. They wanted to place their trust in a king. Someone who could organize them, build up their armies and protect them against their enemies. Fear can cause people to do some very strange things.

The other reason, and highly connected to the first reason, was a lack of faith in God. They were choosing to place their trust in a government and not God. It was God who had freed Israel from slavery in Egypt. It was God who had protected and provided for them while they journeyed through the desert. It was God who had given them countless victories against their enemies, both during the conquest of the promise land and its defense in the many years that followed. Throughout all those centuries He gave them freedom instead of an all-powerful monarch as stated in Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

In our time we have seen a growing influence of government in the lives of its citizens throughout the world. This is not an American phenomenon; the entire world is desperately seeking to be rescued. Just like in the time of the prophet Samuel we clamor more and more for our government to take charge, even though we know that for the government to be the solution it will have to grow, in power and in budget and we will pay with both a loss of income and freedom. This is symptomatic of a society that no longer believes in God and would rather place its hope in fallen man. God calls those who would trust in man cursed. (Jeremiah 17:5) It seems that as our Government grows more powerful it grows more inept at solving the world’s problems. Inflation, poverty, debt and war are still on the rise, while the economy continues to fail.

Instead of surrendering more and more of our rights, our income and our privacy, perhaps it is time to let God be the solution and not a larger, more powerful government. It is time to practice some faith in the God who does not lie, cheat or cover up. He will not raise our taxes; seek personal gain, or other perks. Put Him in charge of our lives, that He may give us the strength and guidance we need every day to work through our own problems, and watch freedom reign!