Let’s REALLY get into it–Am I an Israelite??? Part…4???

So I was turned down for job 2 out of 3. Great.

The difference with this one was that while the first sent me a letter, I only found out that I was no longer in the running for the second job because I received the same email that all other applicants to the job received, informing us all that the position had been filled.

Whatevs. Whatever organization that is smart enough to hire me will be glad that they did. And I’ll leave it at that.

At the conclusion of my last post, the Israelites had finally secured their freedom from the bondage that was their life in Egypt. It was recorded that they had been in Egypt for 430 years. (I must insert here that I have to remind myself not to approach my Bible study thinking that I understand how time works in this book. It may read like these events occur within a matter of days, months, or even several years, but that is not always the case. That is definitely something to keep in mind as we study.

You would think the Israelites would be happy to leave, right?

Let the fun and games begin.

First, a little “housekeeping”. God directs the Israelites to dedicate to him all of Israel’s firstborn, including animals. In this manner, the Israelites will forever commemorate that while Egypt’s firstborn were slain, the firstborn of the Israelites (and the Egyptians who put the lamb’s blood above their door were passed over. The people are again reminded of the feast they are to use to celebrate the occasion.

Notice here in Exodus 13:17:

“When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”

God already knew that the Israelites were still not fully prepared, faith and spiritual-wise, to take the shorter route. He knew they were still “babes”, in a way. God knows our spiritual condition and knows what we can and cannot handle. Throughout our Christian journey, God always gives us tests in order that we may grow closer to him and stronger in our faith. Yet, he will never give us a test that he knows we are unable to pass. He knew the Israelites were not ready for that shorter route and put them on a path around it. God can and will do the same for us.

I can use my own life here as an example. Even now, the taste for alcohol has not completely escaped me. I do not crave it like I used to, but every now and then I still catch myself eyeballing the Hennessey or the Hypnotiq or something else in the grocery store. I now have the strength not to buy it, but think about it… I do not have to walk down the liquor aisle in the supermarket. It may be the shortest path to the cash register, but I can walk around the exterior of the store and avoid looking at it altogether if need be. I can also make the choice in my mind not to go to clubs where I may be tempted to drink, and not to hang around people who may tempt me to drink.

Of course, there was also another reason why God took the Israelites this way–they were headed toward the Red Sea. The Bible informs us that Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, as he had requested. The entire time, Israel is being guided by God, who leads them in the form of a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. Exo. 13:22 says “And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people”.

Isn’t that amazing? The fact that Israel was able to directly see the guiding light of the Lord and were STILL deficient in their faith is astounding!

God is setting up something major. He informs Moses to have Israel turn back and camp along the shore in order to confuse Pharaoh into thinking that the Israelites are lost and trapped in the wilderness. God will harden Pharaoh’s heart and he will pursue his former slaves. Israel does as told, and Pharaoh does exactly what God has put it in his heart to do.

Pharaoh puts together an army of his 600 best chariots, the rest of Egypt’s chariots, each with its own commander. The chase ensues! As Pharaoh and his army approach, it begins (Exo. 14: 10-13):

“As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’”

It is so unbelievable and absurd that I had to put it in bold.

Basically, these people have all but forgotten that they had just been delivered from 400 years of harsh servitude, and that God had sent the nine plagues upon the Egyptians, slain their firstborn, and was now guiding them in the form of two pillars. The minute they appeared to be in trouble, their faith went completely out the window. Their faith seems to be conditional, or sporadic at best, and it will continue to be this way.

This brings me to the question, Am I an Israelite? That is why I posed this question, because of the example set by the Israelites in this book of Exodus. From here on out, we see numerous examples of periods of high faith followed by intense spiritual lows (golden calf, anybody)? I may be alone here, and although it is easy for me to condemn the people of Israel, my life has reflected the same highs and lows, even now. My lows now are nothing compared to what they used to be, but there are times when I allow discouragement (for example, after receiving yet another rejection letter, or looking at a beautiful home and not being able to get it) that my spirit is not where it needs to be.

I have found the remedy. Years ago, when I was more prone to the lows than the highs, when trouble came I turned from God. Remember how I said when things were bad, I prayed for God’s help, and when I got it, I forgot about him? That is also true. I have different periods in my spiritual life and that was one of them. There was also the period where I would get upset with God when things did not go my way, (even though it was usually my fault for either a) leaning toward my own understanding and not consulting God or b) not being patient and waiting for God to do his good and perfect work) and I would stupidly act like it affected God that I decided not to pray, not to read my Bible, and not to go to church. Again, this was when I was a selfish person, not even considering what God had already given me, and how he really doesn’t owe me diddly-squat.

Now I know that I have to consult God first about everything, and wait for him to do what is best for me, or direct me in the right path. God knows that patience is not my strong suit and I believe he is pruning me. This whole job thing has to be the perfect example. There have to be some lessons involved in me not having a job that I do not understand. Maybe God is giving my husband the opportunity to step it up as the leader of this new young family. Maybe God is telling me he wants me to stay with my daughter a little longer. And maybe the position he wants me to have has not yet become available.

