Monday, September 09, 2013

Children of Israel, “Just Keep Silent.” -- Exodus 14:13-14


But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear!  Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.  The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”
 
As I began to unpack these two little verses, I found them to be full of powerful phrases that deliver some very commanding lessons.

Those of you who have been following my writings know that I never miss an opportunity to reflect on the Bible’s use of the word “but”.  And up until now, if my memory serves me correctly, the emphasis for the most part, has been on the “but God” phrases.  Man wanted to or planned to do one thing, but God had other ideas and that was the end of that.  Here in the beginning of Exodus 14:13 we have the word ‘but’ but this time it is used in conjunction with Moses – But Moses.  Here we have men wanting to do one thing and one man – a man of God mind you – had a different idea.  We will find a number of such characters through the Scriptures and not unlike the fictional characters that go against a trend in many a book, these men of real history become our ‘Biblical heroes’.  I believe God still develops and uses such men and women today.  They are those who go against the trend of secular society.  They do not all become famous by any means, but they make a difference.  And furthermore, they help advance the plan of God for mankind.  And many do not always know of them.  Sometimes they are national presidents like Lincoln or generals like Washington, but more often they are leaders in their small church, or in their business, their classroom, their club or union, or even among their own family.  Sometimes they are men and women just like you and I.
What matters to God and thus to our relationship with Him is that first of all we know when we are to be that leader, and secondly, that we do the right thing when it is time to speak up or act.  Are you there?

In the previous verses we learned that the people became scared when they heard the hooves of the Egyptian horses pulling their armed chariots towards them, but Moses stands out, perhaps alone with only half-hearted moral support from Aaron, and implores them to do just the opposite – “Do not fear!”  Just exactly how does that work?  How do you tell a person that is afraid not to be?  And even if he/she wanted to heed your instruction, how exactly do they go about it?

My 8-year-old grandson is a growing boy.  On thing he has not grown out of just yet however is his fear of being alone on a single floor in the house, or sometimes even in a room.  We have tried to go through various (and vary creative) exercises with him proving that there is nothing to fear, but somehow we have not succeeded in convincing him.  When he is sent to retrieve something (that he himself wants) from the basement or to go upstairs and take a shower, you will often hear him continuously talking to us or singing out loud so we can hear him and thus allow him to sense the connection with others.  Convincing him not to be afraid is not something I have been able to accomplish yet.

Recently we lost our newborn grandson just six hours after he was born.  How do we tell his loving mother and father not to be afraid, saying “the next time will be just fine”?  As a matter of fact, how do I tell my wife that?  Or closer to home still, how do I really tell myself that?  Fear is not something that is easily overcome with words – especially the words of another person.  Telling people “not to fear” when they’re afraid is about as helpful as telling someone “because!” when they ask “why?”.  It just does not cut the mustard – it just does not succeed in its intent nor meet the other person’s expectations.

Moses realizes that in order for the Hebrews to “not be afraid”, they need to do something.  So he gives them further instruction.  “Stand by and watch.”  At the time when the people wanted to act, perhaps run or put up white flags, or they wanted someone to fight hard for them because of their fear of death, their leader says, “Stand by and watch.”  Yes, that is correct.  The lesson for us is simple – when our lives are in danger and we have taken the physical, practical means of protection that are ‘humanly’ possible, our job is to then “stand by and watch”.  Are you kidding me?  No.  The secret, however, is in “what” we watch for.

Moses told the Israelites to stand by and watch “the salvation of the Lord”.  In other words, watch how God will do wonders and how you will be saved.  In the case of the Hebrews, we know how the story goes and we will cover that in greater detail further along in our study.  Moses was telling them to have confidence in God’s ability to save. But this instruction can also be applied to how we face our fears.  Do you and I have the confidence that God can save us from whatever befalls us?  Are we in such a relationship with God that whether we live or die physically is less important than the fact that we will live spiritually with Jesus in eternity?  Are we prepared like Paul who tells us, in Romans 12:1, to present our bodies a “living sacrifice” (implying physical death) as our “reasonable act of service and worship” (implying spiritual life)?

And then Moses adds these three words -- “for you today”.  What God would be doing, He would be doing for the Hebrews.  And He would be doing it ‘today’.  You see, when the child of God faces “fear”, God is able to address it “for him/her, today”.  By that, I do not mean to say that my grandson will immediately be able to freely go down to the basement without any lights being on nor do I mean my children will be able to say, “God has told us that our next pregnancy will be perfect.”  I pray it will be, but that is not the guarantee God is giving us.  By God addressing our fear today, for us, we mean that God has the means whereby we can rest assured and safe in His arms, knowing He is with us, knowing He has enabled us to face the past and knowing He will continue to enable us to face the future, no matter what it is, and that one day, all wrongs will be corrected, all illnesses will be healed, all losses will be restored a hundredfold.  Our job is to “stand by and watch.”

