I was reading a reflection on Exodus 6 this week by JD Walt that challenged me in light of our current circumstances. (JD was our Dean of Chapel during my years at Asbury Theological Seminary and now writes a Daily Text for a ministry known as Seedbed. If you are not familiar with Seedbed and their ministry, do yourself a favor and check them out – www.seedbed.com)
Something JD shared this past Monday started me thinking about my own response to the current social-distancing, self-quarantined, forced isolation, lockdown, toilet paper hoarding, COVID19 pandemic crisis we all find ourselves immersed in. He pointed out that we never hear God’s Word in a vacuum. It always comes to us in the midst of our current reality and our own experience; “our experience of life, the world, sin, death, brokenness, betrayal, failure, success, trauma, pain, deception, disappointment, our strengths, our weaknesses, our Meyers-Briggs personality type, our enneagram number, and a thousand other things.”
And for me a question arises out of this that I think is worth our consideration: what is my trust actually grounded in? Is my trust firmly rooted in the Word of God? His promises, His goodness, His faithfulness and His provision or have I allowed my experiences to overcome my confidence and trust in God’s Word? What is winning out as the controlling narrative for my life?
What is winning out as the controlling narrative in your life right now?
In Exodus 6:6-8 we find an amazing Word of God for the people of God: “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”
God can’t be clearer in His word to the Israelites about who He is and what He is promising to provide. He assures them at the outset “I am the Lord.” Their trust in the promises that are about to follow begins here: He is the Lord. Every word that follows flows from God’s character and His self-identifying statement. His promise is to deliver them out of their slavery at the hands of the Egyptians and redeem them as His own people into a land He has set aside for them to possess. And, then for good measure, in case there remains any doubt at this point, He book-ends His promises with the reminder, “I am the Lord.”
Seems pretty clear, right? How could they possibly miss it?
Yet, if you read further into verse 9 you find, “Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen because of their discouragement and harsh labor.” (emphasis mine) They allowed their experience of discouragement and harsh labor at the hands of the Egyptians, making bricks without straw, to overcome their confidence and trust in the Lord and in his Word. Their immediate reality and current struggle effectively trumped the promise of God’s word for them and became the controlling narrative to how they approached life.
I have to admit, there have been some moments in the past couple of weeks as I’ve internally wrestled with everything going on in our world and the uncertainties we’ve all encountered, when I have found myself slipping into a verse 9 response to things. Discouraged at times and slightly overwhelmed by rapidly changing circumstances, anxiety lurking just under the surface of my emotions, my immediate experience has tried to drown out the Word of God for and in my life.
Maybe you can identify?
We profess the Word of God to be true, we believe it, sing about it, talk about it with others even, and yet at times we find our trust and faith in that very Word to waiver when circumstances go awry. In those crucial moments it is tempting to allow our experience to override our faith in God and His Word. And when that door is opened, anxiety, fear, and even panic come in and make themselves right at home. If you have doubts about that, go and try to find a roll of toilet paper right now. ☺
As the uncertainties of this time of crisis continue to unfold around us and we walk through this together, let’s hold fast to the One sure thing we can confidently put our trust in; the unchanging, unwavering, and unfailing Word of God. God has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He has promised us His presence!
Experiences will come and go, but they do not ultimately define reality for us. The controlling narrative for your life need not hinge on the unstable nature of your circumstances. Faith in the Word of God and the enduring promise of God’s presence to be with us at all times, released into our lives by the Spirit of God, is able to securely ground us even in our most desperate of times.
But we have a choice to make. Which narrative will you choose to follow?
“I am the Lord your God.”