Pandemic, Manna, Contentment, Anger, and the Idol of Me

They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Exodus 16:1-3 (emphasis added)

This was my Bible reading this morning, and it got me thinking….

Two months after the miraculous ten plagues, Passover, and crossing through the middle of the Red Sea on dry land, the entire congregation of Israel is grumbling.
This is more than the casual complaining, “just saying”, or venting type attitude we excuse ourselves of now. Or was it?
They were a good two month walk from the greatest civilization at the time, the only place they had ever known, and were now on a never ending camping trip in the middle of the wilderness. Oh, and they had run out of food. The people had some legitimate concerns! Food is important! Being in the middle of nowhere lacking food is deadly!

So what’s the problem?
Instead of seeking God’s guidance, instead of calling out to him for help (he clearly had the power and willingness to help them out), they looked to their own knowledge, their own understanding, and their own situation as being ultimate.
They had grown discontent. Following a miraculous pillar of cloud by day, and warming, light giving pillar of fire was not good enough.
They had let that discontentment take root, and now they were angry, with Moses and Aaron. Really? No. They took it out on Moses and Aaron. They had seen in Egypt what happens when you shake your fist at God directly, people die!
But God knew their hearts. They were angry with God, not Moses. They were not trusting God. They were trusting their eyes, their heads, their stomachs.

Those silly Israelites! Come on guys!

Well, how different am I? Just two weeks into public spaces being closed because of this current pandemic, and I feel discontent, a little angry. Justifiably so! A lot has changed in a short time, but if being in the wilderness and running out of food was not a good excuse for idolatry, then safer-at-home orders are not a good excuse either.

Idolatry? Whoa, hold on there. I see no statue worship, no fist shaking at God, no out right denial of his work.

Yes, idolatry. Whenever our peace, our hope, our security is relying on something other than God it’s idolatry.

Comfort, control, predictability, family, community, health, finances, “me time”, independence, whatever! If you are willing to sin to keep whatever it is, then it’s an idol. Not trusting God is the foundational sin, it’s what got Adam and Eve in the garden.

Yes, things are crazy. Yes, it is scary, nerve wracking, and we need to exercise caution (extreme caution in some cases). Yes, there is suffering (there was before COVID-19 and there will be after it).

But! God is not surprised, this is not outside of his plan. His good, pleasing, and perfect will for the good of those whom he has called, and for his glory forever and ever, has not changed and will not be stopped. Nothing can thwart his will.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”

Romans 8:35

What happens in the next verses of Exodus? God gives them Manna, literally raining bread from heaven to feed them. Just before giving them the Manna, God gave Moses instructions about the Manna. God said to only collect enough for one day, except for the sixth day of the week collect enough for the seventh day also because the seventh day is the Sabbath, the day of rest. Even in God’s provision, he is requiring that the people trust him.

God did not take the people out of the wilderness. God did not lead them on a quicker path to the promised land. God did not have them settle down and start growing crops to solve their food problem. No, God did not change their circumstances, but came to them in the midst of their circumstances and provided for them even in their difficulty and even provided for them in their disobedience.

Praise God he comes to us before we come to him! Praise God he gives us grace before we ask for forgiveness! Praise God he allows us to see our weakness, so that the beauty of his provision is vibrant! Praise God he permits suffering so we stop clinging to our flimsy idols of self, and cling to our all sustaining, holy Savior!

Soli Deo Glroia!


Praise deep in the woods… or cave.

Psalm 57

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me.
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! Selah

My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts-
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

It’s a weird time. People are afraid, acting in ways they never thought they would. Children are home, stuck inside for the most part, and driving their parents up the wall!

Yes, I chose to quote an entire Psalm, because right now, more than usual, context matters. David wrote this song of praise while running for his life, hiding in a cave. If you’re familiar with the story, this is the cave where Saul comes to, ahem, relieve himself, and David is hiding in the shadows close enough to be able to kill him.
Saul had been pursuing David, to kill him. David, legally, had the right to defend himself, and his men, and strike first. What does he do instead? He sneaks up, while Saul is- um- yeah, and cuts off a piece of his clothing. Then, when Saul leaves the cave, David and his men emerge and show the cut piece of clothing, showing how close Saul had come to death, except for David choosing to show mercy towards Saul, and love to God.

Let’s be clear on a couple details here:

Saul was the man God had allowed to be king of Israel. Saul was the government David was called to submit to and obey. Saul was pursuing David, because God had anointed David to be king, taking his favor from Saul.