Moses told the Hebrews that God was doing this “for them”.  They would never see their enemy again and he adds the word “forever” for emphasis.  Are you there?  Do you have an ‘enemy’?  Is it fear?  Is it some sin?  An addiction?  Whatever or whoever it is, God is able to deal with it or him/her.  Just trust Him and obey Him.  Then stand by and watch.

I love the last sentence of this short passage.  “The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”  There seems to be a condition attached, but it is one that makes the process work.  When God fights for us, He expects us to keep silent.  In one sense, that is physically the easiest thing to do.  Technically no effort is required – just breathing.  But for some of us still very much attuned to our old human nature, it is the hardest thing to deliver.  Keeping silent is no easy instruction.  But here is what I have discovered.  If I do not keep silent, God works things out in such a way that I have no choice but to be silent, so He can go about His business.  You see, my “speaking up” and not remaining silent, only delays the desired outcome (humanly speaking) and makes the journey more difficult.  Let’s “keep silent” in these situations.
 
At the time of writing, the whole world is watching and waiting to see what will be done with the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Such weapons are seen as totally taboo by almost all of the world’s powers as agreed to after World War I.  Even their limited use approximately a century later does not bode well for the world.  Every effort must be made to ensure that no one will use them again.  But how is that to be done without the shedding of more blood?  God calls us to “stand by and watch”.  I do not say that glibly.  I think we all owe it to mankind to do our part in our sphere of influence to deter evil, but when we have exhausted our human means, as the world seems to have, only God can make the difference.  Better to have Him on board from the start.  Is the message that Moses gave to the Israelites, the message that says “stand by and watch” – is that the message that God has for you and I today – be it in global matters such as Syria, or in a very personal matter that only you and God know about?
________________________________________________________________________

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
________________________________________________________________________

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

But the Hebrews Aren’t So Sure -- Exodus 14:10-12


And as Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons 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 this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave 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.”
 
While God’s strategy was working perfectly, the Hebrews weren’t too sure they liked the implications.  As they saw Pharaoh and his vast army of chariots getting closer to its human prey, the Israelites became very frightened.  A natural reaction no matter how strong a faith someone has.   But you have to love the way the next phrase is written, at least in the NASB.  It says, “ . . . so (they) cried out to the Lord.”  As if to say, that’s the time we call out to the Lord.  And that’s absolutely true – as long – as long as it is not the only time you cry out to the Lord.   Sometimes God wants us to cry to Him on behalf of the injustice that befalls others, not just ourselves.  And most often, He desires our cries of joy in praise to Him.   But, our human natures, makes us most likely to remember God more often and more readily when we are frightened.  For the Hebrews this would not be the first time they cried out to God while they were in the wilderness after their fleeing from Egypt.

And I suppose if that were their only action, it would not be too bad, and certainly understandable.  But it was not.  The Hebrews went on to behave like many of us do which I am sure was a disappointment to both God and to those that were doing His bidding.  First they became sarcastic.  Their statement to Moses with respect to available graves in Egypt was pure sarcasm.  As Christians we need to watch our sarcasm.  While it may sound that it is only a matter of the ‘mouth’ since it comes in ‘oral form’, the truth is that it is often a matter of the ‘heart’.  It reflects what we are really feeling in the situation.  Secondly, it disappoints God who loves us and protects us through the storm before us.  Thirdly, it impacts others, both believers and non-believers, who hear us – sometimes hurting them, sometimes helping convince non-believers that they can well do without our kind of faith.

But the grumbling of the Hebrews did not stop at sarcasm.  They took it one step further.  They blamed Moses, God’s agent and their appointed leader.  “Why did you bring us here to die?”  Those who follow someone else’s dream not having adopted it as their own have often repeated that question time and time again through the ages.  I imagine family-members of pioneers said it.   I imagine pilgrims said it.  I imagine soldiers dying overseas have said it.  And so on.  I think it is important that we know what plans and futures we are following.  Do they belong to men or to God?  And have we made them ours?  If not, you are not ready to go because undoubtedly if the future is worth it, there will be challenges ahead and sacrifices will need to be made – sometimes some very costly ones.  But once you make God’s plans for you your very own – then only total obedience and complete trust will see you through safely to the end.  That is the only way to maximize on what God has in store for us.

