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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Our past can paralyze us, but it doesn't have to

Exodus 3-4

Many people are either uninhibited by their past or paralyzed by it. For those who see the weight of their past sins, their past can be paralyzing. I've known many people who bear the guilt of one false move that they made that may have prevented their friend from getting into a car accident or into a situation where another person got hurt or killed. There are far too many situations where we have made the choice to ignore God or even try to find fulfillment in things outside of God because we don't want to have to trust Him in all circumstances. Whatever the case is, if you carry your past with you in the present, Exodus 3-4 should be a passage of hope for you.

In Exodus 2, we see that Moses was rescued from the Pharaoh's decrees to kill all of the Hebrew babies by Pharaoh's daughter. However, because he was raised for much of his childhood by his birth mother, he learned of his Hebrew nature. This led him to flee from Egypt after word started to spread that he had killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave - a capital crime.

After walking through the desert and marrying a woman of a distant land he integrates into his wife's family and tends to his father-in-law's flock as a shepherd. One day, he goes to Mount Horeb. Here, an angel of the Lord appeared to Him and as he continued to approach the light, God called out to him and revealed Himself to Moses. At this point, Moses encounters God in a way very few people throughout history have. In fact, he is now in a league with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the forefathers of their people. Here he was, speaking to a bush in a mountain that seemed to burn without getting burnt, being told that the same God in whom Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob placed their faith in, had now come to Him in manifest form to speak. This is significant because the Hebrew people were a people who had shared the history through a verbal tradition and without a shadow of a doubt, all of the Hebrews knew the history of their forefathers less than 7 generations ago. They were holding onto a promise to become a great nation and the seed that would come to bless all nations. This hope, was dim for the Hebrew people. This hope, was dwindling down. However, for God, the hope was active and He was about to inject into the people, a hope that they would carry throughout all the generations unto Jesus' time.

God tells Moses everything he needs to know about Him. Essentially, God was reestablishing a relationship with His people through Moses. Then through a dialogue, God tells Moses that his faith need not be blind, for blind faith entails an obedience to an object that is unknown, where as a seeing faith encompasses an obedience in an object that is known. God, in this case, as with all cases, tells us that we are not walking blindly, but fully able to see that in order to accomplish the task, God must be with us. So God says to go back to Egypt, but Moses gives a reason employing a fear masked with humility to say "who am I to go to Pharaoh?" God, should have responded in wrath, but understanding the paradigm and the power that Pharaoh held over the Hebrew slaves, He knew that Moses, although he knew the stories of his forefathers, have very little experiential knowledge of the God they served. So in His patience, God tells Moses not to worry since He will go with him. At this moment, Moses should've left, but then he asks, "can you tell me who you are again so that I can tell the people of Israel who you are?" God responds by going over everything He had just told Moses again, then goes one step further and gives Moses the reassurance that the people will listen if he goes, because God will go with Him.

In his third attempt to dissuade God from sending him, Moses says, "well, people won't listen and just dismiss me because they can easily doubt that you appeared to me." To this, God does two spectacular things: first, he tells Moses to place his staff on the ground and transforms it into a snake, which Moses gets freaked out about, and second, He has Moses place his hand in his robe over his chest and remove it to find it has leprosy, then place it back in and out to find it clean. Then God said that if they don't believe these two miraculous signs, that he will turn water from the Nile, the very source of the Egyptians livelihood, into blood. Then, in Moses' fourth attempt to get out of returning to Egypt, he says he is inarticulate and cannot speak well in public. At this, God responds in stunning authority, "Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?" Then, God tells Moses to go, once again reassuring him that He will be with him. Finally, after exhausting every option, Moses finally just says, "Please, send someone else. I don't want to go!" At this, God gets angry because Moses had seen God just perform several miracles and even more, encountered God in one of the rarest of ways. Moses was changed by the encounter, and still there was something that was paralyzing Him.

Finally, God says, I will send Aaron with you as a helper, but you will perform all the great signs. And as Moses asked Jethro, his father-in-law, for permission to fulfill a mission from God, God gave him the final reassurance he needed - that everyone who wanted Moses dead, were dead themselves. The thing is, Moses was paralyzed by his past to the point that he couldn't see all that God was doing in the present. Moses had the weight of punishment through his 'wrong doing' bearing on his shoulders that he didn't want to move forward by confronting his past. Moses was happy with his new family as he was able to escape the death he deserved for saving a Hebrew slave - a death that Jesus would not Himself escape hundreds of years later. He had experienced the type of salvation and freedom that very few could actually experience and didn't want to leave his current life. Moses was haunted by the past and didn't want anything to do with it. This prevented him from trusting in God in the present, even after he encountered God in the most radical of ways. In this state, God called him to act as a mediator between Him and the people as well as Him and the Pharaoh.

So many times, do we fail to see that Christ was the great mediator on our behalf, but more-so we fail to see all that God is doing in our lives in the present because of a guilt we have in the past or a sin or experience that we committed in our past that we carry with us to this moment that makes us feel shame, condemnation, fear, anxiety, or even distrust. So many of us don't think we deserve the best future because we failed so much in the past. Others of us don't think that we can face our past because it was such a low point in our lives. All these things, the enemy uses to prevent us from engaging with Christ, the only hope that fulfills.

For those of you haunted by your past:
Christ was punished so that you don't have to be
Christ bore the shame so that you don't need to
Christ experienced the guilt so that you don't have to live with it
Christ faced the condemnation so that we don't have to
Christ carried the burden so that we could be free from it
Christ lived the life we should've lived and died the death we should've died so that we can be glorified with Him through all eternity

In Christ, all things are made whole, even if you are broken, impure, and the furthest thing from perfect. God loves you and He sent His Son, who with joy, willingly went, so that he could be the mediator and rescue us from bondage and slavery and cover us with His blood, so that we don't have to die and through faith, have everlasting life.

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