fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Bless the Opposition

 Bless the Opposition by Julie McAllen

“I don’t need this!” Who hasn’t blurted that out in some form or another when faced with a hardship? Everything was going just fine until THIS came along. If it would just go away, all would be blessed, or so we think. We all encounter opposition: financial burdens, physical disabilities, difficult people in our lives, and recurring negative habits of our own. Somethings we may have a measure of control over, other things simply must be endured.

When Moses was first called to task, his immediate response was to talk to God about his own imperfection. He admitted he was not a good speaker and questioned God’s choice to make him a spokesman on behalf of Israel. Though the Lord promised He would help by including Aaron, a perplexing character trait of God is revealed in the passage.

The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? (Exodus 4:11)

God MADE Moses to be slow of speech and tongue and yet in this God-given imperfection, he was called to do a great work. If God needed a spokesman, why didn’t He simply create a radio announcer type of fellow and use him? Why Moses? Furthermore, as Moses and Aaron went forth to Pharaoh they encountered opposition. If God wanted Pharaoh to “let His people go,” don’t you think He would’ve paved the way and made it simpler for poor stuttering Moses? God had not blessed his task with an immediate submission on Pharaoh’s part, to the contrary the account accredited God Himself as the one who hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 10:20)!

Note how God used the opposition in the case of Moses.

9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.” 10 “Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said. Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the LORD our God. 11 The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.” 12 After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, Moses cried out to the LORD about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. 13 And the LORD did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. 14 They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said. (Exodus 8:9-15)

Moses showed fine character in leaving Pharaoh the honor of setting aside time to pray for him and his officials. Do we consider it an honor to pray for those who oppose us? And look at the result. God heard and sent the relief Moses prayed for on behalf of Pharaoh. Though Pharaoh’s heart was unchanged, what do you suppose this did for Moses’ faith? One answered prayer, two responses.

Did it get any better?

25 Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields—both men and animals… Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Pray to the LORD, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.” 29 Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. 30 But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the LORD God.”….. Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward the LORD; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land. 34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. 35 So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses. (Exodus 9:25-35)

Another plague, another prayer. This time we see Pharaoh having some faith in what the prayers of Moses can accomplish. He even admits his sin. Yet when the hail ends, Pharaoh’s hard heart is once again revealed but Moses continues to have faith in God. Do you suppose he was perplexed at this point? Do you suppose Moses wondered if his efforts with Pharaoh were a waste of time? Do you ever wonder if he got weary praying for this obstinate man’s heart?

Plague after plague, prayer after prayer, the story was played out in Exodus and in the hearts of Moses and Pharaoh.

9 The LORD had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country. (Exodus 11:9-10)

Moses was even told by God that Pharaoh would refuse his efforts. That is disheartening, especially for someone like Moses who wasn’t exactly custom-made for preaching in the first place. But he was also given wisdom as to why. This is key. In James chapter one where we are admonished to find joy in our trials, it also encourages that if we lack wisdom, we ought to ask God (James 1:2-5). Moses was a man like us, I have no doubt he had frustrations in this calling God gave him. He must’ve sought God many times before he understood it wasn’t just about him and Pharaoh’s stand-off, it was greater than that. It was that God may be glorified in Egypt. And through this, God created out of humble Moses a new man, a leader.

As if the opposition of Pharaoh and his officials were not enough, even the people whom Moses was defending and rescuing began to turn on him. Had Moses not sought God’s wisdom and understood the greater purpose, he might have given up his leadership role, which was not about glorifying Moses, but in leading the ones being rescued to glorify God!

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” 13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:10-14)

Moses knew the One who called him. It is fitting that Moses was not a born leader when he was called. There’s no bravado here. His faith is evident in the face of this opposition from pursuer and rescued. He’s against what looks impossible and hopeless and he knows the wonders he performed earlier were not of himself but of God. He has nothing left to rely on but faith in this same God who called him in his imperfection and that is why he could say to this imperfect people “stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” Without having all the answers and the map laid out as to how that would take place, he trusted in God’s deliverance. It looked hopeless, but Moses had learned to cry out in prayer and also learned to listen and obey.

15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” (Exodus 14:15-18)

I chuckle at how this might’ve been said in modern terms.”Stop praying already, I heard ya! Now MOVE IT! Don’t argue, I know it sounds silly, but stand there and hold up this stick!” Sometimes we have to be against an approaching army and the sea before we’ll stop arguing with God and do the uncommon thing He advises. Moses could’ve gone back to the fleshly way he responded when God first began to dialogue with him. He could’ve brought up all his imperfections or pointed out the sins of these people grumbling against him when they ought to be thanking him. He could’ve thrown up his hands and said, “impossible!” He could’ve cursed at God and yelled, “a stick?! That’s your answer?! Hold up a stick?!” But I believe it was through the trials and opposition he incurred with Pharaoh that Moses became the man God knew from the start he would be…despite what Moses thought of himself. And what of God? We all know the story don’t we? Did He show His power to all of Egypt and His people Israel also? The exodus is well-known right down to us, those who believe and those whose hearts are hardened. We still know the story. May God be glorified.