The Hebrews seem to have forgotten that God, through Moses, was leading them out of their “slavery”.  How soon we forget the horrible circumstances we were in when our passage out gets tough?  I think of individuals who are living with abusive partners.  They decide to leave and make an effort to do so.  But then when things get difficult, they wish they had stayed with the devil they knew.  If we feel that way about our past – about our sins – then I believe we are just not ready to leave them behind.

In fact, the children of Israel told Moses that they had begged him to leave them alone so that they could go one serving the Egyptians in slavery.  Never mind all the feasts they had before leaving.  They were forgotten.  Can you imagine how Moses must have felt when he heard them complaining?  Can you imagine how a father doing his best to move to a new frontier for the betterment of his family would feel in such circumstances when his wife and children begin to curse him for doing so?  Can you imagine how a missionary being obedient to God in going to the mission would feel if his/her parents, siblings, spouse, or children kept expressing their disappointment and/or disgust?  Can you imagine how God Who wants you out of your sin feels when you prefer to stay there?

And then the clincher: “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die here.”  No hope.  Just despair.  No faith.  No trust.  No God in the equation.

Where are you right now?  Are you crossing some wilderness having left Egypt behind?  Are you feeling like the Israelites?  Are you a Moses?  Or are you ready to obey and trust?  If you are standing by your very own ‘Red Sea’, I suggest that deciding who you are in light of the circumstances is probably one of the most significant decisions you can possibly make.  I pray that God will enable you to make the right choice, as tough as it may be.
________________________________________________________________________

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
________________________________________________________________________
 

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Friday, September 06, 2013

God’s Strategy Works Perfectly -- Exodus 14:5-9


When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?”  So he made his chariot ready and took his people with him; and he took six hundred select chariots, and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them.  And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly.  Then the Egyptians chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, in front of Baalzephon.
 
When we read the phrase, “Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart” we are reminded again of the influence that certain people in authority have over others.  This could be rulers or bosses or parents or teachers.  The responsibility for others is an awesome one.  It is not given to everyone and it comes from God.  It is imperative that we use it wisely and under His direction.  Unfortunately, it can also be greatly misused.

And is it not interesting that what Pharaoh and his own servants were really concerned about was that they lost their personal means of being served through the slavery of the Israelites.  When the responsibility for authority has gone awry, there is often a sense of self-interest or egotism involved.  Here we see the self-interest of both Pharaoh and his servants and in addition, the egotism of Pharaoh.  If we have been granted a role of authority over others, we need to make sure that we check to ensure those two human characteristics are not being felt or exhibited, lest God deal with us in the way He was about to deal with the Egyptians.  And for that matter, in the way He has dealt with every evil leader since then.

To feed their selfishness and Pharaoh’s conceit, Scriptures tell us that Pharaoh got over six hundred chariots ready to go after the Hebrews.  In fact, these were just the “select” chariots. (They must have been souped-up in some form making them superior, or they had won chariot races.  Who knows?)  In addition, the text says he took all the other chariots “of Egypt” with him.  And each group of charioteers driving those vehicles had their own officer to oversee them.  It was a truly impressive posse, being led by their sheriff Pharaoh, to capture the escaped slaves, the children of God.  The Egyptians should have thought it out first and included Him in the equation.

God’s strategy worked perfectly.  Pharaoh allowed his heart to be hardened again.  He pursued the Israelites and found them camping exactly where God had placed them for him to do so.  Several thoughts come to mind here.

First, it always seems to be about the heart.  The text does not say, “God changed what Pharaoh was going to do.”  No, it says, “God hardened the heart of Pharaoh.”  As I study Scripture, I am more convinced that God is keenly interested in our “hearts” – what they are feeling and desiring more than He is in what we do.  That is not to say He will allow us to do anything as long as our hearts are right by Him.  He won’t.  And in fact, when you think about it – when our hearts are right by Him, there is little chance we will do what is unacceptable to God.  When our hearts are right by Him, we will be doing everything we can to please Him.

Second, this brings us to a most interesting dilemma.  Perhaps one that we cannot solve, but let me at least in my attempt to be totally open with you as I write these thoughts, share with you what I had in mind.  Is it possible that while God intends to harden our heart to do evil (as in Pharaoh’s case), we are still able (or perhaps allowed by God) to do the right thing?  That is, is it possible for us to say to God, “No, Lord, I won’t allow you to harden my heart against You.  I will indeed serve You and love You.”?  Put another way could Pharaoh have surprised God?

