“But Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the LORD that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and moreover, I will not let Israel go.'” Exodus 5:2
The Israelites were on the cusp of something new, something wonderful and miraculous. They were about to witness things the LORD had never shown anyone before them. He was about to deliver them out of slavery in such a mighty and miraculous way that the enemies of the Israelites would fear them for GENERATIONS afterwards. Not because they feared the Israelites, but because they feared their GOD. God was about to do something for these people that the entire world is still talking about today!
In the story of the fall of Jericho, Rahab shares with the two spies how terrified everyone is of them,
“I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Seas before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” Joshua 2:9-11
Even 40 years after these Israelites left Egypt everyone is trembling in their boots because the Israelites have their sights set on Jericho. And most of the people inside the “impenetrable” wall know that the God who is able to part the Red Sea and then the Jordan just so that His people don’t have to get their feet a little wet, well, an impenetrable wall probably isn’t too difficult for Him to penetrate.
But in today’s reading, none of that has happened yet. Today, we find the Israelites still dwelling in Egyptian slavery waiting to be rescued just like the LORD told them they would be. Yesterday found Moses at the burning bush getting his marching orders from I AM. Today we see him entering into the presence of Pharaoh who is believed to be a god by his own people. (That’s funny, in the matter of just a couple of weeks Moses has been in the presence of THE God and a “god”. Sorry, I just found that humorous enough to point out.) Anyway, an interesting and yet not altogether surprising thing happens when Moses tells Pharaoh to let his people go. Pharaoh gets mad and tells him “No.” Shocking right?
If you were Pharaoh and some slave representative comes to you in the name of some God you’ve never heard before (because remember, up to Moses at the burning bush the Israelites didn’t even have a name for their God), and tells you that this “god” is commanding you to let all your slave labor go, do you really think you would do it? Of course not! You’d laugh in their face; which is exactly what Pharaoh did and more. He made the Israelites’ brick-making work harder by taking away their straw.
Here they were, Moses, their deliverer has come to save them and ends up making their work harder for them. “Thanks a lot Moe. Way to save us.”
My point is this. Many of us are on the cusp of something truly miraculous; a spectacular deliverance that the world has never seen before. But with that comes change. Change is uncomfortable. Like birthing a child, the pain will be temporary and worth it, but it will definitely be present.
The Israelites had to go out and find stubble for their bricks, their water turned to blood too, the frogs were in their beds, and the gnats were everywhere the Israelites were. These Israelites experienced the plagues right along with the Egyptians. Perhaps, the LORD did this for the purpose of testing and strengthening their faith in Him. It’s hard to say and God doesn’t really explain Himself on this one. But considering the week I’ve had this week, that’s what I think it was for.
I think He tells us what His plans are and then circumstances arise that fly in direct opposition to what He just told us. Will we believe what God has told us? Or will we believe what our circumstances are telling us? Will we stand firm in our faith that God is good? Or will we cave under the pressure of our circumstances?
A little while back I was “feeling the pressure” and was frustrated by what was going on around me. As I prayed. I don’t even remember what it was that I was praying, I only remember what God showed me. In a vision he showed me holding a little white mouse in my hand. I wasn’t holding it with my hand open palm up, but rather with my hand closed around it. The little head and ears were poking out the top of my hand near my thumb and its sweet little tail was sticking out the bottom by my pinkie. And ever so slightly my hand tightened around the mouse until it squeaked, letting me know that the pressure was too great, at which point I released the mouse.
It is out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. God was showing me in this illustration how He works our circumstances for our good. He uses our circumstances to increase the pressure surrounding us until we squeak. And we can then HEAR what is filling our own hearts. Remember, tests aren’t for God to know what’s in us, He already knows. But we don’t; therefore the tests are for US to discover what’s in our hearts. When we squeak, I mean, speak out in our circumstantial pain, we are able to hear our hearts speak out the true root of what is troubling us.
In the plagues of Egypt God was encountering each of the Egyptian gods. It was like He was walking along the shelf of Egyptian idols flicking each of them over as He went down the line.
He does the same thing in our lives! Hallelujah! Although we fall into idol (or idle) worship, God isn’t willing to allow us to stay in that place! He will knock that idol down taking away whatever it was that we were trusting in instead of Him.
Writing that I’m realizing that this last month has been a month where God knocked down my god of “predictability”. For the first month of summer I had a schedule (written out even) that I stuck to like glue. But then June turned into July and everything seemed to change. It was really only a couple of things that changed, but without that piece of paper telling me what to do at what time I felt lost and confused and frustrated. Then God dropped a bomb on me that things would be changing around here. Drastically. And I WASN’T happy about it. This last month has been me fighting with God about things changing. I didn’t want them to change, I wanted to keep doing what I had been doing, the way I had been doing it. Period. I didn’t want MORE work to do. My life had become predictable and I liked that. I knew what to expect and I knew what was expected of me. I was comfortable.
Then I was told to get a job, I haven’t had one in years. Next I was told to take on the Women’s Ministry Directorship, never done that before, I have no human training in theology, no certificates of completion to prove my qualification for the position, yet other women in the church that I will be leading do. This leaves me feeling terribly naked and vulnerable. Yet God says, “Trust Me”. (Yesterday’s post)
God just said to me, “How do you think Joseph felt when Pharaoh told him to lead the country? He’d never done THAT before either. But he managed with quite well with My help don’t you think?” “Yes, Lord.” (giggle)
This last month I have felt like that little mouse in the hand of the Master being squeezed until I squeaked. Not out of abuse or sheer meanness, but out of PURE LOVE. I was scared, which caused all kinds of reactions in me, but I didn’t know what it was I was scared of and why. Without the pressure I never would have squeaked out what was in my heart which allowed me to hear what I was feeling and made it possible for me to DEAL WITH IT. I can’t give something to God if I don’t know I have it. If I have a fear of failure, but never step out in faith giving me opportunity to fail then I would never be able to give my failures to God. (Huh, I just found out I have a fear of failure. Lord, it’s YOURS! Please take it!)
My friends, we DO stand on the cusp of something big and exciting today. I know I’m not the only one. Let’s step out in faith, having handed our fear of failure to the LORD our GOD. Sure, we may not get everything right the first time, but that’s OK. Just as long as we get back up and try again. After all, if you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.