If God Spoke, Why Does Life Stink?
"The greatest test of a presence culture is when God seems to not be present... Doug Burroughs"
"Did you want us to die?"
"There weren't enough graves in where we came from that you took us to this wilderness to be slaughtered here?"
"You do understand that this is a superpower that is pursuing us, don't you?"
"Your leadership, sucks."
"What good are a pillar of fire and a cloud, a cloud, mind you, against top tech weaponry?"
Think of it.
You just plundered the wealthiest nation on earth. (Joseph had created that legacy for the Pharaohs 400 years earlier.)
Your rebel leader, looking every bit of a desert rat and a cross between Luke Skywalker in exile and Obi-wan in the desert, has embarrassed, no destroyed and wrecked the most powerful man on earth and his war council.
Every time something bad happened to them, it did not happen to you. They lost livestock, you didn't. They lost their firstborn - of everything- and you didn't.
Now, they want revenge and God lead you to a place where you are hemmed in on four sides, with water in front of you, and the world's greatest superpower pursuing you from behind.
If God spoke, then why, at this moment does my life stink?
There is an answer. But when circumstances are SCREAMING AT YOU, it is harder to hear. Especially when that answer doesn't seem to line up with what you envisioned.
God speaks again.
Exodus 14:1-4 (NKJV) Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: "Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.' Then I will harden Pharaoh's heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD."
That's a hard pill to swallow, especially when you seem to be the bait.
God allowing us to be put in fear and a harrowing experience for His own honor? That's a special kind of sick, isn't it? (I write this with a little trepidation, stay with me.)
So, look at this verse:
Exodus 14:8 (NKJV)
"And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel; and the children of Israel went out with boldness." They started with that, "I just came from a conference" boldness. The type where you feel like you are in touch with the supernatural and anything is possible. In fact, everything, including believing seems easy.
Then this happens.
Exodus 14:9-10 (NKJV)
So the Egyptians pursued them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and overtook them camping by the sea beside Pi Hahiroth, before Baal Zephon. And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD.
They probably had a dozen scenarios created in their heads, from they will never come after us, to God will surely smite them before they get close, none of which happened. It so rarely ever does, these fantasies we create, because our thinking and purposes are usually limited to us, our family and our situation.
But what if God was after more?
The Simple Explains the Complex
God is good.
God is love.
This simple aphorism is something Janice and I hold to when life, in the midst of compiling complexities, seems to push the interpretation of circumstances to something other than the goodness of God. When we encounter things in life, they are never sent there to develop fear, but expose and develop our faith in Him!
God will get honor out of everything in this life and the world to come. Fact. We are joined to Him and He promised, in Romans 8:28 (NKJV),
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
When I am faced by circumstances that seem to be out of line with what God said, I have to go back to His goodness, the very core of how He has expressed Himself and in faith, settle in for the ride.
One of our speakers this weekend, Pastor Jacob Schreiner, stated that, "When it seems like the enemy is winning, you have to realize he is winning at the wrong game. God always wins."
Israel had their backs to the walls. They had no where to turn, but to God, and they didn't. Instead they embraced fear and it's predictable outcome, doubt in God and the leadership He had ordained.
In short, they freaked out.
Process and Faith
Moses, who was growing in knowing God and His character, spoke:
Exodus 14:13-14 (NKJV) "And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace."
God had spoken. That was the end of the story.
In our culture we like to do "processing", we get things out, we talk about them, fully and deeply. I have benefitted from doing some of this work in the last few years. But there is an end to that road, and it is faith, a settled confidence that in spite of everything in front of me that God will come through.
It is good many times to talk through and out of situations and feelings. But, in the end, I still have to forgive, for my sake and God's. When the press of life is on me and I am waiting for a financial miracle, or a healing, at some point, I have to embrace faith. I have to believe that God will do what He says He will.
Now, this is true even when the answer is cut off from me in this life.
When the business fails.
When the friend or loved one passes.
When the healing never comes and the chronic situation is worse.
It is in these moments that faith is a chaordic disruptor to the flow of life around us.
It disrupted the mood of the day when Noah built a sea craft on dry land.
It manifests as follow God to your promised land, even though when you arrive there is a famine there, like Abraham.
Faith tells your son that God will provide a lamb when he has been designated as the sacrifice.
Faith is what God was calling Israel to and by extension, us as well.
How Will Your Story End?
We all know about the Red Sea and how God crushed the Egyptian army, the superpower of the day. But have you thought through why God put Israel where she was on that day? I have already talked about faith and how God reveals Himself in the midst of hard, hard times. Yet, there was more about that day. People were watching. Nations were watching.
Read this part of Miriam's prophetic song after the deliverance of Israel through the Red Sea:
Exodus 15:11-18 (NKJV) "Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders?
You stretched out Your right hand;
The earth swallowed them.
You in Your mercy have led forth
The people whom You have redeemed;
You have guided them in Your strength
To Your holy habitation.
"The people will hear and be afraid;
Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia.
Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed;
The mighty men of Moab,
Trembling will take hold of them;
All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away.
Fear and dread will fall on them;
By the greatness of Your arm
They will be as still as a stone,
Till Your people pass over, O LORD,
Till the people pass over
Whom You have purchased.
You will bring them in and plant them
In the mountain of Your inheritance,
In the place, O LORD, which You have made
For Your own dwelling,
The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.
"The LORD shall reign forever and ever."
Also, read what God said to them as they got close to crossing over:
Deuteronomy 2:24-25 (NKJV) "'Rise, take your journey, and cross over the River Arnon. Look, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to possess it, and engage him in battle. This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the nations under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you, and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.'
And read about what God through Rahab, a madam who was in the line of David and Jesus:
Joshua 2:8-11 (NKJV) Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men: "I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath."
I could keep going, but suffice it to say that God had a plan that would make anyone who opposed the children of Israel's blood turn to ice water.
His honor was their benefit.
Why is this important? My life still stinks.
Coming out of a weekend like we have had, we are like Israel coming out of Egypt, flush with cash and gold, love-drunk on how God expressed Himself among us. AND....there will be tests. Tests on how we believe God and in His goodness. Tests about how we relate with others. The testing of our faith and its refinement into pure gold is coming, if not already here.
Prepare for it.
Settle your heart now.
Camp in God and in His goodness.
See that His purposes may stretch beyond your moment.
Believe that your promise is to affect not just you, but also many, many others.
And it all starts with this:
God is good.
God is love.
In the meantime, get used to the wait and minister to God in it, even through you are in pain and can't see clearly. Have His face before you and minister to Him.
By the way, the main insight from today came from this morning's reading in the Life Journal. Go here to learn more.