Tag Archives: Moses

192 Burning Bush (Scripture 8)

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“And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.”

Exodus 3:2 ESV

photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

 

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Veil of Tears 109: Daunted

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Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” Judges 6:15 NIV

 

When God first hints at something he wants us to do, and we hear the command, or the whisper, or the suggestion, however it may come to us, there is first a feeling of exhilaration that the Lord wants us to do something for him, and quick as a flash on the heels of that joy comes the blinking into the bright light daunted-ness of, hang on, you want ME to do WHAT? And then comes the clammy hand of fear on our backs and our feet, light as air a minute ago, now feel like someone poured concrete over them, and we are stuck fast in the mire of doubt.

But God speaks the same words over and over to his people when they feel daunted or uncertain of the way forward. “Take heart,” “Be courageous,” “am I not sending you?” for the cure for feeling daunted is obedience in faith. As long as we understand who is doing the sending, we can go. As long as we know that it is God’s work and he is the doer of it, we can move forward.

Gideon had no hope of victory with his tiny army. And yet when he expressed doubt, God reduced it still further. He sharpened the tools Gideon had, and paid no attention to quantity, only quality. And Gideon had the sense to see that he was being used of God. When that is happening, we can be confident the outcome is entirely in God’s hands. The Living God loves using the poor, the weak, the helpless for his causes. He does it to show us that he is in charge. It doesn’t mean that the work is necessarily easy, or that we won’t falter somewhere along the way, but it does mean that we can be assured that we are weapons being wielded by a higher power, with no need to rely on our own strength.

In the Bible we see this over and over again with Joseph, David, Joshua, Rahab, Elijah and Elisha to name just a few. Like Moses before the burning bush, we may stammer and be full of excuses, but if we are truly called, we will be unstoppable. Not because of our greatness, capabilities or strength, but because, like the five small stones in the pouch of a shepherd boy-king, we are going to be fired by his mighty hand.

 

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

99: Trying too Hard

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What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labour under the sun?” Ecclesiastes 2:22 NIV

It is good to work. If you are blessed with having found work, especially the work you feel God prepared in advance for you to do, as Paul expresses it in Ephesians, then you are a fortunate person indeed. The writer of the book of Eccles (as you know by now I call it) is not keen on the idea of work, labour or storing things up for oneself. He rightly tells us that we can’t take any of it with us when we die, that life is short and that most of it seems pretty pointless.

He’s not the cheeriest of chaps, really, old Eccles. I am not sure I’d want to spend a great deal of time with him. I don’t think he’d be one of my choices in that game of fantasy dinner guests. And yet, when I am feeling low, I agree with him. If I am down and exhausted, the thing I’m most likely asking myself is “What’s the point?” It can feel like all the pain and effort, all the trying, all the striving, is all for nothing. Even the things that I enjoy doing, like writing and art, seem like just so much chaff blowing away on the wind.

Perhaps the best thing we can do with this realisation is to embrace it. There really is no point storing up earthly wealth, so that ambition can be let go. Being poor is not a lot of fun though, and debt leads to a great many problems as well as terrible stress, and perhaps this wasn’t something that preoccupied the writer of Eccles that much as he is widely believed to be King Solomon, who wasn’t exactly short of a bob or two. So, once needs are met, we might say, there is not much point chasing after wealth or status for its own sake.

So what is worth striving for? What is worth going after? Fame? Wisdom? Pleasure? No, our advisor doesn’t find these things worth the trouble either. So what then? What is that pearl of great price that Jesus mentions? That treasure that is so great that we should immediately go and sell all we have to procure?

When I think about this, I think of Moses. He lived to the ripe old age of 120 with none of his faculties diminished, after having spent 40 years maturing, another 40 regretting a crime and becoming humble, and finally 40 years serving the Lord faithfully. And yet at the end of all that, he did not get to enter the Promised Land with his people.

We might well say his reward was to come later. That he was to enter a different Promised Land and walk with his God. Yes, that’s true. But for Moses, that eternity had already begun. He was already walking with God, and more intimately than with anyone else who had come before, it seems.

he said, “Listen to my words:

“When there is a prophet among you,

I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,

I speak to them in dreams.