Jesus admitted that in this life we too would have trouble, and the Bible speaks often of human suffering as well as persecution, so we shouldn’t be surprised. But what’s the point? Why? Can anything good come from trials, suffering or opposition?

We come to God when we’re at the end of ourselves. Often it’s those trials that push us to the edge where we can no longer place blame on anyone else or the circumstances, and we are left to examine our own faith in God’s promises and in the character He is desiring to birth in us.

It’s not about the world around us then, it’s about the perfection God is creating in us. So, consider it all joy as you undergo trials. God isn’t finished with us yet. Just as Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered here on earth, so we do also (Heb 5:8). Will we give up or see the glory of God?

In a New Testament account, the disciples ask Jesus about the condition of a blind man wondering if his disability can be attributed to his own sin or that of his parents. Jesus’ reply echoes the statement Jehovah gave to Moses about his stuttering.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (John 9:3)

Who makes a man deaf, mute or blind? Both these accounts agree that the Lord is the Author of Life, even life imperfect. Our disabilities were written into our stories.

And just as Moses and Aaron went to confront the opposition of Pharaoh, the blind man was interrogated and opposed by the religious leaders of his day. Isaiah was sent to preach and within the same breath told no one would listen to him (Is 6:9-13)! It was decided upon in his mother’s womb that Jeremiah would be sent as a prophet to Judah and no one listened after 23 years of proclaiming the words God gave him (Jer 25:3). The blind man, Pharaoh, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the captivity of Israel. All were written into the story. And what about Peter’s denial of Christ? The betrayer Judas? And Christ’s death on a cross itself. All written in advance. Trials, suffering, opposition…..of God? Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Who makes the blind and the deaf? We can’t blame our Pharaohs. We can’t always blame the devil. Dare we blame God?

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. 19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory (Ro 9:14-23)

It does not depend upon our desire or our effort, yet He sends us out. He even hardens whom it pleases Him to harden for the sake of displaying His power. I am humbled to realize that if I have any shred of faith, it truly is a gift. I am an object of His mercy. In this, God has taught me to pray mercy toward others and not “change them so I can have a nice day.”

When Jehovah called His people Israel as His witnesses, He did not say their testimony was to make converts, rather He declared that by giving a witness THEY would know, believe, and understand who He was (Isaiah 43:10). And yet, as many miracles as they witnessed, the Lord did not give them a mind to understand (Deut 29:2-6).

And when many of that nation rejected the Messiah, even then in Paul’s anguished cries for their salvation, he was given wisdom of God’s sovereign choice as noted in Romans 9. He came to understand that a remnant of that nation were chosen by grace while some were given a spirit of stupor–similar to Pharaoh’s hardened heart.

5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. 7 What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, 8 as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.” (Romans 11:5-8)

As written, they were warned within their own scrolls that understanding and wisdom would be sealed (Isaiah 29:9-12). No amount of reading would unlock it. Jesus himself quoted the scriptures that proved their fulfillment. Still it was hidden. Paul strove earnestly using the scrolls and his background as a Pharisee to reason with his brothers, yet they remained hardened while the elect received mercy and grace.

Paul understood that wisdom is not found merely in the black and white letters found in ancient scrolls. Wisdom comes from the Spirit.

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:6-10)

As we encounter opposition and see no results, what does it do to our faith? Moses continued to trust in the Invisible though the situation appeared hopeless. He focused on the big picture of God’s glory. Paul gave his life to ministry while understanding many would never hear, never see. He knew it was completely dependent upon God’s mercy to reveal anything by His Spirit. He also understood the big picture as to why there had to be given a spirit of stupor–for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. The script was already written. And regarding Israel’s continued obstinacy, Paul said, “because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” (Ro 11:11)

God had a reason for hardening hearts back then, do you suppose He does now in whatever opposition we are facing?

Paul also understood that the persecution against him was for the advancement of the kingdom. Could this be the case in our suffering too? His focus was continually on God’s glory rather than his own suffering. Could this be our attitude too?

12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. (Phil 1:12-14)

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. (Phil 1:27-30)

Wisdom from the Spirit revealed a purpose in the opposition God allowed. So how are you handling your opposition?

44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:44-48)

14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. (Phil 2:14-16)

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Pe 4:12-19)

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

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April 27, 2011 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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