Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the Coronavirus. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)
God’s love is not conditional. He loves us always and unconditionally because He is our Ever-Loving Father. For example, whether our children behave well or not, they are our children forever. Our children’s behaviors cannot change our relationship with our children, which is bonded by blood. This is a fact, and permanent and cannot be changed at all. Indeed, our God and we are bonded by His holy and solemn promise, which stronger than the bonding between earthly parents and children because it reaches eternity. After all, His love cannot be confirmed in our finite brain and mind. Only is it possible by the gift of God of grace in faith to make us grasp a glimpse of the magnitude, size, and depth of His love in our hearts.
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! (Isaiah 49:15)
This is God’s heart toward us. No matter what happens, He loves us because we are His children. Indeed, God will never forget us. He always loves us and calls us with His wide-open arm to embrace us deep into His bosom filled with His love and peace. He is waiting for us, as the father is constantly looking out to the hill far distance from home to spot his prodigal son’s return. One day is gone without spotting his prodigal but beloved son returning to the father, but the father does not lose his hope. He comes back to the same place again and looks out the hill again and again with only hope to see his prodigal son returning to him. His hope to see his prodigal son is not diminished at all. Surely he returns the same place with the hope to embrace his son again. This is the love of the father toward the prodigal son, and this is also our Heavenly Father’s heart toward His children.
God dealy loved the people of Israel simply because they were His children. However, the people of Israel did not know nor appreciate the love of God who was their Ever-Loving Father always providing the best to His children. Their journey through the wilderness and the deserts was not easy. The hot sun followed wherever they went. Then they found an oasis, and they happily ran to the oasis. However, the oasis produced bitter water. It was the first oasis that they found after three days’ journey through the wilderness without water. They were almost dying because of the extreme thirst, but they could not quench their thirst because the water was too bitter to drink. Finally, they could not endure anymore. Their complaint burst out. However, they should have had not complained to God, which simply exposed their heart — not truly trusting God.
Only three days ago, what did the people of Israel see and experience?
God rescued them from the Egyptian armies by making a path through the Red Sea. Then the people of Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The path was not muddy, and their feet were not wet. However, the Egyptian Armies had a difficult time to follow because God constantly blocked their advances. As the people of Israel completely emerged out from the Red Sea to the other side, God returned the Red Sea where it was. The Egyptian Armies who chased down the Israelites were buried deep down into the Red Sea. The entire Egyptian armies were utterly destroyed by God’s mighty hand, and the people of Israel witnessed the bodies of the Egyptian Armies washed up on the seashore. The people of Israel gave the highest praises to God and danced before God while making joyful noises. It was only three days ago.
The two million Israelites had a very short term memory. We might wonder how they could even forget how God saved them from the Egyptian armies and God’s awesome power that fought for them. Are we really different from the people of Israel?
Please look back on how we behaved. We were also quick to forget what God had done for us. Our memory about His grace, mercy, and love was quickly fading when we met our life storm, although it should have had not happened. Then our mouths were filled with a complaint to God. After all, we were not much different from the people of Israel. We were quick to forget God’s grace and to complain to God.
Despite the complaint of the people of Israel, God was patient. God faithfully led the people of Israel through the wilderness. God turned the bitter water to the sweet and refreshing water so that they could drink and be satisfied. Then soon they complained to God again. They carved for meat and bread in the middle of the wilderness, but God provided from heaven again. They thought even God couldn’t provide enough meat and bread to feed the two million people of Israel in the middle of nowhere. God saw through their unfaithful heart without trust in God, but in His love, God rained down the meat filled the entire land from heaven. God also covered the land with mana daily. God provided to make the people of Israel fully satisfied not because they were faithful, but because God was faithful to them unconditionally.
Then God instructed to gather mana daily except the sixth day to gather twice as much mana, and Moses told them,
“This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’” (Exodus 16:23b)
On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. The people of Israel were not fully obedient to God.