But this is not true of my servant Moses;

he is faithful in all my house.

With him I speak face to face,

clearly and not in riddles;

he sees the form of the Lord.” Numbers 12: 6-8 NIV

Likewise, when Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus sits at the feet of Jesus to adore him and learn from him, Jesus calls this “the one necessary (or needful) thing.” Relationship with the Lord, then is the key to the meaning of life. This is where we begin our eternity and how we are led deeper into it. In gazing more and more at the Lord of all things, into the heart of love itself, the more the peripery, the other fields, the lesser pearls, all fade into nothingness and we can be sure that we have found something meaningful under the sun, something worth pursuing, worth going after. And the best thing is that it is not something we need to strive for, but something that we simply choose.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 NIV

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

 

65: Excuses

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But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Exodus 4:13 NIV

Before this last attempt to wriggle out of being God’s instrument, there are a number of others. Who am I to do this? Who shall I say sent me? What if they don’t believe me? What if they don’t believe me even with the miraculous signs? I can’t speak very well and am too slow. Finally, Moses runs out of excuses and says very honestly what he’s been trying to say for the whole encounter, actually Lord, I’d rather you sent someone else.

Don’t we all do this? Isn’t Moses so delightfully and frustratingly human? I admit, that, when attending charismatic churches, where they were very open to words and prophecies being shared, and when spaces were left for such things, I found myself sitting there wringing my hands and praying silently, please don’t ask me Lord, please don’t ask me. Some people are comfortable sharing and speaking publicly and some are terrified of it. Some missions sound frightening at first. But if the Lord is with us, we need not be afraid. I find he sends his peace where it really has no place to be if the calling is genuine, and we find we can walk into our destinies and callings unafraid, or at least, left without excuse!

For even though he runs out of ways to try to squirm free, the Lord is not angry with Moses until this last cowardly salvo. And even then, he has pre-empted Moses and the solution is on its way. Aaron is already coming to meet them. That means that God already knew all the objections Moses was going to have and had already countered them before they were spoken out. That should give us great encouragement! When we are the one who has noticed the strangeness of the burning bush that is not consumed by the fire, we are ready, and the Lord knows our fears and the doubts in our heart before he asks us to do something. Not only this, but he has already factored in the answers. We serve a mighty and caring God!

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

photo from Pixabay used under creative commons license.

 

 

61: Unclean

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Anything that an unclean person touches becomes unclean, and anyone who touches it becomes unclean till evening.” Numbers 19:22 NIV

The Law is full of directions about what is unclean, and the purification rituals that need to be undertaken to bring a person back to cleanliness. To be perfectly honest, it is all so involved that it was a wonder if there were 3 clean people in the whole of Israel at any one time. Many foods are listed as unclean and various animals, as well as practices and bodily functions. The whole thing is a minefield that took some negotiating. Staying clean was a full time occupation, and quite clearly, especially for women, impossible, which to my mind is part of the point of the law. We need to first understand the impossibility of saving ourselves, of being holy, before we can take on board the need for a holy saviour who can free us by grace.

We might think that these days and especially as Christians that we are free from the attitude that lies behind these laws and the obsession with cleanliness and perceived sin that they inspire. But we’d be wrong. There are just whole new ways of being unclean. Spend time in any organisation, yes, including churches, and you will find that there are certain things or ways of being that are unacceptable, or that will get you ridiculed, disrespected or even thrown out, and that will certainly get you avoided. Being chronically ill can be one of them. There are a lot of modern day lepers. Being mentally ill, poor, difficult to talk to, riddled with problems or addictions, wearing the “wrong” clothes, voicing the “wrong” opinions or even rocking the boat or questioning the status quo, all these things and more can mean that you end up feeling like you should be wandering outside the city gates with a bell around your neck.

