And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you today, and you have only to stay silent.”

Exodus 14: 13, 14

The word host has many different definitions in the English language, and it comes from several linguistic sources. Many of them refer to large groups, gatherings, or even to armies. So, the idea of being a host is formed out of opening one’s doors to a large number of people, which should be a joyous and a pleasurable activity. The concept behind an army being called a host is that its personnel are numerous to the point of overwhelming an opponent. This is the sort of host that Moses and the Israelite people were facing. Pharaoh’s chariots with their trained warriors on board were being pulled toward them by their war stallions, and the ground between them was diminishing rapidly. Fear of a horrible, painful death was natural; yet, here was their leader standing in front of them and telling them to, “Fear not!” This makes no human sense, for it defies the evidence before them as it also seems to eliminate any prospect of surrender and survival. 

In my experience, no chariots driven by angry spear tossing and arrow shooting Egyptians have come flashing toward me. Still, the experience that the Israelites were having has been mine. There are enemies, challenges, fears, and hurdles to be faced in life today that seem to be as formidable and as relentlessly unstoppable as did that Egyptian army. Although Moses was faced with a choice between the sharp end of a sword and drowning in the sea that stretched out on the other side of them, he knew that he had followed God’s will in doing what he had done and in going to this place. Still, his real confidence came from something other than his execution of God’s marching orders, and it also was found in a place outside of his own skill, strength, and wisdom. Moses knew His God well, and he was aware His faithful heart that would care for them and provide answers for them in any and in all circumstances and situations.

When we are standing in that between place where the opponent, whether human or otherwise, is on one side and the precipice is before us on the other, this is a perfect time to turn to the Lord in prayer and in submission to His wisdom and will. The answer that comes may not be the same as it was for the Israelites wherein their adversary was destroyed as they were granted a miraculous safe passage through the sea. We may suffer pain, disgrace or shame, and be severely buffeted by the forces of this world; yet, the Lord will preserve the soul, and He does bring us out of the situation with our relationship with Him whole and often with it made stronger by the process. Trials and troubles of various kinds are certain to come our way in this life. The Lord’s words that Moses repeated apply to each of us in that we can truly, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord!”  

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Let the favor of the LORD our God be upon us,

   and establish the work of our hands upon us,

   yes, establish the work of our hands!

Psalm 90: 17

This is a song that is credited to Moses and that seems to reflect aspects of the story of the Egyptian exodus, for its background is one of trials and hard times. Still, it is a song about hope, filled with the prospect of the Lord’s provision, and one in which God’s people look to Him as their source of wisdom and truth. When these people seek God’s favor, they are trusting that He has good things in mind for them; so, they also desire to have the Lord guide them into the types and the forms of the work that they will do in service to God. It is through this relationship with God that they are defined as a group of people and as individuals within that greater whole. Then, the work that the Lord guides them into doing and equips them to accomplish provides the means to apply their sense of self to redemptive and restorative acts in the world around them.

When they were held captive in Egypt, they did what their masters demanded, and they lived in a manner that was controlled by the oppressive force that was exerted by others. After they turned to God and were set free by His hand, the Israelites were given a form of freedom that should have granted to them the opportunity to establish a nation that worshiped the one true God openly and continuously and that was a beacon of light and a source of redemptive hope to all other people in the world. This was not to be so, for sin is tenacious, and the people would not release their past comforts and fears sufficiently to trust God fully in all matters. Yet, when they did reach the point of breaking under the burden of attempting to live with one foot set upon God’s will and the other planted in the sandy soil of self-determination, they were able to seek the Lord’s guidance and provision in all matters. So, the words of this song are sung with sincerity and in real expectation of God’s answer.

This ancient story is really not so much about Moses and the people that he led out of captivity twenty five or so centuries ago. For it does not seem to me that our world is all that different from theirs. We can be people who know God and that speak Christ and even sing songs of praise to His name on a regular basis; yet, there is something holding us back from living out the freedom that the Lord has granted to us by the cross and through the cleansing of His precious blood. It is as if we are fearful of letting go of that captive past in its entirety; thus, we cling to the prospect of returning to aspects of life as it was before we knew Christ or that are governed by the rules of life that have been developed out of worldly thinking and a self-centered form of relating to others. In these times, we can repent of our stubborn clinging to the past while singing Moses’ song as we seek that the Lord’s favor, that is, His grace, love, mercy, justice, and righteousness, would pour out over us and that His nature and character would inform and guide all that we are and do. Then the works of our hands, the thoughts of our minds, and the orientation of our hearts can be set along that same God-ordained path of bringing redemption, peace, and salvation to the troubled people and places in our world today.  

But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deuteronomy 4: 29

The object of this message is Israel, but it could be any one of thousands upon thousands of people who have lived throughout history and who are with us today. So, that begs the question, where are those people? Like Israel was when it was taken into captivity in Egypt, they are far away from God, and the distance has been the result of their own thoughts, words, and actions. Any relational walls that exist have been constructed by those far off people, and all of the instances where the wandering people have felt estrangement from God or lack of connection with Him have come about because the people have turned their hearts and the reason of their minds toward other objects for the expression of their love and worship. But God is defined by grace, and His heart is attuned to the needs and to the desires of all people, even these lost ones that have rejected Him. God is open and receptive to their desire to find Him and to enter once again into a relationship with Him.

