16. Peace in Trials?

Short Meditations on Peace 16. Peace in Trials?

Jas 1:2-4     Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Now there are (let’s be real!) times when we go through trials and testings, and those times are not easy. In fact, it might be legitimate to ask, is it possible to have peace in the time of trial?

Again, seeking to be real, I suspect the honest answer has to be, initially at least, probably not. Why? Because these things tend to come to us out of the blue, so to speak, without warning and the first thing we know is that things seem to be going wrong. Worry!

Remember Paul’s words to the Philippians: “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7) Challenging words that start with the suggestion that God is there, on our case – but we are anxious, otherwise we wouldn’t need Paul’s words. His counsel: pray and God’s peace will come.

But it’s a difficult trial? How can peace come? Perhaps first by recognising that it is a trial and such things are either brought or allowed by God and if that is so, the Lord is looking for you to pass the test. God isn’t out to pull you down, He’s there to build you up, He wants you to pass this test, to succeed in it, to triumph in adversity.

What is going on when a test comes?  God is wanting you to learn, to realise just who you are, a child of God with all of His resources available to you. Be at peace in it – He’s in control and He’s standing there holding out His resources to you to take.

Remember, through the Cross of Christ He has provided absolutely everything you need to see you through life: “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8) He tells us He has a plan for us: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10) Life is no accident. With God there is purpose.

So to conclude, God’s got a plan for you, He’s with you and He’s provided everything you might need for any and every circumstance, and that includes times that are trials or testings, and so you can be at peace in them, once you realise what is going on and understand the dynamics of God’s love that comes to us in this way sometimes. He’s allowing this for your blessing. Rejoice in it as such.

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23. Humbled

Meditations in Deuteronomy : 23 :  Humbled, Provided For, Disciplined

(Focus: Deut 8:1-5)

Deut 8:2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.

A casual reading of parts of these early chapters of Deuteronomy might conclude there is just a lot of repetition, but a closer reading shows that where there is repetition it is for a different specific purpose and it usually has different elements to it. This is what we find here.

So chapter 8 starts out with something that has been said a number of times before.  Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers.” (v.1)  Note again that there is a command and a promise so the promise is conditional on the command. The command is a simple call to obey all the laws being reiterated by Moses, and the promise is blessing on their lives and an enabling to go in and take the Land. Normally, previously, the promise has been to have long life in the land but the promise here is the ability to take the land. So the obedience to the Law needs to start right now for it impacts all that is going to follow.

But now it is followed by yet another call to remember the past, but this time it is a call not only to remember it, but understand it, understand what was going on and why! Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (v.2) The basic facts of their recent history were that God had led them while they wandered for forty years in the desert having originally failed to enter the Promised Land. But what was going on while that was happened? God was humbling them and testing them.

When you look back on the records of that time they are limited mostly to different crises that occurred – lacking water, lacking food etc.   Now, says Moses, that wasn’t coincidental, that was God testing you to see how you would react. The crucial issue at every crisis was would they turn to the Lord, would they stick to what they had been told about Him, would they adhere to the Law?  Rather than just waste that forty year period, the Lord used it to teach and train Israel.  The most important thing was that they had to learn to trust the Lord and stick to Him.  Often they hadn’t done very well, but a learning process is like that, you don’t do very well initially but you get better as you learn.

But there was a specific aspect to this teaching: “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (v.3) When they had eventually decided to enter the land on the previous occasion it was a pure example of self-confidence, not confidence in God.  They had to lose that self-confidence because it was not the thing that would see them through in the centuries to come, it was a confidence in the Lord, which is what the Sinai covenant of love was all about – about coming into a relationship of trust in God. So a number of times they had a crisis of provision and the Lord looked to see if they would turn to Him for provision – they didn’t, they grumbled instead, but nevertheless the Lord DID provide for them – manna.  They had to learn that their future lives did not simply depend on material provision, but also provision of the wisdom of God, every word that comes from Him!

