Tag Archive: obedience


IF

This week, we look at Abigail in our Unsung Heroes of the Bible sermon series. Youth Director Tim Kightlinger shares his thoughts…

 

They are all over the place…Salvation Army collection cans, scan away hunger cards, up your bill so the change can be used to help others, buy this or that so we can go to camp, save the children, save the dogs, save the whales, save the _________ (you fill in the blank). We are bombarded with ways in which we can help others. Is it no wonder that we can become callous to the needs of others? Our hearts can become hardened to their cry.

We think to ourselves, “I can’t help everyone, I can’t give to everything, heck, I don’t even like whales!” We feel overwhelmed and we decide to do nothing. We choose not to help anyone. After all, it is my hard earned money. It is my stuff. Or is it?

In the story from 1 Samuel 25:1-44, we find the story of Nabal and Abigail. David is out in the wilderness protecting Nabal and his household. David sends a message to Nabal that they are in need of some food. Nabal has a choice to make. Do I help David and his people or not? Nabal decides to not help David. He chooses this because of his selfish need to keep his own stuff for himself. He didn’t care about the needs of David or his people. He even throws a party for himself that would be fit for a king! On the other hand, Nabal’s wife, Abigail, hears about the request and has a choice to make as well. She decides that she needs to help David and his people, so she sends enough food for the entire group to enjoy. By providing for David’s group she ends up saving the lives of all her people.

As we are called to be stewards of what God has given us, we need to be reminded that all we have is God’s in the first place. What we have been entrusted with is a gift from God—some with much, some with a little. No matter how much you have or possess, we are called to help. But again, we can’t do everything and we can’t help everyone. So, how do we know whom we should help?

#1 Pray that God gives you a heart to help others, and to know His will.

#2 Let God direct you to whom you should help. He will give you a sense of peace when you give. You will know, if you are seeking His will, on whom to help.

#3 Give because it brings joy to you and your family. Giving shouldn’t feel like an obligation, you’re using God’s gifts to help others.

#4 Then…do it! Give! Share with others, so they can know God’s love and provision. Just as God sent his Son, Jesus, to this earth to show us the love that God has for us—His ultimate love (John 3:16)!

We need to have our hearts and eyes opened to seeing where God is leading us to give and care—where we can share His love with others. Together we can make a difference in the world, if not for many, then in the world of the one we helped!

God’s blessings,

Tim “TK” Kightlinger

 

Photo credit: Stock photo: basket of bread and rolls

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Boaz, an Unsung Hero

This week in our Unsung Heroes of the Bible sermon series, we’re looking at Boaz from the Book of Ruth. Boaz is a man who lived out his faith and obedience to God. He stepped into responsibility as Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer by marrying her and buying the land of her mother-in-law Naomi.

Together, Boaz and Ruth are listed in the lineage of Jesus—their son Obed, was Jesse’s father, and David’s grandfather. Boaz redeemed Ruth and Naomi….but we are redeemed by God’s own Son—Jesus Christ.

On this Father’s Day weekend, Vicar Dan Petrak shares his thoughts on Boaz…

What’s Your One Focus?

One Focus - GD

It’s that time of year when we tend to take stock of our lives. We look back at the year, and we look forward with changes in mind.

Changes we write as resolutions.

Changes that often don’t make it past January 31.

What if we skip the list of things we want to start or stop doing, and instead have a focus for the year?

One focus. Something to think and pray about throughout the year.

It might be one area God wants you to pay attention to, or one word that will shape your year. Maybe it’s one Scripture verse you want your life to reflect.

Whatever it might be, one focus is easier to remember than a list of resolutions, and it’s less frustrating because you have the entire year to ponder your focus.

If you get to February 1 and realize you haven’t been working on your resolutions, it leads to discouragement, possibly feeling like the year is already off to a failing start. But, with one focus, you can be thinking about it before it’s time for action. In fact, you might not be able to stop thinking about it, even if you’re not sure what to do with it.

How do you decide on one focus for the year? For me, I pray about it, asking God what He wants to show me, or what I need to learn. And then, I wait, and I listen.

