October 14, 2012

Bricks Without Straw & The Taskmaster's Whip

My life has become a strange bridging of parallels between Moses and myself. I continue to find parallels in my life story and that of Moses in the Pentateuch. They are parallels that have been pointed out to me by the Holy Spirit Himself. As I/we am/are struggling through another of the bleakest and forlorn periods in my family's and my life, I struggle to figure out how I am to deal with the garbage that is being hurled at us nearly daily. It feels like I am in a hot LZ. The pressure has become unmerciful and I often feel that God has abandoned us. It is exactly because of this anxiety and spiritual isolation that I am convinced He is indeed there due to that very fact. It is when we think that He is conspicuously absent that God is often the most present moving mountains and channeling rivers to redirect the entire path of our lives. It is in these pockets of desperation and despair that I am given what amounts to flashes of intense inspiration. Ideas or thoughts that point me directly to incidents in the Bible that directly parallel my current crisis I am trying to overcome. They are like the ringing of the blacksmith's hammer striking hot metal pulled fresh from the furnace. The sparks of new life and divine creation seem to spring forward from the bludgeoning pressure from above. Impossible demands, insurmountable workloads, unfeasible deadlines, contradictory or illogical marching orders, irrational expectations, stress, work, frustration, isolation, too much to do too little time...bricks without straw...

The life, times and trials of Moses continue to come to the forefront every time I think I am down permanently for the count. I suspect it is the Spirit doing so too. Events in Moses' life that are uncannily identical to my life now. The two that keep coming to the forefront are the narrative in Numbers 11 and Exodus 5. What is even more ironic is that I needed help from friends to determine with the Holy Spirit was trying to reveal to me in these passages about my life. This obviously is directly in line with the story-line behind Numbers 11 and the bringing forth of the 70 elders/leaders from the tribes to assist Moses. I suppose this too is no accident as it is too much of a coincidence. In both Exodus 5 and Numbers 11 we see an impossible situation from a human point of view. This is similar to my current situation. My immediate future and that of my family is in God's hands.  What I also know are things impossible from a human point of view are not impossible for God. As we all know there are no coincidences in a Sovereign God's universe, only plans of a sovereign God coming to fruition. In series I present the passages...

Exodus 5:4-14 ~ But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work? Get back to your burdens.” And Pharaoh said, “Behold,the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!” The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.” So the taskmasters and the foremen of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. Go and get your straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced in the least.’” So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw.” And the foremen of the people of Israel, whom Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not done all your task of making bricks today and yesterday, as in the past?”

Numbers 11:4-15 ~  The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down. Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

These passages are only a portion of the overall stories but we get the gist of the story by reading them above. In Numbers 11, Moses is about to break under the strain of all the people whining and carrying on. He is literally suicidal as we see from the remark, "If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me." We of course know that God already has a plan here to ease the torment of Moses, the picking of the seventy. Those that have aligned, whined and maligned Moses are in reality pitting themselves against God. They will inevitably suffer God's wrath for their impetuousness and selfishness.  I find myself in a similar situations against similar people. People that profess to be good people or Christians but in reality their words and actions speak otherwise. So I endure and wait. 

In Exodus we see something similar. We see Pharaoh aligning against Moses. Again we see a godless man aligning against God's man, therefore aligning against God Himself. We know how Pharaoh's story ends and it is not pretty. As a matter of fact it is quite ugly. We also know what becomes of Moses. It takes awhile but not only does Pharaoh cave-in to Moses/God demands and His exact terms...in the end Pharaoh and the Egyptians come to know the Hebrew God, the great I AM through Moses and God smiting them with the Plagues.

The story-lines in Numbers 11 and Exodus 5 are about deliverance by God in impossible situations for man. They are about problems that from the human level are absolutely insurmountable but for God...well, as in the case of Numbers and Exodus, God already has a plan established to remedy the problem no matter how painful it is. It is just up to us as sinful fallible humans to be patient and wait on God's timing. When the pit looks the deepest and the night looks the darkest--God will deliver us. The sea will part and the enemy will be vanquished in a way that we couldn't have foreseen. In the meantime it may cause us pain, discomfort  and may at times be incredibly difficult but if we just hold on an persevere through the suffering an persecution....a promised land awaits those that are obedient and faithful. We see similar language in the Book of Revelation for those that persevere coming persecution.

