For the last few weeks I’ve been struggling. With my relationship with God, with my work, and with myself. I was existing, and not living. Things and emotions kept piling up, and I let them wear on my heart. The other day I simply sat and thought, “What am I doing here? I live and I work ‘here’, sure, but what am I DOING here?”, I wondered. In my reasoning, God had done so much to bring me to this moment, this ‘here’, and I was left feeling abandoned and confused.
How can God be quiet? How can He answer the prayers I have for others, yet neglect the ones that I’ve been begging for answers for?, I wondered.
I had planned to sleep in this morning, but I found myself awake at 5am and alone with my thoughts. I tried to doze back off in the hopes that I’d let myself sleep in, but I found myself waking up in a panic that I was late for church. Needless to say, I was completely ready before I bothered to check the clock, and realized it was only 8am.
I drove to church, made some polite good mornings, and then was a little taken back when ‘my’ usually empty pew, was suddenly filled with a bunch of other young people. Sometimes I think I’ve forgotten how to communicate with people that aren’t sick, and I got nervous and started to wonder if I should give up my seat in the pew. Though, as I was sitting in the seat closest to the wall, I wasn’t about to crawl over anyone’s laps and make an escape. My stubborn heart was feeling anxious, and I had another moment where I silently asked God what I was doing there.
The sermon was a part of series in Exodus, and as much as my stubborn, anxious heart wanted to run, there was a quiet voice that said, “Listen”.
We picked up near the start of Exodus (Chapter 5), where Aaron and Moses go to Pharaoh (v.1) and ask for him to let the Israelites go, because God has said the Israelite people are to go have a festival in the desert for Him. Pharaoh then asks, “Who is this Lord?” (v.3), and questions why he, the Pharaoh of Egypt, should follow orders from God. Aaron and Moses don’t take the opportunity to explain to Pharaoh, instead saying, “The God of the Hebrews has MET with us” (v.3).
I’m going to stop briefly there, because that’s about where my stubborn, anxious heart really started listening. They didn’t have a phone call with God. They didn’t pray hastily while waiting for something to happen. They MET with God. It’s strange how a small three letter word can mean so much for this passage, and yet it does. MET. I don’t think they sat down and had coffee per say, but they MET. And then you have to think, here’s two men that have MET with God, are now conversing with this Pharaoh, who then asks, “Who is this Lord?”.
They reiterate that they’ve been told to have a festival by God to have sacrifices, and that if they don’t, God might ‘strike them with plagues or the swords’ (v. 3). This seems to completely un-phase Pharaoh, who seems to think himself and the Egyptians above this probable punishment. In fact, he’s so ticked off, he says no to the festival, and increases the workload for the Israelite slaves and makes their daily tasks more difficult(v.2-18). The Israelites get ticked off in return, and come to Moses claiming that he’s at fault for their suffering (v.19-21).
You have to feel for Moses at this point. Here he’s seen and lived the suffering the Egyptians have imposed on him and his people. He’s basically packed his bags and run until the day that God appears to him in the burning bush (Chapter 3) and tells Moses of His plans for the Israelites (4-21). Here you have a man who has God appear to him in a burning bush and tell him about how God is going to save His people from the Egyptians. It’s kind of like you and I sitting down with a map for a road trip, with way being planned out before us.
Despite having things laid out for him to see, Moses still struggles with the idea. He’s reluctant numerous times while God is laying out this ‘road map’ for him, and then when he finally goes to Pharaoh, he gets told ‘NO’. Not even a maybe, or a ‘Be back by supper’, just a plain no.
Here Moses has been told by God, that God is going to use him to set the Israelites free. He’s probably not quite over his own reluctances, but he goes anyways. Because hey, if God comes down to you in a fiery bush and then physically meets with you and your brother, I’d be thinking it would be smooth sailing too with a ‘yes’ from Pharaoh, and everything would be fine and dandy.
But it’s not a yes.
It’s a firm no.
We were asked if one of God’s answers to our prayers had ever been a ‘no’. And I can honestly tell you, I’ve been told ‘no’ lots of times. I know those answers have made me into the young woman I am today, but some of them still hurt so deep. I’m reminded of my faults and mistakes, and they rise up until I shove them back down and out of the reaches of feeling. Getting told ‘no’ from God hurts so much sometimes, but I find His silence to hurt more; I feel un-led and lost.
What does Moses do in this moment of being told ‘no’? Does he shove those hurt feelings away? Does he run from God? Does he get angry?
In a completely humbled (and I’m sure confused and angered moment), Moses takes his ‘no’, and he brings it back to the feet of God.
Moses returned to the Lord and said, ” Oh Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you send me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all” (Chapter 5, v22-23).
And in a beautiful moment that show us of God’s great patience for our impatient hearts He replies with,
“Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.” God also said to Moses, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself fully known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant. 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. 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. 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.’” (Chapter 6, v1-8)
I am the Lord! What more assurance do we need than that when we get answers of ‘no’, or silence? God is sovereign over everything, and thank goodness for that! He wants us to bring our hurting hearts that get told ‘no’, and to lay them at His feet as Moses did. We don’t get to sit down and meet face to face with God. We don’t get to see our lives laid out before us, where God says, “You know what? You’re going to have a rough spot here, here and here, and every time you ask me for something, I’m going to say ‘yes'”.
That’s where faith and trust come in. We can have hope in knowing that HE is LORD of everything and HE has a plan. And sometimes those plans are ‘no’ answers.
And sometimes what we think is silence, is God’s way of saying, “You need to be quiet and listen. And trust Me”.
I am so stubborn and guarded, but I am so relieved that God is patiently persistent in His love for me.