Exodus 13:17-18 Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt.
God had made good His promise to free the Israelites from Egypt. They were leaving the land of bondage behind and well on their way to the Land of Promise. Looking at the map, it would take the Israelites less than two weeks to travel from Egypt to Canaan, but God did not lead them in the shortest route, He led them in the best route. The shortest route would take them through the land of the Philistines, fierce warriors whom the Israelites were not yet prepared to face. With the Egyptian army in pursuit, the shortest route would lead the Israelites into a trap between the Egyptians and Philistines. Instead, God led His people several miles to the east and to the Red Sea where He would decimate the Egyptian army while providing safe passage for the Israelites. Victory over the Philistines would have to wait for another day.
God sees what we do not see and knows what we do not know. For many years I have taken great solace in Psalm 37 “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and He delights in his way” (v.23). If we can trust God to forgive and heal all sin and mistakes of our past, we can trust Him to direct us in our future. Ask the Lord to direct your steps, then trust His decisions.
Let’s sing: “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand; but I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.
Psalm 62:1-2 Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.
“Waiting silently for the Lord” elicits an image of a person sitting and listening to soft music, drinking a cup of coffee, unfazed by the storm that rages outside his home. I can’t help but think of the old song, “We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep I the Savior’s love.”
(verses 5-8 ) My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.
The psalmist repeated himself, talking of waiting and trusting in the Lord, but elaborates a bit more, describing the Lord as his rock, his salvation, his defense, his glory, his strength his refuge and his GOD. This brings to mind the old song, “The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide, a shelter in the time of storm…”
Finally, we hear the psalmist admonish us, “Trust in Him at all times, pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.”
I think I’ll sing a song now. Feel free to join me:
“I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies;
I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief.
I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody;
I raise a hallelujah, heaven comes to fight for me.
I’m gonna sing in the middle of the storm,
Louder and louder you’re gonna hear my praises roar…”
The assignment God gave Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3-4) can be summarized in the following:
Release what you have to the Lord and watch what He can do with it.
The story began with an interesting conversation in Exodus 4. “The Lord said to Moss, ‘What is that in your hand?” Moses said, ‘A rod.” And God said, ‘cast it on the ground,’ and it became a serpent” (vv.2-3). The snake wasn’t the point; God changing the rod was the point.
That rod became a source of great confidence for Moses. In Exodus 7, Moses instructed Aaron to throw down his rod and it also turned into a snake. There’s more; with his rod Aaron struck the Nile River and it turned to blood, he stretched out the rod over the land and God sent the plague of frogs, he held his rod out again and God sent the plague of lice. Later, Moses pointed the rod over the Red Sea and it parted.
The rod is a reminder that God can use something simple to accomplish something amazing. Need more evidence? God used a young teen aged boy to kill a military champion with a sling and a stone, God spoke through a donkey to get the attention of Balaam; God amplified the sound of 4 lepers walking to send the Syrian army into panic, and Jesus fed 5,000 men from one sack lunch.
Imagine what God can do with your simple word of encouragement or a small financial gift to a neighbor. Do you want to do something significant for the Lord? Start by giving him what you have.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Moses at the burning bush. If you would like to review the facts, read Exodus chapters 3 & 4. As we review each part of that experience you will see an overview and an assignment.
As the story unfolds, Moses was tending his sheep as he had every day for 40 years. There is nothing in the Biblical record to show that Moses had any reason to believe that day was going to be different than any other day. Then, suddenly God got his attention with a bush that was burning but not being consumed by the fire. When God got his attention He spoke clearly to him letting him know he was on holy ground. Assignment: describe a time when you felt an overwhelming urge to draw closer to the Lord.
In 3:7-9, God assured Moses He was concerned about the sufferings His people were enduring. Assignment: take a minute to write the name of a person you know who is going through a particularly tough season, especially someone living in the bondage to sin.
