God wants to give you victory. Trusting him and seeing his mighty hand revealed on your behalf will give you an incredible testimony. But just remember, the testimony is not just for you, it is to encourage others. And the best testimony is that which gets passed on to the people you love most—your children and their children. As Psalm 102:18 says, “Let this testimony be recorded for the generation yet unborn, that a people yet to be created shall praise the Lord.”
As the created, living on the planet formed by the hands of the Creator, out of nothing, mind you, we never, ever, have the right to have a “not in my back yard” attitude before him. The earth belongs to him. It exists for his purpose—whatever that purpose it. And we exist for his purpose, too—whatever that is.
Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 9:16
But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
Psalm 24:1-2 declares, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”
Since that is the case, why do we try to limit the Almighty with our cultural sense of fairness? Who are we to tell God how he should or shouldn’t act toward the people of the earth? After all, he is the one who designed and built the earth, he placed it exactly as it should be; it is for his purpose and pleasure that he laid it out the way it is and populated it with life.
As the created, living on the planet formed by the hands of the Creator, out of nothing, mind you, we never, ever, have the right to have a “not in my back yard” attitude before him. The earth belongs to him. It exists for his purpose—whatever that purpose is. And we exist for his purpose, too—whatever that is. As the prophet Isaiah so bluntly reminds us,
Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker,
those who are nothing but potsherds
among the potsherds on the ground.
Does the clay say to the potter,
‘What are you making?’
Does your work say,
‘The potter has no hands’?
God is God and we are not! We would do well to remember that—not only for ourselves, but as we interpret the current issues in our culture. The fact is, like it or not, God can raise us up for his glorious purposes, or he can cast us down for the same. Presidents, politicians, poets, celebrities and tycoons—no matter how powerful the world declares them to be, no matter how mighty they proclaim themselves to be—are still clay in the Potter’s hands.
And you? You are the Lord’s! God has raised you up to show his great power in you that his name might be proclaimed through you. And your life-mission is to spread his fame among the peoples of the earth and the principalities looking on from the unseen realm. That is your singular job as clay in the Potter’s hand: to make him famous.
The Day of the Lord may be slow in coming—and gratefully so, given the eternal finality of the final revelation of God’s judgment—but it won’t be late. The arc of the moral universe may be long and serpentine, but it will ultimately bend to the justification of God and God’s people. Given that, it’s best to be on the right side of redemptive history.
Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 8:23
I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.
As a believer, there are times when you just wish God would show up and through some unbelievable, undeniable act, convince one and all, especially the unbelieving, scoffing world, that he alone is God. And there are times when your heart longs for God to publically justify his people before a belligerent, God-hating, sin-loving culture in a way that leaves no room for doubt.
Historically, the community of faith, to it’s own peril, has rubbed against the fur of the world in standing for the values of the Kingdom. And we long for that moment when, to this godless age, God proves himself and approves of his people in such a way that there is no other explanation than God.
And occasionally in history, God has done just that. Such is the case in Exodus 8 as he visits the ten plagues upon the godless culture of Egypt. By the very nature of these plagues, which were Divine counterparts to the counterfeit gods of Egypt, it became plainly evident to both Hebrew and Egyptian that there was no greater God than the God of Israel and that the children of Israel were God’s prized possession. Indeed, the plagues were a sign to Pharaoh, his officials, and his people, that God made “a distinction between my people and your people.” (Genesis 8:23)
One of the deepest longings of the God-follower’s heart is that the Almighty would justify himself, once and for all! Of course, God never needs to justify himself. And of course, in spite of the previous statement, one day he will do exactly that—he will bring judgment upon a world stunned into silence as his unvarnished justice and unmitigated power is revealed. Paul speaks of that time in Philippians 2:9-11 when not only the unbelieving world, but the whole of creation, will bow in submission to the unparalleled greatness of God:
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
That day is coming. It may be slow—and gratefully so, given the utter finality of the final revelation of God’s judgment—but it won’t be late. The arc of the moral universe may be long and serpentine, but it will ultimately end in the justification of God and God’s people. And, given that, it’s best to be on the right side of history.
God gave Pharaoh a chance to repent. God gives the world a chance to repent. God gives you and me a chance to repent. In light of the coming day when there will be no other explanation than God, let’s live as people of repentance.
God, whose will and whose ways are inscrutable, is within his absolute sovereignty to bring about what he desires in human affairs—including hardening a ruler’s heart; yet man is never without personal responsibility in surrendering to the sovereign rulership of God.
Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 7:3-4
But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.
This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last instance in the Bible that doesn’t fit neatly within our theological box. That God would harden Pharaoh’s heart messes with our sophisticated sensibilities about God, namely that he is a safe, kind, benevolent and loving Deity who would never raise someone up just to throw them down.
What are we to do with this difficult part of the Bible? It would be so much easier to deal with if it just appeared once, a vague Scriptural anomaly, but it doesn’t. Not just once and then swept under the rug, this statement about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart appears ten times here in Exodus and yet again in Romans 9:16-18? Obviously, the Bible doesn’t try to hide this just because it is difficult to explain or because it makes us uncomfortable. No, it is unavoidably here for us to grapple with.