In the days of Moses, the Lord was willing to reach out into the dark corners of the world and to commission and send a great leader to the enslaved Israelites. So, Moses was there with them in order to do God’s will among the Egyptians so that their power and control over the destiny of the Israelites was defeated. In more recent times, God sent Jesus to join with us in our struggles with sin as it attempts to exert the same sort of power and control over us. Jesus performed the redemptive work that the Father directed Him to do, and He set us free from enslavement to all that is anti-love, spiritually broken, and dedicated to a death that is preferred to living fully in the presence of God. As God used Moses to lead His people back into relationship with Him, so too has He sent Jesus to show us the way into that eternal relationship that has its beginning in this life and that continues unabated for all time, even through the infinite years that exist beyond an earthly grave.

It is never too late to seek the Lord, and no one has traveled beyond the boundary of Christ’s redemptive reach. We may have known God at one point in our lives; yet, we have walked away from Him and gone off on a journey of our own choosing. Still, the Lord is not far removed from where we are dwelling. Christ does not ask us to change all of the aspects of life in order to be suitable for His presence. He takes who we are as being sufficient, and He accepts what we are doing as being satisfactory for His grace to enter in to even the darkest places in our hearts and our minds. Christ brings the light of truth into the world’s oppressive darkness as He casts the hopeful light of the dawn of a new day before us. This is a day when the oppressive weight of slavery is to be removed from our backs and the harsh demands of the world’s idols will be set aside and cast down in favor of the lightness and joy that flows out of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, for any who are far away, this is a good day to turn to the Lord and to seek after His presence with an open and a receptive heart.      

Lord, you have been our dwelling place

   in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth, 

   or ever you had formed the earth and the world,

   from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Psalm 90: 1, 2

Something great or at least very significant has happened. The writer of this psalm, it is credited to Moses, has witnessed God’s hand in action in a mighty way; so, perhaps the setting for these observations is the wilderness after the rebellious generation has died off, the Israelites are in sight of Canaan again, and Moses is at the end of his life’s journey. Regardless of the situation or the circumstances, most lives are touched by times when hard things come our way and situations where we feel overwhelmed and insecure. All of that is a part of life in this place, and all lives are lived out with uncertainty and an element of fear or distress as the backdrop for the journey. Yet, Moses reminds us that there is always something bigger than our story going on in our lives and that our place in history is important to God but it is still just a moment in time from the Lord’s perspective.

All people throughout the entire scope of time have been given the gift of the presence of the Lord. This was true for Eve and Adam, He was there with Moses through the entire course of his life, and God is right here in this world with us today and until the end of time. The Lord has given us a safe place to dwell in the midst of the storms that swirl about us in life. His presence is real and His loving grace and mercy are poured out upon us even when we think and act in ways that are undeserving of that sort of care. The Lord had a plan and a purpose for Moses and the Israelites that he led, and He never departed from leading them into the fulfillment of their place in that great and eternal story. The same thing is true for each of us now. God sees and knows each of us in ways that are deep and intimate, and He desires for us to trust Him so that we will follow His will into the outworking of that great adventure of life that He has established for us.

Even our days of turmoil and trouble have a purpose in the much bigger perspective that God holds over all of the world. Everything that we lose is this life and each of the setbacks that we encounter is an opportunity for us to turn in faith toward the Lord and to trust Him to carry us through these moments and into the rest and the hope of His care and provision. Every step that we take can be one that is set out for us by God as He surrounds us with His love, grace, wisdom, and hope. To put things into perspective, the God who formed the universe and who contemplated the entire scope of its history before any of it was hung in the sky is the same loving Father, Savior, and Lord who sheds tears over the pain and the trials that each person endures. The Lord of that universe and the King of Glory is also my comforter, the Savior of my soul, and the One who guides my steps along His paths of righteousness, and this is true for each of us as we trust in Him and seek out His presence with us for the journey.     

Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?

   Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

   awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

Exodus 15: 11 

Sometimes I just need to close my eyes and open my inner being in order to allow all that is the Lord to come flooding deep into my mind, heart, and soul. It does seem that all of us require these times of reflection, for otherwise, life is just too busy and we are far too distracted to even notice what God has been about along the path of our traveling. God had certainly been active and present during the time just before Moses and the Israelites sang this stanza from their great song of thanksgiving to God for saving them from the Egyptian army. We can look at this scene and quickly recognize the fact that it is relatively easy to give thanks to God when He has done something spectacular such as parting a large body of water and then closing it up again to swallow up the angry forces that are seeking one’s own destruction. Expressing appreciation for God in those circumstances is no problem at all, but those sorts of events don’t come along very often. So, we need to find other points along the way wherein we stop and reflect on the wonder, the majesty, the loving care, and the provision of the Lord in our lives. These are the moments when we reflect upon God’s perfect holiness.