In 3:10, God told Moses to go and lead the Israelites out of Egypt. It is not enough for you to just wish your friend had a better life. Assignment: Let your friend know you are praying for them, and share a Biblical promise that will bring them encouragement. Think of a practical way you can help your friend through this tough time.
In 3:13-14, God told Moses the message he was to take to the people in bondage. First, he was to introduce himself as a representative of Almighty God (hint – One with more authority than Pharaoh holding the Israelites captive). Then, tell the people that God has been watching over them whether they realized it or not, and that He had something very exciting in store for them. Assignment: remind yourself that when you work to draw someone closer to the Lord, you are working as an emissary of Almighty God Himself. Then, present that name to the Lord in prayer and boldly claim their spiritual freedom.
In 3:14 through 4:17, God told Moses he was not going into this assignment alone; his brother Aaron would be with him (4:1-17) and more importantly God promised to be with Him (3:12). Assignment: remind yourself that you are not on this assignment alone. God has promised to be with you, and other people are in position to help.
The story of Joseph is recorded in Genesis 37-50. As a teenager his brothers mocked his faith and sold him into slavery. I suspect at some point Joseph may have wished they would have killed him rather than sell him as a slave, thinking in death he would have been put out of misery. But by being sold as a slave he would awaken each day with the reality he had been rejected by those closest to him – his family. For years, the last memory he had of his brothers was them ignoring his pleas for mercy.
In the next chapter of his life he worked as a slave in the home of a high ranking Egyptian official, and we can see God’s favor was on him (see Genesis 37:2-5). His hard work caught the grateful eye of his boss and unfortunately the lustful eye of the man’s wife who repeatedly tried to seduce him. Realizing she could not lure him to compromise his vales, she accused him of attempted sexual assault. Her husband, serving as judge and jury, took the words of his unfaithful wife over the words of his loyal servant, and with that Joseph spent over a decade in prison. If anyone had a “right” to take on the persona of an embittered victim it would be Joseph. Yet even in prison we see examples of a man whose faith in God remained intact.
At age 30 he was released from prison and immediately elevated to the position equivalent to Vice President of Egypt (see Genesis 41). In this chapter of his life we see that his faith in God survived the challenge of success and power. After several years, he passed on a prime opportunity for vengeance against his brothers. Referring to the time they mocked his faith & sold him into slavery, he told them “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…” (Gen. 50:21). Suffering and success revealed the true character of the man.
Perspective has a great deal to do with faith. Faith can be emotional, but is not an emotion we “work up.” It is a quiet resolve, a conscious commitment to hold steady when your emotions scream “ENOUGH.” In the moments and seasons of uncertainty, it is the anchor that holds fast. It is what drives us to pray for the answer to that same need day after week after month after year. It is seen in the acrostic F.A.I.T.H. – Father Again I Take Hold of your promise.
If you ever wondered if God can use broken people, consider the story of Jacob in Genesis 27-32.
In his youth, he manipulated his brother, deceived his father and left home without one healthy relationship in his family. His first encounter with God was as he was fleeing from the anger of his brother hoping to find a refuge with his extended family. In that encounter (Gen. 28), God spoke to him in a dream, filled his heart with hope with the knowledge God had a plan and purpose for his life. A lesson we glean from this experience is that God sees something in us when others do not, and He looks past our failed relationships and invites us wonderful relationship with Him.
Jacob’s second encounter with God occurred roughly 20 years later (Gen. 31). Those twenty years were filled with the joy of marriage, starting a family and career. The problem was his career involved working for his father-in-law who was manipulative to say the least. Weary of trying to manage that dysfunctional relationship, Jacob gathered his family and possession and set out to return to his homeland. His father-in-law was in hot pursuit intended to harm Jacob, but before he reached Jacob, God had a private meeting with him and warned him to not harm Jacob. God took care of Jacob’s accuser without Jacob having to get involved. A lesson I glean from this experience is that God will go before us and protect us from our spiritual enemy. None of us know how many spiritual victories have been won on our behalf because Almighty God came to our defense.
