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Posts Tagged ‘help’

wilderness1

In Exodus 23:20-33, God gives Moses and His people instructions and promises about how to obtain the land to which he was taking them.  They had already been in the wilderness for some time.  Here, they are promised a home and great blessings.  They are given a guide and a few contingencies at the front of their conquest.  Let’s consider this.

In verse 20, God promises to send a guide to go before His people.  The guide is described as an angel and his job was to bring them to the place God had prepared for them to go and to live.  Some believe this angel was the preincarnate Christ.  Regardless, they were commanded three things pertaining to this angel guide.  They were told to pay careful attention, obey his voice, and to not rebel against him.  Their failure to do these three essential things in their attitude and behavior toward this guide would result in his failure to forgive them for it.  The reason given was that God’s name was “in him.”

The promises for obedience were guidance (23:20), possession of a good land in which to live (23:23-24), blessed food, water, healing of sickness, fruitful wombs, long life (23:25-26), and victory over many kinds of different, powerful, strong enemies (23:22, 27-28).  The victory was to be a slower, more gradual take over rather than an all at once overcoming of their many enemies.  The text says, “little by little,” as they were growing in number and moving into the new land, God would drive their enemies out.

Finally, in verses 32-33, they are given one final warning against idolatry.

Here, we find not only the instructions for the success of the people searching for the promise land, but also the skeleton outline for the life of every successful Christian.

When we are called out of the wilderness and into the promised place God is preparing for us, we are given a guide.  His name is Jesus Christ and we are called to pay careful attention to Him (and Him alone), obey His voice (His sheep know His voice), and to not rebel against him.  If we fail to pay attention to Him, disobey Him, and rebel against Him those actions are indicative of refusing Christ as Our Lord.  If we refuse Christ, we forfeit the forgiveness and grace he offers and will not be pardoned for our sin. Because he is the Way as well as our guide, to refuse Him is to forfeit all of the blessings that following offers.

If, on the other hand, we do pay attention, obey, and not rebel, we are promised victory, protection, the bread and water of life, healing, fruitfulness in regeneration, and life everlasting.  Our victory, like theirs, is little by little.  All throughout this life through many toils and snares, we are moving toward the promised land of eternal life; the place He has prepared for us.  We are growing and our enemies are being eradicated little by little by God Himself on our behalf as we become sanctified thus gaining victory over sin in our own lives.   No other gods are permitted during any part of this journey.

How gracious a God we serve to give such tender care and guidance to us as we walk home through this worldly wilderness!  We are his children and he will fight for us if we but pay attention, obey him, and stop rebelling against him with our sin.  What a beautiful picture of Our Father’s mercy we have in Exodus 23.

 

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Have you ever felt all by yourself?  I have.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I picked up my Bible first thing and read Isaiah 59.  Instead of giving me life, I allowed the Enemy to steal the encouragement of the Word and accuse me with it.  If I had just stopped at verse 1 and meditated, I think I would have had a different kind of day.

Behold, the Lord‘s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
    or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; ~Isaiah 59:1

It’s verse 2 that did me in.

but your iniquities have made a separation
    between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
    so that he does not hear. ~Isaiah 59:2

The condemnation I felt as I read this was overwhelming.  Being in a place where justice is not evident and wrongs have not been righted personally, it was easy for the Enemy to use that against me and bring accusation and discouragement.

Despite the fact that we all sin, to feel as though God is not hearing or acting on our behalf because we are separating ourselves by our own sinfulness is quite a place of despair – especially when you’re not really sure what sin it could possibly be.  Still, this is the reality for us all until Christ saves us.  After we are made right with Him, however, he hears us.  He acts upon on behalf.  He forgives our sin and he guides us in all truth.

The people Isaiah is speaking to here are not right with God.  They may be His covenant people, but they are not acting in accordance with his order.  Verses 3-8 describe their sin in detail.  They are speaking lies, making trouble, harming one another and they are failing to call for justice and plead for truth.  They are doing wrong and they are refusing to do right.  These are the reasons God will not listen to them or bring justice to them.

Therefore justice is far from us,
    and righteousness does not overtake us;
we hope for light, and behold, darkness,
    and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. ~Isaiah 59:9

Therefore – because of these reasons and all your wrongdoing, lack of concern for righteousness and justice – because of this, justice for you is far away; righteousness is not with you.

Truth is lacking,
    and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.

