Thursday, July 27, 2017

Do We Vent or Pray?

Exo 5:22  Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, "O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me?
Exo 5:23  For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all."
Exo 6:1  But the LORD said to Moses, "Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land."

The above passage is an example of a poor prayer.  If we are truthful, all of us have prayed equally as badly when we think that we know better than God and care about people more than he does.  Yet Moses and no one else in the Bible is ever chided for coming to the Lord with their needs or questions, in fact, we are commanded to do so; “Pray without ceasing”.  As we see in the next verse, the Lord intends to correct Moses’s approach to his problems by trusting in God, not by accusing God of doing something evil.  But even when our faith and prayers are weak and misguided, prayer is necessary and good.  So Moses isn’t chided but neither does the Lord let his prayer go unchallenged.

The great heroes of the faith in the Bible always kept a line of communication open with God; they weren’t in the habit of going to some man to do their praying for them.  We are a kingdom of priests which expressly means that we are free from going through another man.  We can go to God through Christ.  Isn’t that better than having to go through a priest or even your pastor who can never care for you like Jesus and who have no power to help you anyway?  Isn’t it better to be able to pray at any time rather than hoping that I will remember to pray on your behalf?

Asking God why is not sinful providing it is asked honestly and faithfully looking to God for help.  Even weak prayers are not condemned but God uses them to communicate to us.  I think this brings in another good reason for us to have a healthy prayer life.  The world knows that suppressing things is not good; things need to be vented.  The problem is they don’t know how to vent properly.  One popular method of venting is to take your frustrations out on something, like punching a pillow or screaming at the top of your lungs.  If we stop and think about this for a moment we can soon see how foolish and unhelpful this really is.

First of all it isn’t helping the problem.  At best it releases some tension but only for a while because the problem is still there with all its anxiety.  It is also quite self-centered as it exposes someone who can’t handle things when they don’t go in a way that pleases them.  It is merely an adult throwing a socially acceptable temper tantrum.  It is what someone who doesn’t have God on their side does because they really have no recourse for help.  So they are saying that I can’t have my way and I am going to let everyone know that I am not happy.  Fine, but now what?  You haven’t fixed anything and you haven’t dealt with it in a way that will bring peace and certainly not bring honor to the Lord.

Yes, we were designed to vent our frustrations and needs and we can do so by talking things out.  We were made to find relief through prayer to the only One who can help us in a meaningful way and One who loves and cares for us better than anyone else. 

God answers Moses’s prayer by pointing to himself and his power and purpose.  Instead of yelling and throwing a hissy fit because we aren’t getting our way, we can hand things over to the Lord who has told us that everything has a purpose that will ultimately end up for our good.  If there is any piece of knowledge that is more helpful than that, then I would like to hear it.  Talking things out with the Father who has been brought near to us through Jesus’s work, is the only God-honoring effective way to “release tension”; to deal with problems and find peace and comfort in a world in which we “will have tribulation”.  God made us and knows what we need better than we do.  Useful, saving, true faith takes him at his word and rests in his providence. 

Do our prayers reflect faith or accusations like Moses’s did?  One will bring peace, the other will just bring more frustration.




Friday, July 14, 2017

Are We Like Moses or Isaiah?

Exo 4:10  But Moses said to the LORD, "Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue." Exo 4:11  Then the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Exo 4:12  Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak." Exo 4:13  But he said, "Oh, my Lord, please send someone else."

There are a lot of wonderful things to learn from Moses.  No doubt he becomes a great example of a leader who loves his people so much he is willing to die for them.  But like most OT characters there are some lessons to learn that teach us how not to serve the Lord.  The above text is one example.

Few people ever got to meet God, let alone see some aspect of his glory, like Moses did.  While he will see a greater glimpse of God’s glory later on, he has certainly had an amazing revelation of God at the burning bush where among other things he was told the Lord’s name that demonstrated his eternality and self-sufficiency.  But it is precisely because of this encounter with God that the above text stands out.  He soon forgets how glorious the Lord is and asks to be excused from doing what the Lord wants him to do using the excuse that he is insufficient to perform the task. 

This text is sometimes entitled by preachers as “Here I am, send somebody else”.  It is an astoundingly good example of how we are so quick to live by sight and not by faith even when we are given an actual physical demonstration of God’s glory.  Moses has not only seen some of God’s glory in the burning bush but has seen three amazing miracles of his power and yet he can only look at himself and conclude that he can’t obey God because God has not gifted him with the abilities necessary to perform the work. 

Of course, Moses’ failure is that he looks at himself and not the revelation of God.  We easily see ourselves in this because we are experts at making excuses as to why we can’t obey the Lord due to circumstances all around us.  We justify our depressions and unloving attitudes because of things that have happened conveniently forgetting that God allowed those things in order to train and strengthen us, not as an excuse to think only about ourselves and disregard his calling.  We take it upon ourselves to decide that God failed to give us the required gifts needed for a certain task or service even though he clearly commands us to do it.  It is good for us to consider that such thinking is actually an attack on the wisdom of God.  We know that God sees it as such by his response in vs. 11 when he essentially says that Moses is blaming God because God gave him his mouth.

To me, the lesson that screams out from this account is that the Lord is sufficient for us and that nothing is impossible if the Lord commands it.  Case in point: Luk 1:36  And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. Luk 1:37  For nothing will be impossible with God."  If God can cause an elderly woman have a baby then we immediately are without excuses when it comes to doing whatever the Lord would have us do.  Vs. 37 makes it clear that nothing is impossible “with God”.  Nothing God calls us to do is impossible because he will supply the strength.  All things are impossible without God.

Finally, there is an interesting parallel between Moses and Isaiah.  Like Moses, Isaiah also was given an amazing glimpse of God in his glory.  He also saw that in comparison he was a ruined sinner who needed grace, Isa 6:5  And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"  Like Moses he was given a task to take a message to people who would not want to hear God’s Word and would not respond properly.

But the difference between Moses and Isaiah is that when God asked was there anyone up for the task Isaiah says, “Here I am, send me!”  His vision of God encouraged him that he could do the most difficult of tasks.  Moses, upon seeing how little he was compared to God, kept his eyes on himself and so naturally didn’t believe he could do anything.  Thankfully the Lord works with Moses until his confidence (faith) is in God and not in his own abilities.

May the Lord give us a vision of himself in his Word that we abandon all excuses and by faith remove all mountains as we give ourselves totally to his glorious power.  Will we be like Isaiah, eager to obey, or like Moses and blame God for not making us like we think he should have?