Worshipful Wednesday: The God of the Afflicted

The Afflicted.png

Inspirational Thought of the day:

God chose to identify with the lowly and lifts them up.

Scripture:

Psalm 9:19-13

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. 10  And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. 11  Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds! 12  For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted. 13  Be gracious to me, O LordSee my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death.”

Psalm 10:14

“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”

Psalm 10:17

“You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.”

Have you ever felt like no one notices you?  Or perhaps no one understands or knows the anguish of your soul?  Silently you suffer, wondering if anyone cares?  There is One Who knows – intimately – every worry or care that floods our minds, every burden we try to pretend is not there.  Jesus.

Every slight you feel, pain you endure – none of it is hidden from God’s keen view.  He longs for us to bring it to Him and lay it at His feet, but sometimes we think we can either bear the burden on our own or that he is not able to remove it from us.

it is not until we reflect on this God Who would choose to be counted as one of us – and not as a popular one of us, but as an afflicted one Himself, that we begin to see His ability to help us to do the same.

Joyfully He bore His cross.  How can that be?  Solely by the grace of God and the God Who helps us see past temporary burdens that can serve as stepping stones to be more like Him instead of enduring through some circumstance we regret.  May we be counted worthy to walk through suffering for the glory of God and not our own.

More than the praise or sympathy from any created person, we have the empathy of the Creator Himself, Who has truly been there and is able to completely understand and enable us to walk the same road he did – with victory.

Lord, thank you for showing us how to walk through this lift filled with burdens and cares.  Thank You for choosing to be afflicted, choosing to die for our sins so we could be saved.  May our light and momentary troubles be seen as just they are – temporary afflictions that lead us closer to you.

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

Photo Credits: halepringle.com

Photo Credits:
halepringle.com

Exodus 13:9

It will be a sign for you on your hand and a memorial on your forehead, so that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth, for with a mighty hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt. 17 When Pharaoh released the people, God did not lead them by the way to the land of the Philistines, although that was nearby, for God said, “Lest the people change their minds and return to Egypt when they experience war.”

Exodus 14:4

“I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them. I will gain honor because of Pharaoh and because of all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” So this is what they did.

Exodus 16:3-4

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this desert to kill this whole assembly with hunger!” 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people will go out and gather the amount for each day, so that I may test them. Will they walk in my law or not?

With a mighty hand God delivered His people, yet three days after many miracles, including parting a sea, granting favor to the Israelites so they plundered their enemies and prophesying and fulfilling 10 plagues, they doubted God.  They replaced the faith they had learned to have in God quickly with fear and doubted God’s goodness and character.

God’s people did not understand His purposes and looked at their circumstances of discomfort and misinterpreted them.  A good God would never have them wonder if God would faithfully provide, would he?  Why would He test them?  Because He knew their tendency was toward the superficial.  They wanted to be provided for, but did not expect that a relationship with God would mean they would have to go without to make them see their need of Him.

God knew them and their tendencies to go astray, but they were not acquainted with God’s nature.  We often displace our own character flaws on others, but God has none.  The LORD wanted them to know Him.  He wanted even their enemies, the Egyptians, to know Him.  He wanted them to learn to walk faithfully with Him.

The Israelites had forgotten their purpose.  The main thing for them became their happiness.  They became self-focused and disillusioned when trials came.  They began to think that the grass was greener on the other side, but forgot that the other side was slavery.  Suddenly the “feast” they used to eat while there was embellished to be something they missed.

We might think this happened only in Old Testament times, or with an unintelligent people who were ignorant of God’s plan, but we, too, are easily distracted and forget what we have been saved from.  We forget our purpose, our mission.

We become enchanted by the world or begin to be lulled into thinking this world system and the here and now are the most important.  Eternity hangs in the balance for all those around us, yet we are often preoccupied with worries of this world and distracted with trivial things.

The Israelites thought God’s deliverance was all about them.  They focused on their freedom or on the comforts they wanted. God’s purposes always run far deeper than ours.  He chose us and wants to use us for His glory.  He loves the world and does not want any to perish.  God help us to keep the main thing the main thing . . . knowing Jesus and making Him known.

Lord, help us to remember daily Your promises and to fulfill the mission You have called us to.  Help us to keep You at the center of our lives and your salvation as the main purpose of our lives.

The Progressive Slippery Slope in a Vaccuum

Exodus 24:3

“Moses came and told the people all the LORD’s words and all the decisions.  All the people answered together, ‘We are willing to do all the words that the LORD has said.'”

Exodus 24:9-11

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel.  Under his feet there was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear like the sky itself.  But he did not lay a hand on the leaders of the Israelites, so they saw God, and they ate and drank.”

Exodus 32:1

“When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Get up, make us gods that will go before us.  As for this fellow Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him!”

Exodus 32:4

So Aaron “accepted the gold from them, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molten calf.  They they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'”

Forty days.  The number forty is a common duration for a time of testing many times in the bible.  Forty days of rain on the ark, forty years wandering in the desert, Jesus was tempted fourty days in the desert and Moses was on the mountain forty days, two separate times, hearing the commandments of God, to name a few.  Forty days goes by in a flash in our home.  Months come and go, years fly by.  But I guess to the Israelites, it seemed never-ending.  Certainly if one was suffering significantly, time would drag on.  But to God’s people at the bottom of the mountain, one would think there was great anticipation.  One would think that the meal with God that Aaron witnessed, coupled with thundering on top of the mountain would serve as vivid reminders that Almighty God was very near, indeed.

