Snapshots: Day 37

Snapshots: Day 37

The Snapshot: “but Moses fled.”  (Ex 2:15)   We didn’t see that coming. The circumstances of life had moved on and Moses was a Prince of Egypt, but then suddenly it is all gone. Put aside the causes for the moment because often the causes are not clear, but his life as a Prince is gone. If this was a big-screen picture it would be accompanied by the setting sun.  A ball of fire at the end of the day, descending to the horizon until eventually just a few glimmers of its flames and its afterglow, and its gone. Dusk. Light fails. Night. Sleep. If you didn’t know better you would say, ‘The End’ but with God there is yet resurrection, a new day. The anguish remains for the night, but there is joy in the morning. There is more to come for Moses – and us.

Further Consideration: Times of personal catastrophe feel like the end. That is it, we’ve blown it, there is no future. We’ve just seen how a decision made in a moment can be a decision that devastates the past and utterly destroys the possibilities of the future. All the good credit we had built up over the years gets squandered in a moment and our past counts for nothing now.

We have stepped over the line we thought we would never cross. We had looked at other people whose moral failures revealed what they were really like on the inside and we thought, “How could they have done that? I could never do that,” but then we did, and we realised we were just like everyone else, a sinner who will be looked down on by the Pharisees who still deny they have ever crossed the line.

Suddenly we feel like Peter after his threefold denial of Jesus, except this hadn’t been about Jesus – or if it had, only loosely, at a distance so to speak. No, this was about our own standing, about what others will think if I get found out. What will be family think? What will friends think? What will those who look to me, who rely on me, think?

The trouble is that there is no way back. You cannot undo this, you cannot withdraw the words, the actions, the giving way to the temptation, it has happened and there is no way of pretending otherwise. And then I realise that I have joined the company of the guilty. Before this I had just accepted a truth taught at church that we’re all guilty, but there had been no big blot on my character – until now! Now there is this black cloud just lurking there, and behind it people will soon be gossiping. Before I know it, it will be on social media and everyone will know. Some will laugh, some will sneer, some will think like I used to think. Now I am different from them; they are the innocents, while I am part of the company of the guilty. We are two different sets of people and never again will I be able to be part of their group. It is the end…. isn’t it?

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Snapshots: Day 36

Snapshots: Day 36

The Snapshot: “he went out to where his own people were.” (Ex 2:11) There are times when we sense we are made for more than we see at the moment, there comes an awakening in us. And there we find the potential for disaster. Am I alone so I will have to make my own destiny, or do I have a divine destiny? (Jer 1:5, Eph 1:4, 2:10) If I am on my own working out my destiny alone, I may end up killing an Egyptian. If I can take hold of the concept of divine destiny, my future must be one where I learn to listen to Him, learn to cooperate with Him, learn to enter into the life He desires for me, in the way He wants for me. It will be a life that rejects the hasty decision but becomes one where patience and perseverance brings the reward of a more secure path and glorious destiny.

Further Consideration: I wonder how many people can testify to having had an ‘epiphany moment’, a time of sudden insight. It seems that is what happened here. Moses surely knew about the Hebrew shepherds-become-slaves in the north, and it is probable he had found out that they were where he had come from.  So one day he goes out to see what they are like and he watches them being driven by slave-drivers.

Now he could have just watched, turned around and returned to the comfort of the palace untouched, but he didn’t. Somehow he had this ‘moment’ of ‘these are my people’ and he steps in and kills a harsh slave-master to save those workers being beaten.

Now interestingly there is a modern writer who has compiled a book of such epiphanies and in it she says there are four elements to an epiphany: listening, belief, action and serendipity. Serendipity, according to a dictionary means, “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” Synonyms include ‘chance, providence, fate and destiny’. Now have a look at all this in the case of Moses. He arrives, watches and listens, and believes, ‘these are my people,’ and so he acts. The outworking of the events is what follows – he flees, lives in the desert for forty years, until God calls him back.  The final product – yes forty years on – is good.