I must admit, waiting is not easy. At all.

However, instead of being selfish and stupid, I know that when trouble comes now, that is the time to cling to God even stronger. I still get discouraged, but there is never a time now where I a) pray, receive what I asked for, and stop cultivating my relationship with God, or b) ignore my spiritual health altogether. Who does it benefit? No one.

Spiritual health must be looked at and respected in the same manner as regular health. How do we maintain our health? We eat the right food, number one. Our spiritual food is the Word of God. No matter whether you eat three square meals a day, several mini-meals, or one huge meal, the point is you have to eat. We must make the consumption of the Word part of our daily routine. When we do not eat, the systems in our body gradually begin to deteriorate. The same happens spiritual-wise. The less we read, the more we decay. Before we know it we are backsliders. As I have heard more than one reverend say, “Dusty Bibles lead to dirty lives”.

Exercise is important. We are presented with opportunities to exercise our faith regularly when God tests us. However, we can also challenge ourselves spiritually, just as we can challenge muscles physically. We challenge ourselves not only by learning, but applying. Are you a Sunday school teacher? Do you author a Biblically-based newsletter? Do you pass out tracts and minister to your neighbors? Here is an easy one–do you pray? These are all examples of spiritual application that are based upon the Word. So again we go back to the Word, because that is the foundation for spiritual health. Exercise is seen as essential to mental health. A proper relationship with God is essential to Christian health. Exercise is a mood-lifter–guess what, when I pray or read my mood lifts almost immediately. After I exercise I feel accomplished and invigorated. After I read I feel accomplished and invigorated. And when I read the Bible, God continually opens up new ways of thinking or points out new details I had failed to notice before!

One more point before I get back to Exodus…

Similar to Lot’s wife, the Israelites were only able to look back upon the more attractive parts of their past and were not prepared to let go of their life in Egypt. It is amazing that they forgot the slavery part and remembered the fact that their basic needs were met. It does not seem like a fair trade-off to me…  But, I cannot forget that I have been there before myself. When my kids are getting on my nerves, occasionally I will flash back to what may appear to be one of the fun events in my younger years. It is important to always put those events in context. So at the time it may have seemed fun dancing the night away in a club with my friends, but I cannot just remember the fun club scene. I also have to remember the lonely nights and unfulfilled days of my youth. Either we are willing to let go of our past, or we are not. There really should be no in between. God was giving the Israelites a fresh start, just as he does with us when we accept His Son. Do we take him up on that offer? To start over again with a blank slate, or do we look back upon our sinful past lives with nostalgia?

Anyhoo…

Moses calms the people with a very powerful verse that applies to us today: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exo. 14: 14).

This is a powerful statement to me as related to revenge in particular. I hate to be repetitive, but being raped was a major game-changer for me, and I have used the Word of God to heal from it. I apply a lot of Biblical passages to that event. Here is one of them. Although I have now forgiven my assailant, years ago I would have preferred to see him dead, with his head served up on a platter. But let’s just say I went out and killed him… who would benefit? I would have been imprisoned and would never have married my husband or birthed my children. Allegedly he is a believer (I have no way of knowing differently… there are murderers who say they are believers, and who am I to know whether they are or not… Good thing it is God’s job to deal with them and not mine) so if that were true, he’d leave this wicked world and go to a better place. Meanwhile, I will have disappointed God and removed one of his children from the earth when I could have just let go and let God. As I have stated before, God’s discipline is more effective than any punishment I could ever mete out, and God’s discipline is just.

When someone talks badly about you, be still.

When someone wrongs you, be still.

You have God on your side. What’s the worst they can do?

God goes on to tell Moses to raise his staff and stretch his hand out over the Red Sea so as to divide it. He explains to Moses that he has hardened the hearts of the Egyptians, and that they will give chase. Check this out (Exo. 14: 19-20): “Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long”.

In a sense, God is physically standing between his children and their enemies. I love it!

Moses does as told, and the waters part, allowing dry land to seen in the middle, and a wall of water on either side.

part the red sea

 

Now this is crazy to me. I wonder how the Israelites felt after that stupid complaint they had just leveled at Moses–and more importantly, at God? In the previous Scriptures they had determined that they were better off as slaves in Egypt. They had doubted God. Now here they are looking at a parted body of water! I wonder how stupid and ashamed they felt?

The Israelites safely cross the parted Red Sea with Pharaoh and his army in full and hot pursuit. At the last watch of the night, God throws the Egyptians into a confusion, jamming the wheels of their chariots so they have difficulty driving. At that point the Egyptians realize that God is fighting for the Israelites (you would think the walls of water would have been enough to prove that!) and were probably trying to turn back (speculation on my behalf), but it is too late. God tells Moses to again stretch his hand over the sea, and when he does, the walls come a-tumblin’ down. Needless to say, Pharaoh and his armies perished.

At the end of Exodus 14, we read that the Israelites feared the Lord and trusted in Moses as their leader, but this is short-lived. These people were incorrigible. And you know what–sometimes, so are we. Yet God was patient with them and is equally as patient with us.

Duty calls!! More soon.

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