02/24/M – When the Going Gets Tough

Exodus 4:27-5:21; Matthew 18:15-22; Psalms 23:1-6; Proverbs 10:13-14

OT: “Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the Israelites. Aaron repeated everything the Lord had said to Moses and performed the signs before the people. The people believed, and when they heard that the Lord had paid attention to them and that he had seen their misery, they knelt low and worshiped. Later, Moses and Aaron went in and said to Pharaoh, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival for me in the wilderness.” But Pharaoh responded, “Who is the Lord that I should obey him by letting Israel go? I don’t know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” They answered, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go on a three-day trip into the wilderness so that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, or else he may strike us with plague or sword.” The king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you causing the people to neglect their work? Get to your labor!” …That day Pharaoh commanded the overseers of the people as well as their foremen, “Don’t continue to supply the people with straw for making bricks, as before. They must go and gather straw for themselves. But require the same quota of bricks from them as they were making before; do not reduce it. For they are slackers — that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Impose heavier work on the men. Then they will be occupied with it and not pay attention to deceptive words.” …So Moses went back to the Lord and asked, “Lord, why have you caused trouble for this people? And why did you ever send me? Ever since I went in to Pharaoh to speak in your name he has caused trouble for this people, and you haven’t rescued your people at all.”” (‭‭Exodus‬ ‭4:29-‭5:4, 6-9, 22-23‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

When Moses and Aaron gathered the Israelite elders together and gave there presentation, all was well. The people believed Moses and Aaron and a sense of relief filled every heart. Little did they know that the struggle for freedom had only begun. Receiving a word from the Lord is so exciting and faith-building. Everyone is ready to embrace the word of promise until adversity comes. Following God’s purposes is no walk in the park, but for some reason, so many believers expect God’s will to be easy. We have an adversary that is persistent. Many times he will withstand us, and then use his opposition to accuse us of not hearing God – saying, “if you truly were following God’s will everything would fall into place… everything would be easy… you didn’t really hear God… you made this all up in your mind.” The Israelites that were celebrating Moses’ arrival were the ones that were asking Moses to leave once adversity hit and things began getting tough. Adversity is challenging. God even told Moses that there would be resistance, and even after knowing that it would come, Moses still lost resolve when the resistance came. Do I know the voice of the Lord well enough to know when it is truly Him speaking to me? Is my faith in the voice and word of the Lord strong enough to withstand adversity, or do I shrink back in doubt and intimidation? When I am discouraged, where do I go? Do I wallow in self-pity, or do I go to the Lord in prayer and honestly lay everything before Him and trust His word?

NT: ““If your brother sins against you, go tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he doesn’t pay attention to them, tell the church. If he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you…” Then Peter approached him and asked, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times?” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven.” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:15-17, 21-22‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

Unfortunately, much of the adversity and resistance we face comes from other people wronging us – and many times from people who claim to be part of Christ’s body. The easy and “natural” thing is to allow resentment to build up between you and the person that wronged you, but Jesus presents a better, albeit more difficult way: forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing, although forgiveness is required for reconciliation to happen. Jesus talking about the brother who sins against you is about reconciliation – not forgiveness. You give a brother who has sinned against you opportunities to repent of their sin and be reconciled. If they refuse to acknowledge their sin, even before the witness of the church, then at that time, they are unwilling to reconcile and cannons live in relationship with you until they are willing to be reconciled. Forgiveness is different – which is why Peter asks the Lord about forgiveness after Jesus talks about reconciliation. The Rabbis at that time held a 3 strikes and you are out attitude toward forgiveness and taught that forgiving someone more than three times was unnecessary – so Peter thought that he was being incredibly generous with his forgiving seven times. But Jesus’ reply basically said that we should always forgive and not put a limit on our forgiveness. Forgiveness is more about our heart and not so much about the offender. When we forgive, it prevents us from becoming resentful and opens the door for reconciliation. And why would we withhold forgiveness from someone if God doesn’t withhold it from us. Forgiveness is unconditional – reconciliation and restoration is not. You can forgive someone and not be reconciled.

Psalms: “The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need. He lets me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; he leads me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff — they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:1-6‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

When we submit to the Lord’s leading and allow Him to be our shepherd, He will lead us through scary, challenging, and dangerous places on the way to promise – but all the while, He protects and comforts us. And if we stay with Him and don’t get scared off, He flaunts the blessing that He gives us in the face of our enemies. When we remain with the Lord, the very things that the enemy uses to withstand us and scare us off become the very things that God uses to bring blessing, life, strength, and renewal to us – and in remaining faithful to us as we are faithful to Him, he makes a public spectacle of those who stood against His work in and through us. Don’t lose heart. Trust in God, and follow the Good Shepherd.

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