Have you ever been in a place where your hopes were dashed? You were expecting life to be fantastic, but instead it turned out phenomenally terrible! What happened???
Hopes of Escape
One day last week I was reading about the Israelites as they neared the end of their time in Egypt. Moses and Aaron told the people about God’s promise to deliver them, and their hopes soared! “When they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped” (Exodus 4:31b NLT). They just knew that God was going to move and make things better for them.
Wouldn’t you know, that’s not what happened. After Moses and Aaron went to see Pharaoh, he made the work even more oppressive and overwhelming for the Hebrew slaves. Their hopes were dashed.
“The Israelite foremen could see that they were in serious trouble when they were told, ‘You must not reduce the number of bricks you make each day.’ As they left Pharaoh’s court, they confronted Moses and Aaron, who were waiting outside for them. The foremen said to them, ‘May the LORD judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharaoh and his officials. You have put a sword into their hands, an excuse to kill us!'” (Exodus 5:19-21)
No longer did they believe that God had sent Moses to lead them out. Now they thought Moses was acting on his own, and God was not going to use him to help the people! They blamed Moses for their worsening circumstances.
Moses cried out to God and basically asked, “What on earth are you doing?? This isn’t what I expected You to do!!”
God responded by repeating His promise to bring the people out of their oppression in Egypt and to lead them to the land he swore to give to their ancestors. Moses was reassured and ready. “So Moses told the people of Israel what the LORD had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery“ (Exodus 6:9).
That sounds like hope wrecked to me. Things were worse now then they they had been before. The people had a glimmer of hope in God’s hand moving on their behalf, but that glimmer had been snuffed out by the burden of their circumstances.
They couldn’t see beyond their suffering to the God who was watching and moving behind the scenes to bring them to freedom . . . just not the way they were expecting!
They didn’t yet know what God said through Isaiah many years later:
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”Isaiah 55:8-9
As we read further on through the book of Exodus, we see the awesome power God revealed to both His people and the Egyptians. If they had been able to leave when Moses first returned to Egypt, they would have missed witnessing firsthand just how mighty God really is!
Maybe you’re in a place now where you expected God to come through for you in a mighty big way, but things haven’t happened the way you had in mind. Please, don’t give up on God! Your circumstances don’t define you, they don’t define God, and they don’t limit Him in any way. He is still able to do what might seem impossible to us.
Hopes of Overflowing Life
The same morning I read Exodus 4-6, I also read Matthew 13. The parable of the sower had something to say along the same lines.
In explaining the parable to His disciples, Jesus had this to say about some of the seed:
“The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced“ (Matthew 13:20-22).
Jesus came with the promise of abundant life for all who believe. What a promise!
But that abundant life requires a bit of participation on our part.
- If we don’t tend our roots by spending time with our Life Giver and Sustainer, we will quickly dry up and wilt. We will have no strength to withstand difficult circumstances that come with following Jesus, because our eyes are on our problems instead of our provider and protector.
- If we don’t tend our surroundings and the attention they crave, they’ll suck the life out of us and we won’t have anything to show for our faith. Instead of relying on our Master Gardner, we will pour all of our energy into trying to sustain ourselves.
Are you struggling to experience the abundant life Jesus promised? Think about what you’re focused on, and make adjustments as necessary. Look up, look to Jesus, and stand on His promises!
I’ll end with this encouragement from the author of Hebrews:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.Hebrews 12:1-3