The Lord saw it, and it displeased him
    that there was no justice. ~Isaiah 59:15

Truth is lacking.  That is a powerful statement.  When truth is lacking, much evil follows.  Even those who sought truth and stopped sinning had a hard lot.  They became prey for those who did not repent.  The Lord saw this.  The Lord was greatly concerned for this particular society of people.  The most offensive thing to God was perhaps not even the sin itself – it was that there was no justice.  There was no judgement.  No repentance.  No reconciliation.  God longed to be made right with these people but there was not even a shred of repentance.  Their hearts were as hard as ever.

He saw that there was no man,
    and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
    and his righteousness upheld him. ~Isaiah 59:16

Here is most powerful verse in the entire chapter.  God saw that there was no one – no man fit, no one righteous, no one who cared.  God did not throw up his hands or shrug his shoulders.  God did it himself!!!  How glorious!  Sin abounded, yet grace abounded all the more!!!  Matthew Henry says it this way:

“Since magistrates and societies for reformation fail of doing their part, one will not do justice nor the other call for it, God will let them know that he can do it without them when his time shall come thus to prepare his people for mercy, and then the work of deliverance shall be wrought by the immediate operations of the divine Providence on men’s affections and affairs.”

To whom shall God perform this goodness?  This mercy?  To whom will he bring justice?

“And a Redeemer will come to Zion,
    to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord. ~Isaiah 59:20

The Redeemer will come to those who turn from transgression.  Those who turn!  Those who repent!  Those who turn their eyes upon Jesus!  Amen!  God makes a way for sinners!  He does not cast us out!  He does not shun and avoid us!  He does not condemn and accuse us!  He saves us!  That is encouraging!

And the promises are laid upon Christ and his bride.  The church will continue always until the end of time and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!  Amen!

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 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” ~John 3:1-2

We.  Nicodemus speaks in plural.  This religious leader is not just speaking for himself.  He says, “…we know…”  It is very likely he is speaking on behalf of himself and several, if not many, religious leaders of his day.  The Pharisees.  They knew.  They knew, at the very least, that Jesus was from God – yet – they still hated him.  They still sought ways to discredit and undermine him.  They still publicly challenged and slandered him.

This is amazing!  Jealousy makes power-hungry religious men do terrible things even though they know better.

Jesus takes Nicodemus immediately to the reason and the solution for why he doesn’t know him for who he actually is.  Jesus is not just from God – he is God.  The reason Nicodemus doesn’t know that is because he has not been regenerated by the power of God.  He is a just another guy who is interested in religion.  He lacks spiritual insight and wisdom precisely because he has not come to know Christ truly yet.  He knows all about religion.  He fails to know God.  This is tragic.

What does Jesus do?

He wastes no time explaining who he is or setting Nicodemus straight about his identity.  Jesus gives him the solution.  “You must be born again.”  He proceeds to preach the gospel to Nicodemus adding that it is quite peculiar that he is in a position and in fact is a teacher of God’s people and yet has no understanding of the things of God. (verse 10)

Nicodemus is bewildered.  He is confused.  He is astonished at what Jesus tells him saying, “How can these things be?” (verse 9)

After Jesus makes the point that a teacher of God’s people ought to know these things, he reveals the real issue in Nicodemus’s life.

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”~ John 3:11-12

You don’t believe me, Nicodemus.  I have repeatedly told you and showed you the truth in simple, lisping lessons but you simply do not believe it.  If you don’t believe me about things on earth – things you can see – how will you believe about things in heaven – things you have not seen?!  He gives Nicodemus the gospel as well as the reason men just like Nicodemus do not believe it.

We tend to forget that this whole John 3:16 business is in the context of Jesus talking to one of the most religious men of his day.  Think about that.  Consider the implications of that truth.

So what does Jesus say to this very religious teacher guy?  Grace is here – but, as Jesus has already told this man, it is for those who believe.  You do not believe.  Light is here.  The problem is not that you do not have enough light.  You love darkness.  That is the problem.  And why do you love darkness?  Because you’re hiding.  You are afraid that your wrong deeds will be exposed.  You care more about how you look on the outside than you do about whether you are in God’s favor.  You would rather hide behind religion than come into the light and be made clean.

The main idea here is that Jesus is not the one hiding.  God is waiting and willing no matter how or when we come to inquire of him.  We are always the ones who hide from God.  Nicodemus comes at night because he is hiding.  Likely he fears his religious friends seeing him talk to Jesus – because God forbid one of them get to know Jesus rightly and for who he truly is.  They were much more content to make him who they needed him to be in order to keep their sin hidden and their people – their followers – deceived about who they really were.