Jacob’s third encounter with God occurred a short time later in Genesis 32 as Jacob prepared to face his brother, Esau. When Jacob last saw Esau twenty years earlier, Esau made it clear he intended to kill him. Twenty years is plenty of time for resentment and hatred to fester into an out-of-control rage. It is also plenty of time for an inner work of the Holy Spirit. The night before the two were to meet, God sent an angel who wrestled with Jacob through the night. It is ironic that Jacob’s life would be spared from the altercation with his brother because of a wrestling match with an angel. We get a glimpse into the real heart of Jacob verse 26 when he said to the Lord “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” There you have it. After a lifetime of wrestling with people, his true heart is exposed; he was a man who simply wanted to be blessed by God.
Each of the three encounters Jacob had with God occurred when he was alone. They also came at crisis points in his life. Every person needs their own experience with God, an encounter that serves to define your faith. It will happen when you get alone with God and surrender your past to His mercy and your future to His grace.
SILENCE is ______________________. You might fill in the blank with “golden” (unless you are void of companionship, and you crave conversation.) You might fill in the blank with “deafening” (especially if you’ve extended an invitation that was ignored.) My husband has been known to say, “Silence cannot be misquoted.” He’s correct. But though silence cannot be misquoted, it certainly can be misunderstood.
For example, when Jesus slept in the tempest-tossed boat, the disciples roused him with the urgent question, “Don’t you care if we drown?” Perhaps they were thinking of Jesus’ safety, as in “How can you sleep through this? You’d better wake up and take whatever precaution you can!” More often, we interpret these words in Mark 4 just as they were said, “Don’t you care….?” (v. 38) The disciples wanted Jesus to do something! Reactionaries that they were (Remember the one who sliced off a soldier’s ear in the garden?), they believed this crisis called for action – or at least a show of concern!
Isn’t it interesting that the disciples were disturbed by Jesus’ silence, and then when He did speak, He actually commanded nature to be silent? “Peace! Be still!” is one translation, which reminds us of another scripture where stillness is commanded: “Be still and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10) In stillness, we often gain confidence that God is working in ways that we cannot see.
At the same time, we learn from Solomon “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). This wise man said it another way in the Proverbs when he acknowledged that sometimes we need to swallow our response, and other times a swift but thoughtful comeback is required.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. (Prov. 26:4)
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. (Prov. 26:5)
Contradictory advice? No. The discerning person knows the difference between stooping to the level of immature, foolish babble and standing up to correct erroneous or untruthful accusations. Jesus illustrated this in Pilate’s judgment hall when He withheld His response to the jeers about His kingship.
Silence is a curious thing – every bit as powerful as words! “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)
But it is never wrong to break the silence by giving praise to God!
For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:20)
My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. (Psalm 71:8)
It is also never wrong to voice my concern to God. He invites me to do so.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8)
Again, “There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” May God help us to understand the times!
God often orchestrates His plan through “chance” meetings. Genesis 24 contains the heart-warming story of two relatively obscure people who played an important role in fulfilling God’s plan to bless mankind. The backdrop of the story is that Isaac had reached the stage in life when he was ready to marry and start a family. As part of the culture of the day, parents were intricately involved in the process of finding the prospective spouse for their children, but because of his advanced age and declining health, Abraham had to assign that task to another. Take heart those of you age 65 and older who have been advised by our government officials to stay home during the COVID pandemic. As we see in this story, we may be restricted in our ability to move around the community, but God is able to accomplish his plan and purpose regardless of our circumstances.
This story illustrates the truth of Psalm 37:23, “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Abraham gave his servant the assignment of finding a wife for Isaac. I suspect Isaac may have had a private conversation with the servant to give him a few things to consider. As the story goes, the servant left with ten camels loaded with treasure that would serve as the dowry for the new wife. Now consider the significance of Abraham entrusting that great amount of wealth and the importance of this mission to the servant.
