Archives for posts with tag: Moses

runaway

 Jesus promised that in this world we will have trouble, and some days that trouble is just more than I have the strength or wisdom or patience or desire to deal with. When I consider the difficult or unpleasant situations and relationships of my life, running away seems like such an attractive option. The grass is always greener in someone else’s world; pretending that I don’t have problems is so much easier than actually dealing with them. And there are so many ways to run! Busyness and escapism can separate me from the situation or the relationship, and I can pretend it doesn’t affect me.

 But when I run away, the problem doesn’t follow suit. Sometimes it festers and becomes worse. Sometimes it just eats away at my joy and peace. But it never disappears.

 God does not allow his children to run away from Him or anything else; He insists that they confront their fears, their enemies, their failures, and their past. Over and over in the Bible you see various ones try (unsuccessfully) to run away. Over and over you see God lead them back to deal with what they tried so hard to escape from. Hagar ran away from a contentious relationship with Sarah; God saw her in the wilderness and told her to go back home. Jacob stole his brother’s blessing and ran away when Esau promised to kill him; twenty years later God led Jacob back home to make peace with Esau. Moses committed murder and ran away from Egypt; forty years later, God sent him right back to Egypt. Elijah successfully defeated the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel, and then promptly ran away from Jezebel; God followed him until he stopped running, fed him, gave him rest, and then told him to get back to work. Jonah didn’t like the task God gave him, so he tried to run as far away as it was possible to go; God sent a fish to bring him back, and repeated his instructions for a fresh start.

 Running away is a sign of defeat, and God empowers his people to have victory. When I run away, people don’t see the power of my God; they see my weakness. When I run away, I can’t see how God is at work in that situation. When I run away, I prove that I don’t trust God to work in me or through me for victory; what oppresses me controls me.

 There are times when we need to intentionally withdraw from a situation to allow the heated emotions to settle. Jesus walked away from the crowd that wanted to stone him in Nazareth because it wasn’t yet time for his sacrifice. Withdrawing to wait for a more opportune time to stand firm can be a good thing. There may even be a time when we need to leave a relationship behind because the other person may not be receptive to God’s activity and healing. Jesus told the disciples that if a town didn’t accept them, they were to shake the dust of that place from their shoes and move on. Often, Jesus intentionally withdrew to a quiet place in order to be in his Father’s presence, to gain insight into his Father’s will for that situation on that day.

 But running away is not an option. We can intentionally leave, or we can intentionally stay. Whatever God calls us to do is the only option that will bring resolution and allow our circumstances to improve or to permanently leave our problems behind.

 

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staff2

When God gave Moses his job description, Moses gave God all sorts of excellent excuses why it was a bad idea. To help Moses have the confidence to move forward, God asked him an incredibly important question, “What is in your hand?”

Moses’ hand held a staff. We don’t know when he acquired his staff. He may have used it as he crossed the desert. He may have found it as he watched the sheep and saw that it would be helpful in navigating rocky terrain, keeping sheep on the path, or for fighting wild animals who attacked the sheep. Did he cut it from a tree because he knew he’d need it? Did God place it on a path, then lead him to it….like a present he wouldn’t really appreciate until he grew up some more? Is this one Moses has used for years, or is it a new one? Did he carve it as he watched the sheep? Had he smoothed it where his hand would grip it?

Because Moses trusted God with what was in his hand, God took it, changed it, and gave it back to him. God used it to give Moses confidence and to get Pharaoh’s attention….in the throne room and to turn the Nile red. Later it will bring victory on the battlefield and water from a rock. God took what Moses had and what he feared, and he challenged Moses to step out of his comfort zone and make a difference. When Moses first clutched that staff that had been a snake, he could not even fathom the ten plagues or the parting of the Red Sea. That staff was both a symbol of what Moses was, and what he would become.

What is in your hand? It may not be your talent or your strength. It may be your weakness or vulnerability. It may be what comes easily or naturally to you, but not to others. It may not seem like much to you, or it may seem like everything you have. It may be the pain of your past meeting the need of someone in your present. It may be the consistency of your testimony in the life of someone who has brought you pain or frustration or someone you don’t even know is watching.

