I don’t know what you have been through in life, what you came out of or what you may still be going through at this very moment but I personally, have been through a lot, from my early years as a child to adulthood and am still going through some things at this present time.
I don’t think that there is any person that has ever lived and long enough, that has not experienced something or gone through some thing that was intensely painful, difficult, oppressive, burdensome or even humiliating. In light of this and my own story, last night, a Sermon that I heard from a Preacher featured on Caribbean Radio Lighthouse (accessible online), got my attention.
Focusing on the plight of the Israelites when in Egypt, how God brought them out of their bondage, preserved them throughout the years and eventually took them into the land he promised to give them, he said that as Christians, we should remember in our own experience, what God brought us from, where we could have been had it not been for his hand of deliverance and indeed, where we should have been but for his mercy toward us.
Truly it is a good thing when God brings us out of our situation, that we do not ever forget where we were as compared to where he has positioned us now. For some of us, had it not been for the Lord, we would have been dead. For others, we would have been on the streets or with a child outside of wedlock or in an abusive marriage or in some other dysfunctional domestic arrangement. Had it not been for the Lord, some of us would have been completely out of our minds, bowed down by oppression and the enemy’s attacks but thanks be to God “…which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)
Some of us have scars and bruises from the blows that life has inflicted and the awfulness of what we have experienced “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:11)
When we think of what we went through, whether it was as a result of us having been dealt a difficult hand in life or our own foolishness, disobedience and sin, what we went through was so painful, that, by God’s grace, we are not bitter or trapped in our hurt but we will never forget.
We cannot forget. For, when we look at where we’ve been, the kind of things we’ve been through and how the enemy tried to destroy us and compare that with what God did for us, how He delivered us and sustained us through our storm and where He brought us to, this knowledge will forever keep us humble and full of heartfelt gratitude.
Incidents like these in our lives are endless (for some people, more than others) but to convey his Sermon, the Preacher, in using the story of the Israelites (Hebrews) in the Bible, identified five (5) key aspects of their experience with which we too can identify, as Christians, today.
He said that whatever our ordeal may have been (and sometimes only God knows the enormity of the problem he brought us out from), we should always remember:
1. Our DEVASTATING PAIN
When the children of Israel were in Egypt and after Joseph had died and a new Pharaoh emerged, he perceived the Israelites as threats to his people the Egyptians and so decided to put them through intense suffering, so as to weaken them. The Israelites (Hebrews) were then subjected to grievous affliction at the hands of the Egyptians and could not in any way deliver themselves from their plight.
In Exodus 1:11-14 it states, that upon Pharaoh’s command:
- “…they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.”
The Israelites were therefore subjected to cruel treatment while in Egypt and were in bondage to the Egyptians, unable to escape of themselves and in their own strength or to make the suffering cease.
Similarly, the Preacher stated, that sin holds its captors in bondage and shows no mercy. Those of us who have been held captive by sin in one way or another or who have suffered financial bankruptcy or some other hardship, intense suffering, debacle or a series of humiliating debacles because of sin, understand something of sin’s burdensome power. We know what it is to suffer devastating pain and to survey the ruins that sin leaves in its wake.
2. Our DESPERATE PLEA
In their pain and suffering, unable to help themselves or do anything of themselves, the Israelites, who were God’s chosen people, cried out desperately under their burdens and praise be to God, he heard them!
In Exodus 3:6-10, the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush and God spoke to him, telling him:
- “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
- Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.”
Like the Israelites who cried out in desperation, whether it was because of our sin or otherwise, the Preacher spoke of the time when, we found ourselves in so much trouble, in such a dark place, drought and difficulty, that we reached out in utter desperation and cried out to God for help. In that time and facing intense pressure and pain, we knew that we had found ourselves in such a bad place and in such difficulty, that nobody else but God could deliver us.
3. God’s DEPENDABLE PROVISION
Although Moses resisted, he eventually submitted to God’s plan to use him to go speak to Pharaoh to let his people go. Pharaoh, not knowing who God was and having no regard in his pride, for him, eventually let them go but only after God demonstrated his power on several occasions, breaking him (Pharaoh down), causing him to realize that he was no match for the true and living God and that he had no choice but to surrender to God’s will for his people the Israelites.
