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“speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:” (Exodus 14:15, KJV)
Greetings List Members. I apologize for missing last week; but its been a challenging road for the last little while. Forgive me if I ramble a bit today, but there have been many thoughts running through my mind. This email will be my attempt to relate these thoughts:
There are times where I feel to my very core, that God is telling me to “step out boldly;” even though I am stepping out into the night; even though it is so dark that I can hardly see my own way.
As I pen this weekly, my wife does not have long for this world because of cancer; but God is telling me, still, to “go forward,” without any light, or explanation at all; except perhaps by His own, divine command to “go.”
I think it was something that Mathew Henry wrote once that comes to mind:
“The God we serve is sometimes a God who seems to hide Himself; but never is He absent.” (Heb 13:5)
Those who know THIS way to God can find in their darkest hour, the living GOD.
The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: this is my God, and I will praise him…and I will exalt him. (Exodus 15:2, R.V).
But when we are the one “in the dark,” how irrational it all seems! We Christians who have traditionally had God deal with us bountifully, can certainly understand praising His holy name. But we need to have the greatest respect for any person who undergoes said experiences “in the dark,” and still have the same praise and the same faith in Jesus Christ on their tongues, and in their daily walk. I have vivid memories of some church members telling me once when I lost a job that I really liked:
“well you just don’t have enough faith.”
Many times, while some blame could be attached to us when we are going through the really tough things; let us consider why do some of us keep “going forward” giving glory and praise to Jesus the whole ways through?
God in His providence brought the Hebrews into the mountain fastnesses before the sea, that He might manifest His power in their deliverance and signally humble the pride of their oppressors. He might have saved them in any other way, but He chose this method in order to test their faith and strengthen their trust in Him. The people were weary and terrified, yet if they had held back when Moses bade them advance, God would never have opened the path for them. It was “by faith” that “they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land” (Hebrews 11:29). In marching down to the very water, that was previously impassable; they showed that they believed the word of God as spoken by Moses. They did all that was in their power to do, and then the Mighty One of Israel divided the sea to make a path for their feet, when they could proceed no further on their own.
My wife’s cancer battle is drawing to a close. Our love grows stronger by the day to meet the needs of each hour. Immanuel is here in the room. We both know He is here. Some people would/have criticized saying, “well you have to make sure you teach her this doctrine, or that doctrine, “while there is still time.” But if such people would just be quiet and listen, they would soon see that every church could use just one person like my wife. She has been so strong, so beautiful, so much to so many, always a sympathizing word for any one who crossed her path; and faithful to God. She often says “YES” in our conversations.
At times, I have thought I need to “have the talk” with my wife, as she lies here dying a little more each day. I have come to see that we have already had that talk. A long time ago. Even now, if I try to talk about her dying, she will just softly grow quiet; but if I start to talk about how “God is here;” how “we will see each other in the resurrection;” the furrowed brow, and the pale countenance lights up the room for a minute with her sweet smile, and very assertive “Yes.”
We have learned that married couples, or even unmarried, or regardless of orientations and beliefs, must begin that first day together by “having that talk.” By finding out what is important to each other, and by helping one another along on the journey. All I have to do now is to take her hand, and say: “God is here,” and then the clouds of impending death give way to her bright smile and her assured “YES.” This morning she could but whisper the word. But it still had the same effect,
I was going to call this devotional “She Always Says Yes,” because there is something so powerful in the way she says just that one word. I am sure I will always hear that when she is gone; but then, would that mean that she will never really be “gone?” But I decided to call this: “God always says yes.” It seems more fitting because He is the light in the clouds of our personal experiences. He is the One called “Immanuel.” Jesus is the One who abides in the heart, God has just walked into the room, and God is why my wife says “YES” like she does. In our darkness and thick clouds, God is always there, and to me this means, that God always says YES.”
“He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.” (Psalms 18:11)
From the most terrible peril, one night had brought complete deliverance. That vast, helpless throng–bondmen unused to battle, women, children, and cattle, with the sea before them, and the mighty armies of Egypt pressing behind–had seen their path opened through the waters and their enemies overwhelmed in the moment of expected triumph. Jehovah alone had brought them deliverance, and to Him their hearts were turned in gratitude and faith. Their emotion found utterance in songs of praise. The Spirit of God rested upon Moses, and he led the people in a triumphant anthem of thanksgiving, the earliest and one of the most sublime that are known to man. . . .
That song does not belong to the Jewish people alone. It points forward to the end of all the foes of righteousness and the final victory of the Israel of God. The prophet of Patmos beholds the white-robed multitude that have “gotten the victory,” standing on the “sea of glass mingled with fire,” having “the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Revelation 15:2,3)
“And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20:21)
The cloud that was a wall of darkness to the Egyptians was to the Hebrews a great flood of light, illuminating the whole camp, and shedding brightness upon the path before them. For my loved one and I, those gathering storm clouds that others may see, are in our reality the very Light that we need for this very point in time. (Esther 4:14). We are both assured that God has brought us together “just for such a time as this.” Truly the dealings of Providence bring to the unbelieving, darkness and despair, while to the trusting soul they are full of light and peace. The path where God leads the way may lie through the desert or the sea, or in the midst of thick darkness; but it is a safe path.