God does not do what He does for the reasons that motivate most of us. God acts out of the depths of His character, and the words and deeds that spring forth from there are carried out as a full expression of His nature. The Lord genuinely loves His creation in ways that we struggle to begin to comprehend. He cares about the way that our lives go, and He enters into the course of affairs in our world in a manner that expresses that care, concern, and desire for us to flourish in this life. The rub for people often comes from the fact that God’s concept of flourishing is quite different than is ours. We think in terms of comfort, wealth, health, and position or power when we describe what it means to be successful in life. The Lord looks to our souls and desires for us to be people who love Him, seek after His presence in the ordinary spaces of our lives, and who take a similar attitude of loving care and understanding grace with others that we encounter during our days. God never promises us that we have wealth, health, or an easy journey through life; instead, He promises to us that He will never leave us in this life and that we will be with Him in Heaven for eternity after these days are completed.

So, back to that moment of quiet, close-eyed reflection. It seems to me that it is very easy to lose sight of God as I go through the processes and engage with the urgencies of my days. The voices that assail my mind often place blinds over my heart’s ability to discern truth and wisdom, and the tasks that life demands frequently claim my mind’s total attention to the degree that they have my absolute loyalty. All of this comes at the expense of my ability to appreciate the One who makes it possible for me to do everything that I accomplish and who grants me the love, grace, and wisdom that I need to enter into all of it with a heart that is set on doing what is righteous, good, and holy. The Lord desires for each of his people to live out every one of our days in a manner that will bring the presence of God into all of the places that we occupy and that will leave the sweet aroma of His holy love behind us as a reminder of why we live as we do. The ability to go through life with God in front of us in everything is gained and is enhanced in these times of looking closely upon His face, of expressing thanksgiving for all that the Lord is and does, and by seeking His will for each thought, word, and action that we will undertake today.  

Then Moses said to God, “If your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from this place.”

Exodus 33: 15

 

In this part of his conversation with God, Moses is being honest, and he is letting the Lord know just how much he relies upon Him. Moses understands that there is no amount of honor, acclaim, or power that people can give to him that would make leading the Hebrew nation worth doing if he were not following God’s path in the process. Now Moses was the leader of a great number of people, and he commanded an enormous amount of respect in that position; yet, he was wise to in the ways of God and of living life, and he had come to the place where he understood that this wisdom all came from the Lord.

 

We should adopt the same attitude in all of the things that we set out to do in life and for all of the journeys that we take. Now I find it easier to consider that I should seek out God’s will for the really big things and the significant movement through life; however, Moses was really saying that he did not want to take one single step that was not in the footprints of God; that’s right, not even one! The Lord wants to go before us through everything and to every place, and when that is true, great things can happen in the most routine of circumstances; for then, we will be bringing the reflected glory of God into the sorts of places that we often don’t consider to be a part of the sacred. Isn’t that exactly where the presence of the Lord is most needed?

 

Yet, this request of God already has an answer, for the Lord has promised that He will never desert us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13: 5) So, the answer to this request gets down to my own desire to see it fulfilled; since, the Lord will lead me along His path and through any situation where His will desires for me to go. My part in all of this is much the same as was Moses’, for he had been talking with God in order to know the Lord better, and Moses had opened his heart and expressed both his desires and his concerns to God so that he could hear God’s perspective and will in these matters. We can do exactly the same thing. We can get to know God better every day; talk with Him about all of life and about all of its concerns and challenges; and be prepared to step forward with Him as the Lord takes you on His great journey.

 

I proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to God!

The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just;

A God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.

Deuteronomy 32: 3, 4

 

It strikes me that Moses had a far better than average understanding of the way that God works in the lives of His beloved children. He had seen more ups and downs and a lot more transition and change than most people could encounter in several lifetimes. Yet, through it all, in fact, at the center of much of it was the Lord, and God’s will and desire for establishing a legacy of righteousness among His people were the primary driving forces behind much of what Moses had done and where he had gone.

 

Moses had developed a keen awareness of just how important the quality of his footing was in order to make real progress through the desert. He also understood the need to get through all of the sand that sifted into his own life and that made it seem like he was making progress along God’s path when he was actually just expending all of his energy pushing against his own mental, emotional, and spiritual debris. Yet, when Moses turned to the Lord and sought after His direction, God went before him as a brilliant light that continually and consistently revealed the true rock solid path of His will.

 

Like Moses, my life has its days where the footing is firm and the direction is clear, and there are other times when I feel as if my feet and legs are sinking deeper and deeper into the sand. These are times where every step requires a degree of effort that is heart-bursting. In order to get out of the deep sand and back onto the solid path and to stay on that path more of the time, the same things are required of me that Moses needed to do. He actively recognized who God is and made the Lord the center of his life and the object of his focus. He accepted and acted on the fact that God’s ways are always right, just, and should not be questioned. Additionally, Moses was willing to allow God to show him where he was wrong and then took action in order to remove the sand of his wandering times from his feet and to continually seek God’s rock-solid path of righteousness.