The people of Israel lived in Egypt for 430 years. In fact, it was on the last day of the 430th year that all the Lord’s forces left the land. — Exodus 12:1-51
As I listened to my new friend and brother in Jesus tell his story, I marveled at how God met him in one context, then another and then another.
In private reflection and public activity, God was calling him to Jesus.
No big fanfare.
No steamrolling of his will.
Just a steady undeniable revelation of himself to a heart that was sincerely seeking. The promise of finding is only made to the one who seeks. Seeking leads to finding and finding leads to worship.
Exodus 12 is filled with any number of wonders.
God’s ultimate judgment upon Israel’s abusers.
The mass one-day evacuation of more than a million people.
The willing surrender of the Egyptians of their gold, silver and expensive clothing to the people of Israel.
The description of a rag-tag enslaved people as an army.
They had no weapons. They fought no battles. They had no warriors, just a couple of guys waving a stick around.
The explanation? Yahweh — “I Am Who I Am” keeps his promises.
This divine deliverance, the Passover, is still commemorated today by the Jewish people for “it must be commemorated every year by all the Israelites from generation to generation.”
Followers of Jesus recognize in this story, the foreshadowing work of Jesus on the cross, his blood on the top and sides of the cross for the deliverance from sin and death to any who would believe.
For all who seek, find.
For all who find, worship.
The explanation? Yahweh — “I Am Who I Am” keeps his promises.
So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return. — Matthew 25:1-46
In some surveys, public speaking is one of the most feared activities in our world.
Being in that position regularly has subsided many of those fears in me except for one frustratingly common dream.
I’m heading to speak somewhere and I keep getting stopped or I can’t find my materials or I had no idea I was supposed to speak.
I usually wake up breathing heavily, with a cold sweat, doubling down on my commitment to be ready and prepared at all times.
In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus has much to say about kingdom readiness.
He chooses three parables to emphasize some of the many ways those who claim to be his followers will be acting if they are prepared.
Story No. 1 emphasizes preparation for a short or a long wait for his return.
Story No. 2 emphasizes faithfulness with all he has given.
Story No. 3 speaks to a life lived with a love others first mentality.
In each one, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
The return of Jesus is imminent. We are living in the last days.
These are two truths clearly repeated in the Bible.
Every day that passes puts us one day closer.
We can dismiss it as the silly idea of ignorant religious types.
We can verbally acknowledge it but live apathetically.
Or, we can honestly recognize Jesus’ empty tomb, truly heed the words of Jesus and, with his help, adjust our lives accordingly so that we are Kingdom ready.
Our readiness or lack thereof will be revealed on that day.
Those who are willing
All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the Lord freewill offerings for all the work the Lord through Moses had commanded them to do. — Exodus 35:10 – 36:7
So, there they sat like they had on innumerable occasions before.
Each one was covered with the evidence of a fine meal that had preceded their arrival.
Dishes, lots and lots of dishes.
What to do about is the real question.
Sometimes, I do them and sometimes I don’t.
“Why?” you ask.
The reason is the same regardless of which way I choose — because that’s what I wanted to do.
The command was given to Moses from God.
Build a tabernacle as a place of worship.
This tabernacle’s fundamental purpose was to keep the peoples’ collective heart sensitive and responsive to God.
It required a significant amount of materials and skilled labor to build.
The need was made known and that was it.
None of them had to give. None of them had to help.
They chose to. They wanted to.
The result was overflowing donations and unrelenting service.
Their love for God compelled them to do so.
Out of his love for us, God tells us in the Bible that which is right and that which is wrong.
There is a true and there is a false.
As God, he alone has the right to determine what those are.
He doesn’t force anyone to follow what he says.
He doesn’t make us accept his invitation to enter into a relationship with him.
“Whoever will”, Jesus said.
He makes known the need for us to be forgiven from all our sin and the plan of believing in Jesus for that forgiveness.
And yet, he leaves us to decide whether or not we will be among the willing.
Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? … And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. — Mark 5:1-20
Having a family filled with highly competitive individuals can make everything from backyard soccer to Candyland a real test of self-control.
Rules, real or imagined, are strictly enforced.
A perceived lack of effort by a teammate is quickly addressed.
And, all sources of interference, namely pet dogs, small children and older adults (me), must be kept out of the way lest they influence the outcome of the game in any way or more likely get run over by the over-enthusiastic players.
As Jesus and the disciples exited the boat after a stressful and amazingly miraculous trek across the lake, they were met by a legion of demons who had completely taken over and taken residence in a man.
They knew who Jesus was. They knew their time was and is measured. They knew he had the authority and power to do with them, even at that moment, whatever he wanted.
Their initial concern?
The crowd who came, unbelievably, had the exact same concern!
“Go away, Jesus! Leave us alone.”
The personal sting of this story set in after a few moments of reflection.
Rightly, I love Jesus’ forgiveness.
I love his gracious blessings.
I love his faithful presence, peace and promises.
Hmm…What about his interference? You know — The surrender, sacrifice and serve part. The resist temptation and endure hardship for me part.
I love the Bible verses that tell me I matter to God, but not so much the ones that say, “those people” matter to him, too.
Until Jesus’ interference is as welcome in our hearts as his inspiration, life and life to the fullest will remain a concept, not a living reality.
Tom Wiles is senior minister of Fall Creek Christian Church in Pendleton. He can be reached at 765-778-3166.