Nov. 28, 2016

Which way are you going?

Please allow me to set the stage for today’s blog in more of a storytelling manner. I encourage you to read the Book of Exodus in order to get the complete and authentic biblical rendition.

The Children of Israel, God’s children, prayed for hundreds of years asking God to save them from a government that enslaved and mistreated them. God called Moses to make the travel arrangements. (Remember, I am telling the story; not providing the direct account.) God basically told Moses that He heard His children crying all those years and the time had come to set them free. God’s time arrived. We don’t really know why God took hundreds of years to answer the cries, but it should comfort us if we’ve been waiting several years for an answer to a specific prayer. He comes through. Eventually. In His time. Not ours.

The Children of Israel lived through and witnessed a slew of plagues, all very frightening and one very deadly, before following Moses out of Egypt making their way to God’s Promised Land. Moses gets them to the edge of the Red Sea when the Egyptians change their minds and take off after the released slaves.

What do God’s children do after witnessing His great power over the course of ten awful plagues? Do they have faith and confidence in the leader God provided? Do they trust God to make something happen to protect them from their angry captures? Nope. They panic and lash out against Moses.

Let’s read a portion of Exodus 14, “When Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and indeed, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they were extremely terrified, so the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”

“But Moses said to the people, “Fear not! Stand firm! And see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show you today. For the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall never see again. The Lord shall fight for you, while you hold your peace.”

I’ve been guilty of thinking poorly of the Children of Israel during the Exodus and over the course of their trip to the Promised Land. They were kind of flakey.  They were whiners. They acted like scaredy cats. They doubted. They had regrets. They even built an idol when they seemed to lose control of their circumstances. It’s funny to me that they thought backing up would allow them to be in more control of their lives than moving forward.

It really isn’t funny. God proved Himself over and over. God remained loyal to them despite their doubt. They romanticized a difficult and desperate past in order to prevent themselves from having to face an uncertain future.

I think we, as God’s children under His New Covenant, do it all the time. We seem to follow in the footsteps and missteps of God’s children before Christ. We doubt. We fear. We regret when we feel out of control and I suspect more than a few of us have more than a few idols in our lives that overtook God’s direction for us a long time ago. Like the Israelites during the Exodus, we want to move backwards despite the truth that it wasn’t all that great back then.

Progression is a forward movement. Christ said to put our hand to the plow and not look back. Paul encouraged us to forget the past and stretch forward to the future. Get it? S T R E T C H. Forward motion requires growth. Some translations say “reaching towards what lies ahead.” The Book of Isaiah says to forget the former things and do not cling to things of old. In other words, the entire bible teaches to MOVE FORWARD.

Christian ministry requires forward thinking. It requires us to refuse to succumb to the inner desire to move backwards in an effort to recapture our safety, security, comfort, and sense of control.  For those of us digging our heels in the ground insisting that things go back to the way they used to be, I must ask: Where in the bible do you see God allowing His instruments of true change to move backwards? Where in the life of Christ did He teach us that backward motion is productive for His Kingdom?

Could it be that the “good ol’ days” are nothing more than our comfortable days that allowed us to lounge around and reap the benefits of Christendom without doing the heavy lifting?

Let’s say it all together, “Hmmmmm…..”