I went on a walk with my two older kids (ages 5 and 4). I had a letter I needed to send something via the post office, and I had a check to deposit at the bank. Both locations are just over a block from our apartment, and the parking is ridiculous. So we walked.
About half way between our destinations and our home is a church, with a brick – thing out front. We have been here before, but it never really hit me what the brick thing is. It’s in the shape of a cross. Longer on two sides, shorter on the other two sides. And, my kids favorite thing to do with this brick thing is: hide in the corners of it.
My kids didn’t know that is the shape. They just like hiding in the corners and trying to scare one another. My kids didn’t know that this morning I had read Exodus 33.
Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
It struck me so powerfully, particularly this truth: In the Old Testament, before Jesus came, Moses had to be hidden from God’s glory, had to hide from God in the cleft. Later in the Old Testament, in Psalms, there are these words: “Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come” (Psalm 71:3). It’s the longing of the Psalmist’s heart to come near to God, to find refuge in God, the rock. Then Jesus comes and we can draw near, immediately, intimately, continually (see basically all of Hebrews, but specifically 4:16, 7:19, 7:25, 10:22). No longer through the priests, no longer through the blood of animals, but in spirit in and in truth (John 4:23-24).
The rock in which we take refuge is the cross. Because of Jesus’ redeeming work, we don’t hide from him, we run and hide in him.
Enjoy Chris Rice’s rendition of this Rock of Ages.
I do not know why, but this particular Psalm keeps coming up. As a child, I knew a song that contained some of the words of this Psalm. I would sing it over and over to myself when I was alone and scared in my room for one reason or another. Psalm 56 just happened to be next in my Bible reading this morning. I was so refreshed by it, I thought I would share it, along with some recent snaps of our morning outside time on our front steps.
Psalm 56To the choir master: according to The Dove of Far-off Terebinths. A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath.
Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!
You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
Schedules and routine are glorious things. When I was a new mom, I followed a sleep training schedule just to keep me sane (postpartum emotions are no joke). Second baby came 15 months after the first, and getting my babies to sleep at the same time was my end-all-be-all goal. Now, with three children ages 4.5 years, 3 years, and 16 months, schedules have been an vital part of our home for just about 5 years!
Schedules = sanity
Or do they?
For all of my motherhood, I have searched for peace and security in schedules. Yet, I still battle with anxiety (the kind where you just sit alone and cry for no reason, or can’t find it in you to get off the couch or even out of bed).
There is only one place where we can find peace, security, sanity, purpose, and all the other things we really are looking for in our ideal schedule. That place, is actually a person, it’s Jesus.
Jesus is the source of lasting peace. Jesus is the anchor for our fluctuating emotions and circumstances. Jesus is the only cause for life-long and minute-by-minute purpose.
Schedules are good and often very helpful, they are fantastic guidelines, and give us (and our kids) things to look forward to. However, helpful tools were never meant to calm our souls, give us disaster-proof security, or motivate us with an all encompassing purpose that would fill every moment of our days and last our entire lives. Nothing on this earth can do that, only God can.
The book of Romans has a lot to say about peace, where it comes from, and where it does not come from. Let’s take a look at a few verses:
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
True, lasting, unwavering peace comes when our trust is in Jesus alone. Why? Because unlike every other thing in the universe, including ourselves, he is unchanging. Peace founded in Jesus Christ because no matter what we go through no matter our circumstances, our emotions, our relationships, our mistakes, our health, any of it, he remains steadfast. He is our peace.
No matter what faces you today, tomorrow, ten years from now! God remains faithfully the same. We can rest secure in that.
They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Exodus 16:1-3 (emphasis added)
This was my Bible reading this morning, and it got me thinking….
Two months after the miraculous ten plagues, Passover, and crossing through the middle of the Red Sea on dry land, the entire congregation of Israel is grumbling. This is more than the casual complaining, “just saying”, or venting type attitude we excuse ourselves of now. Or was it? They were a good two month walk from the greatest civilization at the time, the only place they had ever known, and were now on a never ending camping trip in the middle of the wilderness. Oh, and they had run out of food. The people had some legitimate concerns! Food is important! Being in the middle of nowhere lacking food is deadly!