But somehow in that vacuum, in that moment of dearth, not hearing from God, the people of God longed to fill that void with something.  They wanted to worship, but impatiently accepted a counterfeit.  I wonder if there was a plethora of rationalizing going on – how did they ever arrive at it being acceptable to worship a golden calf in such a short amount of time?  Particularly troubling to me is that Aaron suggested the people donate golden objects and made the calf himself.  He had just encountered the living God.  How could he so quickly be deceived?  Was it peer pressure?  The sheep pressing in on him and he feared them more than God at that moment?  And the sheep – they had just stated that they were willing to do all the words that God had said.

This hypocrisy and seemingly blatant rebellion seems odd until I contemplate my own walk.  Evidence of lukewarmedness and blindness to our own faults can be seen if we are willing to let down our guard of self righteousness and self-protection.  I well recall the early days of my salvation, standing and sharing the gospel to a small crowd at the University of Maryland, being persecuted in class for being a Christian.  I recall many moments of victory in the past twenty-six years through various trials, where God grew my faith exponentially.  Candidly, I also recall being tested severely and beginning to lose my way, save the grace of God.  I started strong – though I was crushed, I would run to His word.  But in the lengthiness of the trial, I began to get confused and wondered when God was going to deliver me.  I began to compromise and look for a counterfeit to relieve my pain.  I am no better than the Israelites.  My trial was seven years of hardship, pressed on every side, not forty days, but I emphathize with the Israelites.  They wanted to follow God, but quickly chose an alternative god to appease their spiritual paucity.  In their moment of being deceived, they could not see clearly and needed a leader to guide them.  Their leader failed.

Humbling to us leaders, it is terrifying to think that we bear the responsibility of leading someone astray.  Shockingly, Aaron lied when confronted with his waywardness.  Somehow a golden calf popped out of the fire.  Wow, really?  As hard as it is to admit that we, too, have gone off the path, it is far better to confess and renounce our shortcomings and move forward in the new humility gained from our failure.  The former pride at imperceived righteousness that was our own, has been replaced with the knowledge of our own failure, which reminds us that it has never been our own righteousness, after all.

If you are a leader or a believer who has fallen short, you stand in a great cloud of witnesses who have also gone before us and failed.  David, too, a man after God’s own heart, murdered and committed adultery, yet later he would cry out to God in Psalm 51, for God to “restore unto me the joy of my salvation and renew a right spirit within me”.  It is easy to get lost in the vacuum or in severe trials and forget our mission and purpose in Christ.  But those mistakes, those blemishes we wish could be removed from our record are actually a means of grace to humble us and can make us more useful for the kingdom of God.  Thank God for second chances and His grace.

Maybe you have not yet endured a severe time of testing.  If not, count yourself blessed, but be ready.  Times of dryness, of not hearing from God can be around the next corner – will you cave in to comfort around you, or wait as long as it takes until you encounter the living God?  We might not have a warning sign cautioning us that the potential to slip is ahead, but we do have the Holy Spirit guiding us, if we listen.

Lord, I want to be near to You always.  I never want to drift away and walk in a manner that displeases you.  Please grant us grace to be aware of spiritual dangers that lie ahead and to walk humbly before you.  Help us to remember all You have done and to not forget when the heat is turned up or You seem far away.

What is Your Egypt: The Sovereignty of God

Egypt

Exodus 2:24-25
God heard their groaning, God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the Israelites and God understood.”

Exodus 3:9
“And now indeed, the cry of the Israelites has come to me, and I have also seen how severely the Egyptians oppress them.”

Why did the Israelites have to be held captive in Egypt? God knew the Israelites would starve had it not been for sending Joseph to Egypt, and that a difficult calling. Blessed in the land of Egypt, later they found themselves resident in a land that discriminated against them and persecuted them viciously. Was this what God intended?

What I love about the story of the Israelites is God’s amazing sovereignty throughout. He brought the Israelites to Egypt because He knew a famine was coming. He chose Moses from a Levitical tribe. He had Pharaoh’s daughter find Moses, which preserved his life, then provided his sister, Miriam, to find his mother as a nursemaid. Later, God would have Moses find Jethro, who would become his father-in-law, and then lead Moses to deliver His people from Egypt to the promised land.

Perhaps you are in Egypt now – not the literal Egypt, of course, but a time of suffering and testing, holding you captive. Have you believed the lie that you will never be set free? Assuredly we cannot escape Egypt unscathed or scarred by the painful memories of that experience, but we can see those oppressive moments redeemed and used for good in our life and in the lives of others. Reflecting on how God provided for the Israelites and always knew the end can give courage to our souls that this same God will not abandon us. He knows. He sees. He understands.

Sometimes surviving in and even recovering from Egypt can take awhile, but knowing that even in those moments of sorrow, God has intentions far beyond what we could imagine. Nothing is wasted in God’s kingdom. Seemingly forgotten in your Egypt, God knew all along how He was going to fashion the fabric of your life with material that was deemed ugly combined with what He deemed beautiful. By the way, God still hears the cries of His children…cry out to Him today, not just for yourself but for others, too, who need some encouragement during their stay in Egypt.

Lord, thank You that You are sovereign! Nothing is hidden from You and You are faithful to weave our difficulties with moments of triumph, all for your magnificent glory!