Okay, I know that puts the discussion on a whole new plain.  God is never surprised.  God is never thwarted in His plans.  Does God still even harden people’s hearts today?  And we do know God does want us to serve and love Him.  This presents a dilemma.

Perhaps the matter can be answered as follows: If God knew that Pharaoh wanted to serve and love Him now, He would not have hardened his heart at this time.  He would have given Pharaoh every opportunity to do just that.  We are left, therefore, with the fact that God is omnipotent and omniscient.  He did what He did with Pharaoh because of what He knew about Pharaoh.  At least that’s my take.  What’s yours?  We may find we would end up in a debate about predestination and I certainly do not want to do so here.

But here is what is more important and to the point:  What does God know about your heart and mine?  And how will that impact how He ultimately relates to, and deals with, us?
________________________________________________________________________

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
________________________________________________________________________
 

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

More Hard News for the sons of Israel -- Exodus 14:1-4


Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Tell the sons of Israel to turn back and camp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Baalzephon, opposite it, by the sea.  For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, ‘They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’  Thus I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.”  And they did so.
 
As I write this, it is in the midst of great global debate as to whether or not there should be military strikes against Syria for their alleged (or ‘proven’ in the minds of some) use of chemical weapons on their people.  Everyone is strategizing and the stakes are high.  And then I read this portion of Scripture and note that God Himself is a great ‘strategist’.  He actually tells the people of Israel through Moses to “turn back” and camp at a certain place.  And He does it for a strategic purpose.  This going forward and then turning back is to make it appear in the eyes of the enemy, that the Israelites are lost and confused.  And as a result, Pharaoh’s heart will once again be ‘hardened’ and he will come after the Hebrews that he so reluctantly allowed to leave Egypt where they were serving him as slaves.

Pihahiroth is translated as a “place where sedge (a plant resembling grass) grows”.  It was the third encampment of the Israelites after leaving Goshen in Egypt and the last one before crossing the Red Sea.  It is between Migdol and the sea.  The word “Migdol” was eventually translated “tower” but previously it meant, “abundance of hills”. It is the name of a town situated in the most northern parts of Egypt.

And specifically they were instructed to camp in front of Baalzephon.  This is a town near the Red Sea.  Its name literally means “lord of the north” or more loosely, “sacred to Typhon”.  This was uncultivated country between the Nile and the Red Sea and thus usually thought to be the “abode of Typhon” the evil demon of the Egyptians.  (Perhaps a fitting name for the location of where the Egyptians were about to be destroyed.)

So God pursues His strategy for a purpose.  Pharaoh falls for it and we have the perfect setting for God to be honored in a way that will tell the Egyptians then, and the world for generations to come, that He indeed is the Lord.

God knew Pharaoh was focused on destroying Israel.  So God arranges for Him to come after Israel by making Pharaoh think they were embarrassed and frustrated in their journey and thus would be easy prey.  But God did this all for the purpose of destroying Pharaoh and bringing honor to the Lord.  He shared this with Moses so he did not ask any questions when given this order.  But could you imagine how the rank and file of the Hebrews felt about this instruction?

As for our part, we could well ask the question, “Why would God lead them into a trap like this?”  Well, for starters, we would have definitely thought this was a trap.  And from all the ‘natural’ geographic evidence before us, it should have been a trap.  Except that we once again have fallen into our own ‘human’ trap as believers of often leaving “God out of the equation”.   Not only was God not intending for His people to be trapped, but He wanted to show them that He is with them and can destroy their enemies, even the mighty armies of Pharaoh, including in an otherwise impossible circumstance.

And so, this portion of the text ends with the phrase, “And they did so.”

What circumstances are you in today?  Do they look hopeless from every possible human perspective?  Have you left God out of the equation for a solution?  Is He providing some instructions to you in your situation that just do not seem like the ones you would take?  My friend, there are only two things you need to do – in fact, only two things that you can do if you want to be blessed in this predicament.  The first is to be willing to “obey Him”.  That’s the only way you and those that watch you can know without a doubt that you are His child.  And then secondly, “trust Him” to do the impossible.  Just put God in the equation and let Him drive the solution.  From the perspective of eternity, it will be the best.  I promise you.
________________________________________________________________________

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
________________________________________________________________________
 

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Finally, if you like what you read here, you may want to donate to my favourite charity, SCA International, by clicking on the logo below. Ken.