Monday, June 26, 2017

Who Else, but God?!!!

We live in an age of unprecedented wealth, knowledge, scientific discovery, and technological advancements.  Our world is often one of rationalism and reason, where the mysteries of the universe are simply there for us to unravel.  We observe the seasons and the weather, and do our best to predict the patterns of nature.  It’s not only possible to circumvent the globe in less than 36 hours, we’ve even landed on the moon!  The people at the Tower of Babel would envy us – we’ve actually made it to the heavens and we’ve learned how to translate almost any language in the world.

          The fact is, we live in a world that can be broken down into countless ologies.  If we want to understand the earth, we dig into geology.  If we are interested in how our bodies function, we slice into biology.  If we have trouble understanding why people behave the way they do, we define their actions through sociology.  And people who are obsessed with the future, sadly, sometimes gaze into astrology.  But in all of our studies, if we aren’t careful, we might ignore the ultimate source behind all that we witness in our world.  To answer the truly important – the really big questions in life – we need to wade into the waters of theology.  In other words, we need to engage in the study of God.

          Sometimes, when people begin to recount the numerous ways that God has been active in their lives, I get just a little uneasy.  If someone is convinced that God led them to the perfect parking space at the store, I begin to question if they really understand God’s overarching purposes for the universe.  But I must be careful not to become too cynical or jaded when people genuinely notice God’s hand at work in their lives.  I need to make sure that I don’t become so accustomed to the rational world in which we live, that I wind up leaving very little room for the divine presence to be seen and felt.  God is at work in our world, just as he has been at work in the history of humankind from the beginning of creation.  I need my eyes to be open to what God is doing all around me. 

          It was obvious that God was at work in the lives of the people of Israel in the book of Exodus.  But though his signs and wonders were so very clear, Pharaoh consistently hardened his heart to what YHWH was doing in the plagues and through the ministries of Moses and Aaron.  In fact, it was this hardness to God’s presence that eventually led Pharaoh and his army to a premature death in the waters of chaos.

          It’s interesting to look at this story in retrospect.  If you move from the earlier parts of Exodus to the middle, you come to a transitional passage in the 18th chapter of the book.  Here, the people are finally camped at the Mountain of God, Sinai, and Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, has journeyed to this spot because he has heard about what God has done for Moses and Israel.  Though Pharaoh was blind to the maneuvers of YHWH, Jethro is not.  He sees that something special is at work, and who else could it be, but God? 

“Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had beset them on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them.  Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the Egyptians.  Jethro said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh.  Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because he delivered the people from the Egyptians, when they dealt arrogantly with them.’  And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God.” (Exodus 18:8-12, NRSV).

          Scripture doesn’t tell us very much about exactly who Moses’ father-in-law is, or when he becomes a believer in YHWH.  What we do know is that he is a priest in Midian.  Recent discoveries have shown that shepherds who lived in Midian around the time of the Exodus worshipped a God they called YHWH.  So, it could be that Jethro is already familiar with the God of Israel.  At any rate, Jethro sees that Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and their safe passage through the wilderness could not be accounted for by anything but God’s grace and providence.  Who else, but God!

          Who else but God could lead Israel to Egypt in the first place?  It was God’s divine providence that saved the sons of Jacob so many years before.  Who else but God could save the life of the baby Moses through a reed basket and eventually lead him into the wilderness of Midian where he met his destiny at the burning bush?  Who else but God could deal plague after plague on the false gods of Egypt and Pharaoh, while still protecting his own people?  Who else but God could strike the first-born sons?  Who else but God could save the people through the chaos waters of the sea?  Who else but God could provide the people with something to drink when they were thirsty, not once, but twice?  And when they were hungry and longing for the pots of meat back in Egypt, who else but God could provide manna to eat?  When the Amalekites came out to battle Israel in the desert, who else but God could deliver them to victory?  If not God, then who else? 

          Jethro has heard of all that God has done for Moses and for Israel.  He has seen the Almighty at work.  He cannot help but proclaim that God is both sovereign and gracious!

          Jethro doesn’t seek a naturalistic explanation for the miracle of the sea.  And according to Jethro, it’s not just by coincidence that YHWH has led his people to the Mountain of God.  There is a deeper, far reaching, theological purpose for God’s actions on behalf Israel.  (This is another step in God’s eventual reclamation of the entire universe.)  God’s wonders are plain to see, and Jethro is willing to gaze in astonishment upon them.  And with his mouth, and with his life, he offers up praises to this God!  His God!

          God’s wonders in our world are also plain to see, but are we willing to see them?  If we’re not careful, we might find ourselves more in tune with the surrounding culture, than with what God is doing around us.  Through the good and the bad, God is at work, and yet, we might sometimes fail to give him thanks for what he is doing.  When we narrowly escape an accident on the highway, do we think, “Weren’t we lucky!”?  Or, when God uses one of our friends to encourage us and to give us advice, we might be quick to thank our friend, but slow to remember the God who gave that friend to us.  When we pray to God to deliver us from some difficult circumstance, and he does deliver us, do we chalk it up to our faithfulness in prayer, or do we give glory to the God who faithfully answers our prayers?  God is working wonders all around us, but we must have eyes that are open to see all that God is doing. 

          A Scottish man named Billy Wilson penned a song in 2000 which really resonates in our age of human self-sufficiency.  The song is titled, Father I Believe and the words make a powerful point.

Who says miracles don’t happen anymore?

And who says God can only do what we afford?

Why so many spend so long trying to ignore,

Every sign of life, every sign of hope, everything before.

Such a sad affair when living to deny.

Where every work of wonderful is written off in time.

The God of old responds to faith, but now he doesn’t try.

Isn’t that absurd?  Isn’t that a joke?  Isn’t that a crime?

Father, I believe!  Help my unbelief!

And if you tell me mountains will move, then I will walk as I believe.

A Syro-Phoenician lady, wasn’t due a thing.

She came for the crumbs from the table, but she left with everything.

Lowered into Jesus’ presence, lifted out of sin.

The hearts around him needed proof, so he left with everything.

Father, I believe!  Help my unbelief!

And if you tell me mountains will move, then I will walk as I believe.

I will walk as I believe.

          Wilson’s words especially hit home with the line, “Father, I believe, help my unbelief!”  Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?  You have a little bit of faith, but you long to believe more.  We see God’s work all around us and we want to be like Jethro and let everyone know what God is doing in our lives and in the church, but we sometimes falter in our boldness.  Or, sometimes, when things don’t go as we would like them to go, we may find it hard to believe that God is still active and working.  But we need to trust that he is still working – even when we don’t see it, or when we don’t understand what he’s up to.  In these moments, we would do well to pray, “Father, I believe, help my unbelief!”

          And there are some things by God’s grace that we can do to more clearly see God’s work in our lives.  We must acknowledge that God is both sovereign and gracious.  First, by acknowledging God’s sovereignty we will be more open to let his kingdom reign into every facet of our existence.  There should be no areas of our lives that are not touched by God’s presence.  From the moment we rise in the morning, until the moment we drop our heads on our pillows, Christ’s presence should be evident in all that we say and in all that we do.  Secondly, by acknowledging God’s graciousness through our thankfulness to him and in our worship of him, we become more aware of what God is doing around us.  We should not relegate these times of thanksgiving and praise only to prayers before meals, devotionals, Bible classes, or church services.  They should be a part of every daily activity in which we participate.  Through this and the encouragement we receive from one another, we will be better able to see God and his actions in our lives and in this world.  Someone is at work in us – someone is at work in you – someone is at work in me.  And who else could that be, but God?!!! - Shay

No comments:

Post a Comment