Reach chapter 24 again and take note how Abraham’s servant met Isaac’s future wife through a “chance meeting.” I am convinced the timing and location of that meeting were orchestrated by God. In the proper course of time, Rebekah became Isaac’s wife and consequently the mother of Jacob / Israel through whom the Messianic line would come. This should encourage each of us that Almighty God is directing our steps to have the conversation with the person who needs the words of encouragement we are prepared to share.
Let’s consider a couple of other important factors. The mission was successful because an obscure servant had already built the trust in Abraham to the point he could be trusted with the resources and assignment. The mission was also successful because of Rebekah. She is described as a virgin which means she had never had sexual relations with any man and had committed herself to a standard of purity. Also, when she met the servant she was busy fulfilling her daily and ordinary routine as a shepherdess. This tells us she was faithful to her responsibilities.
Proving yourself trustworthy, committing to a high moral standard, and faithfully fulfilling the basic responsibilities of every-day life are the keys that open the door of opportunity.
The “COVID CLEANOUT” – the closet cleaning and office reorganization that has been the positive side effect of coronavirus – has, for me, unearthed a pastoral greeting from our long-time friend and mentor, Pastor Bobby Wilson. He titled it “The Overcomer’s Inch”, and it is just too good to not share. In a spiritual sense, the COVID Cleanout may have unearthed for us all some things we want to tackle in the days ahead, so receive this encouragement to persevere.
The Overcomer’s Inch
There is no future for the person who does not overcome. Jesus said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). What is your struggle? Have you identified it? Are you willing to face it?
Well, overcoming is not for wimps, nor is it reserved for heroes. It is the journey to our desired destination. Some think overcoming is a giant leap. It is not, it is going one more inch in the right direction. We cannot overcome the foe without until we conquer the fear within. Overcoming is not a seasonal challenge – it is a daily challenge. Win the minute, you can win the hour, the day, the year – the future.
The living sacrifice of Romans 12:1 is the key to discovering and living in God’s will. Everything goes when we sacrifice. It is not natural to our carnal mind or manners. It echoes to the call “Deny yourself and follow Me” that Jesus put out there for all who will overcome. The 12th chapter of Romans ends with these words, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”. This can only be accomplished by the inch – one good choice at a time.
As Pastor Bobby would say, “Plod on!”
Moses’ mother was a descendant of Levi, the third son of Jacob and Leah. Levi had participated in a plot against his brother Joseph (Genesis 37). On his deathbed, Jacob spoke a curse over Levi and his brother Simeon because of their acts of wrath and cruelty recorded in Genesis 34. It was an inauspicious beginning of the family. Living down a bad reputation can be challenging, but Moses’ parents illustrate it can be done. Their second child, Aaron was the first high priest of the Hebrew people, and the tribe of Levi assumed the responsibility of the spiritual leadership of the Hebrew nation.
Moses was born in dangerous times, as Pharaoh had ordered the murder of all Hebrew baby boys. Moses’ mother hid him for three months and then acted on a plan to help protect her baby boy. She laid him in a sealed basket and placed it in the Nile River under the watchful eye of his older sister, strategically in a place where the Pharaoh’s daughter would find him and rescue him. I cannot imagine the agony of placing that 3 month old baby boy in a basket and placing it in the river, but she did what she could, used what she had, and trusted God to take care of the rest.
Moses grew up in a palace, the adopted grandson of Pharaoh. As a boy he received the best education in all of Egypt. As a young man he made connections with leaders of Egypt and surrounding countries. He would learn to look past the title and see the man, which would serve him well in his adult years. There is no hint of Moses being intimidated when he stood before Pharaoh and demanded the Hebrew people be set free.
The Hebrew nation was delivered from Egyptian bondage because of the son of an obscure woman who dared to live down the bad reputation of her family, and who dared to trust Almighty God to protect her baby boy.