God then guided his children out of Egypt and provided for them on their journey, so not none starved and none died of thirst. At times, he miraculously caused water to flow from a rock for them or bitter water to be made sweet for them and caused food (manna) to fall from heaven and quails to come up from the sea for meat, so that they would be nourished while on their journey (Exodus 17:6; Exodus 15:25; Exodus 16).
God therefore amply provided for them while they traversed through the wilderness and on their way to the land that God had promised them, which was described as flowing with milk and honey. Being in the wilderness would not have been ideal or a place that they enjoyed being but it was where God willed them to be at that point in time and he faithfully sustained them and miraculously so.
Unfortunately, due to their own disobedience fueled by their unbelief, the time that the Israelites spent in the wilderness was prolonged and so they were delayed in entering the Promised Land. In fact, the scripture records that they spent forty years in the wilderness. What is amazing though is that despite their dishonourable conduct while there and how this contributed to many years of delay, during all that time, God still provided for them so that they did not suffer starvation or die or thirst. Exodus 16:35 states, “And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan.”
Similarly, through everything that we have been through and even when we have not conducted ourselves as we ought to have done, the Preacher reminded us that, even as we were going through what we were going through, even when we were being chastened by God for our foolishness, God still faithfully provided for us. We may not have eaten sumptuously while in our wilderness experience but he did not leave us to die of starvation or thirst. Hallelujah! He miraculously provided for us, even if we were poverty-stricken and even if we deserved, through our own disobedience, to find ourselves in the tight place that we did, so much so that he enabled us to survive, to tell the story.
4. God’s DIVINE PRESENCE
From the time the Israelites left Egypt, God was a faithful guide to them, as they had not a clue what direction to take or how to get to the Promised Land. They did not know and had no idea what the journey would entail but God knew and that was enough.
Whether they deserved it or not, given that the Israelites were his children, he blessed them with his divine presence. They were never on their own, not even when they rebelled against God and deserved to be abandoned by him.
Exodus 18:15-22 reads:
- “But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt…And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.”
As stated before, even when the children of Israel murmured, complained and rebelled against God while in the wilderness, God never completely abandoned them. In his faithfulness, he still guided them through, although at one point, he resolved that, due to their disobedience and unbelief, apart from Caleb and Joshua whose faith he was pleased with he would only take the children of the Israelites into the Promised Land, while all the others would die in the wilderness.
Similarly, through everything that we have been through, God’s presence has been with us. People may have abandoned us but not so with God. Once we are Christians, he has promised to never leave us or forsake us. This is not contingent on our conduct. Although at times we may have done things and behaved in ways where we deserved to be abandoned by him therefore, thankfully, in his mercy, he did not do so. Instead, he was with us in our adversity, counseled us, enlightened us, warned us, convicted us wherever we may have sinned, resulting in our repenting of those sins, encouraged us, sometimes rebuked and painfully chastened us but ALWAYS helped us and even forgave us upon our repentance for our wrongs because he loved us.
God’s DEVOTED PERFORMANCE
True to his word, although the Israelites bad conduct contributed to the years of delay in the wilderness, when God was ready, he did take their children along with Caleb and Joshua, into the land he had promised them. So devoted was he to performing his promise, that in his faithfulness, he continued to provide manna to the Israelites throughout all those years in the wilderness, until they had come into the land of promise.
When they finally entered the Promised Land as God had fully performed what he had said he would, Joshua 5:12 states of the manna which they had eaten for forty years while in the wilderness, “And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.”
Similarly, in our own lives, God has delivered us his children, from many a peril, danger and bondage and brought us into a good place because he is devoted to fulfilling all that he has purposed to perform.
While some have already been brought out of their troubles, some are still having a wilderness experience but have been promised certain things by the Lord from his Word. They are therefore still waiting on its manifestation but in many cases, this may have been long in coming due to their own disobedience.
