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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why God Wants Us to Trust Him

As I continue to explore Exodus 3-4 I keep finding myself confronted with God's patience with Moses as he tries to weasel himself out of returning to Egypt to confront his greatest fear, the wrath of Pharaoh. However, in each of God's responses to Moses' five attempts to get out of the task of freeing a million slaves from the most powerful person of his time, you see how God gives Moses (and the rest of us) exactly what he needs regardless of whether he is aware of it or not.

As God tells Moses that He has heard the cries of the Israelites and knows their sufferings, He said that He will deliver them out of the bondage of slavery. After God says He will rescue the Israelites, He tells Moses that He will send Moses to Pharaoh that he may bring God's people out of Egypt. The thing that intrigues me is that after God said He would bring the people out of Egypt, He invited Moses to join Him. I believe He did this for three reasons: 1. the reality of sin still existed and the holiness of God was still hidden from the world as it would destroy them to experience it, 2. Moses was going to be the ultimate foreshadowing of Christ, and 3. God wanted Moses to experience something that no one else had the privilege of experiencing in the past - what Moses was about to experience would radically alter every ounce of being within him.

Instance 1: God says go to Pharaoh, Moses says, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?"
Response: To this, God said, "I will be with you and one day, you will remember that by a sign: that you will serve Me on this mountain again."

The reality is, God's presence is enough. Over and over, we will come to see that as Moses continues to lead the Israelites through the desert, what He seeks is the manifest presence of God. God promised this from the beginning to Moses, something only promised to the children he adopts (see earlier post on Exodus 3-4). Those who abandoned God have found themselves to be orphaned, and as they are orphaned, the thing they lack is the presence of a good father. At Moses' response, God gives Moses a new identity, as His child. God tells us, as He told Moses, that we have the full protection and the full acceptance that a supremely good father gives to His children. The interaction with the bush should've been enough, but for Moses, his paralyzing fear of Pharaoh was enough to doubt the power of God that was evident before Him. The most incredible thing is how God responded in the most gentlest manner, understanding fully the stronghold that fears can have over people.

The thing we struggle with most today is the thing that Moses struggled with as he first encountered God was a notion of what it meant to be in a relationship with God and how intimately involved God was in His life. We struggle with accepting the goodness of God while simultaneously struggle with accepting the awesome power of God. We have a hard time trusting in His promises because we have had at best, mediocre examples of what a True Father is like. We don't know the extent to which we can trust Him so we tread lightly instead of trusting boldly that God will accomplish in us what He promised He would. We listen to the world about how our lives should look (or even the Christian church - which leads to self righteousness) without paying attention to the shouts from Heaven that we have been fully accepted, completely embraced, and seen without fault before God the Judge by an initiated grace by the Father through a received faith in the Son, witnessed by the Holy Spirit. What we must remember through this first response is that God rescued us while we were still sheep in the thorn bush, mended our wounds, and gave us a home that will last forever.

Instance 2: Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' What shall I say to them?"
Response: God said, "Say this, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

We see both an alleviation of fear and a remainder of hesitation in Moses' response; you see him anticipating the doubt that will consume the people of Israel, while simultaneously being filled with his own doubts. To this, God, for the first time in history reveals a name, a name that reveals His essence - that God is undefined by anything and that He defines all things. This revealing of a name is something extremely personal and extremely awe instilling. The reason its so incredible is that it continues to show that God is not a God to be ignored, yet is full of patience and compassion. His benevolence extends to the reality that people don't get it right the first time. In fact, I think this shows that it may not be about getting it right at all. So what then?

Moses fully understood that people would doubt that God had come to Moses. After all, Moses was never really accepted by either the Egyptians nor the Israelites. He was always someone in the middle. He was a stranger to the people he was born into and a stranger to the people who adopted him. This encounter with God was also something that was the stuff of legends. For decades since the time of Joseph, the only thing they felt was abandonment and if a hero were to rise up, the last person they would've expected was the betrayer Moses. Without doubt, they would have experienced both bitterness and jealousy at Moses' privileged position and upbringing. Moses needed a personal knowledge of God that they would not be able to refute, one that revealed His Prophetic calling to the people.

We are often times afraid. Its not something to be ashamed of, but something to be aware of. As humans, we have a tendency to find ourselves in wonder and fear through a variety of circumstances. I believe we were never made to sense fear as God is not a dangerous God. I have a problem when pastors say, "pray this dangerous prayer" as if it will truly cause you to find yourself in a circumstance that you really shouldn't be in. I do believe that we were called to revere in things and find ourselves in awe as we do when we climb the summit of a mountain or encounter a whale in a tiny boat in the middle of the ocean. When we find ourselves insecure or paralyzed before people, our sense of awe has been perverted into fear. What was originally meant to help us realize the supremacy of beautiful and inspiring things have become tainted to cloud our vision from everything except self preservation. This is what Moses encountered. Instead of finding himself in awe of the encounter, he was consumed with the paralysis that fear instilled, and forgot Who he was encountering. It made him elevate his life above God's glory and power, something that would be able to sustain his life in this earth and beyond.

