Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How Many Plagues?

How many plagues must we endure before, like Pharaoh, our sinful nature agrees to let God’s people go?

I was reading the account of God’s deliverance of Israel from the Land of Egypt in Exodus 4-12 and it struck me that we keep ourselves captive in sin and suffer the plagues that call for the release of God’s children. We experience illness, depression, poverty, neglect – all those things that sin has brought into our lives because we refuse to put aside those things and let the new creature inside of us go free!

Like Moses preaching to the Pharaoh, the prophet Isaiah speaks of our deliverer in the 61st chapter and we find Jesus, In Luke 4:18,19, leaving no doubt that He, The Christ, has come to bring us out of our bondage.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn…” Isaiah 61:1,2
When we accept our deliverer, as with the people of Israel in Egypt, there is always a testing of the faith (no straw for our bricks), but we are called to keep the faith as God strengthens His people and equips us to throw off our captor and live free from the “sin that so easily ensnares us.” (Hebrews 12:1).

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside very weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…”

There are sins that most all of us find easy to avoid, no problem to refuse, but within each of us is imperfection, a chink in our armor. We all have places in our life where Pharaoh says, “I will not let your people go.” In each of us, our sinful nature will try to harden our hearts and hold us in sin although our desire and our profession has been a death to sin.

In these recesses of our soul, there will be consequences, plagues to soften those hard hearts and, many times, as our hearts respond and look to God, the plagues may be removed. Hebrews 12 tells us to look to Jesus, the giver, the sustainer and the finisher of our faith, for our endurance. Paul also tells us in Hebrews that we have a responsibility to one another.

“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end…” Hebrews 3:12,13

Pharaoh, after several plagues, began to try and deal with Moses. He wanted to let part of the people go, then all the people, but no livestock, always trying to withhold something from God. God said no to Pharaoh and was unwilling to deal. It was to be God’s way or no way. God does not desire to “deal” with us either. We are not allowed to hold on to the things that we desire, but that sin against God. God says the gift of Jesus is free, but we must give up the sin that He died for; we must repent of those things that bring sorrow to God and turn away from them. Refusing to do so separates us from Him and sets us in a position to reap what we sow.

It is a choice that we must make.

“This day I call heaven and earth as witness against you that I have set before you life and death; blessings and curses. Now, chose life so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life.” Deut. 30:17-20

God is our life. All else brings the worst plague of all, death. The good news comes from and in the gift of Jesus. We read in John 10:10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and they may have it more abundantly.”

Jesus came as the fulfillment of God’s promise to save us from our sinful nature, the nature that plagues our flesh during our days here in the wilderness and we see in Jeremiah 29:11-13 that our salvation and our abundant life here on earth was not an afterthought, but always held in trust for the children of God.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seed me and find me when you seek me with all your heart…..”and I will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Will you soften your hard heart or will you live in your plagues and wonder at those who live in the “land of Goshen”? (Exodus 8:22) “And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the land. I will make a difference between My people and your people.”