One year, I questioned the word I felt God giving me. When I dismissed it, He gave it to me again. And again. After a few weeks, I realized He wasn’t going to let it go and I better get used to the word. Obviously, I would be in for a year of learning something, even though I didn’t know what it was yet.

This year, He’s given me two words. (Sorry, I’m not telling what they are yet.) At first, I thought it was just something going through my own thoughts. But the next day, those two words were more firmly on my mind and I realized God was answering my question of what He wanted me to focus on.

And that focus scared me a little. Well, maybe it was more than a little. I prayed about it, thinking I could still be wrong. But, no, He only gave me those two words.

Here’s the thing…if your focus doesn’t scare you a little, it’s probably not the right focus. After all, the purpose of this is personal growth and change, right? And that’s scary.

But…it can also be kind of exciting. My two words aren’t causing me to squirm anymore. I’ve accepted that this is my focus, and I’m anticipating God will be challenging me in some new ways this year.

So, are you ready to consider one focus for 2014?

For more information, you may want to Google “One Word 2014,” but be ready for more links than you probably want to explore. To narrow it down, here are two resources on the One Focus topic worth visiting:

Oneword365.com

Myoneword.org

If you are looking at one focus this year, whether it’s a word, phrase, Scripture verse, or something else, will you share it in the comment section? Let’s encourage each other this year.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Small Steps to Big Growth

Last week, we talked about transformational growth—the changes God wants to make in us as we walk through the Land Between. This transformational growth is God’s work, but there is something needed from us.

Our willingness.

We need to be willing to see God’s work in us through the struggles and trials in life. If we’re not willing, He won’t force the issue. But when we’re willing and open to His work in us…a whole new perspective on life becomes ours.

Transformational growth requires small changes. It starts with incremental growth.

God is asking Will you trust Me? If we answer yes, then are we willing to take intentional steps toward growing in faith?

Incremental growth starts with…

Praying for those who hurt us instead of trying to get back at them.

Practicing forgiveness when we’d rather stay angry.

Trusting God with a situation instead of trying to make it happen on our own.

Trusting God with our finances…being good stewards with what God has blessed us with, and stepping out in faith when giving back to God.

Resisting the urge to complain, choosing to praise and thank God instead.

Choosing God’s path instead of what looks and feels good at the moment.

Acknowledging when we see God at work, giving Him the credit and glory, even when tempted to take the credit ourselves.

Being in God’s Word, starting with a schedule, if necessary, and sticking with it until spending time with God feels natural.

Learning Scripture…equipping ourselves with His Word to strengthen and nourish us.

As we take small steps toward growth, we see God moving in our lives and we learn to trust Him more and more. This incremental growth not only keeps us moving forward, but produces in us the desire to keep going.

Step-by-step, God is bringing us to a place of complete trust in Him. We’ve seen Him work in our lives, and we know He will continue, because despite what we see at the moment, we know God sees the big picture—He knows the plans He has for us.

We find that our willingness to let God make changes in us has led to transformational growth. Growth we didn’t realize was happening until we stood on the other side of the Land Between—stronger in our faith, and with a deeper trust in God.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Obedience is Success

For the past two weeks, we’ve been talking about being on mission—stepping out of our comfort zones and sharing our Christian faith with others when the opportunity presents itself.

So, how do you know if you are successful or not?

When we share our faith with others, we hope for a successful end goal of healing, coming to faith, beating the addiction, or the like. But we may never know how it turns out.

I think God looks at success differently…or maybe, not at all.

God gives us opportunities to join Him in His Kingdom work, but He doesn’t leave us to work on our own. Instead, He says He will be with us. So, success is not about us, it’s about Him.

God doesn’t call us to be successful.

He calls us to be obedient.

When God calls, we have two choices. We can either step out in faith and follow His lead, or we can do nothing and ignore the opportunity.

Which will you choose?

Jeremiah chose to follow God.

The Lord gave me this message: “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”

 “O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”

The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said, “Look, I have put my words in your mouth! Jeremiah 1:4-9 NLT

Did you notice Jeremiah’s excuse?

 “O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”

Don’t we often sound the same?