Jesus IS THE Light in our clouds.
“FAITH” is not some kind of magic drug that we take, along with a few incantations to constitute a spiritual anaesthetic of some kind. Faith is THE victory that overcomes the world by doing battle with it.
God’s Word to all those who love Him is:
Surely, to anyone God has given faith, it is just as though one gave a lantern to His friend, because He expected it to be dark on our way home? And one of the interesting things about faith to me is that because true faith is centered in Christ, it always says YES, and always leads us to our heavenly home.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalms 119:105)
“They compassed me about like bees,” is how the Psalmist puts it. (Psalms 118:12). There is a vast world of truth in this one thought. It would seem that almost every few minutes some days, we get a sting from some fiery shaft, some bad memory, some dark foreboding, some fear, some cares and many worries. But God lets us sustain all of these and more. As Christians, we so-often overlook the fact that we sometimes have serious doubts about if God is with us or not. Jesus did. he even said: “Father; if its possible, please let this cup from me.” But then Jesus surprises with a little light in the thick clouds gathering about Him in The Garden. The quiet statement that said “Nevertheless, not my will but thine;” is one of the loudest YES’s in history.
Many of us doubt our “sainthood” because we have been brought so low; all of our abilities and activities have been removed. Circumstances closed in against us tightly. Suggesting no escape. No reason. Just darkness. Doors have been shut. Finances have ended. Physical exhaustion. Impending death. Lying on the sick bed, physically exhausted, wondering how Jesus can consent to such an “unreasonable” situation. God once said to Elijah: “Get thee hence…and hide thyself…” (1 Kings 17:3).
BUT Elijah is not to remain in obscurity or inactivity forever. Our most common error is trying to affix our future, according to our present conditions. Let us arouse our soul from this deadly coma! There is always the “afterwards” of God’s gracious promising.
“We should NOW acquaint ourselves with God by proving His promises.” (GC 622)
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the full knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. Through these he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, seeing that you have escaped the corruption that is in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Pet 1:3-4, ISV).
There is no place we can go, where Christ has not been before us. “He was oppressed, afflicted…” (Isa 53:7). JESUS has even entered into the tomb, resting on the Sabbath in the grave; that we might be resurrected on that glad morning, where I will hear once again my wife say “YES.”
JESUS took upon Himself what we deserve, that we might take upon ourselves what He deserves.
The only way to make nothing of our lives is to be very careful with them:
“Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” (Luke 17:3).
In freeing our souls from the bondage of sin, God has wrought for us a deliverance greater than that of the Hebrews at the Red Sea. Like the Hebrew host, we should praise the Lord with heart and soul and voice for His “wonderful works to the children of men.” Those who dwell upon God’s great mercies, and are not unmindful of His lesser gifts, will put on the girdle of gladness and make melody in their hearts to the Lord. The daily blessings that we receive from the hand of God, and above all else the death of Jesus to bring happiness and heaven within our reach, should be a theme for constant gratitude. God will not refuse to say YES to true heart-felt gratitude.
“…the angel of God, who was going in front of the camp of Israel, moved behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front of them and stood behind them, coming between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. The cloud remained there even in the darkness, illuminating the night, so that the one side did not come near the other all night. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD caused the water to retreat by a strong east wind all night, turning the sea into dry land. As the waters were divided, the Israelis went into the middle of the sea on dry land, and the waters formed a wall for them on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14:19-22).
Perhaps, one of the things this scripture would suggest is that in Christ, the darkest, thickest clouds of our experience act as a protection from something even worse that what we are going through. Notice how that cloud behind which God parted the waters of The red Sea, notice how those clouds “illuminated the night.” Have you thought about what kind of cloud could illuminate the night? It looked basically like a wall to the Egyptians; but to the people of God, it was Light, and it was God leading them, and it was God telling His people to GO FORWARD.
“And they took their journey from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness. And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night. He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.”
Says the psalmist,
“He spread a cloud for a covering; and fire to give light in the night.” Psalms 105:39. See also 1 Cor 10:1
The standard of their invisible Leader was ever with them. By day the cloud directed their journeying or spread as a canopy above the host. It served as a protection from the burning heat, and by its coolness and moisture afforded grateful refreshment in the parched, thirsty desert. By night it became a pillar of fire, illuminating their encampment and constantly assuring them of the divine presence.”
In one of the most beautiful and comforting passages of Isaiah’s prophecy, reference is made to the pillar of cloud and of fire to represent God’s care for His people in the great final struggle with the powers of evil: “The Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for above all the glory shall be a covering. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.” Isa 4:5, Isa 4:6, margin.
Could it be, that in the midst of your “clouds,” that God is saying tenderly, to you personally:
if you are married, if you have a partner, if you have a friend or a neighbor, why not take someone’s hand today, and just say:
“God is here.”