David did not pursue becoming king while Saul lived. He never raised up an army to take over the kingdom. Actually, David supported Saul, fought along side him, served him.

This context of the brokenness in David and Saul’s relationship, magnifies the dependence and strength of David and God’s relationship.

David relies on God.
Why? Not because of who David is, not what David has done, not what David has refrained from doing, not what David will do, but because of who God is.

David’s situation is not the best, he’s hiding for his life in a cave.
The situation of the world currently is not the best, many hundreds of thousands of people are effectively hiding for their lives in their homes (much better than a cave, but you get the point).

But God is…
Merciful
A Refuge in the Storm
Most High (none is higher!)
Fulfiller of Puposes and Promises
Savior
Just
Steadfastly Loving and Faithful
Exalted
Glorious!

Because God is, We can be…
Steadfast
Joyful Noise Makers
Awake and Alert
Thankfulness Shouters
Praise Singers
Glory Heralds

This crazy time reminds me of this song (it’s just constantly playing in my head!)

But I want it…

Daughter: “Mooooooom! She has my bear!”
Me: “Were you playing with it?”
Daughter: “Nooooo, but it’s mine.”
Me: “Well, since your sister didn’t take it from you, and you really weren’t playing with it, I think you can wait until she’s finished playing with it.”
Daughter: “But I waaaaant it…”

How many times have I had this conversation? Countless.
How many times will I have this conversation in the future? Countless more.
When will my children out grow this phase of selfishness, control seeking, and greed? Never, and honestly I haven’t ‘out grown it’ either.
Nobody has, nobody will, because it’s not a phase.

It’s not a behavior issue. It’s not a childhood issue.
It’s a heart issue. It’s a humanity issue.

As adults we are a little bit more sneaky about it. We want, typically, good things.
We want things to go well. We want to be secure. We want things just so. We want time to do what makes us feel good, look attractive, feel accomplished, appear intelligent.
We want to be in charge. We want control.

Here’s the problem, we want what we want no matter what.

My daughter is not as sophisticated as I am, so she readily admits: I want it, and I don’t care about anything, or anyone else.
As adults, we would never say that out loud! Maybe not even in our heads…
But that is the reality of our hearts.

How do you check this?
For, as Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Here’s some ideas of how to check your heart:
What makes you upset? What ruffles your feathers? What makes you anxious?

Our hearts are deceptive even to us!
The problem arises when the good thing we want becomes, as Paul David Tripp says, “a ruling thing”.
When you want that thing more than you want to be in God’s word, serve his people, and come before the throne of grace in prayer; more than you want Him, you’re heart is in the wrong place.

God must be first.

Here’s the other deceptive part. We think we can do Jesus plus ____________.

God is exclusive. He does not tolerate sharing first place in our lives. He is not neutral, it’s all or nothing. We either give him all the glory, all our control, all our desires, all our work, all our everything, or we are giving it to something else.

How can a loving God be so greedy, jealous, selfish even?
That’s what we think, but here’s the deal, it’s not ours to begin with. Everything belongs to God, our lives, our stuff, our family, all of the universe belongs to him. More than that, in our sin, we were dead, and separated from God. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross gave us what we did not have: life.
Everything we have is from God, any sense of selfishness, need to control, or greed simply does not make sense!

As believers we do not have to be trapped in the deception of our own hearts. We are free from that! We still must fight as long as we are in these sin riddled, broken bodies, but we are not enslaved to sin any longer. Our victory is not realized yet, but it is assured, achieved, and indeed “finished”.

We are well equipped to fight, with the Holy Spirit in our hearts, the very Words of God in the Bible, our lifeline, and intimate communication of prayer, and our fellow soldiers in our local churches, our band of brothers and sisters.

I encourage you, as I encourage, exhort, and instruct my own heart, and my children’s hearts. Fight the good fight.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Confident in what?

Yes, she chose every item of her outfit.

This is my sweet, silly, second born daughter.
She sings at the top of her lungs, love the feeling of the wind in her hair, and longs for the day when she can put on makeup with mommy.
When I look at her and see her confidence, I wonder, is this really my daughter. Confident is not a word I would ever consider in describing myself.

My daughter’s confidence often exposes her heart and where that confidence comes from. Pride.
You see, she is so confident in herself that she is furious when she does not get her way. When Mommy tells her no. When her siblings aren’t playing the game she wants to play. When she doesn’t get to watch her favorite movie. When she can’t go play with her friends because one of her siblings are sick and we have to stay home.
“But I want it” is her new favorite phrase. Pride.
I want it. I deserve it. I cannot be happy with out it. Pride.
It’s all about me.

