Between A Rock And A Hard Place

16 12 2008

exodusI’ve been teaching through the book of Exodus and it has been amazing to see how the Lord has spoken to me and my family during this time in our life.  Sometimes it is really hard to understand what God is doing in your life.  Israel had a hard time figuring God out whenever they finally got the go sign to leave Egypt.  At the end of Exodus 13 and the beginning of chapter 14 we see some truths that have been a help to me and I thought I might share them with you.  I know that many of you who read my blog are facing some hard times right now.  This economy is hurting us all in one way or another.  Your struggle may be in your family right now.  It may be with your spouse.  I have no idea what it is but this is what I know.  I know that all of us struggle at times to understand what God is doing in our lives.  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10 that He wrote down the Exodus event for our instruction.  He wrote it for us so let’s scoot our chair up to the table and let God instruct us in Exodus.

The first thing that we see at the end of Exodus 13 is God’s kind providence.  Instead of leading Israel through the shortest route to the promised land He led them in a different direction. The short route would have taken only 2 weeks and the longer route would take much longer.  God even lets us in on why He chose the direction that they were to take.  The short route would have been full of dangerous armies right from the start.  God knew that this would break the spirit of the Israelites and that they were not ready for such a battle so he sent them  different direction and the direction he sent them would take much longer.  We are not a patient people.  Have you ever considered that when God sends you in a direction that he is saving you from something else.  Many times we complain because we feel that the way that God has led us in is long and difficult.  You have no idea what God has saved you from.

One of the neatest events of the Exodus takes place also at the end of chapter 13.  Moses and the Israelites remember the promise that they made to Joseph and dig up his bones and place them in a box to carry to the promised land.  Whenever Joseph died he remembered the promises that God had made to Abraham.  When God spoke to Abraham he told him that the children of Israel would spend 400 years in captivity.  Joseph died knowing that his descendants would spend many years in Egypt but eventually they would leave out.  He made them promise when he died to take his bones to the new country.  He died knowing that God would keep his promise.  As they children of Israel went on the longer path I’m sure they were filled with uncertainty.  What was uncertain was the fact that God keeps His promises and the box of Joseph’s bones was a constant reminder of that.  Our lives may be filled with difficulty my dear friend but the Lord keeps his promises.

Chapter 13 ends with a sign of God’s presence.  By day He would lead them with a cloud and by night a pillar of fire.  They would always have God’s presence.  So do we.  He has given us his Holy Spirit to live in us.

As you finish chapter 13 you immediately start to think that the journey is beginning.  I mean they have God’s direction, God’s promises, and God’s presence.  All should be well but just as soon as you open chapter 14 you see some changes.  God gives them a change of direction, Pharaoh changes his mind, and the Israelites change their attitudes.

God gives them a change of direction for the moment when He tells them to back up and camp next to the sea.  The directions didn’t make sense because it placed them in a dangerous position.  It put them between the sea and an oncoming army.  In verses 1-4 God lets Moses in on what He is doing.  Exodus 14:4 says: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.”  God’s whole purpose in placing them where He did was so that He would get glory and all would know that He is the Lord.  Do you ever think that what is happening to you is really not about you.  That what God is doing to you is way bigger than you.  He is doing something for His glory and so that His name will be exalted.  We just like it to be about us.

Well Pharaoh changes his mind and sends his army after the Israelites thinking they are wandering around and are helpless up next to that sea.  The Israelites change their minds and turn on their leader Moses and tell him that they wish to return to slavery.  We always give the Israelites a hard time here but please remember that slavery is all that they ever knew.   They never knew what a life of freedom could be like.  I think sometimes Satans wants to keep us in bondage too with our old life.  That is another blog post though.

The most amazing thing happened here and you see God’s goodness truly coming out here.  He gives them he instructions of what he wants them to do.  He says:

Exodus 14:13-14 (ESV)
13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.
14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Wow!  He first tells them to “Fear not.”  Did you know that was one of the most popular commands in the Scriptures.  It was one of the first messages of Christmas.  The Puritans used to say:  Fear God and you will have nothing else to fear.  So true.

He tells them to stand their God.  Stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord.  God was going to fight for them that day.  They were to weak to fight so God fights for them.  I love that last line. “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”  Being silent is might hard for some of us.  He tells them to be silent and just watch.  Isn’t God good.

So what do you do when you are between a rock and a hard place or an army and the sea?  Well you first need to know that God is sovereign and He is in control of your situation.  You may think that your way is difficult but God just may be saving you from something even worse.  Don’t forget that His name and His glory is more imporant than your name.  I know that is hard to do but you must do it.

Second, never forget God’s promises…never forget His presence.  Dear Christian never forget is covenant love that He has for you.  Every day that you wake up you can rest assured knowing God is for you.

You just obey God in what you know to do.  Let him fight the battles that are bigger than you.  Remember this that if you die in the fight you still have won because His name was brought glory in the effort.

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Merle Ivy

2 12 2008
Merle waiting to catch an airplane with me.

Merle waiting to catch an airplane with me.

Today a very dear friend of mine is being laid to rest.  For over three years I was her pastor down in Pascagoula.  She was on the pulpit committee that led the call for me to become the pastor of that church.  She gave me great support while I was there.  Merle taught Sunday School, sang in the choir, served as Treasurer, served as Women on Mission leader, served on the Budget and Finance committee, and chaired the Daycare Committee while I was there.  She did all very faithfully.

I’ve been thinking of words to describe Merle and there are many that come to mind.  The problem comes with actually putting them on here in a meaningful way. 

Merle at a McDonalds in Odessa Ukraine

Merle at a McDonalds in Odessa Ukraine

Merle had a big heart.  HUGE!  Even this past year though I was not the pastor at Calvary she sent my son and daughter a Christmas/Birthday happy.  She was one of the most giving people that I know.  Even in the last couple years she helped mentor and teach literacy.  Merle was faithful.  You could always count on her if she agreed to serve.  Merle had spunk.  She was a go getter.  Nothing slowed her down.  Merle was a woman of prayer.  Merle continuously grew in her relationship with the Lord.  Merle would also tell you if she disagreed with you but she would always do it with tears in her eyes.

Probably the greatest experience that I had with Merle is

Merle felt a great deal of love when this poor lady gave her such a beautiful scarf.

Merle felt a great deal of love when this poor lady gave her such a beautiful scarf.

when she and I went with some others on a mission trip to the Ukraine.  Even though Merle had been a leader in missions at our church she had never went on such a trip.  I was so surprised when she told me that she wanted to go.  Then I was just excited.  While in the Ukraine I believe that she touched more lives than any because they knew that she had gone through great effort to get there.  She would walk the streets of those villages until she just literally gave out and had to sit in the van.  I will never forget the testimonies that she shared while there.  I also will never forget having to help her with her luggage on that trip.  I laugh because Merle was the Queen of the souviners.  She bought something everywhere she went and I had to carry it through all of the airports for her.  Even in our last stop

Merle sharing her testimony with an interpreter.

Merle sharing her testimony with an interpreter.

before home she was STILL BUYING.  She wanted to make sure everyone was taken care of.

I love Merle Ivy.  I have missed her so much since we moved to Tennessee.  I would include her into a list of the top five people that I have met in my life.  See you in Heaven Merle!  I’m not carrying your luggage up there!

This is Merle and Robyn Dupree with the wife of the host family where they stayed while in Ukraine.

This is Merle and Robyn Dupree with the wife of the host family where they stayed while in Ukraine.

This is the whole mission team in front of the Black Sea.

This is the whole mission team in front of the Black Sea.

This is us in Vienna on our way home.

This is us in Vienna on our way home.