This year in children’s ministry we are teaching the Bible from beginning to end for the second time in the last four years. Preparing to teach these same familiar stories a again can become routine. Yet it’s always interesting what God chooses to highlight when we take the time to study and read his Word over and over again. His character is emphasized and our response should be new each time we read his word.
Not long ago we read about the Israelites being freed from slavery in Egypt. God rescued his chosen people from the hand of Pharaoh and brought them into the wilderness. From there he promised to provide for their physical needs and eventually lead them into the Promised Land – a place full of blessings. But it didn’t take long for the Israelites hearts to wander and their minds to question whether or not God was really going to follow through with what he had promised.
When the Israelites were being chased by the Egyptians, God rescued his people. He provided a way for them to cross the Red Sea and defeated their enemies. Exodus 14:31 shows us their response to God’s deliverance: “Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” Exodus chapter 15 is an entire chapter devoted to the response of the people towards God. He is their Rescuer. He saved them from their enemies and they praised and glorified him in response to this.
Fast forward to chapter 19 and God continues to speak to his people.
19:5,8 “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;…All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.”
So Moses goes and meets with God to receive the commandments the Israelites agreed to keep with God. Of course, it takes longer than the people expected for Moses to receive God’s message, so they become impatient. During this time, they decide to build a golden calf so they have something to worship. Moses hears from God about their evil acts and burns with anger, breaking the tablets that contain the message God had given to his people.
Reading this story again, my mind starts to ask these pointed questions.
How in the world did the Israelites do something so evil and foolish just shortly after seeing God’s hand of salvation from their enemies?
When I feel like God is not acting in my timing, how do I respond? Is it any better than the way the Israelites responded?
Do my actions mirror those of the Israelites (impatience and idolatry – finding somewhere to place my attention when I am unsure if God is actively working on my behalf) in response to God’s timing?
Do I respond to sin the way that Moses did, burning with anger over the way that it violates God’s commands and grieves his heart?
Do I truly believe that God’s plans are far better than my own. Do I believe that if I just wait patiently for his timing he will follow through and make his plans known to me? …Or do I “work” to create my own plans in my own timing hoping that this is also what God wants for me?
Watching God move and work on our behalf is life-changing. When we see him rescue us from sin and trials, our response should be nothing shy of praise and adoration for who he is and what he has done.
Waiting on God to move and work on our behalf or waiting on God to give us direction can be extremely wearisome. We will probably feel like Israelites wandering in the desert. When we are impatiently waiting on God, we try to keep ourselves busy by doing good works. We find things that we think will please him or others and get to work.
The Israelites did not do a great job at waiting on God. They knew God had called Moses up to the mountain to hear his message, but they were impatient as they waited on his words. So they built an idol and created their own idea of what worship should look like.
Waiting on God requires patience. It requires quietly and purposefully spending time with God in order to be sure that you are hearing his voice and receiving his message. While we wait we should do the one thing that we know will help us to keep our eyes on him–remain in his word.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord. For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.