If you can fill in this blank, there is a problem. “I’ll obey as long as he doesn’t ask……” Anything we have: talent, strength, passion – will never reach its full potential until we give it to God. Before God can work through you, he will have to work in you. What does he want from you so that he can take it, change it, and give it back to you with new purpose? Do you need his vision for what it can become or his courage to trust him to use it…for your good and his glory?

 The things that you hold so tightly in your hand and your heart, that are so very, very precious to you – you have no control over them. They are only safe in the hand of God. Release them into God’s hand; let them go, throw them, and see how he changes them, nurtures and grows them in ways you never considered. Surrender them to him – manipulate, worry, obsess over them no more – watch how he transforms what is in your hand into something new that will give you a glimpse of his glory, of his power.

Risk takers make history

Wanted: Banished murderer to face his accusers. Harsh travel conditions. Must have leadership experience and some knowledge of desert snakes. Problem solving skills a plus. Permanent undetermined relocation required.

There is not one advancement in medicine, science, history, art, or any other part of our culture that didn’t start with someone willing to take the risk. Can you imagine Picasso’s art teacher seeing his work for the first time? They tortured Galileo because he thought the world was round. They excommunicated Martin Luther for proclaiming that God wanted a personal relationship with his people. How many people went broke moving to California to pan for gold? How many died trying to settle the west? The men who signed the Declaration of Independence were signing their death warrants if the Colonies had lost the war. How many soldiers have gone to war to prevent tyranny or injustice or corruption?

Were those risks worth it? Ask a Concentration Camp survivor if it would have been better for the Allies to just leave Hitler alone. What if Alexander Graham Bell had feared failing and looking stupid more than he believed in his invention? If the Wright brothers had given up after their first crash? If Henry Ford had abandoned the idea of a personal car because no one really seemed to need it at that point? How many spies have risked their lives to get information that determined the outcome of the battle to the people who would later win it? What difference does it make to us now that those people thought the risk was worth it? One of the most troubling accusations that has been made of our culture is that we are so prideful that we refuse to risk our convenience for anything…and that what separates us from the “Greatest Generation” as Brokaw described them.

The weird thing is we have no clue what is next for us. We expect more of the same and logical transitions, but that is so often not the case. My family visited the World Trade Center on August 17, 2001. We spent one hour in security lines. Guards wanded each of us, went through my purse, and made us walk through a metal detector so they were sure we didn’t have guns or explosives. The people in charge of security for the Towers did everything they could to prevent the attack they expected. The problem was that they weren’t expecting the attack that actually occurred. Satan is not stupid. He is not going to announce his battle plans and give you the chance to get ready before he strikes. He will tempt and attack you in the way you are least expecting, the way you are most vulnerable. What seems so right in our eyes according to our logic and our expectations may be totally unrelated to what is actually in our future. The biggest risk we face is in ignoring the God who knows the future.

What is God calling you to do that you’re afraid to trust him with? What does God want to do through you or in you or for you that you’ve been fighting him on? I believe that if you feel no sense of anticipation or discomfort or fear, you’re not listening to him. God is not about to let you lie dormant. He has big plans for you. Jer 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you’, says the Lord. ‘Plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” But none of those can come to pass if you insist on being your own God and rejecting any course of action that has no risk, that you can’t control. You’ll never see God’s power as clearly as when you finally realize you’re not in control at all.

For you A types who need confirmation, that one was Moses 🙂

Every once in a while, a detail in the Bible jumps out at me.  As I studied the life of Moses, I was fascinated by the focus on Moses’ staff.  Moses would have used this staff to help him climb rocky or steep terrain; he would also have used it to defend himself – wolves, snakes, etc. I suspect that this staff was worn off smooth from years of Moses’ grip and sweat. Personal property was rare in that culture.  I suspect that his boys may not have been allowed to play with it.  If Moses said to his boys, “Go get my staff”, they knew exactly which specific one he was talking about.  

Moses is minding his sheep and his own business when he turns aside to see the burning bush. It is there that God gives him the long range plan and his new job description.  When Moses expresses concern about his capability and believability, God rocks his world with a huge test of his faith.

