December 1, 2014

Not Me!

Do you ever feel like Moses sometimes?  There you are, minding your own business, living in the middle of Nowhere Desert, quietly herding sheep and raising a family.1  Nothing spectacular ever really happens, and that’s just the way you like it.  There was a time when you thought you might enjoy living in bustling Egypt, with its grandiose building projects, bountiful crops, and a vigorously healthy population.2 

However, as you got older, you realized that the government is corrupt, the average person is way over-worked and under-paid, and the laws, instead of protecting children, actually decree that they should be murdered.3  No, thank you, you think.  That’s not me.  I prefer living an average, peaceful life in seclusion and anonymity.  I like routine.  Predictability.

And then, in one moment, on one ordinary day when you least expect it, everything changes.  You don’t exactly see a burning bush or hear an audible voice, but the message is just as clear.4  God is calling you, not to go and deliver his people from slavery, but to go and deliver a child from a hopeless, fatherless future.  He is asking you to be the one to rescue an orphan. 

Your first reaction, the automatic response is, Not me!  You are asking the wrong person, Lord!  I’m not brave enough!  I don’t have any special skills or experience or training.  I don’t have the right personality for it, and I know nothing about children who have been abused or neglected.  And You know I don’t handle stress very well.  I really and truly can’t do this.  Please, oh please, ask someone else to do it!5

But you love the Lord.  With all your heart you love Him, and you desire to be obedient to Him.  With tears and desperate prayer, through searching His Word and seeking wise counsel, the battle in your heart begins to diminish.  The excuses no longer make sense.  Ever so slowly your resistance becomes acceptance, and finally you say, Yes.  Yes, I will do this unbelievable thing that you have asked of me.  It takes more courage and faith than you knew was possible, but you take that first step, clinging desperately to God’s promise to be with you.6  Trusting Him to help you speak and teach you what to do.7

The obstacles, at first, appear insurmountable.  Your best efforts seem useless, and numerous times you hear No. Impossible.  But the Great I AM is at work, and you watch, amazed, as He does the impossible.  As He performs miracles and makes a way.  A child is delivered from bondage, and discovers for the first time, the joy of freedom.8

Oh, what celebration!  What rejoicing!  Family and friends surround you, sharing in the excitement.  They welcome your new child home with colorful banners and smothering hugs.  They bring you home-cooked meals.  They donate clothes and shoes and toys and books.  They tell you what an amazing thing you are doing.  They call you a hero.  They join you in offering thanks and praise to the One who made it all possible!9

This is not, however, the end of the story.  It is only the beginning.  What started out as a dramatic, miraculous exodus, soon becomes a long, lonely, difficult journey.10  All of the support has waned.  Friends have moved on with their lives.  The months and years drag on, and words like miracle and amazing and hero are all past tense.  The only current words that come to mind are discouraged and drained and done.

You find yourself wandering in that very same desert where you started, only this time there is nothing peaceful or predictable about it.  Every day is a struggle.  A battle for sanity.  How can you calm uncontrollable tantrums?  How can you fix pathological lying?  How can you keep showing love to a child who refuses to make eye contact with you?  Who has decided that he doesn’t want to be a part of a family?  Who complains and laments, despite evidence to the contrary, that his life “before” was so much better.11

Me, too, kid!, you privately think.  I just want everything back the way it was before.  I want my life to be normal again.  You lose count of the sleepless nights, tossing and turning with anxiety and frustration.  Every moment of every day finds you crying out for wisdom. God, please help me!  Show me what to do.  Give me some direction here.12  I told you that I was the wrong person for this task.  I knew before I even started that I wasn’t equipped to handle this.  I simply cannot take this any more!  I quit!

It is nearly impossible to see while you are in the midst of the craziness and confusion and heartache, but of course you know that the story still isn’t over.  More chapters have yet to be written.  Deep inside, hiding in the corners of your heart, you know that God is working all of this out according to His purposes.13  The same God who was with you at the beginning, who performed all of those miracles, is the same God who is with you now.  He has not forgotten.  The Great I AM is still at work.

Although the journey in this barren desert seems interminable, you know that it will one day come to an end.  And when you finally enter that promised land, you will be so glad that you didn’t give up!  You will be able to look back and see, regardless of the outcome, whether your child ever finds wholeness and healing or not, that God never, not for one second, stopped working. 

You will remember how He provided for your every need, giving you “manna from heaven,” at just the right time each day.14

You will recall the times that He took a “rock”, a hard, impossible situation, and miraculously turned it into refreshment for your parched soul.15

All along, through this long, long journey, He meant it for your good.  When nothing seemed to be happening, He was teaching you patience and perseverance.  He was strengthening your faith – more than you ever thought was possible.16 

When the daily struggles were more than you could bear, He was showing you how to find that deep, abiding peace that defies logic.17

When you had nothing left to gift, He was demonstrating just how powerful His love is.  That it can be poured out, overflowing even, from an empty vessel.18 

You were learning that battles can be won, not by strength and skill, but by prayer.  By lifting your hands in surrender to the One who promises victory.19

Most importantly, you will understand that it really is not me!  You will understand that it was God’s story from the beginning all the way until the end.  He didn’t ask you to rescue this child.  And He didn’t ask you to fix this child.  To reach those hurt places and heal him. 

No, He was asking you to be obedient.  He was asking you to play a small part and to get a front row seat as He rescued this child.  He said, “I am the Lord . . . I will bring you out . . . I will free you . . . I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and mighty acts.”20

At the end of the journey, you will be so grateful that of all the people in all of the world, He chose you to serve Him in a way that few people are willing to do.  And you realize what an absolute honor it is!  You will fall before Him in gratitude and praise, saying Thank You!  Thank You that it was You all along!  Your story, Your child, Your rescue.  Your miracles, Your work, Your perfect plan.  Thank You that from beginning to end, it has always been about You.  And not me.

1.             Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert.  - Exodus 3:1
2.             The Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them. Then a new king . . . came to power in Egypt.  "Look," he said to his people, "the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country." So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. – Exodus 1:7-11
3.             The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives . . . "When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him.” - Exodus 1:15
4.             There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.  So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up." When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." - Exodus 3:2-5
5.             But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go . . .“

"What if they do not believe me or listen to me?"

"O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue."

"O Lord, please send someone else to do it." – Exodus 3:11 - 4:13
6.             And God said, "I will be with you.”  - Exodus 3:12
7.             “I will help . . . you speak and will teach you what to do.”  - Exodus 4:15
8.             The story of the miraculous exodus of God’s people from slavery can be found in Exodus 5-14.
9.             And when the [people] saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Him – Exodus 14:31
10.         Exodus 15 and following describes the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years.
11.         The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."  - Exodus 16:3
12.         Then Moses cried out to the LORD, "What am I to do with these people?”  - Exodus 17:4
13.         And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28
14.         Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.” – Exodus 16:4
15.         The Lord answered Moses, “ . . . I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink." – Exodus 17:5-6
16.         By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.  - Hebrews 11:27
17.         And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7
18.         God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. – Romans 5:5
19.         As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up--one on one side, one on the other--so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. – Exodus 17:11-13
20.         Exodus 6:6.  And Exodus 3:7-8 - The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them.

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