He reminds them of what happened: “Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.” (v.4)    Not only did the Lord provide manna, quails and water.   He also ensured that their clothes did not wear out.  One pair of sandal for forty years!!!  Then comes the key principle behind all this: “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.” (v.5) There it is! What had been going on throughout those years had been God’s disciplining. Now don’t misunderstand this.  So often we equate discipline with punishment but in the Bible, discipline is God training His people. Yes it does involve correction and yes sometimes it is painful, but the purpose is always good. It is that the people of God learn to trust God.

When crises happen today, how do we view them?  Panic?   Or do we turn to the Lord to hear from Him to see what provision He wants to bring us to cope with the present?  These are profound questions and they deserve some careful thought so that we may trust Him more and more.

 

5. Trials Prove Faith

Meditations in 1 Peter : 5 :  Trials Prove Faith

1 Pet  1:6,7 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

The changes that have taken place in the West especially, in the past fifty years, have brought new pressures to Christians. Possibly the biggest pressure has come through the philosophy of materialism which has been bolstered because we have gone through a time of unparalleled affluence and technological change. This has had a number of effects but one of them is that we have entered into a new level of peace and comfort, which we have almost come to believe is our natural right. The only trouble is that we still live in a Fallen World and don’t seem to cope so well when things don’t go well.

Peter, like James in his letter, brings us right down to earth in terms of practical faith. He has just be saying how wonderful it is that we have this inheritance stored up for us once we leave this planet. That is why he starts here with, “In this you greatly rejoice”. It is really wonderful that we have this assured future. But then we stop looking up, and we look around us and we realise that all is not quite so wonderful here today! Oh no, Peter is very realistic when he speaks of us having to suffer “grief in all kinds of trials.” That paints the picture with big bold black strokes! You are going to have grief! Why? Because in this Fallen World we are going to experience things going wrong, which Peter refers to as ‘trials’.

James, in his letter, had exactly the same understanding: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (Jas 1:2,3). Do you see the language used by both of them: grief in all kinds of trials” and trials of many kinds.” It’s not just the odd, occasional thing going wrong; it’s a world that is Fallen and where things go wrong all the time!!!!   Be realistic! We get sick, we have accidents, we do things wrong or badly or not as well as we could, and that has consequences; other people are nasty and say or do bad things, and so it goes on. If that seems a black picture of the world, it is, but the truth also is that the Lord is with us in it and, as we’ve recently noted, His power and wisdom is available for us so we don’t have to feel bad about it all.

There are two ways we can respond when ‘things go wrong’. The first is to sag and get full of gloom and doom and be negative. When this happens we also tend to be in a place of generally weak faith. We become anaesthetised and spiritually weak at the knees, and fruitful is the last way we could describe ourselves. In other words we just go down under whatever it is.

The second way we can respond is to view whatever it is as a test or a trial of your faith, knowing that God has equipped you to cope with just such things. That is the positive approach in line with what the Bible teaches. This is what Peter says is going on when you suffer grief from the many and varied trials that come along. He says that it is so that, your faith– may be proved genuine.” You think you have faith, you say you have faith, but how do you know that you really do have faith? The answer has to be only when it is tested and shown, and that happens when things happen that require us to rely upon what God has told us. So often in these meditations we have noted that faith comes by hearing what God says and faith is responding to what He has said. So when the trial comes along, do we believe what He has said, that His grace is sufficient for us (2 Cor 12:9), and it is all sufficient for all we need (2 Cor 9:8) and that He will meet all our needs through Christ (Phil 4:19), so that we can do anything He puts before us (Phil 4:13)?

This faith, says Peter isof greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire.” What a comparison! Gold is of immense wealth and value, but gold when it is refined by fire can actually be destroyed, whereas our faith when it is refined by difficult circumstances becomes stronger.