I can’t talk about Jesus. I’m too…inexperienced…unqualified…shy…afraid of saying the wrong thing.

But God has an answer for our excuses.

I will be with you and I will help you. I will give you the words to speak.

And then He says, Go!

Go outside of your comfort zone.

Go from self-reliance to God-reliance.

Go where He sends you. Right here. Right now.

God had a plan for Jeremiah, and He has plans for us.

God calls us to be obedient.

And when we are obedient to Him, we are successful.

 

In Christ,
Laura
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith
 

Standing Tall, Falling Hard (Bible Study)

Chapter 10 Recap

Blessing. This was meant to be the distinguishing mark of the people of God. God’s covenant with Israel required obedience and promised ultimate blessing. Yet, the period of the judges is anything but a time of obedience and blessing in Israel. More fitting descriptions are: Barrenness.  Blindness.  Battles.  Bereavement.  Blessing was hard to come by in those days. God’s people had abandoned God Himself, and “everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 21:25)  Few remembered God’s commands. Even fewer obeyed.

But God always has a few. One was a woman named Hannah. She had long endured the grief of childlessness accompanied by the taunts of her husband’s other wife. On one of her visits to worship at God’s house in Shiloh, Eli, the priest, mistook her devotion for drunkenness. She had poured out her heart first in desperate prayer and then to Eli and vowed that she would dedicate her son to the LORD. Eli assured her that her prayer would be heard.  God did give Hannah a son, and she kept her word. She named the boy Samuel and took him to serve in the tabernacle under the High Priest, Eli.

God spoke to Samuel one night when he was still a boy. God told Samuel that Eli and his sons would be judged and his priestly line would soon end.  And as it always does, God’s word came true, this time through the Philistines. Israel lost their first battle with the Philistines at Aphek and blamed their loss on the absence of the ark of covenant. Their own absence of obedience went unnoticed. They faced the Philistine army again, this time with the ark as their good luck charm and lost both the battle and the ark. Eli had grown old and blind, and the devastating news of Israel’s defeat, the death of his sons and the loss of the ark of covenant left Eli dead on the spot.

Samuel took Eli’s place, but Israel was dissatisfied and asked for a king. Samuel knew better and expressed his opposition. God knew He’d been rejected. Israel knew only that they wanted to be like their pagan neighbors, the very people they were not to emulate. God warned that their demand for a king would be costly; that he would exploit them to the point of slavery.  The people ignored God’s warnings and still insisted on having an earthly king to fight their battles. Saul was anointed by Samuel and began well. He was affirmed by miraculous signs from God.  He fought the Ammonites and gave God credit for their victory. Samuel reminded the people that God had not rejected them, even though they had turned away from Him. He encouraged them again to follow God and serve him from the heart, and God affirmed Samuel’s words with unheard of thunder and rain during harvest.

Saul’s honeymoon as king was short-lived.  During another battle with the Philistines, Saul got nervous; Samuel was late. So Saul took his authority too far and took matters—and offerings—into his own hands, violating the role God had reserved for the priests. Samuel confronted Saul; he backpedaled, made excuses, and tried to justify his sin, but wound up losing a dynasty. Saul’s path of half-hearted obedience and fear-based leadership grew longer by the year and more twisted with every step.

God rejected Saul as king. Saul’s reign was Israel’s opportunity to see that monarchy is no better than anarchy when a man after God’s own heart is not on the throne. God had already chosen such a man, an unlikely shepherd boy who would one day become Saul’s successor.  His throne would endure and would point God’s people again to the Shepherd King who was yet to come.

Faithful vs. faithless

Sometimes in Scripture we see people that walk in step with the will of God and others who would rather create their own path. In chapter 10 we see two clear examples of people that are doing just that. We know that rain falls on the just and unjust a like. The faithful can prosper just like the faithless can prosper, but we do know that the faithful prosper spiritually as the faithless hold on to their own ways. Let’s take a look at these examples to see what we can learn.

I. Hannah and Peninnah   

You would think that by now some of the Israelites could look back at their forefathers and figure out that bigamy (two wives in this case) is not a good idea.  Evidently, Elkanah didn’t.  Perhaps Hannah’s barrenness led Elkanah to take Peninnah as a wife, but we don’t know which of the two came first.  What we do know is that Peninnah’s actions reveal what is in her heart, as did Hannah’s.