Jesus is not the one hiding.  The religious men are hiding.  When asked indirectly who he really is, Jesus pulls no punches.  He tells the inquirer the solution and the problem for why he does not know the answer to his own question.  Jesus does not have to say, “I am God” because it is extremely clear that Nicodemus has already repeatedly refused to believe the truths that would lead to that conclusion.  Instead, Jesus mercifully gives him the solution.

Here’s your problem, Nicodemus.  Here’s what needs to happen in your own life, Nicodemus.  There’s grace, Nicodemus.  Believe and be saved, Nicodemus.  If you do not believe, you are already condemned despite all your religious work and knowledge, Nicodemus.

Have you ever had someone try to be your friend secretly?  Or treat you differently when others were around vs. when they were not around?  Religious people are infamous for this kind of behavior because they not only fail to recognize and believe who God is, they fail to know who they themselves are.  Therefore, they are not genuine in their dealings.  Jesus shows us how to deal with this kind of pretense.  Say this:

Here’s your problem, religious man.  Here’s what needs to happen in your own life, religious man.  There’s grace, religious man.  Believe and be saved, religious man.  If you do not believe, you are already condemned despite all your religious work and knowledge, religious man.

Jesus deals with pretense, fear, a religious spirit, and sin all in one blow.  He tells this spiritually impoverished soul the truth of the gospel and the solution to his sin problem.  He makes sure that guy knows exactly what is required of him and shows him that he has not yet been willing to do it.

God’s grace is waiting.  He wants people to come to the light.  We must believe, confess our sin in the light, and repent of our hiding it in the darkness.  God is faithful to meet us there and do a great work in our lives.  He will change us from religious pretenders – people who have (as the Bible says) a form of godliness but deny its power – and false friends to real sons and daughters; brothers and sisters of his very own.

Come to Jesus.  Confess your sin to him.  Ask forgiveness.  Allow his Holy Spirit to do his work in you and you will be a new creation.  You will be born again.  Amen.

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run

I have been running most of life.  I ran the bases when I was six.  I ran the soccer field all through high school and my early 20’s.  I ran my first triathlon when I was 24.  I ran my first marathon when I was 26.  I have been running for what seems like my entire life.

I love to run.  Even though it is harder now to find time, I do.  Even though it is harder now to really compete, I try.  Running is often painful, but it is always beneficial – physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Run time is often prayer time, think time, and find peace time for me.

I have run countless races over the past dozen years.  When I first started, my husband would come to a lot of them and cheer for me.  As time, change, and kids crept up on us, it became increasingly harder to find Mr. Rodeheaver attending my races.  While I am overwhelmingly thankful that I still get to run races often, it is very rare that I ever have any fans encouraging me at a race these days.

The truth is that when you love something – be it a sport or a hobby or a job or a calling – encouragement is nice, but it is generally not necessary.  When you love what you are doing, the reward is the privilege of doing it.  Getting to do what we love is our motivation.  No one has to remind me to set my alarm to wake up early.  No one has to shake me and roll me out of bed.  No one has to tell me to get dressed and feed me protein bars or pep talks in order to motivate me to go outside.  I do it simply because I love it.  Even still, when encouragement is offered, it is a rare and treasured blessing.

As I ran a little race this past Saturday, my cheerleader made a rare appearance.  My husband and I were away celebrating our anniversary and I found a 5K to run for fun.  I told him he could fish while I ran, but he insisted that he wanted to watch.

Throughout the entire race, he sent running memes, pictures, videos, and words of encouragement to me.  I could see him cheering from what seemed like mile from the finish line all the way to the end.

Truly, we should all learn how to be cheerleaders.  We should all be cheering for one another and encouraging each other in whatever good we find to do.  Encouragement is always helpful, motivating, and inspiring.  I often wonder why so few encourage excellence.  But then I remember Jesus.

Jesus was the most excellent person who ever lived.  He did all things absolutely perfectly.  Still, there were more than a few people who despised him for his excellence.  So much so, that they not only hated him, they sought to kill him for it.  Consider the words of John:

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”…”Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.” ~John 11:47-48, 54

Jesus’ own people were so jealous and insecure when he did the things his own Father (God!) sent him to do that they hated him completely out of town.

Jesus did not receive much encouragement from men even when he did what was absolutely perfect.  His encouragement was from His Father, God.

