Who Is Your Moses?

The Lord told Moses, “Quick!  Go down the mountain! Your people whom you brought from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.”  Exodus 32:7 (NLT)

“You need to talk to your son.”

“Ask your daughter what she did today.”

Over the years remarks like these were occasionally the first words I’d have for my husband after his long day at work and my equally long day of housework and mothering.  I doubt my husband was energized be these words, but sometimes, no matter how loud or often I’d say certain things to our kids, they just needed to hear it from someone else.  Someone who loved them as much as I did, but who would have a different approach to whatever the situation was, and therefore a different ear to listen to their plight as well.

Today’s Old Testament reading can be troubling unless read through the lens of what is true about God eons ago, today and forever:  God is Love.  God loves us.  God can ONLY love us.  He is not capable of anything less.

However, this is also true:  sometimes love hurts.

In today’s Old Testament passage we read how the people of Israel, God’s chosen people, have once again fallen into behaviors of idol worship and have lost faith and trust in God.  God, seeing this, tells Moses to go down and talk to them.  Now, there’s lots more there, too, about God telling Moses to leave him alone with the people and allow his “wrath to consume” them and Moses begging God to “repent of this evil against your people.”  Though this may be frightening, the exchange can be beautiful if we keep two things in mind:  God is Love and love hurts.

Our sins–that is any choices we make that turn us away from God–hurt him.    The people of Israel made choices that hurt God.  And though the emotions and attitude of God are written in a way that personifies him, in the Old Testament God is not a “person” in the sense that we understand the word. But God is often personified, (that is, described in human terms to make the mystery of God more understandable to us), and he is personal, meaning he desires a personal relationship with each one of us, just as he desired to have with the people of Israel so long ago.    This is why, like the people of Israel, when we choose to turn away from a relationship with God, it is personal to him, and it hurts him.  (And though we may not realize it at the time, it hurts us, too.)

But God never gives up on us!

Instead, through the proper lens, we can see that God uses someone to intercede for him.  And in today’s reading that someone is Moses.  Though God is perfectly capable of doing whatever he wants in that moment, he chooses Moses to return to the people and plead with them to change their ways and put their trust back in God.

I can’t help but smile at the words the ancient writer of Exodus (whom many scholars believe to be Moses himself) used for God’s command to Moses in calling the people of Israel “your people,”  when in previous chapters he’d called them “my people.”   Because it assures me that just as I  (usually when it was something I was less than thrilled about or hurt by) have occasionally called my own children “your son/daughter” to my husband,  I can say with absolute certainty that I did not love my children any less at those times.  And we can be assured that when we’ve turned away from God he doesn’t love us any less either.  In fact,  we can take comfort in knowing that he loves us so much he will send a “Moses” into our lives in an effort to bring us back to him. We need only keep our eyes and hearts open to look for them, and turn back to God when they appear to us. Because, just as love hurts when it’s been broken, love that is restored heals.

God is Love.

God loves you.

If you cannot see or feel God’s love for  you, ask him to send you a Moses!

Reflect:  Who are the people in my life that help me see God more clearly?  That help me think God cares about me?  That have encouraged me to seek out God?   If you can’t think of anyone, then ask for God to send you someone to help you see his love more clearly.  Whether  you have been blessed with one “Moses” or many in your life, give thanks to God for each of them today. Just as the people needed Moses, Moses needed the prayers of the people, too.

Pray:  Lord, thank you for the people you have placed in my life that have tried to lead me closer to you!  I may not always appreciate their words and actions, and I may sometimes be reluctant to make the changes I need to in order to restore my relationship with you, but I thank you for never giving up on me! And I ask you to help me keep my eyes and heart open for the next Moses you send. Amen.

 

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O, That I Were a Ninevite!

Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” when the people of Nineveh believed God…     -Jonah 3:4

Today marks the first full week of Lent, and already it’s feeling like a lifetime to me.  The weather is dreary, the dog’s foot fungus won’t clear up, and the flurry of activity on my calendar for this month makes me anxious just looking at it… not to mention the fact that I’ve already failed a few times at some of the things from which I’d said I would abstain  (hello, all things sugar).

And I sit here like Jonah.  Resisting the words God is putting on my heart to share, insisting first that God respond to my own demands, OK, God, but first tell me…When will I see the sun again? When can I finally stop rubbing this stuff on my dog’s foot? Why can’t I just have one day without 47 errands to run and places I need to be? And why am I already failing at Lent and it’s only Day 7!?

And as I pray more over this Scripture the answer to everything–yes, all of my questions!– comes into focus.  But it’s not easy.  The answer is this: Return to Me.  Rely on Me. Repent and let go of so much…you.  And while I am more than happy to preach that word to everyone else (you know, all you sinners out there), God is reminding me today that having a share in the spiritual gift of prophecy does not give the prophet a free pass.  One cannot simply share God’s words and ignore it for oneself.  For Jonah, not following God’s words meant suffering in the belly of a great fish for three days and three nights.  It was only after that miserable experience that Jonah took God’s word  of repentance to the ominous and intimidating citizens of Nineveh.

But how did the Ninevites respond to God’s word through Jonah?  By immediately believing God’s warning, fasting, and putting on sackcloth  (a sign of mourning and a prayer of deliverance).

By widening the lens, we see the bigger points:  sometimes we are quick to change our hearts (like the Ninevites), other times we change more slowly (like Jonah).  Keeping our hearts open enough to leave room for God to enter into them and change us involves sacrifice. The psalmist sets the example for us today with his words, “My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.” Psalm 51:17

The self-emptying of our pride, our own agendas, and even some our earthly desires are reasonable and necessary requests for God to make of us in order to make us more like him: Perfect Love.  How we do that looks a little different for each of us, but the good news is that God is more than happy to work with and reward us no matter how much, how little, how long, or how soon we open our hearts and make room for him to do so.

Reflect: What is one thing you know you should do, but you have been avoiding doing for a long time?  What if God were to appear before you today and ask you to do it?  Would that spur you into action?  If not, ask God to forgive your stalling and help you see how tackling that one thing will free you, and how continuing to avoid it is making you a slave to something contrary to God’s love.  Then ask him to help you take one (teeny-tiny) step towards accomplishing this one thing…and be ready to take it!

Pray:  Lord Jesus, we see in Jonah a foreshadowing of you. In three days time, you entered into death and overcame death for the world! Thank you for opening the gates of heaven for us so that we may know eternal joy.  Help us follow your example by purging ourselves of our own earthly desires and sacrificing them for God’s greater heavenly desires for us. Jesus, we trust in you! Amen.