God’s Unusual Ways

“When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him”

Exodus 2:6

Some Christians speak as though God has lost control and was in need of our help to accomplish his will but He doesn’t do things or use the people we think He should. When Jesus called His disciples He said, “Follow Me” not “Lead Me.” We should stop telling God what He should do and listen to Him.

A young mother had a son born under a death sentence. Pharaoh had commanded that all male babies born to the Hebrews be put to death. We are not told why Jochebed did as she did, but Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby in an ark among the reeds. She called his name Moses. She gave him back to his own mother to raise until he was weened at possibly five years old. Pharaoh wanted the baby dead but his own daughter paid the baby’s own mother to raise him until weened. Then she brought the young child into Pharaoh’s palace and gave him protection and the best education possible in Egypt at Pharaoh’s expense.

Saul persecuted, imprisoned and even killed the followers of Jesus Christ until he discovered who Jesus really is. His name was changed to Paul but those who had sent him out to afflict Christians now put a death sentence on him. But God had told Paul that he would preach the Gospel to kings and rulers. When Paul was rescued by the Romans from the religious Jews and imprisoned, it looked like his ministry might be over. However, it was the Lord’s way of protecting Paul from the religious zealots and getting him into the houses of rulers and king’s palaces to share the Gospel. In addition, he was given free passage to Rome, paid for and protected along the way by Rome, in order to preach the Gospel in Caesar’s palace and to his guard.

I have a friend who was imprisoned for crimes but in that prison he called out to the Lord and was saved. While still in prison he studied the Bible by correspondence. Upon his release he went back into the prisons preaching the Gospel to people who were in the same place where he had been.

It may appeal to pride to think that God needs us – but He does not. Mordecai told Esther that God would find someone else if she didn’t cooperate. God does not need us but He chooses to allow us the privilege of serving with Him – provided we are available, teachable, willing and content to follow His lead.

Don’t Blame God

“You have stricken them but they have not grieved, You have consumed them but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return” Jeremiah 5:3

This is a description of the hardness of heart that mankind has toward God. Before we attribute these words solely to Judah we should reflect on other times when the Lord afflicted Gentiles.

Before Israel even existed Cain was afflicted and refused correction. In the days of Noah the world refused the Lord’s correction and was destroyed by flood. Sodom and Gomorrah refused the word of the Lord and were buried. Nineveh received God’s warning for a time after reluctant Jonah warned them but they are among the few exceptions. The next generation of Ninevites rejected the warning and were destroyed. There are more occasions in the Bible where Gentiles were afflicted yet refused to receive correction. Most notable is Pharaoh of Egypt when Moses confronted him with the word of the Lord.

People often ask the question why there is so much suffering in the world today and blame God for it. They say that if there is a God of love why doesn’t He stop the evil? The Lord answers, “Have you not brought this on yourself in that you have forsaken the Lord your God? Your own wickedness will correct you and your backslidings will rebuke you” (Jeremiah 2:17, 19). This is God’s way to bring us back into fellowship with Him. The alternative is His righteous judgment. Sadly, many people think they will survive His righteous judgment of God without Jesus Christ.

In Jeremiah 5:19, Jeremiah informs Judah, and everyone else as well, why we are so afflicted. He writes the question that is on our minds, “Why does the Lord our God do all these things to us?” and then answers it from the Lord. “Just as you have forsaken Me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve aliens in a land that is not yours.” Israel’s separation from the Promised Land was because they had refused correction from the Lord that came through His prophets. There had to be a step up in affliction. Ultimately this will be successful and a remnant of Israel will enter Christ’s future earthly kingdom.

The same is true for Gentile nations. The level of affliction will be stepped up to encourage the nations to accept God’s correction. We are observing the same reaction to the word of the Lord and to Jesus Christ that Pharaoh gave to the word of the Lord that came through Moses. The world accepts no responsibility, accuses God, refuses His correction usually by denying His existence and wonders why it is suffering more afflictions. Jeremiah puts it in a nutshell, “Your sins have withheld good from you” (5:25). This is stated more fully in 18:7-10. Any nation that turns from its evil ways and to the Lord will avoid the disaster that He had intended to bring upon it. The nation that He intended to favour, if it turns from the Lord, will not receive that favour but will receive His judgment.

We have a national choice. The Lord has revealed the outcome of the two possibilities. We cannot blame the Lord for our choice.

For This Purpose

“For this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16)

If we read this verse in isolation we might be inclined to wish that it spoke of us but the context reveals an entirely different circumstance than what we would desire. The Bible reveals that it is God who raised up nations and kings and brought them down and that He is still doing so even in our day to accomplish His purpose. In addressing Egypt’s Pharaoh on this occasion the Lord gives us the primary reason for the plagues on Egypt. It is “that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth” (v 14) and, “that I may show my power in you and that My name may be declared in all the earth” (v 16; cf. 11:7).

The Egyptians had many gods who arose out of the imaginations of men and were, therefore, imaginary. The God of Israel, on the other hand, was truly God who created all that is and sustains it. The judgments against Pharaoh and Egypt showed the power of God so that they would know that He really is the Creator. None of the gods created in the imagination of men could do such things. The extraordinary nature of the plagues would forever be a testimony of declaration of the name of the Lord. History tells us that the account of the plagues in Egypt has been retold many times in every generation all round the world. God accomplished His purpose in a manner that cannot be explained in naturalistic terms. The attempts of men to do so fall flat in light of the biblical historical record.

The Lord had made a distinction between Israel and Egypt after the third plague. This was so that Israel and Egypt and all who hear of the plagues will know that the plagues have their origin in the Lord God of Israel and not in any other god or naturalistic cause (Exodus 8:22; 9:26; 11:7). The Lord also made a distinction among the Egyptians (9:19-21). Those who took God at His word literally and acted upon it were not destroyed and their animals saved in accordance to the degree that they acted upon the literal word of the Lord.

This is the basis of God’s revelation to people throughout history and, in particular, the salvation that is offered to all people in Jesus Christ. Anyone who will take God at His word, interpreting it literally and act upon that word will not suffer God’s wrath and judgment. The Bible reveals that many did not regard the word of the Lord as faithful and true and they lost everything that they treasured (v 21).

Pharaoh must have been under cover to avoid the hail but he still hardened his heart further against the Lord. This is an eternal principle, seen many times in the Bible, that when a person says “No” to the Lord it becomes harder in the future to say, “Yes” until eventually the heart is so hardened it cannot change.

God could have destroyed Egypt at the beginning and set Israel free (v 15) but He chose to set His people free this way for the purpose stated. This would benefit Israel, the Egyptians and us.

Are you as soft clay in the Potter’s hand, or hard and brittle resisting His attempts to mould you in the way He wants? Pharaoh is an example of one who resists the Lord’s hand.