But there is more. When we come through our trial and our faith is proved genuine, we see that it may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Our faith can bring glory to God. Jesus taught that: “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16) i.e. the way we live our lives can point people to God and bring glory to Him. This is what Peter is saying as well. Your real faith will reveal Jesus to the people around you. That is the possibility for your life and mine. As we respond to what the Father has said, and continues to say, and our faith is shown to be real and based upon Him, others can see and understand and realise that He is real and we are what we are because of Him. May that be so!

63. Would God Listen

Meditations in Job : 63. Would God Listen?

Job 35:6,7 But if he remains silent, who can condemn him? If he hides his face, who can see him? Yet he is over man and nation alike

As we move on into the next chapter, Elihu first chides Job for his apparent double arguing. On one hand he declares that he will be cleared by God for his righteousness, and on the other he wonders why he bothers to remain righteous: Do you think this is just? You say, `I will be cleared by God.’ Yet you ask him, `What profit is it to me, and what do I gain by not sinning?” (v.2,3). In answer Elihu simply asks them all to look upwards and grasp something of the Lord’s greatness: “I would like to reply to you and to your friends with you. Look up at the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds so high above you.” (v.5,6) He does this because he is now going to argue that God is so great that He doesn’t get value from either our goodness or badness.

He starts with the badness: “If you sin, how does that affect him? If your sins are many, what does that do to him?” (v.6). He replies, “Your wickedness affects only a man like yourself,” (v.8a) i.e. God is so much ‘above’ us that our petty foolishness doesn’t change Him. Then the goodness: “If you are righteous, what do you give to him, or what does he receive from your hand?” (v.7) and his reply is that righteousness only affects the sons of men, i.e. it’s only humans who may be recipients of your goodness.

He then considers how we respond to things when they go wrong: “Men cry out under a load of oppression; they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful.” (v.9), i.e. we are only too quick to cry out for help from God but no one says, `Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, who teaches more to us than to the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the air?” (v.10,11) i.e. we cry for help but don’t simply trust the Lord for His caring provision “in the night” when it is dark and who relates to us and teaches and helps us.  Do we remember that He does these things when we ask or do we ask in a grumbling manner?

Look, he continues, there are times when God just keeps quiet: “He does not answer when men cry out because of the arrogance of the wicked. Indeed, God does not listen to their empty plea; the Almighty pays no attention to it.” (v.12,13)  i.e. if it is just a selfish, self-centred, shallow cry of arrogance against God, He will not respond.  God replies to righteous, humble cries, is implied in this.  And if God won’t reply to the petty, critical calls of the arrogant, how much less will He reply when we say stupid things about Him: “How much less, then, will he listen when you say that you do not see him, that your case is before him and you must wait for him, and further, that his anger never punishes  and he does not take the least notice of wickedness.” (v.14,15)

He concludes, “So Job opens his mouth with empty talk; without knowledge he multiplies words.” (v.16)  i.e. Job you don’t know what you’re saying.

Now let’s look at some of these things again. Is it true that God doesn’t care about whether we do good or bad? Well Elihu is right that God’s character is not changed because of our behaviour;  no, He remains exactly the same whether we are the most wonderful saint or the worst sinner. In that respect He is utterly unchanging.  Yet, Jesus revealed Him as a loving Father and as such He will be grieved if we sin and bring harmful outcomes upon ourselves, so in that respect it is not true to say that it doesn’t matter.  Remember this is an argument about how God is or is not affected by our behaviour, but there is the whole question of how loving children can purposefully sin and upset their loving heavenly Father, which is Paul’s point in Romans chapter 6.

Indeed does God ignore us when we say stupid things?  Well the lesson of the whole book of Job suggests that He often stays quiet while we seek to resolve our problems but nevertheless eventually speaks and brings correction.  I believe that as part of His working to bring maturity in us, and indeed of testing us, it means that sometimes He remains silent to allow us time and space to think, pray and work through to a right place. Sometimes part of the test is how will we respond when he does remain silent? Often in the psalms, the psalmist starts out with worries and concerns and obviously feels very stressed and yet, as he progresses his thinking, he comes to a place where he is able to praise the Lord and affirm truths about God.

