Monday, August 10, 2009

when God lies

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Exodus 5:21-23

"May the Lord look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us!"

Moses returned to the Lord and said, "O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent 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."

You have not rescued your people at all...

I am struck by the irony that must have been Moses' life and the lives of the Israelites who, eventually, were -in fact- led out of Egypt ... only to wander and die in the desert.

Is this why you sent me?

When I read the story of the Israelites being led from captivity in Exodus, I cannot help but see it in the light of history, in the scope of a larger, unfolding story. Those people who marched through the Red Sea on dry land all died without seeing the Promise. And when I think of the generation that did arrive on the shores of the Jordan, I know that their trials had only just begun. Where was this milk and honey God talked about? Sounds to me like they got a mouthful of giants and war.

I'm beginning to think that God doesn't just save us from things, like our captivity. He saves us for something, and that something may not be exactly what we signed up for.

I was listening to All Star United the other day. They have a great song called "La La Land." One verse in particular comes to mind as I read the above passage...

Stake your claim on power and wealth
strong healthy teeth
a spot at the beach
and romance that's really swell

All the saints and martyrs alike
well they would have called a national strike
demanded less pain
more personal gain
if only they'd known their rights

Rights. When did we decide as Christians that we have rights? When did we decide that we deserved power and wealth, strong healthy teeth, a spot at the beach, and romance that's really swell? When did we figure out that we deserved a Promised Land? If anyone had the right to a Promise, it was the Israelites who fled Egypt, after all. And what did they get?

I seriously have to wonder if the Promised Land is nothing more or less than ...


Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

I Peter 3:15

I think the point of the Promise, the Promised Land, the Deliverance, the whole nine yards is HOPE.

In the end, it doesn't matter whether we die in the desert or whether we live to face the giants on the far side of the Jordan, what matters is whether or not we have hope. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, the Psalmist said. Hope is what we have to offer others, not land, not strong healthy teeth or romance. Hope.

For me, my hope was awakened one summer afternoon as I walked on the treadmill and prayed through step two:

We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

I didn't even have a concept as to what sanity was when I first read this principle. It's a beautiful promise, though. It means an end to bondage, hopelessness, and despair. It means an end to endless cycles. It promises peace and the sense that all that we have gone through actually serves some sort of purpose and can be used to benefit others.

Sanity, to me, represents something I have never known in my life but that I desperately want to know. It tells me that life is worth living, that God is who He says He is, and that, whatever happens, I can trust Him, I can choose Him and I can serve Him even in the context of my limited understanding.

Oh, I believed that God could restore me to sanity, but would He?

The interesting twist on this question is that if I had decided to answer, "I don't know," then I would have remained in the spiral of insanity. If I don't know, if I can't know, then there is no possibility of hope and moving forward. There is no end to the cycle of doubt and questioning. The only hope for sanity is in believing that God can and will fulfill His promises. That is where hope lives - there, in faith.

Faith creates hope, and hope births sanity, and these things are real regardless as to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. They are the evidence of things not seen.

So, I suppose our passage in Exodus today, and the story of the Israelites in general, tells me that I can't entirely define the Promised Land by physical boundaries or specific signs or landmarks. Even Moses did not get to go in to the land to which he was called to lead his people. Did that make God a liar? Was God made out a liar to every person who died in the wilderness over the course of 40 years?

Interestingly, what Moses had was faith, and the promise he DID get was hope - intimacy with God in the tent of meeting, provision for his day, purpose and direction for his life, and the promise that everything he went through meant something - it was used for the furthering of God's kingdom and for the benefit of all generations to come.

Whatever form God's promise takes in our lives, whether it be literal land as it was for Israel, or a child as it was for Abraham and Sarah, if we hold on too firmly we may find ourselves wondering if God is a liar. It is no wonder, if step two is the embracing of hope in promise, that step three then is the surrender of that promise in hope:

We turned our lives and our wills over to the care of God as we understood Him.

My hope, particularly in those moments when God seems to be a liar, is sanity. What is yours?

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