The truth is, I want the well done.  I want it with everything in me.  It matters nothing at all to me if men hate and despise me.  It hurts, but it does not change who I am or what I will be found doing.  If I am doing what pleases my Father, I will wait patiently for him at my race’s end.  All the years I spend running alone will be worth it when I see him clapping from a distance because he is the One I love more than life itself.

Encouragement has it’s place.  I wish that we would all become more like cheerleaders for one another because, let’s face it, life is hard enough and good words are often hard to come by when you’re living out your calling in life.  But if we are sold out and surrendered to the work we get to do here out of love for He who gave us the work in the first place, encouragement and earthly approval is very secondary.  Encouragement is only a perk – an added bonus if and when it elusively appears.

All I really want is the well done.  I want to truly be the good and faithful servant.  I want the well done at the finish.  I will gladly forfeit every false and phony accolade that compromise and complacency would bring for the proud words of my good and faithful Father.  I can wait for the well done because the One who will say it is worth every lone and heavy step taken towards Him.

 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. ~1 Corinthians 9:24

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Beauty-and-the-Beast1

Beauty and the Beast has been my personal favorite Disney story for many years now.  If you know my husband, it’s easy to see why I identify.  Kidding! Ok, maybe just a little truth there.

The truth is, about 20 years ago, we both started out as beasts.  It was nothing but the Lord who has made us more like the Beauty and less Beastly to one another over the course of time and trials.

A lot of reviews have already been written about this long-awaited real-life remake.  Rather than do that, I just want to focus on one particular aspect that many might miss if they are not paying attention.

Belle is trying to reason through how the living objects in the castle must feel about their sentence of not being human again.  She says something to the effect of, “I can see why he (the beast) deserved this, but you – you did nothing wrong.”

It is at that point that Mrs. Potts pipes up like only a talking tea kettle can do and, from my perspective, speaks the most important line of the entire movie.  She quickly responds without even a second to bask in the expected hesitation, groveling, or self-victimization and says, “You’re right deary, we did nothing…” (when the beast was but a boy grieving over the loss of his mother and became the victim of an abusive, self-absorbed father.)

There is so much to learn from the attitude that Mrs. Potts’ character displays in that one single exchange.  Here’s what we can take from it and perhaps teach our children:

Firstly, no matter what your circumstance or how desperately unfortunate it is, you must never think of yourself as a victim.  A victim mentality will always hurt you.  Personal responsibility and owning up to our own failures in all circumstances is the key to being a person of character.

Next, if it is clear that someone else has been dealt a very difficult hand, we must consider their stressors over their responsibilities and act appropriately towards them.

For ourselves, we overlook the reasons we have to claim a victim status and rise up responsibly.  For others, we look for those same reasons and empathize when they act irresponsibly.  We do not compare circumstances, ever.  We do not compare reactions, grief, or evaluate and/or determine how any other person should be dealing with their own circumstance from an emotional standpoint.  The most important thing to do is serve them.  That’s what Mrs. Potts does.  That’s what her child does.  And, while they do not always agree with or even obey the beast in his unkind and ridiculous demands, they always seek to serve and help him in ways that are beneficial to him.

Finally, Mrs. Potts’s profound statement teaches us the often neglected truth that what we do not do is just as damaging as what we do wrong.  She says, “We did nothing…” (when this little boy’s whole world fell apart.)

That was an admission of guilt – a taking part in the making of a self-centered, unkind, now cursed, beast.  What we do not do for those who we know are suffering and being abused right before our eyes is what will convict and condemn us right alongside them if and when they become beasts in their own right.

Again, this idea does not erase personal responsibility for the beasts of the world.  Each man is wholly responsible for his own actions, always.  What this perspective does is it helps us to understand and own our personal responsibility toward those in need – namely children within our sphere of influence – before they morph into individuals who kill, steal, and destroy just like their teachers.

In other words, we do not get to dislike and avoid people we do not prefer and then turn around and blame them because they are bitter about it.  Our job is to see only our own faults and look past the faults of others in as much as we possibly can and love and serve them despite those faults.

What a great perspective to have.

– Own responsibility no matter how difficult your circumstances.

– Empathize, don’t criticize when others fail.

– Recognize that doing nothing is just as damaging as doing wrong to others.

That’s as true as it can be.

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help

Moses’ father in-law had come to visit him in the wilderness.  He didn’t just come to drop off the wife and kids and go back home.  Much fruit came from Jethro’s presence in Moses’ camp.

Firstly, Jethro asked Moses how he was.  This may seem trite, but to a leader who is ever placed in the position of asking others how they fare, being asked of his welfare was likely refreshing and encouraging.