A.     Faithless, disobedient Peninnah

  1. She arrogantly provoked and irritated Hannah because of Hannah’s empty womb.  It is possible that, based on Deut. 28:4-5, Peninnah accused Hannah of sin that resulted in her barrenness.
  2. Peninnah had a full house, but an empty heart.  Elkanah loved Hannah more than her, and he made that known.
  3. None of Peninnah’s children were notable.
  4. God graciously blessed her with many children.  Instead of responding to God with love toward others, she acted hatefully.  The LORD humbled her by exalting Hannah and Hannah’s son.

B.     Faithful, obedient Hannah

  1. Innocent Hannah never retaliated against her rival, though she anguished about her condition and her situation.
  2. Hannah poured her heart out in prayer to the LORD, trusting in His mercy alone.
  3. Hannah vowed she would give her son to serve the LORD if only He would give her a son.
  4. God answered her prayer and gave her five more children after Samuel.
  5. Hannah is exalted as the mother of Samuel, rich in children, rich in faith, and praised God for delivering her from her enemy Peninnah.
  6. God graciously answered Hannah’s humble prayer.  Hannah responded to God with faith and obedience, making good on her vow, and praising Him for His mercy.  She enjoyed the blessings of fertility.

II. Eli’s line and Samuel  

Eli was the high priest of Israel which meant that he should be serving as the spokesman of God to the nation.  He should be the man who turned Israel away from apostasy (remember, we’re in the dark ages of the judges), and back to the LORD.  Eli’s physical blindness was indicative of his spiritual blindness.  He would fall from a place of honor to disgrace, while innocent Samuel would rise from humble beginnings to a place of honor.

A.    Faithless Eli and his sons

  1. We learn that Eli was going blind.  Blindness indicates covenant disobedience for Israel.  This is not a physical ailment alone.  It is a barometer of the condition of Israel who was blind to their own depravity and it was a symptom of Eli’s blindness to his own sons’ terrible abuses.
  2. The word of God was rare in those days.  This was another indication that Eli and his priestly-but-evil sons were not in the place of obedience.
  3. Eli’s arrogant line was judged by God because of the sin that Eli knew about but failed to restrain.  The sons were abusing their priestly role by take the best sacrifices for themselves, and fornicating with women in the tabernacle!  (1 Sam. 2:17, 22)  These two sons were, as the author of Judges wrote, “doing what was right in his own eyes.”
  4. Eli’s sons wrongfully thought that the Ark would bring them victory against the Philistines.  Rather than look to and inquire of God, they misused the Ark as more of a good-luck charm than the holy presence of God.  Consequently, they were killed in the battle and Israel lost the Ark to the Philistines.  Their attitude toward the Ark was really their attitude toward God.  They failed to honor God as holy.
  5. God graciously allowed Eli and his sons to serve as priests.  But they failed respond by faith and obedience to the covenant.  Instead they arrogantly sinned or dismissed the sins of the people.  God made low the high priest and his sons.  They died.

B.     Faithful Samuel

  1. Samuel was a child conceived by grace through the faithful prayer of his mother.
  2. Hannah made good on her vow to give little Sammy to serve the LORD all the days of his life.  She honored the priestly role he would someday have by making him a little ephod (priestly garment) every year.
  3. The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up in the presence of the LORD, and He did not let any of Samuel’s words fail.  He revealed Himself through His word to Samuel while His word was rare to Eli.
  4. Samuel worked to turn the people back to the LORD, and he defeated the Philistines.  This was another sign of his covenant obedience.
  5. God graciously revealed Himself to little Samuel.  He responded by faith and obedience.  God exalted him to the spiritual leader of Israel.

IV. The New Testament believer. 

We can see from these two conflicts, as well as other conflicts throughout this historical period, that we could predict the destiny of a character or the nation based upon their character and faithfulness. Does God still exalt the humble and bring low the arrogant? What does the NT have to say?

