An eighty-year-old man, a bunch of slaves and a burning bush
hardly seem the ingredients for one of the Lord’s most amazing
deliverances. It had been a long,
painful experience for the Israelites.
Joseph was long forgotten.
Generations under bondage had come and gone. Had the years stolen their hope? These scarcely appeared to be chosen people
for a special purpose. Salvation coming
from slaves? Not likely.
Moses is an equally improbable man to lead such an exodus. He had tried to step up at age forty and
failed. He figured his Israelite
brothers would understand his good intentions.
They didn’t, word spread, and he fled (Acts 7:23-29). We may want a leader in the prime of life,
but God’s ways are not ours. We expect a
spotless record not a homicidal history.
He spent the next four decades as an alien tending flocks. The Lord’s classroom is a different kind of
education for a unique assignment.
Moses was eighty when the Lord caught his attention. The first half of his life had been spent in
royalty; the second half in obscurity.
Then came that bush. An aging man
with a sketchy history stood trembling before a curiously burning shrub. He was God’s choice to lead his people out of
slavery. He unsuccessfully
objected. He was the man. It was his assignment. No side-stepping allowed.
It may seem an odd selection to us. His credentials were virtually
nonexistent. His resume was mostly
blank. Yet, he was the answer to their
prayers. God is neither blind, deaf, nor
unaware. He saw them, heard them and
knew the details of their situation. It
was time for Him to step in, and His specially chosen vessel to direct the
mission was this guy (Exodus 3:7-8)?
Deliverance comes in the Lord’s way, not ours. It is by His hand that freedom comes.
If we wrote the script, it would be totally different. After debating with God about his task, he
went as directed and life got even harder for the slaves. The work load was increased (Exodus 5:6-9),
and Moses caught the blame (Ex. 5:21).
That isn’t exactly the way we think it ought to go when we immerse
ourselves in the Lord’s work.
Discouragement deafened their ears to the message of hope, and it spread
all the way to the top (Ex. 6:9-12).
There is nothing in this remarkable event that would go
according to human plans. An
eighty-year-old, hundreds of thousands of slaves and a bush on fire do not
offer much promise until we remember the one unseen actor in the scene: God. He is intimately acquainted with everything
about us. He knows what enslaves us, and
He alone can free us. Deliverance might
come through unlikely sources, but He is forever a liberating Lord.
The empty tomb of Jesus validates everything that Christians
stand for. There is a vast array of
religious beliefs in our world. Islam is
a system that is on the move worldwide.
Muhammed’s faith is aggressive and spreading. He died and is still in the tomb. No resurrection means no hope beyond this
world. He is simply one example. Movements come and go, but only one will
remain standing beyond the grave. Our
trust is in that one.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…(1 Peter 1:3).” Peter knew first hand about disappointment. He was totally confident that he could stand
up to the stiffest challenge. He
couldn’t. He vowed that he would never
deny the Lord. He did. Any self-confidence had crumbled long before
he wrote these words. His
associates? They were no more dependable
than he was. He had to look beyond
himself for hope.
God is almighty, and it is to Him that we shift our
attention. He towers over everything
this creation can throw at us, and that is plenty. Even death suffered a death blow when
face-to-face with the Lord (Hebrews 2:14).
Combine His capacity to raise the dead with His incomprehensible mercy
and it is an offer of hope that is out of this world. It is alive, and always will be. The tomb of hopelessness is empty.
He has brought us into a new realm of existence. “Born again.”
He caused that. He has made
Christians brand new. We stumbled around
in sin, not knowing where we were or where we were going. We joined the prodigal son among the living
dead (Luke 15:32). We had become pawns
in the hands of influences without and evil desires within, both of which were
tools under the devil’s control. We were corpse with a heartbeat (Ephesians
2:1-3), until God stepped in and emptied that tomb, too (Ephesians 2:4-7).
Vision becomes blurry in the rigors of day-to-day existence. Up early, rushing for work or school, a full
day’s hustle, bills to pay, chores at home, collapse into bed; who has time in
an overflowing schedule to contemplate hope? So, it easily drifts into the
remote recesses of our minds. Surely, it
is another satanic ploy leading to discouragement and despair. It was high on Paul’s prayer list (Ephesians
1:18). It must be important.
The word of God has given us a great formula for the
maintenance of hope: information and persistence (Romans 15:4). History teaches us of the greatness of the
Lord who delivers on his promises, even when there seems to be no possible
way. Never give up. He is a God of hope (Romans 15:13).
is a simple matter to speak of the Lord.
File away a few verses in our memory banks, and we can explain baptism
with the best of them. We can lead a
discussion about His love and compassion or His judgment. We can even teach a class on the unique
nature of the church, but do we know Him?
Really know Him, in a life changing way?
will never happen by accident. We do not
suddenly wake up one morning and have a relational knowledge of God. It takes time and effort. We have a book filled with information that
reveals Him to us. From the opening
words, it provides insight into this amazing Being. He speaks, and all of creation jumps. Humanity has a special place. We are handmade in His image. We botched it. He fixed it. Do we know the Fixer?