Instance 3: Then Moses answered, "But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, 'The Lord did not appear to you.'"
Response: The Lord said to him, "What is that in your hand? Throw [the staff] on the ground."

Moses still has no idea what the extent of God's power is even as God is demonstrating the power that exists in the presence of God, Moses is blinded by fears of the unknown. He fails to recognize that God's presence with him will more than suffice as a source of strength and power. The incredible thing here, is that God doesn't rebuke him, but continues to extend his interaction with Moses. God knew that Moses would be filled with doubt himself if others doubted him. As he was blinded by what people may think of him, he failed to grasp onto how God chose him. Then, God commanded Moses to throw his staff on the ground and it turned into a snake. After, God told Moses to stick his hand in his robe and it became leprous. It seems evident that God keeps proving to Moses that as he obeys, God will do all things so that all he needs to do is open his mouth and throw things on the ground. God gave him signs, like that of a crown or a signet ring, to symbolize Moses' position with God. God wanted Moses to be fully secure in his call.

Essentially, God is showing you how to ride a bike, and you may think that you are pedaling on your own, but you aren't because He is holding on to the back of your seat making sure you don't fall. The thing we forget as we learn to ride a bike is who is teaching us. For people who learned from someone else, its a fond memory that we carry throughout life. For me, it was my dad who ran and held me upright as I kept pedaling faster. The thing we must not forget is that regardless of how scared we are, the people who taught us wouldn't let us go if they didn't think we couldn't ride solo. We must also not forget that even if we were confident in our ability to ride, they wouldn't let us go until they knew we were ready.

Instance 4: But Moses said, "Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but am slow of speech and of tongue."
Response: The Lord said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.

God now directly addresses what is at the heart of Moses' anxiety: the rejection of people and the fear of failure. God reveals even further that he is intimately involved in the creation of all things, that He makes people mute, deaf, seeing, and blind. That His abilities extend beyond the abilities of man, therefore, Moses should not be afraid of man.

As God kept telling Moses to go and that everything would be taken care of, and that he will one day remember that the Lord is faithful by the fact that he will worship on Mount Horeb again, Moses kept wondering "What if God doesn't show up and the people don't believe me?" We have to look at the promises of God that He will never leave us nor forsake us. That regardless of success or failure, the thing that matters is how we go about the thing we go about and who we go about it with. God tells us that we don't need to worry about whether we will be rejected by people because He has already fully accepted us. God tells us that we don't need to worry about failing because He has already accomplished the one thing that makes an eternity of a difference and what he desires from us is that we trust him, not succeed for him.

Instance 5: "Oh, my Lord, please send someone else."
Response: Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, "Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite?"

Many times, people think that God wants us to do things we don't want to do. We think that if we follow God, that He will make our lives miserable. I have found this to be one of the greatest lies that the enemy uses to deceive us. The only times we don't want to do something that God wants us to do is when we place something as more significant than God. In other words, we idolize something else. With reverence, we see that Moses clearly operated in awe of God. After all, he just encountered God and any encounter with God elevates our understanding of Him and consequently, our view of Him rises. He is asking for someone else to be sent because of two things: 1. the fear that has been preventing him from trusting in God and 2. because he doesn't yet see the endless wonder that is revealed through the glory of God.

Two things stand out in this short, yet powerful interaction. First, as God tells Moses to go and is once again refused, He continues to extend his patience and compassion. This is after God 1. gave Moses a permanent identity in Him, 2. revealed an extremely personal aspect of Himself to Moses, 3. bestowed upon Moses signs that other people will be able to recognize his new identity, and 4. rebutted all of Moses' fears and reasons why he didn't want to go. But, he does something that allows Moses to see a glimpse into the future. Moses had interacted with God in such a way that even his appearance was transformed. In other words, Moses had a higher dosage of God's holiness in him. Aaron, would therefore act as a mediator for Moses as Jesus would one day do. As Aaron would stand between the power of God in Moses and the people of Israel and Egypt, Jesus would stand between the the holiness of God and us thousands of years later. The second thing we learn from this is that as we continue to read the book of Exodus, Moses' confidence in the Lord increased tremendously. The reason God wanted Moses to go wasn't solely for the sake of the Israelites who would be rescued from slavery (a significant reason, but not the only), but also that Moses would be able to know God more completely.

God wants us to trust Him because He is trustworthy. When we think we are taking a step of faith off a cliff, what we must realize is that God has harnessed us and builds a bridge for us to cross over any gorge and canyon. We should trust God because in that trust, are we able to see more accurately, who it is we were created to know.

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