 Exodus 4:2  Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

 When God asks for Moses’ staff, it is his first step inside Moses’ life and stuff.  God took what had brought Moses protection and help, and turned it into something he feared.  Notice that Moses ran from the snake.  Was he unusually afraid of snakes in general, or was this a really bad poisonous snake?  You don’t spend 40 years in the desert and not know a poisonous snake when you see one.  He wouldn’t run from something he wasn’t afraid of.  I think God also uses this as specific symbolism….he took control over the serpent in Eden and still has it.  He then tells Moses to pick it up by the tail.  Why?  This is a defining moment for Moses. This is his crisis of belief.   Either he’s going to obey this Yahweh as God, or he’s going to pretend to be in charge of his own life.  If the snake bites him, he’ll probably die.  If he doesn’t pick up the snake by the tail, he clearly subordinates God’s authority to his own and has more confidence in his own judgment than in God’s control over his circumstances. 

 I would love to see the video on this.  How long did Moses hesitate before he decided to obey?  Did he do a “snatch and grab” on the tail, or did he try to sneak up on it?  No matter how he did it, he chose to obey, despite the fact that he couldn’t imagine a happy ending to this scene.  He trusted God more than he trusted himself.  His response to God’s question determined the rest of his life.  That moment began an awesome relationship with his creator and one of the most incredible journeys of faith recorded in the Bible.

 Moses got his staff back, but he had a whole new perspective on it.  It changed from being the tool he used to be a shepherd of sheep, to being the tool he used to shepherd God’s people.  It turned the Nile to blood, brought the locusts to Egypt, and brought water from a rock. It became something different when he gave it to God, and he became someone different when he trusted God with it.

 Much of what we have – talents, strengths, passions, abilities – will never reach their full potential until we give them to God.  I have limited control over what is “in my hand”, but when I give it to God, I have no clue what he’ll do with it….or what that will require of me.  What God accomplishes in the lives of his servants never depends on their capabilities; it depends on their obedience.  When God asks for what we hold in our hand, he is offering us for a front row seat to what he wants to accomplish in us and through us.  May we always trust him enough to throw it down….and pick it up by the tail…so that we can see him at work in our lives and our world.

There is nothing so exciting for me as to find God in the pages of scripture.  I am both humbled and awed by the fact that God preserved the stories of his relationship with ancient people so that he could teach me about himself and warn me about myself.  I am so very grateful that God continually calls me to deeper understanding of his character and has more mercy and patience than I have excuses and failures.

I am about to finish a study of the life of Moses with my Sunday School class.  God has allowed me to observe as Moses leaves the burning bush and begins a journey with God that takes him to Pharaoh’s palace, through the Red Sea and to the other end of the Wilderness. During the forty years in the wilderness Moses gives the people God’s law and intercedes for them with God.  He builds the Tabernacle where God can dwell among them and knows God face-to-face. Moses has brought God’s people out of Egypt and back to the edge of the land God promised to them. They are beginning a new story with God.  Moses’ story is ending. His sin in the wilderness will cost him entrance to the Promised Land. The people will move on under Joshua’s leadership. But God, in his incredible love and tender mercy, allows Moses to go up the last mountain and see a panoramic view of the Promised Land, the fulfillment of God’s promise. And then Moses died.  Moses’ spirit went to heaven to be united with the God who has loved him and protected him and provided for him. We know that because in the New Testament Moses appeared to Jesus, Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration. But I am moved to tears when I consider that the God who knew Moses, who had protected his body on the Nile and in the desert, took that lifeless body and tenderly buried it himself (Deut 34:6). The spirit was gone, but the body was still precious to God.

You are known and loved like that. You are precious to God. He has spent all of history making himself known to man, and all of your life making himself known to you. He is who he is, whether you know him or not. Any time you get just a glimpse of the glory of God, you have your personal burning bush. He watches over you and provides for you and protects you and knows you. He knows the number of hairs on your head (Mat 10:30) and the number of tears that you’ve cried (Ps 56:8). You are inscribed on the palm of his hand (Is 49:16). One of the biggest mysteries of life is that he wants you to know him as well.  Intentionally seek him during the quiet of your day and on the pages of his word.  It is the desire of his heart to dwell in yours and walk with you through the day that lies before you.