However, the God of yesterday is the same as the God of today and he remains faithful. Whatever he has promised he would do for us, even if it is for his own name’s sake, he will do it, even as he did for the Israelites. He took the children of Israel into the Promised Land after 40 years of them being in the wilderness and whatever he has purposed to do in our lives, he will also do, even if delayed by our poor conduct, not because of us but because he is always true to his word.
In summary, we must never forget where the Lord found us and where he delivered us from. We must never forget the DEVASTATING PAIN we experienced, our DESPERATE PLEA to the Lord for help in our helpless condition and how he intervened to bless us with his DIVINE PRESENCE, his DEPENDABLE PROVISION and to DEVOTEDLY PERFORM that which was good for us. Alas, we must always remember what he did for us and the good place that he brought us to: A place of security, safety and of stability in Christ Jesus, the one that saved us and the one in whom we are to continually abide.
In Deuteronomy 6:10-12, Moses warned the children of Israel who God had delivered from Egypt, not to ever forget him and what he did for them, when he performed his promise and took them into the Promised Land. He stated:
- “And it shall be when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildest not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full: THEN BEWARE LEST THOU FORGET THE LORD, WHICH BROUGHT THEE FORTH OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, FROM THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE.”
In recounting what God had done in his faithfulness, Moses told the children of Israel: “But the Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, TO BE UNTO HIM A PEOPLE OF INHERITANCE, as ye are this day.”
To my mind, Egypt represents the world and the wiles of the devil and similarly, for many of us, God has taken us out of our troubles, the world’s destructive system and the dangers planned by the enemy of our souls for us, as “…a brand plucked out of the fire” TO SERVE HIM AS HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE. Like he did with Joshua the high priest in the Bible, although Satan stood to resist him:
- The Lord rebuked the enemy of our souls;
- The Lord asserted the fact that we are his chosen people and were therefore a brand plucked out of the fire;
- Despite our condition, the Lord commanded that we be delivered from our mess, removed our iniquity and clothed us with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ (justification) and because we have an advocate with the Father in Jesus Christ the righteous, continues to cleanses us upon our confession as his children for our subsequent wrongs, from all unrighteousness (sanctification) (1 John 1:9; 2:1);
- The Lord made us a part of his royal family and a partaker of his eternal inheritance.
In Zechariah 3:1-5, Zechariah wrote of what God had revealed to him:
- “And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
- Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord stood by.”
Like the Israelites who were delivered from Egypt, David in the Bible, could attest to what it felt like to be delivered from his troubles and brought out by God into a good place. In Psalm 18, after the Lord had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, including Saul, in retrospect, he stated in gratitude, when he thought of his DEVASTATING PAIN, his DESPERATE PLEA and God’s DEPENDABLE PROVISION, DIVINE PRESENCE and DEVOTED PERFORMANCE through it all:
- “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower (DIVINE PRESENCE). I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
- The sorrows of death compassed me (DEVASTATING PAIN), and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears (DESPERATE PLEA).
- Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire. Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils. He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me. They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay (DEVOTED PERFORMANCE).
- He brought me forth also into a large place (DEPENDABLE PROVISION); he delivered me, because he delighted in me.”
In Psalm 124, once again reflecting on what he and the Israelites on yet another occasion had been through and how God had miraculously brought them out, David stated:
- “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say; If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us: Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul: Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.
- Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
On a third occasion, suffering DEVASTATING PAIN for his sins, David sent out a DESPERATE PLEA to the Lord for help, stating:
- “And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee. Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish. I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it. Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand (DEVASTATING PAIN). When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah. Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.” (DESPERATE PLEA) (Psalm 39)
In the very next chapter, having experienced God’s DEPENDABLE PROVISION, DIVINE PRESENCE and DEVOTED PERFORMANCE, all of which culminated in his hearing David’s cry for help and granting him deliverance, David stated in Psalm 40:1-5:
- “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord. Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”
As we recount our own story and how God has miraculously and graciously helped us, sustained us and delivered us, like David, we too can rejoice. We too can say: All praise, honour and glory be to God. Look where he brought me from! We are sincerely grateful, immensely thankful and forever joyful.
God and God alone. Always faithful.
(Written on 31st January, 2022, added to on 3rd February, 2022)