Saturday, March 26, 2011
When I first heard this song a few weeks ago on K-Love, I thought it was nice but I didn't really pay attention to the words. When I heard it a second time, I made sure to actually listen. And I knew I wanted to write about it. But I put it off, as I tend to do. Until today. In my Bible reading over the last few days I have been reading the beginning of Exodus and the Israelites escape from Egypt and all the wonders the Lord did. (I could write another whole blog about the first 12 chapters; I just might, too.) You know what's so cool about the Bible? (side note here!) You can read the same story or passage a hundred times, but on the hundred-and-first time, something jumps out at you, and you know God is saying something. Today was one of those times.
Exodus 13:17-8 "When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that way was shorter. For God said, 'If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.' So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea...."
I am terrible at directions and distances. Jason will always ask me which way I think it faster, and my way ends up being the longer way. I don't know why he keeps asking my opinion! Even when I'm driving by myself and I have to decide which way is best, I either second guess myself or realize in a few short minutes that I chose the scenic route. And that bugs me. I think that if the Israelites knew their geography, it probably bugged them too. After all, wouldn't you want to get as far away from Pharaoh, as fast as possible?? But God knew what awaited them in Philistine country, and he knew it wasn't pleasant. So instead he led them on the desert road. If you've ever been to the desert, you're probably imagining sand, sun, and dehydration. Walking through the desert is not pleasant. Thankfully for the Israelites, though, God knew the alternative. And he knew which was the best route.
Whether we believe it or not, God alone knows the best route for our lives too. What can seem like the long, more difficult way around is actually God's protection over his beloved - you. Me. But we often choose not to see it that way. We look at the situations and circumstances around us and we question; we blame; we complain; we accuse the Maker of the universe of being clueless, or worse, cruel. Of course, he is neither of those things. But he does have a plan. We get upset when that plan is not our plan, or when that plan brings us pain.
If you continue reading into chapter 14, you'll see the Lord giving more instructions to Moses, telling him what's about to happen: "Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth... Pharaoh will think, 'The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.' And I will harder Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD."
We are so like the Israelites sometimes. Instead of trusting the Lord, who had already done such miraculous signs in Egypt, they were terrified and suddenly decided that their life of slavery in Egypt was preferable to their present situation. They questioned Moses, asking why he had done such a thing to them. We say the same thing to God, don't we? "Why are you doing this to me?" But God wasn't doing anything to his people; he was doing something for them. He was rescuing them. But more than that, he was bringing glory to himself, and revealing himself to a nation that desperately needed a living God.
Sometimes our situation feels overwhelming, or like a punishment. And we have to audacity to question, blame, complain, or accuse. But most, if not all of the time, our situation is not about us. It's about bringing glory to the One True God, and revealing him to a desperate world. (And if our situation is about us, it's about bringing us closer to the One True God, and about transforming us into his likeness. And it's about bringing God glory!)
Somewhere along the way, we've gotten the notion that our lives should be easy, free from trouble or suffering, and that only things that make us happy are things God wants for us. How sadly mistaken we are! We somehow believe we are entitled to only good, pleasant things, and that God must be mean, cruel, or nonexistent when life brings us pain, suffering, and hardship. But we forget that most of the world lives in a constant state of pain, hunger, disease, and struggle. Yet if you ever have the privilege of meeting a brother or sister in Christ from a country other than America, you will see in them fullness of joy, complete trust, and a distinct lack of the self-pity that often characterizes our attitudes when things go wrong. When you always have nothing, you understand clearly that God is always everything. And that "his ways are higher than our ways." And that "he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us, will graciously give us all things." Christ himself suffered the ultimate suffering, made the ultimate sacrifice. Who are we to think that we are exempt from suffering?? No, but "in all things, God works for the good of those who love him." And that working is based on knowledge of things we cannot see, on the ultimate goal of bringing glory to the Lord and revealing Jesus Christ to the world.
The next time you're tempted to complain about your life, remember the Israelites. Remember Jesus. And remember that God's ultimate goal for your life is not happiness. Rather, it is for him to be glorified and for you to become more like him.