I will note that I realized I have been turning inward to deal with this problem and the problems just intensified. One then goes inward away from God and burrows into a sinful mind. This can only lead to circular or orbital pointless thinking, fretting and anxiety. This is no good. I will also note that as soon as I turned outward to others for help, God increased the possibilities and avenue to get away from the problems, burdens and the proverbial Pharaoh(s) that were plaguing my life. In both of these instances with Moses, it is not until he receives help from outside that conditions begin to improve. In Numbers 11 he must turn first to God and then to the elders chosen by God, in Exodus 5 it is Moses turning to God and obeying God even as the foreman nearly attack Moses for the punishment they suffer from their oppressors. 

Even here I see an even more intimate parallel to my situation. In some of the current problems I face I am figuratively being asked to make bricks without straw. To do things without the resources I need to get the job done. I tell my taskmasters that I am shorthanded and out of proper resources and I am generally told to get work done or do more with less. This is made even worse as my work output is not allowed to diminish. Otherwise I will be demeaned even more. Because I cannot actually meet the demands of the environment I am it I am being punished for not meeting the elevated demands which are already unrealistic. Further more the demeans change constantly, sometimes on a daily basis because of the whim of the Pharaoh in my life. His taskmasters then further degrade and flog me. I have no control over those resources as they are controlled  and withheld by those issuing these insane edicts. At times I break mentally under the load and I have not other place to draw strength from then the one that has gone before me and experienced that same pain and the same anxiety. Not Moses, oh  no, the one Moses foreshadowed....Jesus Christ. He has carried this and many other Crosses for us all. I need only take His yoke and I will find rest from this.

I know deep down inside that the powers of darkness lurk around the edges of depraved, rebellious and sinful people's minds. Sometimes within them in terms of possession. Satan is not always the impetus of all the evil men create but that serpent of old won't be far away when the evil is in full sway. I know that the system of the world that Pharaoh rules in in reality currently under the control of the Devil. It is not surprising that it would hammer on those that are God's. We suffer because the system of the world hates God and therefore hates us.We struggle not despite our intimacy with God...but exactly because of out intimacy with God. 

Fortunately, in the end I know that God does have control of all things. There is no power over me that hasn't already been given to my taskmasters from above. God is allowing this for whatever reason. To teach me, to test me...who knows? Perhaps not to punish me but for no other reason than to make others realize things like: The God Andy believes in is, well...God. I pray I do not lose my mind or my Christian witness in the process.

In both of Moses situations (an mine), the immediate presence of God doesn't guarantee and immediate solution....but a solution comes. God never abandoned Moses and nor has He abandoned me. Even the people that are in this situation are say things to me like, "your God has you here for a reason". These are unbelievers people! Unbelievers can see the things that is happening to me and know it is wrong but even they can see something else in the mix. The hand of something larger than us all. The hand of God. 

For now I will serve Pharaoh if it be the will of God. But if it not be the will of God...than Pharaoh be damned. The tip of the taskmaster's whip that scars, stings and rips at my flesh is painful...but it's temporary. The crushing wrath of a just God is excruciating and it is eternal.

In the case of the story concerning Pharaoh, God's purposes come to fruition and it bodes extremely poorly for Pharaoh. It comes not long after this episode with Moses and the incident of making bricks without straw. It ends in Pharaoh's demise at the hands of a Sovereign God. God doesn't like arrogant and pretentious men messing with His children. Sometimes life can be downright unfair and painfully difficult. God never ever promised a pleasant journey, only a pleasant destination. Peter alludes to this in his first epistle.

1 Peter 4:12 ~ Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

So, in the end, this much I know. This is all preparation for the scourging and burn-offs that are coming in the future. I realize now that my schooling is about to end that the hardest days are not behind me but rather in front of me. I cannot just walk out "there" and do ministry. There will come a day when problems now will pale in comparison. God knows the oppression of His people and can hear their cries in heaven. He will deliver His people. I also realize that a change to turn the tables on what is happening in my life and my family's is coming really soon. It will be big and it will be momentous. It will issue forth directly from the hands of my Lord and it will be to the eternal benefit of my family and I. I know for a fact that Jesus will deliver my family and myself from this temporary affliction....because He has already done so eternally on the Cross. The promises of God are kept on the broken back of the Savior. Eternal life comes from the dying breath of God's Son. I am merely imitating Him in these trials as I continue to try and die to self.

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