So what’s the problem? Instead of seeking God’s guidance, instead of calling out to him for help (he clearly had the power and willingness to help them out), they looked to their own knowledge, their own understanding, and their own situation as being ultimate. They had grown discontent. Following a miraculous pillar of cloud by day, and warming, light giving pillar of fire was not good enough. They had let that discontentment take root, and now they were angry, with Moses and Aaron. Really? No. They took it out on Moses and Aaron. They had seen in Egypt what happens when you shake your fist at God directly, people die! But God knew their hearts. They were angry with God, not Moses. They were not trusting God. They were trusting their eyes, their heads, their stomachs.
Those silly Israelites! Come on guys!
Well, how different am I? Just two weeks into public spaces being closed because of this current pandemic, and I feel discontent, a little angry. Justifiably so! A lot has changed in a short time, but if being in the wilderness and running out of food was not a good excuse for idolatry, then safer-at-home orders are not a good excuse either.
Idolatry? Whoa, hold on there. I see no statue worship, no fist shaking at God, no out right denial of his work.
Yes, idolatry. Whenever our peace, our hope, our security is relying on something other than God it’s idolatry.
Comfort, control, predictability, family, community, health, finances, “me time”, independence, whatever! If you are willing to sin to keep whatever it is, then it’s an idol. Not trusting God is the foundational sin, it’s what got Adam and Eve in the garden.
Yes, things are crazy. Yes, it is scary, nerve wracking, and we need to exercise caution (extreme caution in some cases). Yes, there is suffering (there was before COVID-19 and there will be after it).
But! God is not surprised, this is not outside of his plan. His good, pleasing, and perfect will for the good of those whom he has called, and for his glory forever and ever, has not changed and will not be stopped. Nothing can thwart his will.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”
What happens in the next verses of Exodus? God gives them Manna, literally raining bread from heaven to feed them. Just before giving them the Manna, God gave Moses instructions about the Manna. God said to only collect enough for one day, except for the sixth day of the week collect enough for the seventh day also because the seventh day is the Sabbath, the day of rest. Even in God’s provision, he is requiring that the people trust him.
God did not take the people out of the wilderness. God did not lead them on a quicker path to the promised land. God did not have them settle down and start growing crops to solve their food problem. No, God did not change their circumstances, but came to them in the midst of their circumstances and provided for them even in their difficulty and even provided for them in their disobedience.
Praise God he comes to us before we come to him! Praise God he gives us grace before we ask for forgiveness! Praise God he allows us to see our weakness, so that the beauty of his provision is vibrant! Praise God he permits suffering so we stop clinging to our flimsy idols of self, and cling to our all sustaining, holy Savior!
To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! Selah
My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts- the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
It’s a weird time. People are afraid, acting in ways they never thought they would. Children are home, stuck inside for the most part, and driving their parents up the wall!
Yes, I chose to quote an entire Psalm, because right now, more than usual, context matters. David wrote this song of praise while running for his life, hiding in a cave. If you’re familiar with the story, this is the cave where Saul comes to, ahem, relieve himself, and David is hiding in the shadows close enough to be able to kill him. Saul had been pursuing David, to kill him. David, legally, had the right to defend himself, and his men, and strike first. What does he do instead? He sneaks up, while Saul is- um- yeah, and cuts off a piece of his clothing. Then, when Saul leaves the cave, David and his men emerge and show the cut piece of clothing, showing how close Saul had come to death, except for David choosing to show mercy towards Saul, and love to God.
Let’s be clear on a couple details here:
Saul was the man God had allowed to be king of Israel. Saul was the government David was called to submit to and obey. Saul was pursuing David, because God had anointed David to be king, taking his favor from Saul.
David did not pursue becoming king while Saul lived. He never raised up an army to take over the kingdom. Actually, David supported Saul, fought along side him, served him.
This context of the brokenness in David and Saul’s relationship, magnifies the dependence and strength of David and God’s relationship.
David relies on God. Why? Not because of who David is, not what David has done, not what David has refrained from doing, not what David will do, but because of who God is.
David’s situation is not the best, he’s hiding for his life in a cave. The situation of the world currently is not the best, many hundreds of thousands of people are effectively hiding for their lives in their homes (much better than a cave, but you get the point).
But God is… Merciful A Refuge in the Storm Most High (none is higher!) Fulfiller of Puposes and Promises Savior Just Steadfastly Loving and Faithful Exalted Glorious!
Because God is, We can be… Steadfast Joyful Noise Makers Awake and Alert Thankfulness Shouters Praise Singers Glory Heralds
This crazy time reminds me of this song (it’s just constantly playing in my head!)