So if the Lord seems to be remaining quiet, how are you responding? Will the Lord find a faithful and right attitude prevailing in you, right through to the next time you hear from Him?  Because we are His children, the Lord may remain quiet but that doesn’t mean He remains still. The teaching of the New Testament is that He is always working and He is working to bring good for us. May we remember these things when we are in times of difficulty.

3. Testing

Meditations in James: 3 :  Joyful Testing

Jas 1:2,3    Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

Living in the West in the early part of the twenty-first century, we are more affluent and have more technology than any people who have ever existed before us. Life should, therefore, be easy and pleasant, but so often it isn’t. If you asked most people, they would pause, reflect and then say something like, “Life is tough!” Why is that? It is, I suggest, because we live in a Fallen World where sin prevails and therefore things go wrong and people are nasty. As a dispersed people (see yesterday) we are out there in the world, largely alone, having to learn to cope with the less-than-perfect life that rolls out before us. A lot of the time it may be humdrum, ordinary with no particular problems, but then suddenly something happens, something goes wrong and we are in conflict or stress and anxiety, or we are struggling with illness or infirmity. That’s what life in this Fallen World is like. The staggeringly wonderful news for Christians, of course, is that we are not alone; we have the Lord with us. Moses was able to encourage Israel with, Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut 31:6) and the writer to the Hebrews was able to take that and apply it to us when he wrote,be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Heb 13:5,6).

So the first thing to note from our verses today is that we live in a world where things go wrong, things that James calls ‘trials’. The second thing to keep in mind, which isn’t in this verse, is that whatever happens the Lord is with us in it. Perhaps we would to well to remember a third thing,  that however difficult the trial seems to be, the Lord will be there seeking to bring good out of it for us: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28). Bear those two things in mind: the Lord is with us and He will be working to bring good out of what otherwise might be a bad situation!

But then James says something about what is going on. He says God is testing your faith. Our education system, at the government’s direction, seems paranoid about testing. Our children constantly seem to be getting tested. Why do the government want teachers to do this? They do it because they want to check a child’s progress and ensure that they are learning. That is exactly why God tests us. There is a clear indication in Scripture that God expects us to mature – we’ll see that tomorrow. The writer to the Hebrews chided them saying, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:12-14).

There he indicates he expects us to grow up, understand the truth and live it. God’s testing, however, doesn’t merely monitor our position; it acts like a work-out in the gym and strengthens us. Whereas a physical workout brings strength to our muscles, God’s work-out develops perseverance in us, that ability to just plug on when life seems difficult. Yes, there are times when life seems glorious and wonderful and easy, and at those times you don’t need any special resources, (and that is a danger for we forget our need of the Lord), but we’ve been saying that in this Fallen World life is sometimes difficult and the enemy would want us to give up on our faith, and so perseverance is something the Lord builds in to us. How does He do that? By allowing us trying times!

It’s not only James; Paul says the same thing: And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance(Rom 5:2,3). It’s not only James and Paul; Peter says the same thing: In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Pet 1:6,7)

So there it is; these trials, these tests, work to bring perseverance which we need to handle the dark side of life, and as we do, our faith is seen to be genuine and all the angels looking on give a mighty applause because they see it is the work of Jesus and so when he returns, and every knee bows to acknowledge his wonder, this will be part of the reason for all the praise he receives. Our lives have the means of glorifying Jesus!

Which brings us to the first part of the verse that most Christians struggle with and focus upon: Count it pure joywhen these things happen to you. Why? For the reasons we have been seeing: because we are taking part in God’s strategy which strengthens us, reveals us for who we are, encourages us as we realise that we can cope with His grace. It also brings great glory to Jesus as we triumph as he, standing alongside us is working out the Father’s purposes and bringing good out of every situation for us. Wow!  Rejoicing in whatever life is holding for you at the moment? Go for it!

17. Needs within Despair

The Anguish of Job – Meditation 17

Job 6:14 A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.

