Moving Mountains
 
I was reading a bit of Genesis today and I came across Genesis 15:13, "Then the LORD said to Abram, 'Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be slaves there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.' "

This is probably the hundredth time I read this verse and I suddenly realised: We can take comfort from this. You're probably thinking, "What? What the heck are you talking about, Ricky? How could we possibly take comfort from this? Are you crazy?" First of all, I'm not crazy; I'm mentally unrestrained. Secondly, allow me to explain, which will take a while and a bit of reading for you, so be patient.

We are children of an omniscient God who loves us.  Because He's omniscient, He knew that the Israelites, His people, would suffer for 400 years. And what did He do? He brought His people out of suffering. "But Ricky, why did He wait 400 years to save His people?" I'll tell you that in a little bit. First, I want to reiterate myself by saying that God is omniscient — He is all-knowing, and since He is all-knowing, He knows the perfect time when something needs to happen. Consider briefly Galatians 4:4, "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son..." The key words are when the fullness of time had come, which means when it was now time for this thing to happen, which is given in the subsequent clause. Certain events on earth (and probably Heaven) had to happen before Jesus was born incarnate. Likewise, certain events on earth had to happen through His providence before He could free His people.  Before I get to why God "waited" 400 years to save His people, remember St. Peter's point in his second epistle, "But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (3:8).  Peter is referring to God's infinitude.  To us finite beings, 400 years is a really long time, but to God, that's nothing.  To Him, 1,000 years is the same as one day.  Time is irrelevant to God.  God is not bound by time; rather, time is bound to God.  That's why I put "waiting" in quotations because God doesn't need to wait; He's already set everything in motion.

So, why did God "wait" 400 years to deliver His people?  Remember what I said about certain things having to happen on earth through His providence before He acts?  In this instance, that was Moses.  Our God being omniscient, infinite, and therefore outside of time, He saw what He would do with Moses.  God wouldn't free His people until Moses was born, until his mother laid him in a basket in a river, until he drifted upon the Pharaoh's daughter, was raised as a prince, murdered an Egyptian soldier because of an injustice being done to a Hebrew slave, fled to Midian for 40 years, and then revealed Himself to Moses as a burning bush.  (I say "wouldn't" instead of "couldn't" because God could've freed His people by completely eradicating the Egyptians.  Instead, in His complete mercy, He brought Moses before Pharaoh multiple times, giving him the chance to repent and change his ways by freeing the people of God.)  Why God "waited" 40 years to reveal Himself to Moses, we can never know.  Perhaps God was shaping him in some way in preparation for the great journey ahead of him.  And as we know, Moses went ahead to do great things in the name of the Lord, God freeing His people and bringing them to the promised land.

Now then, how do we take comfort from this?  Consider the times we're in.  We can draw similarities between the godlessness of America and the godlessness of ancient Babylon.  (Revelation actually depicts Babylon as a whore, the imagery being symbolic of people who follow after false religions, committing spiritual adultery against God.)  Additionally, Christians are increasingly being persecuted by enemies such as ISIS, and we are groaning in pain for our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Then there are our own personal sufferings.  This is where we can draw our comfort:  hundreds of years before the Israelites' 400-year bondage, God knew it was going to happen, and because of His promise in Christ first given in Genesis 3:15, God brought His people out of it.  Sure, it was a long time, but He still fulfilled His promise.


Therefore, if God knew about their 400-year suffering, then certainly God knows of our current suffering, whether personal or global!  Not only that, but He knew what's going on right now hundreds and thousands of years before it even happened!  So how can we have comfort in this?  Exodus 2:23b-25, "...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."  God hears our groaning and our prayers and our cries for deliverance.  We have a new covenant in Jesus Christ.  God's promise to save mankind from his sins has been fulfilled in Christ.  "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from  God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).  That's just one way to describe the new covenant.  "For if while we were enemies [of God] we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life" (Romans 5:10).  God knows of our suffering; He's known about all of our suffering before the foundation of the world, which is why He sent His Son to die for us, that we may not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

God hears you.  God knows you're in pain, whatever that pain is.  He will deliver you a way of escape.  "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Our hope is in Christ, and as Christ intercedes on our behalf, God hears you (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).  What you're suffering is nothing new; dozens and maybe hundreds of people have suffered what you're going through, so God certainly knows how to bring you through it.  "So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise [through Abraham] the unchangeable character of His purpose, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain [the sanctuary of Heaven], where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 6:17-20).  No doubt you flee from your troubles and suffering in the refuge of God so that you may receive encouragement from Him, holding fast to our hope that is set in Christ, who came before us.  This hope in Christ is the anchor of our souls.  What is this hope?  It is our faith in Him — His fulfillment of the Law, death as our sins died with Him, in His resurrection, ascension, and ultimately our salvation that is in Him alone — the salvation that is coming.  God knows you're hurting, but what sets the Christian apart from the rest is that the anchor of our soul is our hope and faith in Christ.  Many Christians are quick to quote Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."  What's the point of abundantly quoting that verse if you don't have faith in its truth?  Charles H. Spurgeon once said, "Impatience would push open or break down the door, but faith waits upon the Lord, and in due season her opportunity is awarded her."  Have faith; deliverance is coming.  In due time, God will bring you through your suffering and pain.  Just have faith that He will bring you through it His way, not your way.

 


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