I struggle with pride too. I want my own way. I just don’t ooze with confidence like she does. I tend to go the “poor me” route. The result and the heart is still the same. It’s all about me. Pride.

So what is confidence? Is it really pride in disguise? Or is it something else?

The bible uses the word confidence in both positive and negative ways. The psalms speak negatively of those who put their confidence in their own ability, strength, or military power. Paul speaks of the confidence he could have in the flesh, but that his true confidence is in Christ (Philippians 3).
When I think a biblical definition of confidence, I think of Hebrews, really the whole book, but chapter 13 has a great summary of the concept conveyed in the rest of the book.

“…be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” “
(Hebrews 13:5b-6)

So the key to confidence is this:
Where is the root? What are we confident in?

Confidence in anything other than Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is pride. We must look to Jesus Christ alone. It’s an all or nothing deal. Christ is either our all or we really don’t trust in him at all. But we can trust him with everything!

The powerful creator of the world, lived the perfect life for us, died our rightful death for us, resurrected assuring life eternal for us, and is with us moment by moment giving us grace to live and bring him glory.

This is where I want my little girl, and me, to find confidence, because Jesus will never give up on us, never fail us, and is always with us.
We will fail. We will mess us. We will be inconsistent. We will lose. We just simply can’t.
When we put our confidence, faith, hope, and trust in an unchanging, good savior we have something that nothing else on this earth can give us (even ourselves!).
Peace.

Peace because he knows.
Peace because he hears.
Peace because he sees.
Peace because he understands.
Peace because he is able.
Peace because he is willing.
Peace because he is good.
Peace because he came.
Peace because he conquered.
Peace because he lives.
Peace because he will complete what he began.
Peace because he is coming again.

This world, our own flesh, and the devil cannot give us peace.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Soli Deo Gloria

Wherefore, therefore Joy

I just recently finished C. S. Lewis’ book, Surprised by Joy. Throughout the book, I couldn’t really figure out what he meant by joy, because the way he described it was familiar, but not how I had ever heard joy described.

I actually listened to it, for free from the public library!
(not a plug or ad, just an awesome fact!)

“All Joy reminds.” Lewis states in the book.

He goes on to say that whenever we identify an object, experience, person, or whatever, is the cause of our joy, we miss it entirely. Joy, he says, is a sign.

In thinking about it now, I can see his point. For example, the joy of Christmas is more often in the excitement before, and build up to the day, but not actually the day itself.

Being the thoughtful, introspective, introvert that I am (enneagram 5, if you keep up with the trending thing), I was thinking about Lewis’ definition of joy while at the park with my children.

Clearly, from their expressions, they are enjoying themselves. Why? All three are feeling something they crave, and intangible thing that causes them to meltdown and throw tantrums when it’s time to leave the park.

For my son, it’s the joy of doing something with another. Togetherness is his favorite. You can’t touch that, it’s incredibly hard to manufacture it, and fake togetherness does not spark that same feeling of joy he wants.

For my youngest daughter, it’s a simple thrill. The little g-force of a swing, delight of being tickled, or playing peek-a-boo. Again, an untouchable thing, an emotion, which can be caused by several different things.

For my middle child, she’s a little trickier than the other two. She enjoys things that strike awe. How do you capture that? She finds joy in music, drawing, dancing, funny faces, the feel of the wind in her hair, a flower in bloom, a bird flying, a rain shower. For her, joy is a mystery. It strikes when she least expects it, and she does all she can to replicate it, usually resulting in frustration and the occasional tantrum.

All three of my children love the feeling of joy, they seek it, they crave it, they get very upset when they can’t reproduce it.

I have the privilege, as their mom, to show them that joy is not an end all. That feeling, that rush, that high, is rather unattainable, but it points to something better, something that is everlasting.
The togetherness my son craves is ultimately satisfied in relationship with the never leaving friend of his Savior Jesus.
The thrilling emotion my youngest loves is caused by the Creator of the world, the God of the universe who made her to have emotions.
The awe my middle child feels points to the fall-to-the-floor awe we will experience when we see God face to face.

Joy is a pointer to the ultimate, to God.

My prayer, as a parent and follower of Christ, that I would not look for joy in this world, and that I would point my children to the Lord of Joy. I pray that one day, I would be able to stand side by side with my children and make a joyful noise to the Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria