Monday, August 25, 2008
That was Pharaoh's response when Moses told him:
"I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile."
Tomorrow, Pharaoh said. Sure, I see that my house and my land are flooded with frogs. I see that every flat surface is dripping with the sticky grossness of frogs. I know how miserable it is making me and my people, but I'll go ahead and take another night of that. Why don't you pray tomorrow Moses?
That is ridiculous, but not that unique. How often have I been presented with the end to a problem, with a clear exit to some sin I have entangled myself in but instead of saying, "yes, right now would be the perfect time to get rid of my frogs," I say, "one more night, one more weekend is all I need. After that, I'll be ready."
I don't know why we do that. Maybe tomorrow is easy and tonight feels impossible. Maybe tomorrow is seductive and far away and tonight is close and difficult. Maybe we think one last night will be enough of whatever it is that we don’t want to let go of. But it never is. Tomorrow is such a slippery time frame and it always shape shifts and stretches into next week, next month or next year if we take our eyes off it.
Maybe like so many other words, we need to retire "tomorrow" and give God today. Maybe it's time to kiss frogs goodbye.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Moses and Aaron don't speak at all in this chapter.
Did you notice that? They are never quoted. We never actually have their words laid out on the page or have a snippet of the conversation they have with Pharaoh framed for us to see. There was no need to include what Moses and Aaron said, because God was in control.
He lays out His plan. He gives them the exact words to say and the exact things He wants them to do. And then they do it.
I love the simplicity of this chapter, especially on the heels of chapter 6. They form such a perfect tag team of ideas that point to the same thing. We can be quiet. God's got this. Regardless of whatever particular type of "this" you're going for. He is in control.
Monday, August 18, 2008
In the first eight verses, God uses the word "I" 18 times. He eliminates any possible questions about who is in control and just goes wild with establishing who this whole thing is about:
In verses 6 through 8 He says,
"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. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.
And if that weren't enough, he uses the word "my" five times in the first eight verses. That means that God repeats the same message 23 different times.
It's about Him.
It's not about me.
I might try to wrestle control of my life from Him at times, but it's going to be Him that does it. Whether "it" is an exodus out of Egypt, a book deal, a move across the country or anything else that is on the horizon for anyone of us.
It's about Him.
Friday, August 15, 2008
This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.'
Isn't it interesting that the first thing God wanted His people to do was go into the desert to hold a festival for Him? I mean the desert isn't typically known as the best place to hold a festival. It's hot. It's desperately barren. It's the kind of place where people die if they get lost. So why did God want to hold a festival there?
I think it's because there aren't any distractions in the desert. It's quiet. It's empty. It's the kind of place where you can be still enough to actually hear God.
Sometimes, in our own lives, we find ourselves in the same place. We're alone and empty feeling and desperate. We're in the desert. And it's tempting to run. To see the desert as a bad place. As a place to flee from as fast as we can.
But maybe God wants us there for a reason. Maybe we're exactly where we need to be. Maybe God brought us there for a festival.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
God turns his staff into a snake and then back to a staff. It is not enough for Moses.
God turns Moses' hand as white as snow with disease and then heals it. It is not enough for Moses.
God tells Moses He will turn the Nile water to blood as a sign. It is not enough for Moses.
Finally, in verse 10, Moses says to the Lord,
"O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue."
It's a good argument. After refusing to see God's power three times, Moses tries a different approach. Instead of doubting God's strength, he calls out his own weaknesses.
I love God's response:
The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."
I didn't understand this passage until last night. I was driving to my men's group and talking with God about my inability to do some of the things I feel like He is calling me to do. I said, "I feel like I've lost my confidence." In the space between seconds, I felt like God responded, "Good. Because it's not going to be your confidence that accomplishes anything. It's going to be me. Who needs your confidence? I am the God that created the universe!"
Moses continues to doubt in the chapter and God lovingly brings Aaron into the picture. Maybe that is what will happen with me. Maybe there will be some Aaron in my life, which could be great. Or maybe I will trust in God and not my own false sense of confidence. Either way God's got this whole thing and that's a really beautiful thing.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Did you ever notice that God doesn't speak to Moses until he takes a few steps toward the burning bush? In verse 3, after Moses sees the bush on fire it says:
"So Moses thought, 'I will go over and see this strange sight - why the bush does not burn up.'"
And verse 4 continues,
"When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, 'Moses! Moses!"
He had to take a step toward the bush before God spoke his name. He had to engage with the mystery in front of him before God would cry out to him.
I am often too afraid to take the first step. I often think the burning bush must take a step toward me, that mystery must be fully explained before I step forward. But this passage calls me out.
Mystery is waiting. The burning bushes are out there. The fire is only a few feet away.
Monday, August 11, 2008
The story of David and Goliath is often used to show how God prepares us for big challenges. In the story, it’s noted that David fought bears and lions before he faced Goliath. He won small battles before he faced the big ones. He was tested and tried long before he picked up the stone that would kill his tallest giant.
In Exodus chapter 2 we find a new example of this idea, one that I have always missed. (I feel like I should change the title of this site to “things I have missed” because that is inevitably what I end up writing about.)
