Pastor Aaron has a friend in Chicago who slow cooks a prime rib for 14 hours every year for Christmas dinner. But one day in February, he got his natural gas bill, which was for more than $3000! Turns out the outdoor natural gas for his barbecue had been running since Christmas Eve — for two months.
This kind of rude awakening, after having done what you think you’re supposed to do, must be a glimpse into the kind of disappointment Moses and Aaron experienced after they initially confronted Pharaoh in Exodus chapter 5: ““Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me?” (v.22).
Have you ever prayed like this? “Lord, don’t you care? Don’t you care about the hostility in our country? How long will extremists kill, and children suffer? Where are you when my own family is falling apart? What kind of God are you?”
God’s answer to Moses is a repeated promise, starting in chapter 6 verse 1: “Now you will see…” What follows is the story of the ten plagues, starting in chapter 7. What is especially interesting is the context of Egypt’s religious culture, and the way Yahweh’s plagues addressed their various gods.
In the plagues, Yahweh demonstrates lordship over the entire world, from the supply of the Nile to the fertility symbolized in frogs. The ninth plague, darkness, is the penultimate showdown between Moses, perceived to be a nobody, and Pharaoh, the most powerful person in the known world. Moses spent forty years thinking he was somebody, then forty years learning that he was a nobody, and his final forty years realizing what God can do with a nobody (D.L. Moody).
Even today, our battle is not against flesh and blood. What would Moses say to us today, when our expectations are disappointed? Would he encourage us to take part in God’s “long game,” encouraging us to trust in God’s eternal perspective rather than our own short-term point of view? Even today, we could ask, “Why would God allow Israel to suffer more after Moses obeyed?” But even that question presumes that we know how God should operate. We inadvertently presume we know best, especially from the darkness of our own suffering. And we may not be able to comprehend God’s activity in our lives. But what we can do is trust. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for” (Hebrews 11:1-2). This is also what Jesus is commended for (among other things) as he can empathize with our disappointed prayers. Jesus, who asked for God to spare him his suffering, just before the troops came to arrest him.
Do you ever give yourself the time to contemplate that God is at work even though you may not perceive it? Do you ever give yourself the time to ask, “Do I really trust?” It can be a frightening question, but it is the question of the faithful.
– What struggles have you had that made you wonder if God was present or cared?
– Did you find the ability to trust?
– If you did, how did you find it?
– If you did not, how did you cope?
– Do you know someone struggling to believe that God cares, or even exists? How do you relate to them?