Our opening verse today sums up what follows. Job has just expressed his sense if inability to help himself. This is an important point for those of us who would call ourselves ‘friends’ or even ‘comforters’. In the depths of despair, our friend feels utterly unable to do anything about it. I have rarely experienced depression, but on the odd occasion when it has occurred, I have been aware that there was no point someone saying to me, “Come on, snap out of it!” You just feel utterly incapable of doing anything that will change what you feel. Now that may not be so in reality but that is what you ‘feel’ at that point. Job identifies himself as a ‘despairing man’. That is what he feels – despair – a sense of utter loss and hopelessness. Have you realised that these studies are not only about how to be a comforter, but also about the depths that human experience can go to?

What is Job’s primary need in this state of despair? Devotion of his friends! What does devotion mean in this context? It means stick-ability! The ability to stay close to our friend! Now that needs thinking about. Our friend has gone down into the depths of despair and they feel alone, utterly isolated in their blackness. What they need is a sense of someone alongside them, there in the blackness, someone who understands it and is there for them, utterly accepting and without judgment. I have commented before about a girl I knew who was in the depths of mental illness, in the blackness of utter confusion, and yet, as I related to her, I sensed the presence of the Lord with her, right there in the midst of that confusion, a loving, caring and accepting Presence, there for her. Can we be Jesus to our friend in these circumstances? Only with the grace and enabling of God!

That is what Job needs, but what has he received? See how he continues. He paints a vivid picture: “But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow when darkened by thawing ice and swollen with melting snow, but that cease to flow in the dry season, and in the heat vanish from their channels.” (v.15-17) Oh, what a condemnation of us perhaps! My brothers are undependable. Job wants people he can depend upon, people who will always be there for him, but they are not like that, these ‘friends’. They are, he says, like streams that get filled and deep in the winter but in the summer dry up and disappear.

He paints the picture some more: “Caravans turn aside from their routes; they go up into the wasteland and perish. The caravans of Tema look for water, the traveling merchants of Sheba look in hope.” (v.18,19) He imagines Arab caravans in the wilderness, searching desperately for water in these streams, but there is done, just like he’s searching desperately for a life-giving resource in his friends. He sees how those Arab traders respond to their plight: “They are distressed, because they had been confident; they arrive there, only to be disappointed,” (v.20) just like he had been. When his friends had turned up there had been confident hope, but as Eliphaz started out, he was disappointed. He concludes: “Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid.” (v.21). They had come and seen him and saw him as ‘ something dreadful’ and their hearts fell and they were fearful. What, they thought, had happened to him? What had God done to him? And they jumped to wrong conclusions.

As he thinks about this, he muses, what have I ever asked from you except simple friendship: “Have I ever said, `Give something on my behalf, pay a ransom for me from your wealth, deliver me from the hand of the enemy, ransom me from the clutches of the ruthless’?” (v.22,23). Had he ever made demands of them that required them to pay out, or come to his aid against enemies? No, never. He only asked for simple, accepting friendship. Look, he says, I’m open for you to show me if I am genuinely wrong: “Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong.” (v.24). I realise that honest words can be painful, but I’ve listened to what you’ve said and you prove nothing: “How painful are honest words! But what do your arguments prove?” (v.25) Why are you bothering to try and correct the words of a despairing man, words which you want to write off as just meaningless like wind : “Do you mean to correct what I say, and treat the words of a despairing man as wind?” (v.26). This seems so heartless that you give me the impression that, “You would even cast lots for the fatherless and barter away your friend.” (v.27).

And then he makes a final plea: “But now be so kind as to look at me. Would I lie to your face?” (v.28) Please, look me in the face. I’m trying to be honest, I wouldn’t lie to you, I would tell you if I had sinned (implied). He goes on, “Relent, do not be unjust; reconsider, for my integrity is at stake.” (v.29). Please, step back from this stand you’ve taken against me, be fair, because this is my integrity and my reputation you are talking about here. And finally, “Is there any wickedness on my lips? Can my mouth not discern malice?” (v.30) Please, listen carefully. Am I saying anything that is patently wicked? Have I not always been careful what I say, please be gentle with me!

