Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Man, Here’s Your Role and Here’s Mine, and the Reason -- Exodus 14:15-18

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?  Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.  And as for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land.  And as for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.  Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen.”
After Moses tells the children of Israel to “just stay silent” and watch God at work, the Lord has a word for Moses himself.  You can imagine what Moses was going through listening to the complaining Israelites, seeing the Egyptians and their chariots closing in on them, and then having to tell his people that everything will be fine.  There must have been a lot of crying, and a lot of crying out to God, in private.  And thus God says to him, “Why are you crying out to me?”  There’s a time to pray, a time to cry out, but there’s also a time for action.  Too many Christians stop at the crying stage or worse still they get stuck at crying out to God.  It is one thing to ask for God’s help, it is another to hold Him responsible for your situation.

God tells Moses to simply tell the Israelites “to go forward”.  Have you ever been in a situation where you are in so far that the only way to end it is to go through with it – to move forward?  Sometimes God allows us these experiences, only to see His Hand at work later on.  Some of you may have sensed a hesitation to allow your child to marry their chosen partner, but you “moved forward”, and God has blessed that marriage more than you could ever hope for.  Sometimes, you wanted to change your mind about a new job, but you hang in there, “moving forward” and God has blessed you.   We move forward as we sense His direction, do our part, and then God does His.   This passage of Scripture is very clear about those steps.

Tell the people you’re leading to move forward.  Then do your part.   Moses had to lift up the staff he was holding in his hand and stretch it out over the sea for it to divide, so that the sons of Israel could cross it on dry land.  Wow.  Clearly God did the dividing of the sea, but there were two prerequisites in this case.  First, the entire congregation had to “move forward” towards the dangers of the water before them.  Any move like this is part risk, part faith for the Christian.  The more grounded we are in our dependence on God, the less the risk and the more the assurance that He will intervene.
The second prerequisite was that Moses, as leader, had to do his part.  He had to exercise His faith – God had proven Himself to Moses when God was preparing him.  But he had to do it in the way he was being instructed.  It would not work any other way.  He couldn’t do “his own thing”.  He had to lift up the walking stick he was holding and hold it over the sea.  Sometimes, people are asked to take risks, to move forward into battle, to accept the new tightening of economic belts that must be done, to suffer, to forfeit their wages and go on strike, etc., while their leaders all continue living their lives of luxury.  It amazes me how some leaders have the gall to pass legislation on their people but exempt themselves from it.  Godly leaders, be it in government or in the church, do their parts among their people not above them.

Clearly God wants the people to move forward, the leaders to act in accordance with His instructions.  Then God said to Moses, “And as for Me, behold, I will . . ..”  God says, “Get the people to move forward, do your part, and then I’ll do mine.”

And what was it exactly that God would do for the Israelites at that point?  He would harden the heart of Egyptians so that they go into the sea after the Israelites.  Wait a minute, God, that’s not exactly a good deal for these people, is it?  I mean here they do their part by going “forward” and Moses their leader does his part, and then you promise to make the Egyptians chase them into the water.  And here’s where real faith comes into the picture.  You see, from a purely human perspective, God was going to make matters worse.  But from His own ‘big picture’ perspective, what was about to ensue would honor Him and all the Egyptians (likely the ones who remained back in Egypt since these ones were about to drown) would know that He is the Lord.

There’s a role for those we lead, there’s a role for us, and then God does His part.  We cannot presume to know the outcome of an event that is still in progress.  In English, we use the phrase “it’s not over until the fat lady (opera singer) sings (her closing aria)” when a situation appears to be nearing its conclusion.  Wikipedia says, “(The phrase) cautions against assuming that the current state of an event is irreversible and clearly determines how or when the event will end.”  Though some like to attribute a feminine gender to the Almighty, I do not, and in no way am I suggesting this colloquialism applies to God.  The simple point is that our God works in surprising and marvelous ways His wonders to perform and most importantly, to have His name honored.  The better we know Him, the less speechless we will be when we see the glorious surprise ending He will bring to the situation.  Your current situation is not always what God has in mind as the final outcome.

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