Times of Trouble (Part 1)

If you charge me of trying to encourage you and refocus your mind, I will plead guilty because, candidly, I’m in need of it myself these days. God’s people have often found themselves not only in a ‘tight spot’ but also bereft of the very thing they thought would get them through it. Sometimes, that’s right where God wants us.

In Exodus 3, Moses had tried and failed to make any difference in Israel’s oppression in Egypt. He had succeeded merely in committing murder and barely escaping with his life, only to spend the next forty years exiled in Midian working in the glamorous role of tending sheep. Far from being the princely ruler he once was, Moses was being prepared by God for a much greater purpose. Stripped of the overweening confidence in himself that he once had, he was now ready for God to begin using him. Moses still needed to put his faith in the only place from where the salvation of the people could possibly come; he needed to listen to God.

Whenever I read the conversation between Moses and God at this point, it never fails to bring to mind that great quote from the movie, Cool Hand Luke,” What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” (An appropriate description of the plot’s trajectory in doubtmany ways). Moses brings up problem after problem regarding God’s plan, insisting that it is doomed to failure. Nevertheless, God patiently answers each of Moses’ objections and equips him with what Moses will need to accomplish the task.

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations… Ex 3:11–15 (ESV)

God points out several things that will be Moses’ ‘armor’ for the battle ahead. First, God tells Moses that He will be with him (v11), He reminds Moses that this is God’s plan (v14), that it is to fulfill God’s purposes (v17), and that it is God’s power that will bring it to pass (v20). More importantly, behind all the plans and promises stands God Himself; it is in His holy, sovereign and unchanging character that Moses must, and finally did, learn to trust. By the time Moses had shepherded the people out of Egypt and arrived at the place called Hazeroth, he was deemed the meekest man on earth. “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. Numbers 12:3 (ESV)

God has placed no less of a burden of trust on us, giving us a mission and sending us into hostile territory where we can expect trials and tribulations. We can also feel his hand as he works among us to clean and purify us. If we are willing to be humbled, to be knocked back on our heels, to be shot down – whatever you want to call it – and if finding ourselves there, we are willing to trust Him; wherever we are, that’s where God wants us.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11–14 (ESV)

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