One of the most hopeful passages of the Old Testament is found in Exodus chapter 2. The Hebrews have gone from being favored citizens of Egypt to slaves. They have lost everything. Status. Wealth. Freedom. Misery has become their constant companion. The memories of happiness have been extinguished.
Yet somehow in the dregs of their despair they summoned the will to pray to God.
Read carefully and slowly one of the most powerful yet sublime passages in the Bible:
And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel – and God knew (Exodus 2:24-25 ESV).
God heard, remembered, saw, and knew. The very next sentence takes us to the wilderness where Moses is tending his father-in-law’s flock. Deliverance is coming!
Having read the Bible many times I believe there are only a couple of reasons why deliverance remains aloof from the children of God. First, there cannot be deliverance if there isn’t something to be delivered from. Jesus put it this way: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
You don’t need God unless you need God. It took awhile (like 400 years) until the Hebrews figured out they didn’t need a new Pharaoh. They didn’t need another Joseph. They didn’t need a more just political, economic, or judicial system. They needed God.
Isn’t that what Jesus meant above? God “so loved the world” that He sent Jesus but Jesus says He really only came to help the sick sinners. Now if you follow the New Testament you quickly realize God sees everyone as a sin sick sinner. But not everyone sick with sin is willing to admit it. If there is nothing wrong then it obviously doesn’t need to be fixed. Hence, no need to ask God for anything. The sad reality is that those who don’t need God are the reason those who do call out to Him.
The other reason why God remains aloof from people is because they don’t call out to Him. This obviously follows from the first reason but for those who call themselves “Christians” it is an oddity. How can you know who God is and continue to utilize prayer as “a last resort”? I cannot count the times I have heard “Well, there is nothing left to do now but pray about it.” Wow. What an expression of confidence in God! “I tried everything I could think of and it all fell flat. Time to turn the B team. Hey God! Need some help here!”
Deliverance doesn’t come until you cry out to God with every fiber of your being for rescue. And when that happens, it really doesn’t matter to Him if you turned to Him first or last. He hears! Just like He “heard their groaning” in Egypt. He heard, remembered, and saw. Isn’t that what anyone wants in the midst of their suffering, loneliness, sorrow, and trouble?
Like many of you I have stood on the edge of oblivion and the precipice of destruction. I have blamed anyone and everyone for my being there (including and chiefly God). I’ve blamed family, physicians, ideologies, and the shallow religiosity of those around me for my predicaments. Nothing ever changed.
It wasn’t until I stopped blaming Pharaoh, Joseph, Caiaphas, the Clintons, Obama, the wife, the kids, and the dog and started groaning about my sin that things started to change. If you really want things to change in your life, your family, your community and the world then listen very intently to the words of the King of Israel. Racked by misery, trouble, and regret he wrote the following:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:1-10; 17)
The season of Advent is upon us with Christmastide ready to burst forth. But don’t be fooled by the special programming and decorations. Sin brings death and destruction with it and takes special pleasure in ruining families and celebrations of holiness. Anger and tension are high in the world. The sorrow from loss that quickly turns to despair knows no holiday. Resentment at others' good fortune courses through society.
We stand on the edge of despair and the precipice of destruction (from within and without). The good news I want to share is simple. God is waiting to hear from you about you. Not about what others have done to you. Not about how others are happier than you. He wants to hear, see, and know you and your situation.
The contemporary Christian band “Third Day” wrote a song that expresses musically just what this blog wants to say with words. I don’t think it was meant to be a Christmas song but the message is absolutely what God had in mind in sending His Son. It’s called “Cry Out to Jesus.” May both this blog and the video below help you to do just that this Christmas season.