God loves our obedience because He loves us. How much does God want our obedience?
But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)
King Saul, the first king of Israel, did not obey God’s command, but he offered lots of sacrifices to God because it looked right in his eyes. Then Samuel, the prophet, who came after King Saul offered sacrifices, told his sin of disobedience while emphasized the importance of obedience. Yes, we can offer lots of good things to God, but what God really wants is our obedience by keeping His Word.
The people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. What was the response of the people of Israel?
Again, the people of Israel complained to God. They had not changed at all. They had not learned at all although God patiently gave opportunities to learn about who God was and how they should behave before God for all times including both good and difficult. They started quarreling with Moses and said,
“Give us water to drink.” (Exodus 17:2b)
They demanded as if they were entitled to be pampered by God always. Are there any parents who do not give the best to their children? All parents know and always give the best. However, it is also true that children are spoiled if they are pampered by only good things. The people of Israel were spoiled.
There was only one adult among the two million people of Israel. Moses was the one. Moses stood up and said to the people of Israel,
“Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” (Exodus 17:2c)
Moses asked to behave before God. However, they did not hear Moses. Instead, they grumbled against Moses and God, and said,
“Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17:3b)
The complaint was getting to its extreme again. Did God really want to kill them with their children and livestock in the middle of the wilderness? Absolutely not. Even so, they complained. In fact, God always protected and provided, again and again, out of His love. God always cared for the people of Israel, but their mouths were prone to spew out complaints to God. God provided the sweet and life-saving water, but they gushed out the bitter water from their hearts, which stabbed God’s heart again and again.
Moses was so sad when he heard the grumbling complaint of the people of Israel filled with the dark words — God would kill them with their children and livestock. Moses did everything that he could do, but they did not listen to Moses. Moses quickly found there was nothing that he could do. He had to retreat from the people of Israel and went back to God. Moses cried out to God. For this time, Moses’ prayer had somewhat changed. His prayer was not like used to be. Moses couldn’t keep patient and faithful like God who always put up with all complaints of the people of Israel including the last one – demanding water again without trusting in God although they experienced how God provided water less than a month ago.
Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)
Bible tells Moses was the most humble man on the face of the earth. Even so, Moses could not bear with the repetitive complaints anymore. Yes, the most humble and meek person could not put up with the repetitive complaints of the people of Israel.
“What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” (Exodus 17:4b)
Once Moses started to see the people of Israel through his own eyes, instead of the eyes of faith in God, he quickly fell and became a normal person. Then Moses suddenly feared men because his eyes saw the danger of his people who were about to stone him. However, it was a far smaller threat compared with what he had endured against Pharaohs and his mighty armies. However, for this time, in Moses’ eyes, the hands of the people of Israel picking up stones to stone Moses appeared so huge that it dwarfed his faith. Moses used to stand tall in faith without fear of anyone including the Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, the Egyptian armies chasing down him and the Israelites, and the two million repetitively complaining and arguing people of Israel.
As a result, Moses’ prayer was not what it used to be. The center of his prayer was himself for the first time! Then Moses prayed to God while asking what he had to do rather than what God would do for the people of Israel. Yes, Moses had a strong faith in God, but as his faith weakened, he started concerning himself and put himself before God. This is the most subtle but serious temptation as a servant of God. Once it starts, slowly but steadily, the self takes over God’s place. One sign that we want to carefully watch for is whether we describe what God has done as something done by ourselves. In reality, so far what Moses had done was very minimal when compared with what God had done. To split the Red Sea, what Moses did was just lifting up his staff before the Red Sea. Then God split the Red Sea. However, like Peter, who saw the big wave coming at him and were in fear by taking off his eyes on Jesus and quickly sank deep into the water, Moses took off his eyes on God and saw the two million people who picked up stones to stone him.
