Do you draw closer to God in your trials, or do you drift farther away from Him? Every trial is going to have some kind of effect on your relationship with God, and it is always going to be one of these two. You are either going to draw nearer to God or you are going to drift farther from Him; there is no in-between.
The difference between people who fall into drifting away and people who draw nearer to God in a trial is faith. People who lack faith rely on their own conceptions of God and become surprised when God acts differently than their ideas. Maybe we have asked before, “Why would a loving God let my dreams get crushed?” “If God is really in control, why is He letting my loved one reject Him no matter how hard I pray?” “I thought God would reward me for working hard, so why am I not succeeding the way I hoped?” We all probably know what it is to be perplexed and drift away when our circumstances contradict what we expected from God. The underlying problem at those times is our lack of faith in God, because we do not have enough knowledge of God. Knowing God is foundational to our entire lives, so if we want to stand a chance against drifting away from God, we need to understand the major building blocks of God’s character.
THE ESSENCE OF GOD’S PERSON
When we last left Moses, he had just encountered the burning bush at Mount Horeb, where God appeared to Him and called him for the task of leading the Israelites out from Egypt. Moses had humbly asked God who he was that God would call him to the task. To assure Moses of success, God had promised Moses that He would go with him and bring the people back to the same mountain to worship Him (verse 12).
“And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’ ” Exodus 3:14
Moses wanted to know who this God was who was making such bold promises to him, so God told him, “I AM WHO I AM” (verse 14). While God only used five of our words at first to reveal Himself, those words are packed with truth about God. The phrase “I AM WHO I AM” basically means that “I am who I will be.” God revealed in this phrase that He is self-existent (He depends on nothing outside of Himself to sustain Him), He is eternal (He is not subject to time), He is unchanging, and He is infinite (He is measureless and limitless). The infinity of God in particular can strengthen our faith in amazing ways. Because God is infinite, we learn that He will always be able to keep His promises, since He will never run out of His resources. We also learn that our ability to understand God is extremely limited; if we could fully understand Him, our minds would be greater than Him and He would not be infinite. This should humble us and motivate us to learn more about God- in fact, it should point us to the fact that our entire life should be dedicated to knowing God. According to Jeremiah 9:23-24, the only thing that should matter to us when we look at our entire lives is how well we know God. This was the great ambition of Paul (Philippians 3:8), and the one desire of David (Psalm 27:4). The joy of life is knowing God, and the infinity of God guarantees that there will always be more of God to surprise us along the way.
THE HEART OF GOD’S PLAN
The second major idea that God wanted to reveal to Moses about Himself is all about the heart behind His plans. God had compassion on Israel and was going to save them from their bondage just as they hoped for, but that was not all that God had in mind for them. The heart of His plan is revealed in what He tells Moses to relay to Pharaoh before he leads the Israelites out of Egypt:
“…you shall say to him, ‘The Lord God of the Hebrews has met with us; and now, please, let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ ” Exodus 3:18 b
God was insistent that Moses would highlight the fact that the first thing the Israelites would do when they left would be to worship Him. But God was not interested in telling pharaoh that worship was merely the first thing Israel did chronologically- God was communicating that He wanted His people to worship Him. God did care about the bondage that the Israelites were in, but He cared even more about bringing Israel into a covenant relationship with Him whereby they could worship and glorify Him. God’s primary concern in His plans is the worship of His people: Isaiah 43:7 says that everyone was created for God’s glory, and Isaiah 42:8 says that God will not give His glory to another. God is gracious and compassionate, and He is jealous for His glory at the same time.
We should ask ourselves- when we enter a trial, do we have God’s desire for His glory in mind? Is our first question “Why would God do this to me?” or is it “How does God want to glorify Himself through this?” Our first question should be about how God wants to glorify Himself through our trials, and often, that will even help us understand why God would allow things to happen to us.
GOD’S PURPOSE FOR HIS PEOPLE
Can you imagine the scenario if God had made Israel into a nation without allowing them to go through slavery? If He had not put them through slavery, they would never have learned the virtue of humility. Back in Exodus chapter 2, we saw that Israel finally came to a place of humbly crying out to God after four hundred years of slavery. The heart of man is so proud and depraved that it actually took 400 years until Israel was humbled and finally ready to worship God. Now that they had reached that point, He told Moses that He was going to show “favor” to Israel (verse 21). The word for “favor” in this passage can also be translated “grace,” which we know is the word for God’s unmerited favor. Again in our study of Exodus, we return to the theme that God “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:8, 1 Peter 5:5). We learn from this passage that God is always at work in our lives to instill the virtue of humility in us, without which we cannot receive His grace.
“And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”Exodus 3:21-22
But Israel was not the only one that God wanted to show His grace to. Verse 21 says that God would make sure that the Egyptians saw God’s grace toward Israel. Egypt witnessed God working through the ten plagues, and through the parting of the Red Sea as God brought out His people from slavery to the mighty nation of Egypt. This probably had to be one of the greatest upsets in history so far. As God was intent on showing the power of His grace before the world back then, He is intent on showing the world His grace in the lives of Christians today as well. As we encounter trial in this life, we should be asking God in what ways He wants to show the world His grace through our current situation.
Finally, in a satisfying turn of events, God says that He will cause Egypt to become so eager to send Israel away that they will give the Israelite women their jewelry and treasures just to get them to leave. While God is always first concerned with our worship, He also wants to show us His justice and benevolence. For some of us, we will see this happen in His providence from time to time, but ultimately we know that we have this to look forward when our Lord finally sets everything right dries our every tear. In the mean time, let’s remind ourselves of these foundational truths about God:
In order to know God, we must understand that He is infinite and we are finite.
Always central to God’s plan is the worship of His people.
God executes grace and justice to His people to glorify Himself before the world.
Each Sunday morning begins with a 9:45 am Sunday School hour. We then begin our 11:00 am morning service which runs until approximately 12:15 pm. The service consists of prayer, Bible reading, singing of hymns, and expository preaching from God's...[ abbreviated | read entire ]