On the one hand, there are some that would have it that God was simply responding to what was already in Pharaoh’s heart, thus reliving God of any responsibility in the matter of hardening the king’s heart in order to justify destroying him. On the other hand, there are those who would quite bluntly declare that God created Pharaoh exactly for the express purpose of destroying him in order to bring glory to himself.
Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between. The fact is, God does involve himself in the details of man’s affairs in order to bring about his sovereign plan, and he is well within his unimpeachable righteousness to align those who are his enemies for utter judgment so that his great power might be displayed in all the earth. Pharaoh is Example A of this. Yet at the same time, we must note that Pharaoh was duly warned that his stubborn refusal to obey God would result in judgment. (Exodus 4:23) We also find that the hardening God brought about in Pharaoh’s heart was, interestingly, matched by Pharaoh hardening his own heart: Ten times God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20, 27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17) and ten times Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 7:13,14,22; 8:15,19,32; 9:7,34,35; 13:15).
What does that tell us? Simply that God, whose will and whose ways are inscrutable, is within his absolute sovereignty to bring about what he desires in human affairs—including hardening a ruler’s heart; yet man is never without personal responsibility in surrendering to the sovereign rulership of God.
Does that make this uncomfortable piece of Scripture any easier to swallow? No—and yes. No, it will always shake that comforting image of a loving, safe God. Yes, we can lean into the track record of God’s loving omniscience and righteous omnipotence, and along with the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:33-36, declare with utter certainty in the face of mysterious passages like this,
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Yes indeed, glory to God forever. Soli Deo Gloria!
Sometimes the journey takes us to “the wall.” The proverbial wall is a place our faith rarely anticipates. Yet the Biblical record reminds us that what we can’t see past the wall is that the God who is—and will—is already there, already at work, already securing victory in the assignment he has called us to. Walls are no big deal to the God who is—and will!
Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 6:6-8
Therefore, say to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.”
After 40 years of desert training, God finally gets Moses back on track with a divine assignment—and what an assignment it is! He is to go, as God’s voice, and demand that Pharaoh, the world’s most powerful leader, let the tribes of Israel leave Egypt. And not just for a field trip, mind you—to permanently leave in order to establish their own nation elsewhere. That would mean over two million unpaid laborers leaving Egypt’s workforce. From a human perspective, this is a non-starter; God is sending Moses into a mission that will be dead on arrival.
Further complicating the matter, Moses was painfully insecure about himself—from his past failures, his personal limitations, and from his brutal sense of reality—he knew the ways of Egypt, having been a one-time prince there, and he knew that this was definitely a very bad plan. Not only that, Moses’ previous attempt to submit a leave request for Israel had resulted in Pharaoh increasing their workload while decreasing the raw material need for their project. This was a case where God’s will had made things worse before it would get better. The Israelites were in the “things are worse” phase and couldn’t see the “things will get better” phase, and they were none too happy with Moses and not too thrilled with God. At this point, they were not listening to either.
So at this point in the Exodus story, Moses has hit the wall. Doing the will of God did not bring immediate success. On the contrary, it brought more difficulty—more failure and more insecurity, a real reality-check for the reluctant deliverer. When you listen to his arguments with God over the past three chapters, you get the sense that Moses felt abandoned by God, hung out to dry and given an impossible task. Now he was the cause of even greater hardship for his people, which left him with a deep sense that he had missed the will of God by miles.
Side Bar: Obviously, you have felt that way in your walk with God, too. I’ve certainly been there. That is just part and parcel of what it means to walk in faith and obedience with God. How often does the journey take us through a place that is darker than what our definition of faith allows before we come into the sunshine of divine favor. And it is in those dark places that we doubt ourselves, our calling and our God.
But in response to Moses’ pleadings, we see two eternal truths about God that should help us in those times when doing the will of God seems to bring us up against the wall:
First, we see that five times, God says, “I am…” That is who God is: the Great I Am. He is the Eternal One, the self-existent Sovereign of the Universe. And he makes no mistakes—ever! When he calls you, he will care for you in the journey. Where he guides you, he will provide for you. Don’t focus on the I can’t—lean into the Great I Am. He knows what he is doing, even if you don’t.
Second, we see that times God says “I will…” God is not the God of the past, he is the Ruler of the present. He is not a laid-back noun; God is in action. He is always at work—even right at this very moment. You can’t see it, but you can trust it: God is working to perfect his will through what he has tasked you to do. In the Christian walk, in reality, there is no such thing as “a wall”; there is only an “I Will!”