David recognized the great value of knowing the character and nature of the
Lord (Psalm 9:10). It totally reorients
our faith. It is one thing to believe
that God exists. Most people do, but to
place absolute trust in Him is a different matter. That removes any hesitation in praying for
His will to be done, because we will know with certainty that it is best. Bible study becomes an exciting quest to
quench our spiritual thirst. Obedience
is as natural as breathing. Total trust
is the result of a genuine knowledge of Him.
who know the Lord are people of action (Daniel 11:32). In our days of increased individual autonomy,
there is a growing disregard for the covenant that Jesus gave His life to
establish. Christians come together each
Sunday to recognize that covenant in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians
11:25). It brings both blessings and
responsibilities. To know God is to
appreciate the former, live up to the latter and stand firm for both in the
face of challenges.
relationship with God will reflect in our attitude towards other. We come to have a deeper understanding of His
indescribable love for us. It exceeds
words and understanding, but we increasingly grasp it. We dive into its
significance, learn of its implications and strive to imitate it (Ephesians
5:1-2). We have benefited from it. Now, it is our turn to pass it on. As we do, our knowledge increases. We know Him better and trust Him more. Relational growth results.
has been said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Do we know the Lord well enough to model our
lives after His? It is a life of love (1
John 4:7-8) sacrificing self for the welfare of others. Even when the others don’t care? Yes, even
then. Knowing God will change both our
daily life and eternal destination. The
Lord is coming one day, and He will gather those who know God (2 Thessalonians
1:6-10). Are we one of them?
He was a man who appeared to have it all (Luke
18:18-27). He had political clout. It is a very difficult thing to see beyond
the authority that a person possesses.
It is hard to imagine a need when we can summon a subordinate to grant
our every wish in the blink of an eye.
The blinding effects of power are evident on both sides of the aisle in
our nation’s capital. Even local
officials can fall victim to their own limited success. Yet, all of this man’s power did not blunt
his investigation into life’s most important question.
He had achieved success in his youth (Matthew 19:22) and it
makes this encounter even more surprising.
Such concerns of eternity often do not enter a person’s thinking until
death is more of a reality. That is a
concern for the elderly. Younger years
are generally reserved for career planning and romance seeking. Jobs, families and fun take center
stage. Obviously, this man had few job
concerns but was certainly subject to other distractions of a young life. Clearly, something had stirred his awareness
of an issue that stretched beyond this lifetime.
Not only did he have age and power on his side, but he also
had possessions which pose an unexpected threat. They give a faulty sense of security about
which the Lord warned the Israelites on their way to the promised Land
(Deuteronomy 8). Paul instructed Timothy
to teach about the dangers of prosperity (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Money is never the problem; attitude is. This young ruler was very rich, and that
would prove to be his undoing.
He had a life that most of us could only imagine, but he had
a single deficiency that would cost him the only thing that matters. His age would become irrelevant, as would his
power and riches. Jesus exposed that
flaw because He loved him (Mark 10:21).
The Lord knew what held him back from fully following Him, and told
him. Call it tough love. It was more than the man was willing to
do. It grieved him (Mark 10:22). The bank account meant more to him than
eternal life. He left.
It is an unholy trinity: the sense of invincibility that
comes with youth, the intoxication of worldly power, and the distorted sense of
self-confidence that worldly prosperity brings.
The man who seemed to have it all wound up with nothing because he was
unwilling to totally place himself in the hands of the Lord. His trust was misplaced. Is ours?
Youth will give way to wrinkles and sags. Power comes and goes. Thieves, time or nature will ultimately take
our precious possessions. All that truly
matters is our relationship with the Lord.
Are we willing to trust Him unconditionally and totally? Or are we like that rich young ruler who
lacked one thing? He swapped eternal
life for just one thing. One! Will we?
Jericho was locked up tight as a drum (Joshua 6). The Lord said that He had given the city into
their hands, but there was that wall. It
stood in between the promise and the reality.
What were they to do about that seemingly insurmountable object? Should they call the army corps of
engineers? Consult a political
subcommittee? Take up battering rams? The God of the promise was also the God of
the means. Follow His instructions, the
wall will fall and the city would be theirs.
A human demolition professional did not draw up the plans for
leveling that wall. Neither did an
efficiency expert. Nothing happened on
the first day of implementing the Lord’s plan.
Ditto day two, three, four, five and six. Surely, questions popped into their
collective minds about the leadership that had produced no success after a
half-dozen days. In our microwave world,
impatience would certainly have rippled through the ranks. Day seven began just as uneventfully. It looked like certain failure. Round-and-round they went. Results: Zero, except maybe a little ridicule
from observers. Just be quiet and march
were their directions, and so they did.
Day seven did not end the way that it began. As they completed their seventh lap around
the city walls, they shouted, the priests blasted the trumpets and the wall
collapsed. God had given them the
city. He had provided the way in which
they would receive it. The only question
to be answered was whether they trusted the Lord enough to obey His commands so
that they would receive His gift. That
is still the question.
Hebrews 11:30 reveals the key. Their accomplishment was not due to the fact
that they marched better than anyone else.
Nor was it because the priests were superbly skilled at blowing those
horns. No, it was faith in God that
knocked that barrier down. Faith in Him,
His gift, and the way to receive it. It
is an early portrait of the interaction of grace (The gift) and faith (The way
to receive the gift).
Salvation comes by means of that same grace and faith
(Ephesians 2:8). It is a gift, but an
obstacle stands in the way. Sin looms
menacing and apparently impenetrable with the Lord and salvation on the other
side. How can we possibly get that wall
to fall? What composes ours? The next party? Anger?
Immorality? Doubt? Fear?
Jealousy? Apathy? The bricks stack up. Nothing but the blood of Jesus can knock them
All of the blessings of God both now and eternally
await us on the other side of that wall.
Belief strong enough in the Giver and the gift to follow His directions
will clear the way. When that faith
meets God’s grace, we march right through walls into heaven.