But the truth is as Paul saw it, much more in our minds than in any objective purity, for as he said, “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.” Romans 14:14 NIV   The purity or lack of purity in something is all perception. If we see riches and designer clothes as pure, the poor and the hoody-wearers will seem unclean to us. If we think our Sunday roasts are sacrosanct family time we might well avoid tofu-eating hippies (like me!), or people who work on the Sabbath.

If we are men struggling with sexual self-discipline, women’s bodies will need to be far more covered up so that we don’t see their “uncleanness” even though it is our own lusts that are unsavoury. We project our judgement onto others, and we can often tell our own unclean areas by the things we find distasteful in others. It works the same way with religious orthodoxy. The truth is that anyone or anything can become unclean to us if it helps us feel superior or more sure of ourselves.

The good news is that all of this antagonism and self-righteousness can be dropped if we truly hear the gospel and seek to live it out. We are all saved by grace and not one of us has the right to proclaim another unclean, since we understand that we were all lifted from the pigpen by the same hand, and that we all fall back (or even sneak back) to the mud from time to time, needing a good hosing down before we smell quite as fragrant as we imagine we do.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

55: Out of Control

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Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies.” Exodus 32:25

 

People without boundaries is generally not a pretty sight. The Israelites were in dire need of some rules, and Moses was about to give them just that. No wonder, when he saw what fools they were making of themselves, that he gave them quite so many! The ten commandments were just the beginning, and these straight from the Lord.

We tend to look at the rules as constricting things that limit our freedom, but God knows that too much freedom is a dangerous thing. If we do as please we generally end up like chickens loose on a motorway, running wild and causing mayhem. Similar to small children who push all the limits just to see how far they can go, to discover where the edges of acceptability are, we start out on our spiritual journey trying out the freedom that we imagine we have. But as Paul so wisely says, everything is permissible to me, but not everything is good for me (1 Corinthians 6:12). Rules are generally there for our good, and God’s rules created for that very purpose.

We moan endlessly today about the strenuous health and safety regulations we have to negotiate to get things done, but we forget that many people died or suffered terrible accidents before we had these laws to protect us. In the same way, people say they don’t want to suffer the restrictions of living out the discipline of a religious life. “We won’t have any fun!” is their very real concern. It is not until we know and understand that God is our loving parent, wanting us to come to no harm, that we start to see that the rules are there for our own benefit.

For when we do get out of control, it is rather like getting drunk – it’s stupid as well as dangerous. We can become a mockery. Our sex lives, which the mosaic law is so incredibly fussy about, are a good example. Out of control, giving in to every whim and fancy, means that we are prone to disease, heartbreak, a lack of emotional stability, and come to an overreliance on looks and pleasure that make us open to attack, coercion and abuse. If we live promiscuously we also miss out on the rewards of a monogamous, trusting and loving relationship that stays exclusive. Marriage is often hard work, but it bears great fruit, and a lasting love is something we all want and which does us tremendous good. The Lord knows this, because he made us that way, and he understand far better than we do the kind of harm that frivolous living and selfish ways do to us.

Left to our own devices we do laughable things. We do what we have specifically been told not to. Like teenagers left alone in the house for the first time, the Israelites perhaps do the inevitable equivalent of raiding the drinks cabinet, making a golden idol to worship. It’s foolish, it makes them a laughing stock, and Moses, like the weary parent arriving home, is furious, smashing God’s commandments. But rather than grounding, the day ends in a great amount of killing, for the Levites are commanded to punish the people by the sword and over three thousand are killed. This being out of control is clearly no laughing matter.

Thankfully, in Christ, every time we find ourselves out of control, we can turn back to the Lord and start over. Thank God that his mercies are indeed fresh every morning. We may never, in this lifetime, reach a point where we stop making stupid mistakes, nor can we always refrain from breaking the rules; but we can, by prayer and discipline, create good habits and begin to learn to walk in the Lord’s ways, trusting that he truly does know best.

We find perhaps, in the end, that our greatest freedoms are found within obedience, that the sheepfold is fenced for a reason and is the safest place for our Good Shepherd to guard us from wolves, and the best starting place for herding us in the right direction.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com