Now I guess that Moses did not think his forty years in the desert were a “happy or beneficial” outworking but I suspect that in that forty-year period he lost all the confidence of the previous forty years of being a Prince of Egypt. Only then was he in a fit state to serve God in one of the most horrendous tasks ever given to man. We must think on and on about this for it is a momentous moment and there are some amazing lessons to be learned in it. Perhaps here we might simply say, beware hasty actions! (Look up Prov 21:5 & 29:20)

19. Holding to the Plan (2)

Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 19.  Faith and holding to the Plan (2)

Heb 11:24,25   By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.

A couple of studies back we noted Joseph holding to ‘The Plan’,  the plan spoken out by God to Abram, Isaac and Jacob – this is my land and now it will be your land, for ever, and you will multiply and become a great people. Over four hundred years have passed – four  hundred years, how long that sounds! That was the same length of time that passed between the end of prophetic revelation in the Old Testament period to the start of the events recorded in the Gospels in the New Testament! It’s like us thinking about things happening in the early 1700’s, but with God time is not an issue, His plans and purposes remain regardless of how many years pass.

So Moses is living some 400 years on from the Patriarchs but he knows his history, he knows that he is a Hebrew, an Israelite as they will become. Somehow he’s done his history and presumably kept contact with his natural mother even though he was being brought up for the first forty years of his life as a Prince of Egypt.

Stephen in Acts 7 tells the story: At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father’s house. When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.” (Acts 7:20-25)

Now of course we know that it all went wrong and the next day one of his own turned on him and it became public knowledge so that he had to flee from Egypt and spent the next forty years looking after sheep in the desert, until God called him to look after over a million human sheep in the desert. But it really all happened on that first day when, as Stephen put it, “he decided to visit his fellow Israelites”. Up until then he had been living a life of privilege behind palace walls, with everything laid on for him. Perhaps it wasn’t that he had kept touch with his family but had just learned about them in his private tuition in the palace and, knowing his own history, how his own palace mother had taken him out of the Nile, he decided to go an look for himself and visit the people from whom he originally came. When he arrived at where they were he saw they were slaves and he saw one of them being mistreated by a slave driver and at that point he stepped over the line and stood for being a Hebrew. All of his history, the history of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob came rushing back from the lessons he had received and he knows these are his people, a people with a special relationship with God, Yahweh.

Yes, at that moment he ceased to be the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and was a Hebrew with a history that could not be ignored. At that moment he decided to stand for them and went too far and killed the slave driver. As the Hebrews writer puts it, “By faith Moses, …. chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.”  The ‘pleasures of sin’ were simply the life of luxury and leisure in the royal palace, self-concerned and godless.

Now there is a possible course of action that we don’t usually think about. He was a Prince of Egypt, no doubt a powerful man. The slave driver is likely to be just another slave as far as Pharaoh would be concerned, two a penny. So he died, so what? These things happen. He could have faced it out, but he didn’t. These were his people and he found himself going back to them the next day, at which point he has to remonstrate with two Hebrews who are quarreling and who turn on him. This is the point of decision. He could have brazened it out – “Who do you stupid slaves think you are? Don’t you realise I am a prince of Egypt, get back to you work or I’ll have you killed.” In his role that was a very real possible way through this – but he’s a Hebrew himself, and it’s got to him, and so “He regarded disgrace ….of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (v.26) His reward? To be counted as one of the people of God. At that moment he made the decision to leave; he could no longer handle this, being a prince in Egypt while his own people were slaves. He ran, and it was an act of faith. Whatever the future held it must be better than the reality I now know exists here in this land.

But there is an aspect of the record we have missed: “When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian.” (Ex 2:15) We have just examined what could have happened but for that to happen Moses would have to deny his people, deny his own birth and stand up in this situation as an Egyptian who cared nothing about the Israelites – but he couldn’t!

There is an unusual phrase I have taken out from the middle of that verse 26: “for the sake of Christ.” Now of course he would not have known about Christ, not known about the coming Messiah because that was something to only be revealed through the prophets in the centuries ahead – but we are told elsewhere in scripture that Moses was a prophet, a great prophet and so even here at this early part of his life, he senses there is something more to life, something more of God’s plans. He’s learnt about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and he’s no doubt seen the God factor in their histories and as he catches that in his spirit, something says, “There is something more” and even that is just a glimmer of the revelation that is to come. We’ve seen it in Abraham who looked for a city with God, a dissatisfaction with the present and a yearning for what God has on his heart, and Moses has it as well.