Despite Moses’ fear and the people’s complaint, God’s love toward Moses and the people of Israel did not change at all. God answered Moses,
“Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” (Exodus 17:5b-6)
God protected Moses in fear and also gave what the people of Israel wanted. God equally loved both. God gave a promise to Moses and, God would stand before Moses so that the people of Israel could not harm Moses. Additionally, God continued using Moses, although he for the first time feared the people, and showed His awesome power to give water for the people of Israel. For Moses and the people of Israel, God picked a huge rock, the most unlikely object to produce water, and provided water so that the people of Israel could be fully satisfied.
Upon God’s answer, Moses called Aaron and together summoned the people to come and gather at the rock.
“Listen, you rebels!” he shouted. “Must we bring you water from this rock?” (Numbers 20:10b)
Again, Moses told as if he and Aaron would bring the amazing work to bring water rather than God. Indeed, he stole the glory of God, and God saw through Moses’ sinful heart. Moses raised his hand high so that all could clearly see his hand high in the air holding the staff with which he performed many miracles. (In fact, it was not Moses, but God performed all of the mighty miracles.) Then Moses struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill. Yes, God saw through Moses’ heart, but God gave the water for both Moses and the people of Israel.
Moses was the most humble and meek person on the surface of the earth, but Moses did fall from his absolute faith in God when he saw the people around him, who picked up stones to stone him. What can we learn from Moses for this time? Even Moses, who had with such a strong faith, could fall. This happened when Moses took off his eyes from God. Then Moses even stole the glory of God. This means that nobody is safe from a temptation to steal God’s glory because it is so seductive. We should remind ourselves as our faith weakens. We can easily get into the temptation of stealing God’s glory as Moses did.
Then what should we do when our eyes drift away from God and chase the world and even we are tempted? As soon as we notice a glimpse of this sinful pattern and a seductive temptation bubbling up from the bottom of our hearts, we should immediately go back to God and humbly ask His protection, and guidance along with His forgiveness. We, who are much weaker than Moses in every sense, will surely fall at a much quicker pace than what Moses experienced. Only can God’s merciful intervention protect us from drifting away completely and fail.
However, we should be not fear all spiritual battles that will come at us because the victory is sure as long as we are in Christ. The victory belongs to Him. This is the promise given to us, which is stronger than anything else because God seals this promise by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross.
When we see temptations coming at us, such as taking over God’s glory as our own, we immediately stop what we are doing and refocus our eyes on Jesus firmly to see clearly His grace and mercy. Then we will see this blessing: His stronghold is ours, and our shield is the Lord. Therefore, what we need is just fixing our eyes on Him. Then our victory is automatically sure because the strongest bond of God’s love is firmly reinforced. Yes, we are His, and Our God is our Ever-Loving Father dearly loving us unconditionally.
Again, this is the solemn promise of God. We will win in Him regardless we have failed in this world because our fell cannot be permanent in our lives. Almighty God who created heaven and earth is on our side as our Ever-Loving Father. Therefore, let’s confidently come to God and fix our eyes on Jesus Christ on the cross, and follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in our heart. Then our journey on earth shall be filled with His grace and mercy regardless we are cursing through on a glassy sea or sailing against a stormy sea. Praise God, Jesus Christ, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Helper in our heart with our loudest voices ever and ever!
Be Strong In The Lord
By Linda Lee Johnson
1: Be strong in the Lord, and be of good courage;
Your mighty Defender is always the same.
Mount up with wings, as the eagle ascending;
Vict’ry is sure when you call on His name.
Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And be of good courage, for He is your guide.
Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And rejoice for the vict’ry is yours.
2: So put on the armor the Lord has provided;
And place your defense in His unfailing care.
Trust Him, for He will be with you in battle,
Lighting your path to avoid ev’ry snare.
3: Be strong in the Lord, and be of good courage;
Your mighty commander will vanquish the foe.
Fear not the battle, for the vict’ry is always His;
He will protect you wherever you go.
So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)