SINAI SUMMER WILDERNESS ADVENTURES
GOD’S EXIT STRATEGY
July 1, 2018
One of my wife’s amazing gifts is that of packing for a trip. Whether it be an overnight getaway or a weeks-long excursion, she has always been able to plan, organize and implement a highly efficient exit strategy.
She utilizes an array of see-thru containers and open carry-cases to arrange all of our items in the ascending order they will be needed…be it everything from Cheerios, Little Debbie cakes, clothes, toiletries, sunscreen, medications to my daily change of drawers (that’s Southern parlance for “underwear” for you north of the Mason-Dixon line folk). I literally throw my pile of stuff on the bedroom floor and in less than an hour she’ll have everything neatly assembled, coordinated and tucked away in logical fashion in the trunk of our car.
It’s truly incredible how she gets it all done! I’ve told her she needs to find a way to market this skill and then she could probably retire from teaching!
Our God is an awesome God…and he is a liberating God! The Bible chronicles two major liberating events of history: The one we are quite familiar with – the cross and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, that frees us from sin and death.
The other liberating event takes place several centuries prior and involves the ancestors of Jesus. It is known as the Exodus, when God frees the enslaved Hebrew people from bondage in Egypt and then sustains them on a generation-long journey to the Promised Land.
And to accomplish this leading of a people out of Egypt and to and thru a wilderness on this long journey, God needs a good, godly guide. Who does God choose for this monumental task? None other than former Egyptian prince turned Midianite shepherd named Moses. And when Moses balks at the calling due to his speech impediment, God tells him to bring along his slick-talking brother Aaron.
Thus, God devises his exit strategy, and this is how it unfolds:
GOD IS INSISTENT
God sends Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh with the adamant message, This is what the Lord God of Israel says, ‘Let my people go!’ God has witnessed the backbreaking bondage the king of Egypt is inflicting upon the Hebrew slaves, and he will tolerate it no longer. The suffering must end.
As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July, we know that independence is a costly ideal. Consider that of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, five signers were captured by the British and brutally tortured as traitors. Nine fought in the Revolutionary War and died from wounds or from hardships they suffered. Two lost their sons in the Continental Army. Another two had sons captured. At least a dozen of the fifty-six had their homes pillaged and burned.
At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the family home for his headquarters. Nelson urged General George Washington to open fire on his own home. This was done, and the home was destroyed. Nelson later died bankrupthttp://www.nhccs.org/destiny.html
And yet, long before independence was an American idea, it was God’s idea. God is insistent that his people live in freedom.
Remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. God has always been about the business of working through the weaving of history to bring justice to all his people, no matter how long it takes. Let my people go has been his recurring shout throughout the annals of time!
In the complex exit strategy for freeing the people of Israel from servitude in Egypt, God knows that Pharaoh will not be easily convinced. It will take broad demonstrations of God’s power to bring the king to submission. And so, a series of ten plagues are announced and implemented.
These ten plagues essentially are natural phenomena that wouldn’t be considered tremendously miraculous in and of themselves. The miracle is that they occur in God’s phenomenal timing as he utilizes Moses and Aaron to instigate them before Pharaoh.
One by one Moses and Aaron announce and then initiate a demonstration of God’s might in the hopes that Pharaoh will be swayed.
The Nile River is turned to blood. Frogs, then gnats, then flies are unleashed. Diseases are perpetrated on livestock. The people are inflicted with painful boils, then subjected to damaging hail and fire, then locusts. A fog of darkness envelopes the countryside. And then, God orders the death of each Egyptian firstborn.
Yet, although these plagues prove God’s immanent domain over the lesser gods of Egypt and that God’s demand for release of the Hebrew people is unyielding and insistent….
PHARAOH IS RESISTANT
We read that, even after the unleashing of each plague and the devastation has been felt, Pharaoh still remains undeterred. The scriptures offer the commentary: Pharaoh hardens his heart.
What causes Pharaoh to harden his heart toward God? Why is he so reluctant to let God’s people go? It’s none other than pride…self-absorbing, self-exalting pride.
He cannot countenance the notion that there is a spiritual force in the universe more formidable than him. He submits his will and ways to no one. That scar tissue of pride encases his heart, and it is impenetrable.
Have you known anyone like this?
