Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Have You Forgotten?

And the LORD said, “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.” (Exodus 3:7)

As I mentioned in my last post, I open my Bible each day seeking encouragement and I always find it, no matter where I am reading. So today, I thought I would share with you one example of that. I decided to read the Bible chronologically this year, and right now I’m in Exodus. In chapter 3, there is a little verse that I must have passed over many times, but today it really jumped out at me. It’s the quote at the top of this post. What made me pause was that last phrase, “I know their sorrows.” This immediately brought to my mind Isaiah 53:3, which says,

He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

A Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief—That is who our Savior is. So, why do we hide from Him? Why do we esteem Him so little that we don’t turn to Him in our sorrow, but like the Israelites, we turn away from Him and toward ourselves and other gods?

Well, I believe our reason is the same as theirs. If you read a little further, at the end of chapter 4, you’ll see that the Israelites did bow down and worship when Aaron demonstrated the signs in their sight. When they saw with their own eyes a demonstration of God’s power, then they believed that He had looked on their affliction and would help them.

But wouldn’t you know, by chapter 6, they no longer believe Him. Look with me at Exodus 6:9.

…but they did not heed Moses because of anguish of spirit and cruel bondage.

Anguish of spirit and cruel bondage: Translation? Feelings and circumstances. No doubt, the Israelites were in a tough place: Slavery under cruel taskmasters. But what about the signs? Didn’t they remember the signs Moses had shown them—a rod turned to a snake and back again, Moses’ leprous hand healed—that had caused them to believe back in chapter 4? Apparently they’d forgotten all that, and were now focused on their circumstances and their feelings. God no longer seemed to be proving Himself faithful in their eyes, so that meant He could not be trusted.

Does this sound familiar to you, dear reader? Do you remember a time when God seemed to be doing amazing things in your life, and your faith was growing? What happened between that time and now? Were you basing your faith on what you could see, or on what the Bible says? It is so easy to become focused on circumstances, and to begin to obey our feelings about those circumstances, isn’t it? As I read this account today, I wanted to shout at those Israelites, “Hey, what about the miracles? What about the signs? Come on! Trust God, and stop walking by sight!”

Of course, all this shouting in my head eventually gets directed at myself, and now at you! How ‘bout it, my sister friend? Are you basing your faith on what’s going on around you, and your feelings about that? Do you worship and praise God on the good days, but seem to lose faith on the bad ones? Maybe it’s been so long since you’ve had a good day, you don’t remember what you did with them! 

Pain is indeed a cruel taskmaster, and being unable to do the things you want to do can definitely bring about anguish of spirit. But you and I must remember that neither of those things is to be the basis of our faith. Our faith is in the God who tells us in Exodus 3, “I AM WHO I AM.” God is God, and He is who He says He is,  regardless of our pain, disability, or any other circumstance. He is faithful, and He can be trusted.

So we press on through pain, suffering, or any other circumstances, because we have a singular goal:

…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:10-11) 

The key to steady faith, even in cruel bondage and anguish of spirit, is to fix our eyes on this goal, trusting in the One whose grace is sufficient to get us there. Hallelujah! What an Encourager! What a Savior!