A. Matt. 18:4  “Whoever humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

B. Matt. 23:12 “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

C. Phil. 2:3 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.”

D. James 4:10 Humble yourself in the presence of the LORD, and He will exalt you.

E. 1 Pet. 5:5-6 “…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”

F. The promises and exaltations to the New Covenant believer are not earthly like those to Israel.  They are spiritual.  Ephesians 1 tells the Church that in Christ we are:

  1. Blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (1:3)
  2. Chosen before the foundation of the world (1:4)
  3. Predestined to adoption as sons (1:5)
  4. Redeemed and forgiven (1:7)
  5. Rich in grace (1:7)
  6. Promised an inheritance that the Holy Spirit is the down payment for (1:13-14)

V.    Applications and Implications

A. God answered Hannah’s humble prayer.  I can pour out my anguish to God knowing that He can answer my deepest needs.

B. My actions toward other people reveal my attitude toward God.

C. God is opposed to the proud who disregard Him.  I will humbly seek to obey Him by faith.

D. The place of blessing is smack dab in the will of God.

E. God can, has and will use young people to serve Him.  I should not disregard or dismiss the faith and service of a child.

F. A parent’s faith does not guarantee the outcome of a child.  But it is an influence.  Therefore, I will seek to encourage and grow the faith of my children.

G. I treasure the spiritual blessings that are mine because I have the Holy Spirit.

A Woman of Faith: Hannah

Hannah’s story is one of the most well-known and beloved accounts in the Bible.  Chapter 10 of The Story introduces us to the first king of Israel, and to Samuel, who holds him accountable to God.  But long before Samuel did his great, godly work, Hannah, Samuel’s mother, did a equally great and godly work—she learned to delight in the Lord.

I.  Hannah’s Plight. 1 Samuel 1:1-8.

Bearing children was very important for the woman of the Bible.  It was a woman’s desire, as well as her duty, to provide her husband with children, preferably sons.  An Israelite woman also dreamed of birthing the Messiah.  Hannah’s plight prevented her from any of these pleasures.

1.  Describe Hannah’s family life.(v. 2-7)

2.  How did Elkanah demonstrate his faithfulness to God? (v. 3)

3.  How did Elkanah demonstrate his love for Hannah? (v. 5,8)

4.  Why had Hannah remained childless? (v. 5)

5.  How did it this affect her? (v. 7)

The emotional pain of  barreness, combined with the provocation of Peninnah had become unbearable for Hannah.  One year, during the annual feast in Shiloh, Hannah took advantage of her proximity to the Lord’s temple.  Her choice was to take her plight to the Lord.  This choice alone makes Hannah a worthy example for anyone who carries a burden of pain.  Our pain should point us to the One who will provide perfect healing, if we will let Him.

II.  Hannah’s Petition. 1 Samuel 1:9-18.

1.  At what point in the festivities did Hannah decide to take her sorrow to the Lord? (v. 9)

2.  What was Hannah’s emotional state as she prayed? (v. 10)

3.  Besides prayer, what else did she do before God? (v. 11)

4. As Hannah prayed, what did Eli observe and what did he think she was doing? (12, 13)

5. Fill in the blanks and note three things about Hannah’s prayer:

            Hannah was praying in her ___________________ and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard.  1:13

….I was __________________________________________to the Lord. 1:15b

I have been praying here out of my great_________________and ____________. 1:16b

6.  What was Eli’s answer to Hannah? (v. 17)

7.  How was Hannah changed after the time of prayer? (v. 18)

Eli saw Hannah’s lips; God saw her heart.  The result of this outpouring in prayer was a change of her very being.  Before Eli pronounced his blessing upon her, God had already worked in Hannah’s heart.  When she took her pain and anguish to the Lord, He helped her realize what her true need was.  She needed to be content with God Himself.  Her vow to God revealed that she was no longer seeking her own selfish desire; instead she was offering an unselfish sacrifice.  The son, whether a desire in her heart, or a flesh and blood reality, would belong to God.

“A woman was not so unimportant in Israel as to be considered incapable of communicating with God.  Significantly, Yahweh was also portrayed as a deity who listened to a woman and answered her prayer” (Bergen).