Secondly, Jethro listened to Moses.  Here is another seemingly small detail that may mean more to this man than meets the eye.  When you are a listener of all, sometimes listening is the last thing anyone thinks to do for you.

Thirdly, Jethro rejoices and praises God with Moses for what he has done.  It is always helpful to receive encouragement in the good things God has done through you.  Far too little encouragement is found among God’s people for the ways in which he uses each of us individually.

After this time of encouragement and becoming reacquainted, Moses goes back to business as usual.  Jethro watches in curious concern as he sees Moses’ daily schedule.  He says this:

” When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?”… Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.” Exodus 18:14, 17-18

Jethro sees how Moses is conducting himself and he asks a question.  “Why do you sit alone?”  He makes an observation.  “What you are doing is not good.”

How faithful are the words of one who loves us when they say plainly what needs to be said; what no one else wants to say.  More faithful still is our willingness to hear and listen to those words of concern and love.

Jethro isn’t just there to criticize as some may think at first glance.  Moses did not take Jethro’s forthrightness and plain words of truth as harmful criticism because he knew Jethro loved him.  Moses trusted Jethro.  How much good advice do men forfeit out of mere fear, insecurity, and mistrust of the faithful friends who share it!  We must never mistake genuine concern for negative criticism lest we end up sitting alone and doing that which is not good.  Such is the lot of many leaders of old.  Paranoia has a prominent place of position among those who clutch to keep control with both hands.

No.  Jethro’s intent was never to offer his opinion in order to discourage or criticize.  Jethro had advice!  Good, wise, helpful advice for this man whom he loved, respected, and rejoiced over!  Jethro loved Moses so much that he was adamantly unwilling to turn a blind eye to things he knew would eventually destroy Moses – things that would lead to burn out, wearying of well-doing, and bury him in burden-bearing.

Jethro actually says, “Obey my voice…” Obey my voice?!  Wasn’t Moses supposed to be obeying God’s voice?  Moses, if he had been insecure, mistrusting, or prideful of the counsel of this man, may have been inclined to malign Jethro and tell him he was called to obey God alone.  But, could it be possible that God really does use men to instruct men—even when and if those men are not as gifted in the prophetic as those to whom they offer counsel?  Could it be possible that he uses more practical men to counsel his prophets and vice versa?  Yes and amen!!!  

Jethro’s advice was thus:

 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” ~Exodus 18:21-23

Hey, Moses.  Son, what you are doing is not good.  You cannot do it alone.  You need help.  Ask men to help you.

If Moses had been prideful, insecure, or less in tune with God, he would have turned on Jethro in a nanosecond upon hearing these words.  These are not, after all, easy words to hear when you’re the authority in all the land; when you are the God-ordained, called, confirmed and chosen leader who comes complete with past prophetic power plays as proof.  Can’t you just hear his thoughts?

And just who is Jethro anyway?  Some shepherd from nowhereland?  Who cares what he says anyway, right?  I’m the prophet.  He’s some worker ant with a pretty daughter.  He probably doesn’t even know God.  What does he even know?

No.  Moses does not think evil of the man who loves him when he is told the truth as many of us may tend to do in our fleshly weaknesses.  Instead, Moses listens.  Moses proves his humility by having the wisdom to listen to one who is bold enough to say hard words in efforts to help.

Jethro not only gives advice on what to do, but how to do it.  What kind of men is Moses to choose to help?  His buddies?  No.  Here, he is given criteria from a very practical man, again, ultimately for his own benefit.

The men he chooses must fear God.  These men cannot fear men.  They must be confident, courageous, and certainly not cowardly.  They are going to have to judge and confront many situations and disputes.  They cannot be cowards who duck and run at the first sign of trouble.

The men he chooses must be trustworthy.  Trust is not something a man magically gains simply by being amicable, educated, or even profoundly gifted.  Trust is something that must be proven, time and again, over a considerable period of time.

The men he chooses must hate a bribe.  These men must absolutely abhor partiality, favoritism, and pats on their own back.  These kind of men cannot be bought by accolades or personal advancement of any kind.  If they can be, they will be and the entire justice system will be completely compromised.

Matthew Henry describes them this way, “It was requisite that they should be men of the very best character.  For judgement and resolution – able men, men of good sense, that understood business, and bold men, that would not be daunted by frowns of clamors.  Clear heads and stout hearts make good judges.

Finally, Jethro concludes with the reason this must happen and a promise of sorts.  His reason: “So it will be easier for you.”  The promise: “If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” 

If you do this, the fruit will be your ability to continue and peace among the people.  Inferred from that statement is, if you do not do this, you will not be able to continue and there will be division among the people.

