Thursday, July 16, 2015

God says, "You Can't Handle the Change . . ."


Patience for a Purpose
Exodus 23:28-30: “And I will send hornets ahead of you, that they may drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you.  I will not drive them out before you in a single year that the land may not become desolate, and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.  I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.”
God told the Israelites He would send hornets ahead of them to drive out the people who oppose them on their way to the Promised Land. If you remember, before they left Egypt, God had brought several plagues against the Egyptians that included members of nature -- frogs, lice, flies, and locusts.  So, the Israelites understood the devastation that hornets would bring to their enemies. Back in Egypt God had also delivered plagues that involved disease, water, hail, and darkness. All of nature was and is His. And He can use it as He wishes.
In fact, if you have been watching world events over your lifetime, you will note God continues to allow (or even causes) nature’s elements – floods, hurricanes, typhoons, extreme heat, aridness, etc. – to impact individuals (both humans and animals), communities, countries, and the world. The outcomes are devastating for those impacted by them. Whether it’s a flooded basement on one end of the spectrum or the complete loss of one’s family or relatives on the other – it hurts.
Many would (and do) have us believe that this is proof of either the non-existence of God or the existence of a God that is cruel and unloving.  Many who thought otherwise often lose their faith when a calamity like this hits them. But can we get real for a moment?
If we accept the word of God as divinely written, have we any excuse to say, “I never thought God would be like this.  I never thought He would allow such things.” The fact is that God is God and He tells us (especially in the chapters we have been studying here in Exodus, but also elsewhere in even more gruesome terms) that He is not to be disobeyed or disregarded. Sin will have its course in this world and the consequences of the decisions our politicians at all levels make, the choices that our church leaders make, the values that our families adopt, and the apathy that we show Him as individuals, will and do come back to ‘plague’ us, one way or another, sooner or later.  It is not like God did not and does not warn us.  His true people, the righteous, will succeed in the end, but the ungodly will, unfortunately, suffer in the end. And in the process, those that are righteous may be impacted, but not for eternity.
So, God will use the elements to bring about His will.  He did so for the Israelites and I believe they serve as a symbolic prototype for what God wants and will do for mankind and those that believe in Him. Yet, in both cases, He is careful that the best interests of His people (the Israelites then, and those who are known to Him now as His children) will be protected.
God says He won’t drive out our enemies “all at once”. In the case of the Israelites, He did not do it because if the hornets drove everyone off their lands before the Israelites got there, first the land would go to waste and secondly, the wild animals would roam free and multiply excessively to the point where the Israelites would not be able to handle them when they arrived.  So He was only going to do what was necessary to bring about His plan for the children of Israel at that time and on His schedule.
And it’s the same for us today.  God does not rid us of all our enemies (external and internal) all at once, although often we wish He would.  He does not because He knows that doing so may well not be opportune for us. We may not be ready for what would be expected of us in that case. Doing it little by little allows us to grow in Him and become the person or people He wants us to be, so He can use us effectively as part of His plan. In short, He does not want to have us be “overcome” with the rate of the physical and spiritual reconstruction He will eventually bring about.
It is possible that these verses here are a foreshadowing of what God intends to do with this earth.  Christians argue about what a “new heaven and a new earth” means and we can save that discussion for another time.  But it is possible that God is giving us some hints at what we can expect to happen to our world, as we know it.  And it’s not all bad as we read in verse 30, “I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.”
The good news is if we are committed to being His, we will become fruitful and we will possess the Promised Land He has in store for us. But did you notice, the destruction of our enemies would take time.  How much time?  Well, the Bible says until we become fruitful.  Only then will “we” take possession of the “promised” land.  Does that mean we control God’s timetable or schedule and not He?  Absolutely not.  His timetable is right on schedule.  What it does suggest is that the meaning of “we” and just “who” is included in the possession of the land changes. Are you in?

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