Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Obedience & Perseverance

Here's a situation for you:
What if I tell you to tell your boss to outsource the department where you work, under your care because you are capable? Convince him with all the strengths you have. But knowing that your boss is brick wall, I tell you that he would NOT give in easily. Would you still do it? Would you risk your employment? You'd probably give me a verbal diarrhoea or walk away briskly or perhaps both. Some of us may cause bodily harm, even the combination of all three and not in that particular order.

Believe it or not, Moses was in that situation. 40 years living like an Egyptian royalty he exiled in the desert after taking a life of an Egyptian slave driver, reduced to a goatherd for his father-in-law Jethro for another 40 years. We all know that well documented story of this great man of God through the old celluloid and lively animation recently. But what has this got to do with Obedience and Perseverance?

In Exodus 6: 28-30, God tells Moses to confront Pharaoh and Moses admits he has an uncircumcised lips (perhaps a stammer or stutter). But God reassures him by letting Aaron to be the spokesperson for Moses.

Exodus 7:1 elevates these two brothers to a lofty position and though Aaron was three years Moses' senior (Exodus 7:7), God chose the younger of the two as the lead position.

Now that was sorted out, God tell him of his challenge in Exodus 7:3.
Can you imagine what Moses would be thinking at that moment?
The easy part is over, now he has to face the proverbial brick wall.
In actual fact, there are more than 11 times in this saga where God said that He will harden Pharaoh's heart. This the point where one would walk away at the insurmountable task ahead thinking of cutting one's losses and leaving.

Moses soldiered on, with Aaron at his side. Stop for a moment and think: Here are some 80-odd desert-dwellers marching towards Pharaoh's palace to tell him to let the Israelites go, just like that. These Octogenarians were about to instruct the ruler of Egypt to release his cheap labour. Or rather his slaves. The land of Goshen where the Israelites called home were easy picking for the Egyptian masters.

Performing his first miracle empowered by God, the rod Aaron throws becomes a serpent and is mimicked by the court magicians and sorcerers (Exodus 7: 11-12).
At that moment the silence would have been deafening! Moses and Aaron would have been feeling a bit sheepish when they saw what had happened and perhaps (I am speculating here) would have doubted their mission that day. Never mind Aaron's serpent swallowed the others but Pharaoh was not impressed. What a dilemma to be in! What embarrassment!

Next God tells Moses to meet Pharaoh at the river bank for their second supernatural act from God. Aaron waves his rod and the waters turn to blood but the magicians do the same. Ouch! What is happening here? Is this what is in store for them every time they confront the Pharaoh? Twice they obey God only to be shown the same act by the very people they were trying convince. Again they go empty handed and perhaps with bruised egos.

All this time, God was testing them even when He blessed them. Even when they were given the elevation of God and Prophet-like status (Exodus 7:1). God had to evaluate His messengers and ascertain if they were obedient and humble. They indeed pass the test, these anointed men of God! They persevere!

The third and final test came when the swarm of frogs engulfed the land and the Pharaoh's men did the same. Moses and Aaron unperturbed, went again and struck the dust according to God's instruction and brought forth lice all over the place. And God gave the sweet victory to his messengers when the magicians and sorcerers could not do the same and admitted defeat by saying to their ruler that it was God's finger.

From then on, Moses and Aaron were steadfast in their duty to seek release of God's children from Egypt even though their master negotiated terms with them. They stood firm: Every man, woman, child and livestock were to leave the land, God's chosen are destined for the Promise Land!

Through the many hardship Pharaoh and his people endured, he hardened his heart, just as God had told. However, none of the inhabitants of Goshen were affected, much to the bewilderment of the Egyptians.

Finally, when God establishes His Passover through the slaying of every first-born of man and animal, Pharaoh relents but at such cost. God punished them for dealing harshly with His people, something He will do again and again. If only we sought Him to intervene instead of taking matters into our own hand.

At the shores of the Red sea, the Israelites were trapped. Some confronts Moses with stinging words and remarks that there were graves where they came from. In the distance, an army of 500 chariots manned by the captains, lead by Pharaoh himself were drawing close. Many would have broke into cold sweat or soiled themselves. After all, these were slaves. They ate, slept and worked under strict instructions from their masters, like all slaves do. That authority was thundering at them in the distance.

Moses reassures his people of the imminent salvation that is about to take place. Verse 14 of the chapter 14, illustrates what God the Almighty does in our time of trials. In fact, God urges them to go forward. The remaining details are well known to many, otherwise read it.

In times of great tribulations, God draws closer and asks us to leave it in His hands. But the condition is that we need to have faith in His work, no matter how great the obstacles are in front of us. He tells us to obey Him and encourages us to go forward despite our troubles. He tells us that His yoke is light and His burden is easy.

How many times have we decided to use our worldly knowledge to solve problems instead of drawing upon His wisdom? If only we had the faith!

A teenager moved from a northern state of Malaysia to the capital city and was unsettled in her studies due to the difference in the syllabus. She said that she would not be doing well as she could not cope. However, I felt in my spirit to tell her not to under estimate our God. And I gave a good shelling as well for doubting. The results of her exams were quite good despite the problems she faced. In fact she was overjoyed and my eyes welled with tears feeling God's work in her life.

Obedience & Perseverance, little effort on our part but a huge victorious result! Courtesy of our Jehovah Jireh, our provider!