These are the pleas of this man of integrity whose only ‘sin’ is to be in the midst of immense suffering for apparently no reason. The reason, as we had the privilege of seeing, is that he is going through God’s testing process, but it’s a process that doesn’t only test him; it also tests his three friends! If we are such a ‘friend’ we need to realise that when our friends are in trouble, it is also a test for us!

God seems harsh?

‘WHY?’ QUESTIONS No.7

Ex 32:11 But Moses sought the favour of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?

If it sometimes seems there are many questions about what God is doing or where He is, there are also questions about what He seems to feel about situations. Within Scripture at least, there are times when God’s behaviour is questionable. Those of shallow disposition who refuse to think about these things, just criticise Him – but that is a reflection on them, not Him! Only recently someone said to me, “I prayed for my daughter for a job which I’ sure would be just right for her, but she didn’t get it.” We look at situations and wonder why God didn’t turn up for us. We look at situations and wonder sometimes why everything seems to be going wrong. We look at situations which seem to be of God’s making and wonder whatever He is doing. From our perspective it’s often a confusing world – but then, as we’ve observed before, our perspective is a very limited one. But it’s understanding what God is feeling, that is sometimes particularly difficult.

Let’s see what is happening now with Moses in our verse today. Moses is still up the mountain with God. He’s been there forty days and down below the people first became restive, then impatient and then worried, and the upshot of all that was that they persuaded Aaron to make an image of a golden calf that they could use to focus on in the absence of God and Moses. The Lord sees this and instructs Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt” (Ex 32:7) and He explains what they have done, concluding with, “I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

The Lord’s intention is quite clear. He wants to completely destroy this nation and will start again with Moses and make a new nation out of him and his family. This seems incredibly harsh, but what an amazing opportunity for Moses. To be shot of this people who have already been a nuisance to lead, and to simply have a relationship with the Lord without them. What an opportunity! How will He respond to this? Not as we might expect. But Moses sought the favour of the LORD his God. Surely he’s already got the Lord’s favour by what the Lord has offered him. No, he’s going to ask for something completely different. He’s going to ask something that is completely the opposite to what the Lord has said He’s going to do. He asks why the Lord will do this. He is obviously questioning or challenging the Lord as to His intentions. Already there is the implication, why destroy this people that you have taken so much trouble to deliver from Egypt? But see how he continues.

Why should the Egyptians say,`It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel , to whom you swore by your own self: `I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.” (Ex 32:12,13) What is he saying?  Well first he is saying that if He destroys them, the Lord’s reputation in the world will be nothing: Why should the Egyptians say. He doesn’t want the Lord’s name to be abused by the Egyptians – What a God! All He can do is destroy people! Second, he reminds the Lord of His stated covenant with the Patriarchs to whom He had promised the Land. If he destroys this people now, He will be throwing away that promise.

Now doesn’t the Lord know this? Does He need Moses to remind Him of these things? No of course He doesn’t! So why is it happening? Because He is testing Moses! He wants Moses to reveal his heart, a heart that is willing to lay down his glory for the reputation and glory of the Lord. The Lord always knows how we would respond in given situations but sometimes we need to go through them to know ourselves how we would respond. The revelation will do things for us.

So why do we go through perplexing or difficult situations? To see how we will respond! James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (Jas 1:2-4) Yes, our faith is tested, we are proved, by such things and they work in us to change us and mature us in variety of ways. So a difficult and perplexing situation comes along and you cry out to the Lord – and He seems to remain silent. How will you respond? With faith, or if you like, faithfully. Will you remain faithful to God’s heart and character when nothing else seems clear? When God’s ways seem unclear and you are left wondering, will you still remain true to His heart of love, peace, gentleness and goodness? Whatever comes along, will you remain true to Him? That is what this is all about. That’s what the Lord is working to achieve in Moses – and in you and me.