Last week, we ended with three “birds of prey” that come in to steal from us while we are waiting on God’s covenant promise to be fulfilled. Those birds of prey were misunderstanding (God, His Word, and who we are in Him), being disconnected, and worry.
We were encouraged to be like Abram and to keep driving them away until God’s promise comes to pass.
Waiting is an interesting act. Just take a quick look around while in any waiting room and you’ll observe some interesting habits.
You’ll see those who came prepared for the wait like the lady with her ball of yarn knitting away or the man with his crossword puzzle. You’ll see the tops of people’s heads as they distract themselves on their smartphones. You’ll see those over-achievers reading or continuing to work with their laptop and Bluetooth headsets.
Then, you’ll see those waiting who have no patience at all. Their leg is bouncing up and down, arms are crossed, and they keep peeking at the time. Occasionally, they’ll make a comment to the others in the room grumbling and complaining about their wait.
I haven’t met anyone yet who enjoys being forced to wait. However, waiting is a part of God’s plan for us. God purposes seasons of waiting. Waiting keeps us in step with the Spirit and within His perfect timing.
13 I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
Lamentations 3:19-26 (NLT)
19 The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.
20 I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
21 Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends![b]
His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”
25 The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him.
26 So it is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord.
Although written 605 BC, this next call to wait reads as if though it were a social media post written today.
Habakkuk 1:1-4 (NLT)
1 This is the message that the prophet Habakkuk received in a vision.
2 How long, O Lord, must I call for help?
But you do not listen!
“Violence is everywhere!” I cry,
but you do not come to save.
3 Must I forever see these evil deeds?
Why must I watch all this misery?
Wherever I look,
I see destruction and violence.
I am surrounded by people
who love to argue and fight.
4 The law has become paralyzed,
and there is no justice in the courts.
The wicked far outnumber the righteous,
so that justice has become perverted.
The Lord answers Habakkuk’s prayers and cries for justice.
Habakkuk 2:2-3 (NLT)
2 Then the Lord said to me,
“Write my answer plainly on tablets,
so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.
3 This vision is for a future time.
It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.
If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently,
for it will surely take place.
It will not be delayed.
Then, to sum up the rest of the chapter, the Lord warns that justice is coming!
It is possible to get ahead of the Lord and to act on our own to try and “help” God’s promises to be fulfilled. Abram and Sarai did this with Hagar and her son Ishmael. However, I feel that more often, it is the process and purpose behind waiting on the Lord that we struggle with.
Many of God’s promises simply cannot be rushed or made to happen on our own without Him. The issue then becomes not waiting, but how we wait. We turn back to those simple lyrics of David:
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
How did David wait? Patiently!
Patience is less about the wait and more about our attitude and behavior during our wait; our character.
Waiting patiently expresses trust in God’s plans and process and also our faith in Him to be able to fulfill His promise without our “help.”
This morning, we turn to God’s people who were about to be delivered from slavery and brought one step closer to fulfilling the covenant promise made generations ago to their ancestor Abram. They are about to be taken through a process that spans from deliverance to growth to battle to the blessing of God’s promise being fulfilled.
Most of us want to be delivered from our problems and brought straight into the blessing. We don’t value the condition of our character. We don’t want to grow and we don’t want to engage in battle with our enemy who has resided on our promise.
Listen to how God prophesies to Moses about this process that He is about to begin. Pay attention to who is going to do all of the work and who this process is really all about.
6 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”
Here, we see another “bird of prey” that can steal away God’s covenant promise from us…
9 Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.
God seems unsurprised and is undeterred. He does not change His plan.
10 Then the Lord said to Moses, 11 “Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country.”
12 But Moses said to the Lord, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?”
13 Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron about the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he commanded them to bring the Israelites out of Egypt.
God explained things a bit more, but still did not change His plan. In fact, we turn ahead for time’s sake to see that nothing has changed. Moses and Aaron are not going to do the hard work, they just have to obediently do their part in God’s plan.
1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.
Many signs and wonders and plagues later, God still did not change His plan.
1 Now the Lord had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. 2 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” 3 (The Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)
29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.
31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.”
33 The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” 34 So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. 35 The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.
God not only saved and delivered His people, but He also literally richly blessed them. They were saved from death, delivered from their slavery, and blessed with the riches of Egypt!
Blessing without character becomes a curse.
Blessing without character becomes a curse.
Three months into their journey toward the promised land, God met with them all. He gave them not only the ten commandments, but many laws and regulations and plans to guide and govern them. Of course, they stopped listening after the first ten and asked Moses to listen for them. They would catch up with him later to listen to what God said.
The very next law was:
Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.
What happened while the people were waiting?
They disconnected themselves from God.
They grew impatient.
1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
Because they went straight from salvation to blessing with no growth or battle, they quickly turned the blessing into their Blesser. They turned the creation into their Creator.
They worshipped God their own way and did what they thought best. Which, of course, was to throw a big party and indulge themselves.
God offered to bless Moses and to make him into a great nation after destroying the others. Moses’ character was revealed as he interceded for the people and reminded God of His covenant with Abram. God honored Moses’ request and relented.
As Moses and Joshua left God’s Presence and approached the camp, the sound was interesting.
17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting,
he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.”
18 Moses replied:
“It is not the sound of victory,
it is not the sound of defeat;
it is the sound of singing that I hear.”
Shouting. Is it the:
Sound of war?
Sound of victory?
Sound of defeat?
Nope, it’s the:
Sound of singing!
Shouts of singing as the people indulged in their fleshly desires. However, I believe that Joshua spiritually heard correctly. It was the people making war with the very same God who had just delivered them.
21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”
22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”
“Out came this calf!” Don’t I recall him casting it and fashioning it by hand with a tool? We’re just as guilty at times in response to our sin claiming that it “accidently happened.”
25 Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. 26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.”
This morning, a line is being drawn once again and the shouts of war are about to be heard. It may be in the form of singing, but our worship is warship! While we are waiting, while we are in the in-between season, how will we choose to respond?
Will we be like Moses and Joshua who follow the Lord or like the hundreds of thousands of others who followed their own desires?
Are we going to choose to indulge in our flesh and serve the god of self or are we going to hunger and thirst for the Spirit and serve the Lord? Are we going to keep on praying and never give up on Him? Are we going to press in and seek Him and His Kingdom first?