III.  Hannah’s Praise. 1 Samuel 1:19—2:11.

Soon Hannah gave birth to a son they named Samuel.  Elkanah and Hannah, with great delight, fulfilled the vow Hannah had made.  The generous offering and the joyous prayer of praise gives testimony to the condition of Hannah’s heart.

Hannah’s prayer expressed her complete delight in the Lord.  The prayer is one of the longest in the Old Testament and lifts up God’s name, Yahweh, 18 times.  Although Hannah was not an ancestor of Jesus, the prayer, or praise song, contains the first reference to the Messiah:

He will give strength to his King and exalt the horn of his anointed. 1 Samuel 2:10b

In The Remarkable Women of the Bible, Elizabeth George outlines the content of Hannah’s praise song.

1.  From 1 Samuel 2:1-10, note the attributes of God that Hannah extols:

2:1 I rejoice in Your ____________________________.

 

2:2 No one is __________________ like the Lord.

 

2:2 There (is no) ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_______________________ like our God.

 

2:3 The Lord is the God of ______________________________.

 

2:4  Only the Lord has the ____________________ to make the mighty weak….and the humble exalted.

 

2:9-10  The adversaries of the Lord shall be _________________________ in pieces.

 

2.  How old was Samuel when Hannah took him to Eli? (1:24)

Hannah had gone “before the Lord” with her request.  Samuel was presented to the Lord (1:24) and he remained “before the Lord” always (2:11,18,21).

3.  What shows Hannah’s steadfast love and care for her son, even from a distance? (2:18-19)

4.  How did God further bless Elkanah and Hannah? (2:21)

Everything about Hannah’s life provides inspiration and example for us today.  The fact that she had deep, unmet longings was not wrong.  Her story has shown us a way  to handle our deepest unmet desires.

IV.  Our Path from Petition to Praise.

1.  Read Psalm 17:1-3.

What do you think are the deeper longings of mankind that only God can see?

Think about your own deepest longings.  Have you asked God about them?

2.  Read James 4:2b-3 and Matthew 6:18-21.

Why doesn’t God give us what we ask for sometimes?

3.  Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:25-34 not to worry about earthly things because the Father knows what we need to sustain earthly life.  Is it wrong to ask God about earthly things? Why or why not?

(cf. Matthew 6:11)

4.  Read Matthew 7:7-11.

What kind of gifts does God give? Are the things we ask good for us?

In this scripture Jesus says to “ask”.  What requests would God be delighted to answer?

God answered Hannah’s heartfelt prayer by providing for her deepest need, the need to delight in the Lord. If God were to personally ask you to trade in your deepest longings for a deeper relationship with Him, would you accept?

5.  Hannah’s story ends with a song of praise.  Create your own expression of praise, or write down words from a praise song that are meaningful to you.

Key Question:  What area of worry and want in your life will you exchange for delight in the Lord?

After all that God had provided His people; after all the times that He had shown them His power to protect and bless them, the spies sent into the promised land came back and said that it would be suicide to do what God had commanded. All but two–Caleb and Joshua, who begged the people to obey God and enter the land. They would not, which led to another forty years of desert education.

It’s easy to criticize the spies who came back saying, “There’s giants there!”  I wonder, though, how many times we do the same thing.

I was sitting in my favorite fast food “office” the other day and noted a very scruffy man in his 50s sitting with a backpack and a cup of coffee. I had seen him there before, but this time something urged me to go over to him and say “I don’t want to offend, but would you like to have a McMuffin to go with your coffee?”

Another something inside me said, “There’s giants there!”  I listened to the wrong voice, and after awhile he hoisted his backpack and walked out the door and down the street. I wasn’t very proud of myself for fearing giants in the land.

How many times have you had opportunity to help another person, but ringing in your ears was the phrase, “There’s giants there!”

“The people all responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD.” Exodus 19:8

Can you imagine telling God that you are willing and ready to do everything he has commanded…and say it with a straight face?

