Psalm 90, subtitled a prayer of Moses, provides a compassionate picture of our Lord who is just and stern, yet merciful and loving.
Let us be like Moses’ parents, who trusted God for a future they could not see (Hebrews 11:23).
I had the chance to attend a ladies’ retreat last weekend with about 80 women from several different churches. The guest speaker used Proverbs 31 as her text, and I have to admit that my first thought was, “Oh, great – I’m in for two days of hearing about all my faults as a mother and ex-wife.” If you’ve ever read “The Wife of Noble Character” passage, then you know what I’m talking about.
The Proverbs 31 chick is perfect, and many sermons I’ve heard about that passage focused on some aspect or another about this implausibly flawless woman and left me feeling like a complete failure. To my surprise, that’s exactly what the speaker said: it’s pointless to try to compare ourselves to the Proverbs 31 woman, because none of us are Betty Crocker, Oprah Winfrey, and Mother Theresa combined! Instead, she explained that rather than line ourselves up (with all of our failures and baggage) against this perfected image, perhaps we’re looking at it from the wrong angle. Maybe this depiction of the ideal woman is actually how God sees us, through the lens of Christ.
For example, the woman in Proverbs 31 came from a well-to-do family and ran in high society circles (Proverbs 31:21-23). Not many of us would consider ourselves upper class, but when it comes to our status through Christ, we are royalty! (1 Peter 2:9)
In God’s eyes, we are worth far more than jewels (Proverbs 31:10). He sees the work we do – often behind the scenes and seldom acknowledged – at home, at work, in the church, and in our communities. It may seem like no one notices or appreciates our efforts, but God does!
If you’ve ever felt like you don’t measure up to the heroes of the Bible or people like the Proverbs 31 woman (or her husband, for that matter, whose accolades are touted among the city leaders), then I encourage you to spend some time reading about folks like David, Moses, Rahab, Martha, or Peter. They were all flawed people who allowed God to use them, anyway. They made mistakes in life (some were real doozies), but those issues didn’t define who they became; God did.
One plague from Moses’ era that gets little attention was darkness – utterly black for 3 days (Exodus 10). Praise God for his light & grace!
The Bible reminds us (in Matthew 7:5 & Luke 6:42, among others) to look at our own problems before we point out other people’s issues. Today’s topic might step on a few toes, so, let’s do a quick self-inventory. Do any of these statements ring a bell?
- This restaurant is always so slow. What does it take to get decent service around here?
- I don’t know why I bother. It’s not going to make a difference, anyway.
- I hate my job/boss/class/teacher/co-worker/life …
- Ugh, it’s Monday again.
- I’m no good at that/I just can’t do it/I’m the world’s worst …
- Why do bad things always happen to me? I can never catch a break.
If those comments sound familiar, then you are not alone. The Israelites were skilled complainers. In Exodus 15, verse 22 and following, the people of Israel were griping about how bad the water tasted. (Hello, Waco? Sound familiar?) God gave Moses instructions on how to fix it, but that didn’t keep them quiet for very long. In the next chapter, God provided miraculous food (literally, from thin air) for the wandering Israelites to eat, yet they still murmured. In chapter 17, God even made water flow out of a rock!
By the time chapter 20 rolled around, Moses was sick and tired of the complaining. He lost his temper in front of God and all of the Israelites, and instead of speaking God’s instructions to provide miraculous water from another rock, Moses snapped at the people: “Listen, rebels! Do we have to bring water out of this rock for you?” and slammed his staff against the rock. (Notice how he said we and not God.) God still performed a miracle and made the water gush out, but right then and there, Moses lost his opportunity to lead the people of Israel into the promised land.
The constant complaining … and Moses’ poor reaction to it … cost him dearly. Think about your own life for a moment. What tone of voice have your last few conversations taken? What have your last few Facebook posts looked like? What was the last thing you said to your kids? Parents? Spouse? Take an honest look at how much you complain, then commit to praying through the issues this week with us.
Originally posted May 15, 2011
Pharaoh wanted forgiveness for selfish reasons; he didn’t really want to let Moses go. When have you ever apologized without meaning it?
The forced apology: it’s one of those classic, I-can’t-believe-I’ve-turned-into-my-mother scenarios that most parents have tried. Two kids are bickering, and a parent intervenes, telling the troublemaker to apologize. Cross-armed and scrunched nose, the kid yells, “I’m SORRY!” with no inkling of remorse.
We can make them say it, but we can’t make them mean it. We can even make the other one comply with an obligatory, “I forgive you,” but we can’t make them mean it, either. Remorse and forgiveness are choices that we have to make for ourselves. Let’s look at a couple of what-not-to-do stories from the Old Testament about asking for and receiving forgiveness:
Pharaoh had a knack for saying one thing and doing another. Check out the story in Exodus for the full scoop, but suffice it to say that he was pretty indecisive. He would tell Moses that he and his people could leave Egypt, but as soon as they left he’d send soldiers chasing after them to bring them back. He begged Moses to ask God’s forgiveness so that the plagues would stop, then he would reject God and refuse to let Moses go [again]. Moses was faithful to intercede for Pharaoh, but Pharaoh kept digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole of deceit, which ultimately cost him everything he held dear.
Back up a few chapters to the end of Genesis and consider the story of Joseph. This was a guy whose jealous brothers threw him into a pit, sold him into slavery, then faked his death. Years [and many more trials] later, Joseph was faced with a choice during a devastating famine: deny his brothers food and let them die for what they did to him, or forgive and save them. He chose to let go of the grudge, but even after the family was reunited and reconciled, Joseph’s brothers still doubted whether he really meant it. They suspected that as soon as their father died, Joseph might renege on his offer. See how he responded in Genesis 50:19 (NIV): “But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?’” Joseph knew that God is the judge; his job was just to forgive.
So, we are faced with a choice: Do we give God lip-service and tell him we’re sorry, when we don’t really mean it? Or, will we fess up to our shortcomings and accept his forgiveness?
Originally posted April 17, 2011