Practical men who love prophetic men often advise them from a place of wisdom.  Prophetic men who love practical men often advise them from a place of wisdom.  Let us not despise the counsel of another based on either paranoia or a pit of hell presupposition that arrogantly assumes their gifting is inferior to our own.

Kyrie Eleison

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jehovah

God’s people had been blessed over and over and over again.  It seemed that the more they were given, the more they cried, quarreled, and complained. These are all the tell-tale signs of being spoiled, rotten children.

Daddy gives and forgives; they cry and complain.  The pattern was very clear.  Wah! Wah! Wah! We want more!  We want different!  We want it now and if you don’t give us what we want right now we will scream, Daddy!  We don’t even remember the good you do!  We forget!  Give us more or we will say bad things about you, Daddy!  Waaaaaahh!  You hate us!

No, kids.  I think it might be you who hates me.  Because you love yourself so much, you have no room for me.  Everything I try to do to prove my love for you just leads to more unbelief, complaining, and rejection.  I have never rejected you.  You have rejected me.

So, you want to cry and complain?  You want to quarrel?  I’ll give you something to cry about.  I’ll give you someone your own size to quarrel with.

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. ~Exodus 17:8

The Amalekites were descendants of Esau.  Esau – the one whom God hated.  Esau – the one who valued temporary comfort over his very own future.  Esau – the rejected one; the hot-tempered antagonist; the one who thought more about a mere bowl of soup than the extravagant blessing of his very own father.  What a fool!

The Amalekites were the descendants of an utter fool.  They were the children of selfishness, impulsiveness, and impatience.  This is who God sends to quarrel with his quarrelsome, spoiled rotten children.  God, through this battle with the rejected ones, teaches his children how to trust him.

Well played, God, well played.

Moses sends Joshua out to choose an army and fight.  Moses, Aaron (his brother), and Hur (his brother-in-law), go up to the top of the hill overlooking the battle.  Moses holds up his wonder-working staff to signify God’s presence and encourage the soldiers.  Joshua is called to fight and Moses is called to pray.  Both are called to minister, help, rescue, defend, and deliver God’s people.  Simply recognizing differences in personality and calling go a long way in the fight against favoritism, superiority, and inferiority structures among God’s people.

These guys only have one problem.  It isn’t that they have an enemy.  It is that their leader is tired.  Moses’ arms are heavy.  He’s been holding the staff up all day.  Every time Moses gets tired, the staff drops and the enemy begins to win the battle.  When the staff is lifted, God’s people win.

“The strongest arm will fail with being long extended; it is God only whose hand is stretched out still.  We do not find that Joshua’s hands were heavy in fighting, but Moses’s hands were heavy in praying.  The more spiritual any service is the more apt we are to fail and flag in it.  Praying work, if done with due intenseness of mind and vigor of affection, will be found hard work, and though the spirit be willing, the flesh will be weak.  ~Matthew Henry

God doesn’t leave Moses in this weary state of trying and failing; working and wearying.  Instead, God uses Moses’ brothers to hold up his very arms; to give him rest on a rock.

But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. ~Exodus 17:12-13

God held Moses up for the benefit of his people.  God loves his children no matter how bad their behavior becomes.  He often uses the sin and selfishness of those who are not his own in order to discipline and instruct his children on what it really means to trust him.  God doesn’t allow his children to be spoiled, rotten brats.  Sometimes he sends brats who are even more spoiled and even more rotten to confront them; to show them; to draw them back to their desperate need for him.

When there is quarreling and complaining among God’s people, we ought not be surprised when God sends outsiders to come in and quarrel with us.  Though we may, in our flesh, grow weary in well-doing, if we are seeking to serve God and encourage our brothers and sisters, God will send ample support.  He will give us rest.

God longs to be our Jevohah-nissi, “The Lord is my banner.” His very presence is our strength and he wants us to look to Him and trust in Him alone.  He is our warrior who fights for us.  He is our intercessor who prays for us.  No matter how poor and petty our behavior becomes, it never defines us in Our Father’s eyes.  Our identity is found in our citizenship within his family.  He is faithful to send discipline when we are bratty and rest when we are weary.  He is our Jehovah-nissi.  He fights for us and his very presence is our banner, our sword, our wonder-working staff, and our very strength.

“Let ages come to know that God fights for his people and he that touches them touches the apple of his eye.” Matthew Henry

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