One Tuesday several weeks ago I had lunch with three friends and one very precocious three-year old. These are friendships newly formed by virtue of the Bible study I teach; hence our conversation swung across a wide spectrum of topics.
We attend different churches and at one point we began to discuss our church experiences, where we are as well as where we’ve been. One of us (me) is in a church split-turned-plant. One is on the staying end of a split and one had her own story of damaged reputation and mischaracterized motivations. Here’s a newsflash for you: church can be messy business, no doubt about it.
I thought later about the lesson I had taught that very morning about the slavery the people of Israel endured prior to the miracle of the Exodus. I thought of the four hundred years they waited and watched and suffered and (surely) wondered and doubted. I remember my own seasons, both church-related and not, that though I did not suffer cruel bondage nor the horror of infanticide as the Israelites did, I too despaired of the Lord’s faithfulness. To my limited understanding, He seemed distant and unwilling to act. As my waiting grew long, my doubts loomed large.
Exodus 2:23-25 tells us where God was during the Israelite’s affliction and what He was doing:
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.
What a comfort to the weary and the waiting! God hears, God remembers, God sees, and God knows. This passage reminds me yet again that my salvation is wholly a work of God. I am as unable to save myself from my sin and my doubt as the Israelites were to rescue themselves from the cruel oppression of the Egyptians. God must–and does–accomplish it.
He saved the nation of Israel through a mighty display of His power. Two million slaves just walk away from their oppressors? Not to mention the parting of the Red Sea, manna every morning, and water from a rock! Amazing. Incredible. A miracle.
Even greater is the salvation, the rescue, the exodus, accomplished by Jesus Christ. Through the life, death and resurrection of His Son God saved His children from the bondage to sin and death. We who belong to Christ are free and if the Son has set us free we are free indeed!
Hebrews tells us that Moses, this great deliverer, this leader and shepherd of the people of God, the Lord’s instrument to accomplish so great an exodus, considered the reproach of Christ of greater wealth than all the treasure of Egypt because he was looking to the reward (Heb. 11:24-26). This both convicts and shames me. My friends and I, we have all borne reproach in one way or another, and I do not speak merely in terms of church stuff. Any one of us who confess faith in Christ has endured seasons of darkness and doubt. I cannot speak for my friends but I do know that sometimes I endured it well because I had seen the salvation of the Lord and I valued the treasure of Christ as far greater. Other times, however, I didn’t look to the reward at all, looking instead to my self-justified resentment and bitterness.
The Lord is faithful to save! I was enslaved to the cruel taskmaster of sin but Jesus set me free! He is my reward, the great Treasure of this life and the next. Nothing compares to Him! He hears, He sees, He knows…and He rescues. What hope is ours! What joy! What grace!
Despite the differing details of our experiences, my friends and I all shared a common testimony: the Lord was faithful beyond our imagining. We have seen the salvation of the Lord and we rejoice in it. We placed our trust, our reputation, our reproach on Christ and He did not disappoint. God heard, God remembered, God saw, and God knew.