The Lord is with you and ahead of you. When God calls you to a step of faith, in reality, he has already gone before you and is waiting where the step of faith will take you. Yes, he goes before you (“the Lord is going before you, and the God of Israel is your rear guard.” Isaiah 52:12), he prepares the way for you (“I am going to send an angel before you to protect you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.” Exodus 23:20), he gives you safety and protection on the journey (“For the Lord your God walks throughout your camp to protect you and deliver your enemies to you.” Deuteronomy 23:14), he guarantees your success (“if you are careful to obey each of his laws, then you will be successful in everything you do.” Joshua 1:7) and he ensures the journey of faith will leave you with an outstanding testimony (“If you do, he will make you greater than any other nation, allowing you to receive praise, honor, and renown.” Deuteronomy 26:19). So wherever God calls, step out, even if it means stepping through the wall.
Your God is the God who is—and will!
God will never forget you—even if you are in the fog of negative and discouraging circumstances. And God’s track record is to use your worsening circumstances to bring an even greater deliverance, a more powerful testimony of his power for your life, and greater glory to himself as you snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. As Frederick Douglas said, “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”
Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 5:22-23, 6:5
Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” The Lord: “I am well aware of my covenant with my people.
Who knows how many spiritual victories and miraculous interventions God’s people forfeited because they retreated from God’s work in the face of increased adversity; they pulled up just before the finish line. Such was the case of Florence Chadwick, a world famous swimmer who famously gave up just a half mile shy of the California coastline on her record swim from the Catalina Islands.
Previously, Florence became the first woman ever to cross the English Channel twice both ways. But on the fourth of July 1952, the thirty-four year old swimmer was set on being the first woman to swim the twenty-six miles between Catalina Island and the shores of the Golden State. After fifteen hours of swimming, a thick, heavy fog set in. Florence began to doubt her ability, and she told her mother, who was in one of the boats, that she didn’t think she could make it.
Her mother and her trainer encouraged her to not to give up, to press on because the coast had to be close. But all Florence could see was the fog—and she gave up, in reality, so close, yet in her mind, so far.
Neither could Moses see what God saw. Moses saw only the reality of rejection and increasing hostility as Pharaoh threw him out of his presence. God had instructed Moses to declare before this great world ruler that it was time to let Israel go. But this time, Moses’ message fell on Pharaoh’s deaf ears. Yet it was not deaf ears, it was a hard heart—hardened by God for a forthcoming purpose that would be glorious beyond belief. Moses could only see the fog of defeat in front of him. Above the fog, God was bringing the victory for his people closer and closer.
As someone has said, it is always darkest before the dawn. Sometimes God’s best activity is directly preceded by the last throes of Satanic struggle—one last surge to discourage the child of God into retreat and surrender. What we should never forget is that at the darkest, most difficult moments of our conflicts, God is well aware of his covenant with his people—a covenant that guarantees victory, not defeat.
God will never forget us—even if we are in the fog of negative and discouraging circumstances. And God’s track record is to use our worsening circumstances to bring an even greater deliverance, a more powerful testimony of his power for our lives, and greater glory to himself as we snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. As Frederick Douglas said, “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”
So when you are about to break—don’t! You’re inches away from an amazing breakthrough!
The weaker the vessel, the greater the glory to the One who pours his presence and power into and out through that vessel. The more obvious the inadequacies, the bigger the challenge and the greater the unlikelihood, the larger the set-up for a testimony that will be passed down through generations of the power of God displayed in the life of one human being who was surrendered, if not reluctantly, to purposes of the Almighty.
Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 4:10-13
Then Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.”
Like most people, even great leaders, Moses was a pretty insecure guy. He had lost a great job, and while landing a minimum wage gig just to make ends meet, he had nevertheless wandered in obscurity for forty years before the Lord appeared to him in a burning bush with a new assignment. And while that new assignment would thrust Moses into the history books as the greatest leader of all time, at this point in his life, he was the most diffident deliverer ever!
Now keep in mind that it was a burning bush from which God spoke! You typically wouldn’t backtalk God if he spoke to you from a burning bush, yet Moses offered one excuse after another as to why God had come to the wrong guy. You would think if the Almighty showed up in such dramatic fashion Moses might have been convinced that he indeed must be the right man. A God who is powerful enough to speak through a burning bush that doesn’t consume itself, and in fact, calls out your name from the bush, doesn’t tend to show up at the wrong address.
Moses’ problem was that he was more focused on his own inadequacies than on God’s adequacies. Moses was not the one who would have to do all the heavy lifting—God would. Yet God always works through human beings—men and women, by the way, who end up getting a lot of credit when God works through them. And, you know the rest of the story. That is exactly what happened: Moses got more than his fair share of recognition for the mighty acts that God wrought through him.
The truth is, the weaker the vessel, the greater the glory to the One who pours his presence and power into and out through that vessel. The more obvious the inadequacies, the bigger the challenge and the greater the unlikelihood, the larger the set-up for a testimony that will be passed down through generations of the power of God displayed in the life of one human being who was surrendered, if not reluctantly, to purposes of the Almighty.
You may not be called to call down plagues or part the Red Sea, but I’ve got a feeling that you are exactly the kind of person God is looking for. If he is calling you to step out for him, surrender, for he makes no mistakes. And since he has selected you, apparently he plans to do some incredible stuff through your obedience.