#101 "But God...."
June 19, 2007
"Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?'" (John 11: 40)
I waited a long time for a son. My wife Sarah had a plan that did not turn out so swell. Ishmael, even though I loved him, was not the child that God had promised me. Then came Isaac. Sweet Isaac. The child of our dreams. The child of the promise. The one we prayed for, longed for and received when I was so old that I didn't even know I had it in me! I couldn't understand why God told me to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering on the mountains. Ishmael was gone. All of my hope for the future was in Isaac. Sacrifice HIM?? A lot of folks make a really big deal about my obedience to God's request, but I want to tell you that I was sick inside. I prayed that day like I've never prayed before. And I'll never forget the look in my son's eyes when I tied him to the altar on top of the wood. I was his father. What was I doing? But there we were, my only son and I..up on the mountain...the knife raised up in my shaking hand. But God.....
I know that I was proud, arrogant and liked to flaunt my father's preference for me in front of my brothers. I would have been sick of me too, if I were them. And oh, how I liked to strut around in that colored coat my father gave me. But I don't think that I deserved to be thrown in a cistern and sold to those Ishmaelites. Nevertheless, off I went. Into slavery in Egypt. I got a pretty good job, but that went south when my boss's wife tried to seduce me. I did the right thing, but I ended up in prison. I made some friends. They were nice enough guys..one was the king's cupbearer and one was his baker. They had done something to the Pharoah and got themselves thrown into prison. But when the cupbearer was released, do you think he remembered to tell the king about me? Nope...he forgot about me too. So there I sat, day after day. But God.....
I grew up the son of Pharoah's daughter. I had privilege to all of the treasures of Egypt. But I had a moment of intense anger and beat an Egyptian to death. So I found myself on the back side of a mountain for forty years. Yes, I had found a beautiful wife and had children of my own. But I always felt that there was a greater destiny out there for me somewhere. Something amazing that I was born to do. Have you ever seen a bush burn without being consumed? Well, neither had I...but there it was. And God was speaking to me out of that very bush. Stuttering, stammering ME! Telling me that I would set my people free from bondage in Egypt. Yeah, right! I even had the audacity to tell God that I couldn't do it. I asked Him to please send someone else. But He would have none of that. So off I went ... back to Egypt. It seemed that I had only made things worse. That stubborn Pharoah would not let the people go. He even increased the Israelites work load. Because of his stubborn refusal, God sent all those plagues on Egypt until one day, Pharoah agreed to let us leave. Boy, were we happy! Off we went ... to freedom. Even carrying the goods of Egypt out with us. But we came to a complete standstill when we saw the Red Sea before us and the Egyptian chariot army behind us. We were trapped...But God.....
We were good Jewish boys. Born of royalty and nobility in Jerusalem. Carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, the king. He changed our names to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. (Rack, Shack and Benny, as the Veggie Tales like to call us). He could change our names, but he could not change what we believed and how we honored our God. We refused to eat their food and drink their wine. We lived on vegetables and water and we thrived. We also refused to bow down to that golden image the king made of himself. Talk about an ego! The herald proclaimed the edict that if we didn't bow to the image we would be thrown into a blazing furnace. We didn't and someone turned us in. We might have been employed by that king, but we served Yahweh, our God. The furnace got turned up seven times hotter than usual and in we went. It was so hot that the flames killed the guys who threw us in. But God.....
My brother was dead. My sister Mary and I had sent for Jesus to come when he was still sick. But for some reason, He didn't come ... at least not in time. Lazarus was already in the tomb for four days. I had all of those arrangements to make. All those people in the house from morning until night and I had to clean up after all of them. Cook for them. Listen to their well-meaning words of comfort. Wonder what we would do now, without a man around the house. And all Mary did was stay in the house. Didn't lift a finger to help me. Allowing herself to be comforted. She didn't even come out with me when I heard that Jesus had finally come. I almost couldn't help thinking, "A little too late." He tried to talk to me. I know that He truly cared because I saw Him cry. And then He wanted the tomb opened. You've got to be kidding me. Do you know how it must've stunk in there? I tried to tell Him, but He insisted. My brother is dead...what's the use? And then He said words to me that I will never, ever forget..."Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" I listened but Lazarus was still dead. They rolled away the stone, and he was still dead. But God....
We left everything we had. We left our families and our homes and our jobs. We were so taken with this Man they called Jesus that we could do nothing else but heed His command to follow. We walked with Him, ate with Him, learned from Him and watched Him perform miracles like no one had ever seen before. He spoke with authority. His words were the very words of God. We truly believed that He was the Savior, the long awaited Messiah. He would save us from all this Roman oppression. He would wield His sword and lead us all to victory. But, not so much! We heard Him tell us that He would have to be betrayed, by one of our own, no less. We heard Him say that He would suffer. That He would die. But we never quite understood. Or maybe we just didn't want to understand. Because we also watched Him receive a kiss from our brother Judas and be betrayed into the hands of the soldiers. We watched Him as He took the razor sharp lashes to His already bleeding, torn back. We heard His cries. We saw Him carry the wooden beam through the streets of Jerusalem, be nailed to a cross and die. Now it was over. Everything that we hoped for and the One we hoped IN was gone. All of our dreams of victory and freedom....buried in a borrowed tomb. But God....
Today, you may not be holding the knife above your child, like Abraham. But you might be holding the report that your child has cancer, is drug addicted or in real immediate harm. You may not be in prison like Joseph, or maybe you are. Or maybe, like Joseph, you are in a pit and you can't see the palace for the trees. You may not be facing the Red Sea like Moses, but there may be no money coming in front of you and the Egyptian army of bill collectors is behind you, right on your heels. Or like Moses, you may think that God has called you to do something that you are in no way qualified to do. You don't have enough training or education. You may stutter or stammer. You may be afraid. You want Him to send someone else. Today, you might be in a fiery furnace of divorce. You might be abused, have relationship issues, suffer from sickness and disease. You may be persecuted for standing on your convictions. The furnace seems to be turned up seven times hotter than usual and you don't think you can ever escape un-singed by the flames. At the very least, you're really going to smell like smoke. Something in your life may have died like Martha. Your marriage, your finances, your dreams for the future. Dead and stinking in the tomb. Or like the disciples, you may be watching everything you staked your life on, everything that you had your hope in, being crucified. The one person that you trusted, the one thing that you banked your future on....gone.
Down through the ages, those who came before you are speaking today. They are speaking to you as those who have been to the edge of hopelessness and been delivered. All seemed lost, but God intervened. God came through. He heard and answered their desperate cries. This "great cloud of witnesses" is bearing testimony to you that the race can be run successfully and that the rewards are great. They are testifying that you can never count God out of your situation. It's never too late. Things are never too far gone. Your problem is not the one that God can't solve. Man's extremity is God's opportunity. Your hopeless situation is an opportunity for God to show off. The Great I AM, in the voice of His Son, the Christ, says to you today, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So, I encourage you today to believe. It looks hopeless. You feel helpless. But God!!!
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