I have a friend, Jim, who is an avowed atheist. And he’s quite proud, quite smug about it. This former engineer considers my faith to be silly superstition. I’ve prayed for him and I’ve pleaded with him to at least consider the option of God. He refuses.
A few years ago Jim’s granddaughter was born with a heart defect requiring a series of operations. He asked me to pray for her. I thought maybe this was a window where the Lord might pry his way into Jim’s life. And yet, after his granddaughter improved, Jim shut that window. He remains resistant. His heart is hardened. It’s sad. Jim is becoming much more reclusive in his old age.
Pharaoh is also reluctant to let God’s people go because of greed. He is exploiting a great resource of free labor. Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is. And Pharaoh loves money. Slave labor is providing not only public works projects throughout his kingdom but also his private accommodations as well. He will not let the Hebrew people go and forego a pipeline of prosperity.
And so it is, Pharaoh resists God’s overtures. You ignore God’s voice long enough and you become spiritually tone-deaf.
Yes, God is insistent, but Pharaoh remains resistant, even though…
MOSES AND AARON ARE PERSISTENT
You have to admire these two. Scripture says that Moses and Aaron do just as the Lord commands.
They not only face the wrath and persecution of Pharaoh, but also they raise the ire of their own people. When Pharaoh increases the workload of the Hebrews, they rail against Moses and Aaron, complaining that they should have left well enough alone.
I’m sure they had moments of doubt about what they had signed up for. But they remained steadfast, obeying God, carrying out his exit strategy to free his enslaved people.
If you’re looking for a great, obscure movie to rent one evening, pick up “Amazing Grace”. This 2007 film chronicles the courageous life of William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a member of the British House of Parliament. In 1785 he met Christ, and his life was changed. As a result, he became convinced that slavery was an abomination to God.
For over 46 years Wilberforce labored within the Parliament of England to have the slave trade abolished throughout the British Empire. He was slandered, taunted, threatened throughout his life.
The weight of his convictions left him in extremely poor health with bleeding ulcers. But he fought on for what was right.
He died on July 29, 1833. One month later, the British Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act, freeing over 800,000 African slaves throughout the British Empire, and forever changing the course of human history.
How did Jesus put it, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Moses and Aaron certainly know their share of persecution for seeking and doing the righteousness of God, but they remain obedient to their calling.
You see, we are co-workers in God’s purposes; we are God’s hand, God’s feet, God’s voice…bringing his impact to bear upon a hurting and sometimes hostile world.
Where are you and I called to free God’s people from evil, enslaving circumstances today? Where are we called to be an influence for God’s good in this world?
It’s not so easy to answer that question in the polarizing times in which we live.
Over the past two weeks we have been bombarded with constant news concerning immigration reform, with an endless stream of stories from our southern border highlighting the rabid political positions of those on the left and on the right while demonizing anyone who might disagree with their respective positions.
I happened across one particular news account this past Monday that seemed to offer a bit of hope and common sense. It came from Southwest Texas. It told the story of Border Patrol Agent Robert Rodriguez as he apprehended two mothers and their children who had just been smuggled across the Rio Grande River. The “coyote” managed to escape.
The news account showed Agent Rodriguez patiently and respectfully conversing in Spanish with the mothers. They were from Honduras. He found water for the baby in the group. And then he took them to a reception area where their backgrounds would be further documented.
Agent Rodriguez told of experiences interdicting gang members, drug couriers and other bad people illegally crossing our border. But he also told of people like these two desperate families escaping violence and abject poverty in Central America, willing to risk their lives with the hope of making it to the United States and to a better life.
And he shook his head, saying there are no easy answers to this issue. He believes something needs to be done politically and perhaps militarily to improve conditions in these desperate people’s Central American homelands. He says all he can do in the meantime is do his job well, stopping the flow of bad people and trying to provide a measure of compassion for the ones who appear to be sincere in the desperation and hope for a better life.
Yes, God is insistent – freedom is his desire for all people.
And yes, like Pharaoh, there are people with hard, prideful and exploitative hearts who are resistant to this desire.
And thank God, there are folk like Moses and Aaron, and perhaps you and me, who are persistent, who are willing to wade through the persecution and the politics in the struggle to make freedom a reality for all people in quiet, kind and enduring gestures.
Have a very enjoyable 4th of July Independence holiday, and please consider what that independence means for us as one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.