In this chapter we get the origin of Moses, one of the most important people in Biblical history. We learn about how he escaped death as a baby by hiding in a basket that floated down the Nile. We hear about his amazing acceptance into the house of Pharaoh. We also see him make a critical mistake as he kills an Egyptian during a confrontation between an Israelite and an Egyptian. But every time I read this chapter I always skipped right over the verses that come after he’s been accused of murder. Here are verses 15-17:
When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father's flock. Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.
Here’s Moses, a member of Pharaoh’s house, now on the run. He’s a murderer. Pharaoh wants to kill him. He is tired and afraid, resting himself by a well in Midian, his entire life in shambles. He sees a group of shepherds come along and drive the daughters of a priest away from the well.
I’d like to think I would have stepped in. That I would have jumped to my feet and fought off the shepherds, defending the honor of the daughters, but I’m not sure that’s true. I probably would have thought, “the last time I stepped into someone else’s problem, I ended up murdering them and becoming an outlaw. I’m staying out of this.” Not Moses, I love that the verse says, “but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.”
He got up off the ground. He picked himself up and came to their rescue. Not only did he chase the shepherds away, but he proceeded to water the daughters’ flock.
It seems like a small thing compared to the amazing things Moses will one day accomplish with God. But maybe it’s not. Maybe that small thing was preparation for the big thing. Maybe that tiny rescue was just a prelude to the massive rescue God was going to pull off using Moses.
Ultimately it serves as a really beautiful reminder of the need to do the small before the big. It’s especially interesting since the chapter ends with God hearing the groans of the enslaved Israelites. God doesn’t speak in this chapter, but if He did, you get the sense that He would say, “I hear you my dear Israelites. I hear your every groan. There is a storm coming. I will sweep you up and rescue you. You don’t know it yet, but even now I am watching the small rescues of my servant Moses. Soon. Soon.”
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Monday, August 4, 2008
There is a deceptive rhythm to life that lulls me into complacency. A tiny voice inside that says, "You have all the time in the world. Things don't change quickly. Life is a drop of water crawling slowly down the beach, not a rogue wave that comes out of nowhere."
But in Exodus chapter 1 we see what a lie that thought is. In a matter of sentences, Joseph's family passes away. Joseph's generation passes away. The memory of Joseph passes away and suddenly in verse 8, "a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt."
Although it certainly took years and years, the transformation from freedom to slavery for Joseph's people is covered in less than 25 verses. They went from being guests in Egypt to being slaves in Egypt in what feels like a matter of minutes. Not only that, but Pharaoh orders every Israelite baby boy to be thrown in the Nile.
I guess I always missed how quickly that seems to happen. When I've read Exodus in the past I just took the seismic shift that occurred for the Israelites for granted. But reading it today I was struck by how swiftly these verses treat the transition.
Like much of what I read in the Bible, there are layers and layers of meaning in this chapter, but what I took away was pretty simple.
Circumstances can change in the blink of an eye. What you have today may be gone tomorrow, even if your tomorrow is twenty years away. We always act surprised when our babies are kids and our kids are teens and our teens are adults. It won't feel like two decades have crawled by. Even a whole generation of people loved by Joseph and the Pharaoh that knew him can vanish in the relentless march of time. And if I think that I have all the time in the world to do whatever it is I'm supposed to do, I've bought into the lie that life is slow.
But it isn't. Life is fast.
Friday, August 1, 2008
I don't know who first paired those words, but after reading Genesis 50, I'd like to remix them a little. They've always meant that you forgive someone and you forget what they did to you. The two verbs in that idea are completed by the same individual. But in this chapter we see things in a different way.
Here is what 15-17 says after Joseph has buried his father Israel:
When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?" So they sent word to Joseph, saying, "Your father left these instructions before he died: 'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father." When their message came to him, Joseph wept.
Joseph had already forgiven his brothers. He had already wept with them and held them and given them everything they could ever need for a new life in Egypt. He showered his family with love and protection. But as soon as Israel died, they grew afraid. They threw themselves down at his feet and said "we are your slaves." It was as if the forgiveness had never happened.
What was Joseph's immediate response? He wept.
There are probably a million reasons for those tears but it is interesting to wonder if he cried because he was sad that his brothers had forgotten his forgiveness. Maybe he was sad because their fear revealed that they were still living in captivity to the crime they committed decades ago. Maybe he was sad that they had not truly accepted his gift of forgiveness.
You see, instead of forgive and forget, the brothers were all living under the approach of "forgiven but forgotten." They had been forgiven, but they had forgotten it ever happened.
I wonder if God ever cries over me in the same way. He has forgiven me so many times. He sent His son to die for me. He holds me and whispers and shouts forgiveness to me. But I forget. When a single worry from the past tries to rear its head I don't squash it because I know I am forgiven. I give it room to grow and mutate and choke the happiness out of my life again because I have forgotten.
I am tired of living my life under the bondage of "forgiven but forgotten." I don't want to live like Joseph's brothers.
I just want to trust that I am forgiven.