Today, my life seems intertwined with inspirations I have from my recent reading of the first chapters of Exodus — part of my ongoing OT survey.
GOD IS IN THE GROWING BUSINESS. “But the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.” (Ex 1:6-7) “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied” 1:12) So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous.” (1:20)
Here is a picture of my tomato plants. I started them from seeds. They almost didn’t make it, but then they began to grow. I put them on a little stake. They grew more. I put in a larger stake. They kept growing. And finally I bought this frame for them to grow on. My tomato plants love to grow. But they haven’t produced any tomatoes! Yes, they’ve bloomed. Yes, I’ve fertilized them– with Miracle Gro, no less! But they still don’t have any “fruit.”
God grew the Israelite community better than I’ve grown my tomato plants. It’s amazing. He took a handful of desert men, put them in Egypt, and made them into thousands upon thousands of Israelites.
How does He do it? Ken and I watched the 30th anniversary video from the New York Church of Christ. They started with just a few people, and not only became a large church, they helped start numerous churches all over the world! I want to see that happen here.
The thing is, God knows how to put people in the places where they will grow. Who would have thought that Egypt would be the place God would put his people in order to have them multiply? And I need to TRUST that God has put me in the best place for me to grow! As I said in my last blog, I’ve been going back over Ps. 23. All of the aspects of the Psalm tell me that God sets me up to win. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,…He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”
So I continue to “plant” and “water” in the place God has put me. Today the afternoon was getting late, and I hadn’t made any new friends, so I decided to start the process of looking for a car. I went to the Hyundai dealership and met a salesman named Stephen. Stephen is a great guy. He’s only lived in Auburn for a month. He and his young wife moved here to start working on his doctorate in educational psychology. He was very appreciative when I invited him to church, he said it’s the first time he’s been invited anywhere since he moved here. I think he and his wife would really enjoy hanging out with the other young couples at church.
I am not sure if I will buy a car from Stephen. He actually did show me a good deal or two. I am not sure if he will come to church. But I do believe that God is working. “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. (Mark 4:27)
Here are a couple of other reflections I had after reading Exodus.
Sometimes, times of challenge are needed to help us to grow. God allows us to go through periods of “bondage” so that we will see how much we need Him. “During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.” (Ex 2:23-25)
If the Israelites had not gone through bondage, they would not have realized that they need a deliverer. Their relationship with God would have been profoundly different. It is the same for me. I have been going through some challenges. I realize more and more that it is only by the grace of God that I am where I am, and I am so grateful for the many times He has delivered me, for the smallest of blessings along the way.
WHOLEHEARTED WORSHIP IS ALWAYS THE OBJECTIVE. “And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (Ex 3:12) “Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’ ” (Ex 5:1)
Why was God so insistent that the Israelites travel to the wilderness to worship Him? Why could they not worship Him where they were, like we go to church to worship God? I have been distracted lately, and I think that helps me understand why God wanted the Israelites to go to the wilderness to worship Him. I have been amazed at how consuming the things I have been going through are. It’s a battle to remember what I feel is really important, and to devote time to these things.
So I expect, as slaves, it would have been very difficult for the Israelites to really focus on God. They were in survival mode. They had to please their masters. No wonder God wanted them out of that situation, into a place where they could give Him their devoted attention.
God is always going to work in our lives to bring us to a place where we can be more devoted to him. I told Ken right after the car accident, “I think God is starting a period of transition for me.” I don’t know what this transition is. But I know His goal is to refine me, bring me closer to Him, and enrich me immeasurably.
I hate spinning my wheels, putting in much work and getting nowhere. I am thankful that although I grow my garden imperfectly, God is the master gardener. He is growing me, and growing His work here, in just the right way.