Yesterday I shared a bit of my story. (Be sure to check that one out before jumping into today’s.) Today we will look at God’s Story…
The part of His story that I am going to share actually begins in Genesis and takes us all the way to Exodus 15. You can relax. I am not going to ask you to read it all now. (I do recommend you take the time at some point. It is good… really good.) I do, however, want to give you a quick “abridged” version of the back story…
So, back in Genesis 37 Joseph, favorite son of Jacob, (remember flashy colored coat and vivid dreams, sold into slavery by his jealous brothers) ended up, through what can only be the hand of God, becoming second in power only to Pharaoh in Egypt. Famine strikes the entire region. Egypt is prepared thanks to Joseph and the Lord granting him the ability to interpret dreams.
Jacob’s family, however, is not spared. Joseph’s brothers are sent to Egypt to find food. He extends grace and mercy on His brothers. Jacob’s entire household moves to Egypt to escape the famine.
Here they thrive, multiply, and live in favor. Their arrival and presence in Egypt was purposeful…needed… good… and, just like my chair, it was comfortable.
Eventually…Joseph and his brothers died and the new Pharaoh no longer knew of all Joseph had done for Egypt. The Israelites remained though and their numbers grew and grew. Soon the Pharaoh and the Egyptians grew jealous. Despite their numbers and the power they once held, the Israelites were enslaved and oppressed. They were forced into labor. They were forced to remain and here they remained for over 400 years. Trapped by the lies that told them they had no power greater than Pharaoh. Trapped by lies that caused them to forget the promises God had spoken to their ancestors long ago. Generation after generation, this became life as they knew it. This was their life, who they were, and what they did. Hard and unfair yet comfortable in that they knew no difference. They were stuck.
Enter Moses. You know the story. Israelite baby put in basket to save his life. He was found by the Egyptian princess, raised as royalty, flees Egypt for his life, becomes a shepherd, and then the burning bush…. then God!
He and his brother confront Pharaoh armed with the call of God and His power. After numerous plagues that end with all of the Egyptian first born males being killed, Pharaoh relents.
Exodus 12:41 tells us “At the end of 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt”.
Moses led the people the out of slavery. He led them out of the life they had always known to what was to be the land promised to their ancestors: a land flowing with milk and honey. It was not an easy journey. Through Scripture tells us the Lord guided them the entire time, it was not the easiest way, the shortest way, or the safest way. It was, however, God’s way.
They soon find themselves pressed against the Red Sea with a fickle Pharaoh and his army closing in on them. It is here they cry out to the Lord and question Moses…
Were there not enough graves in Egypt?
Did you bring us to the desert to die?
What have you done?
Didn’t we tell you to leave us alone?
It would have been better for us to serve them than die in the dessert!
OR… very loosely paraphrased… Let us stay in our comfy chair!!!
But then God responds…
“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring to you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still…. Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to MOVE ON…” Exodus 14:13-15
You know what happens next: Moses raises his staff and the red sea parts…
They have a choice.
Slavery or take a step towards the land of milk and honey. A step of faith into the scary unknown that is the parted Red Sea. (I can only imagine the courage it took to take that step. There was mud, rocks, and walls of water towering and pressing on each side.)
Comfy chair or freedom!
Thanks be to God they took a step! Thank the Lord I took a step and have a choice each day to take another and another and another.
We all have the choice!
As I have pondered this portion of God’s story, I see within God’s response in Exodus 14:13-15 some keys for our own journey to move from our comfy chairs into the fullness of all the Lord has for us.
The first key is…. Do not be afraid! Our heavenly Father knows us and love us. He created us… emotions and all. The first thing He does in this verse is address our emotions. He speaks to give us peace. In this case, he speaks to the Israelites fear. The fear that holds them to that comfy place. I would say he speaks to all our emotions as well… any feeling, emotion, or circumstance that puts us in our comfy places and eventually breeds the lies that hold us there.
You know the lies: “It would be better to go back to slavery.” “If I stay here I will be safe from the fiery arrows.” He addresses those lies next with one command: “Stand Firm.” Stand firm, my friends, in what we know is true. Stand firm in His Truth, His promises, His presence, and His character
Next, He speaks hope. “You will see the deliverance of the Lord… He will fight for you”. He promises to set us free. We don’t have to fight to break free from the web of lies. He does that for us with His Truth, His power, and His Word! John 8:32 “You will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free”. Friends, He will fight for us but we need to know His Truth. We need to be in His Word. This gives room for the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Truth we need. Pressing His Word in our hearts is key. It is knowing the Truth that combats the lies.
It was because of and through His Word that I was able to move out of the comfy chair and it was because of His Words through Moses that the Red Sea was parted. We must KNOW the Truth. We must know the author of Truth in order to break free from the web of lies!
Next, the Lord tells us what we must do to move into His fullness. He tells us to “be still”. Not just that, He says, “You need ONLY to be still!!” Simple and yet so hard. You see this is not necessarily a physical stillness. It is an emotional and spiritual stillness. We have to quiet ourselves. We have to position ourselves in such a way that we are able to hear Him so that we can discern to what or to where He is calling us. In that quietening of ourselves, our emotions, our fears, and our ideas of what is best or what is needed, we can hear Him. We pray, we read His Word, we seek godly council from friends, and we listen for His voice. I can promise you this: He is speaking… He is calling!
And lastly, yet often the hardest of all, He calls us to MOVE. We have to take that step of faith. He does not force us. He only offers us the opportunity. He calls us. In the Gospels, Jesus calls to some fisherman in their comfortable boats, “Follow me.” They dropped their nets and did just that. It was not logical. It was not the plan. It was not easy but they did it. They moved. The Israelites took that step onto the rocky, muddy floor of the Red Sea with walls of water pressing on each side. We too can take a step out of our comfy chair. We can all walk out of the comfort and into the fullness of what He has for us.
Frances Chan says, “God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”
This stepping out of our place of comfort and into what or where He is calling us takes courage. It is a continual process. We will walk this journey of seeking His fullness over comfort throughout our walk as a believer. Sometimes it is a daily choice. But take heart… we do not walk alone. He tells us again and again that He is with us. Also..look around you. Can we commit as the body of Christ to encourage one another? Can we walk our own journey in such a way that we invite others to journey with us?
Now we come to a Red Sea moment of our own. He is calling. He is always calling. Are we willing to quiet the emotions and lies that bombard us? Are we willing to leave our comfortable places regardless of how they feel or look? Are we willing to take a step into His fullness and join Him in a faith fully engaged and committed? The choice is ours… we need only be still and MOVE!
* Adapted from a talk shared at PWOC Ft Leavenworth Spring 2018
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