So this forty year old embryo prophet, who doesn’t realise it yet, senses something at this turning point in his life, something of the eternal will of God and in a moment of desperation, he goes for it, he rejects his life in Egypt and has to flee.  He’s caught something from God and he goes for it. That is faith.

Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit indwelling us and making us Christians, we too catch this sense, the will of God. The enemy will challenge it and maybe we will be confronted by difficult circumstances where we have to either own up or shut up, we either stand for the truth or we join the rest who deny truth. We ARE the people of God. Pharaoh doesn’t like it and will threaten us. ‘Pharaoh’ is the world attitude today that denies God, challenges Him and His people and we resist him in the same way Moses eventually came to resist the next Pharaoh, with the will of God, the word of God and the power of God, but we’ll only do that when we’ve made the same decision by faith that Moses made – I am one of God’s people. I am not a prince of this world. I will do His bidding and leave the rest up to him. Amen!

32. God’s Time

ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.32

32. In God’s Time

Matt 2:19,20 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel , for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

Have you ever had a time in life when everything seemed to go wrong and you were left wondering whether you even had any future at all? Life is full of upheavals that sometimes we would prefer to call catastrophes. One minute everything was going fine, and then either gradually bit by bit, or even perhaps suddenly, it all started changing and you were left alone and in despair.

Well, the Bible is full of such incidents. Moses, the Prince of Egypt, was one such person. There he was; his future certain, as an adopted prince of the king of Egypt . But he’s aware that he’s different; he’s aware he’s an Israelite by birth, and one day he tries to help his birth-people and ends up killing an Egyptian. He has to flee the country and for the next forty years he is looking after sheep in the wilderness hundreds of miles away. Without doubt he must have given up any hope of any meaningful future. He would simply die as an unknown shepherd miles from anywhere. And then God turned up, and he became one of the most significant men in history!

But it doesn’t have to be forty years to feel you have no future. After the pain of personal failure, any period is too long. We don’t know for sure just how long Joseph and Mary and their baby were in Egypt, but they must have been wondering about the future, wondering what had happened. A year ago they were happily engaged in Nazareth, and now here they are hundreds of miles away in a foreign land with a tiny baby to look after. The visit of the angel to Mary was probably now over a year back and in a year your memory begins to dull, and when everything has not worked out as you expected, you can be left wondering was it all a dream – but then there is the baby!

How long will we be here? Will God speak to us again? Will it ever be safe for us to return? Surely these must have been some of the questions going through their minds. One long day followed another. Did Joseph get a job or did they just live off the gifts the wise men had brought them? This is not their land. These are not their people. What are we doing here? And then God spoke. The trouble about this is that we can go weeks or months just wondering and then, it’s as if He came suddenly, and He spoke. There is usually no warning. He just turns up and speaks. A few hours before you might have been wondering if you’ll ever hear from Him again, and then without any fanfare He speaks – and it all starts over again! Is this Him or is it wishful thinking. Joseph has another dream and the angel appears again but now to tell him it is all right to return home; it’s safe now!

Do you see this? So often we just read this story with so little thought. Oh, Joseph had another dream; how nice! Yes, but that was after days and weeks and months of uncertainty. If you think the Christian life is one of daily conversations with God, you are half right. You can talk and talk and talk (it’s called praying) but sometimes it seems like a brick wall and you hear nothing in return. Then – at just the right moment – He speaks. You’d almost given up, but He hadn’t! If you haven’t ever seen how important timing is with God, check it out – Rom 5:6, Gal 4:4, Gal 6:9, Mk 1:15, Matt 10:19, Mt 26:18, Jn 7:6,8. Jn 7:30. Oh yes, it’s all about right timing and God knows when it is, so rest in that knowledge today. Your times are in His hands. Be patient and rejoice in that!