The Israelites are free from Egyptian rule, free from slavery, and free from brutality. They left Egypt and have been out in the desert for weeks. The people are tired, thirsty and hungry. They start to wonder if God brought them out to the desert to kill them. Then they start longing for home…not the home God is leading them to, but their homes back in Egypt. They would rather return to a place of slavery and brutality because it is what they know versus staying in the desert with an unknown future ahead. They would rather trust in their slave masters than trust in God who delivered them. Sounds like a sad place to be.

Finally we come to the base of Mt. Sinai as Moses goes up to talk with God. Moses comes to the elders and the people and reminds them of what God has done for them. He tells them all that the Lord had commanded. Instead of taking time to think over the proposal and think about the cost of their decision, they jump right in and say they are going to do everything that God has commanded. Huh?

The question is, can we trust these people? They only stopped grumbling for a moment after being freed from slavery, how long will this relationship last? Let-down after let-down God still chooses this people because of his Upper Story. In the lower story we see whiners and complainers, but God sees a people who will be used to proclaim his message to all nations, a people who will eventually bring forth his Son.

I learn a lot about myself from these people in the lower story. I think how easy it would be to long for the security of what is known, instead of listening to the call into the unknown. How easy it is to trust in my own ways and means instead of the plans that God has for me. I even think about the life of sin that was formally my master. When sin was my master, I indulged every temptation. It was a life that looked like ease, but in reality it was a life being ruined by sin.

Christ has freed us from the chains of slavery. He has set us free, so why would we ever long to return to it. But the reality of this is that we are a people no different from the Israelites. It is a different time and a different setting, but we continue in the same pattern. We have moments of pure clarity where following God is the only thing we want to do and will whole heartily say I will do everything…but we have moments that following God is the furthest from our minds. How do we get to that place?

We have a God that even when we turn our back, he never will. No matter how many times we turn away, he will continue to pursue us. God has been reckless with his grace. Time and again in the scriptures, God shows his reckless grace for all of his people, even those that were enemies of God’s people. It’s amazing that God takes us back…but that’s why grace is so amazing!

Be blessed today as you are a blessing to others!

God Will Amaze Us

Are you familiar with the saying “It’s going to get worse before it gets better?” It’s usually said as a way to make us feel better…“This seems to be worse than it was before, but then it has to get better.”

Although they didn’t know it at the time, this certainly seemed to be the case for the Israelites in Egypt.

The Lord told Moses to go talk to Pharaoh. Moses was obedient and went with Aaron to see Pharaoh. But later that day, life only got worse for the Israelites.

Pharaoh changed the rules. Instead of straw for the bricks being supplied, Pharaoh ordered the Israelite slaves to find the straw themselves and still make the same number of bricks as before. In other words, they had more work to do, with the same quota of bricks to be completed, in the same amount of time. And the slave drivers appointed by Pharaoh didn’t take kindly to the work not being completed on time.

Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me?Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” Exodus 5:22-23 NIV

Moses was discouraged. The Israelites were discouraged. But where this lower story did not make any sense on its own, the upper story tells of God’s plan for His people.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.’” Exodus 6:1, 6-7 NIV

I wonder if the Israelites were thinking, too little, too late. Just as they didn’t understand God’s timing, I don’t either. But I’m not called to understand. I’m called to trust Him and be obedient.

God promised the Israelites deliverance, but it would be in a way that was humanly impossible. God wanted there to be no mistake that it was His work for His people.

What does that mean for us today?

Often life gets worse through no wrongdoing of our own. But what about the times when life gets worse because we think we can do it on our own?

How often do we forget to take an issue to God before trying to solve it on our own?

Or when we do take it to God, but then take it back? Thanks for your help, God. I’ll take it from here.

It seems God will let us exhaust our efforts until we’re out of ideas and energy. Then when we see no way and think it’s impossible, we go back to Him. Whether it’s how we want or in a way we never dreamed of, God will amaze us. And He wants us to know it was of Him, not our own efforts.

The Israelites were understandably frustrated and discouraged. But what if they had chosen not to follow Moses?

Not only would they have missed the amazing miracle of walking through the Red Sea, but also receiving the Ten Commandments, and ultimately entering the Promised Land.

What will we miss if we don’t wait for God?

In Christ,

Laura

Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

Click on the link to visit Laura’s blog

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