Again, we see the story of our own lives unfolding in today's reading. The crushing slavery of our sin, and the death sentence that results. Then we see Satan's fierce determination not to let us out of his slimy grip, increasing our bondage as soon as God begins the process of leading us out of captivity. Notice in verse 4 when God is recounting the covenant, and He promises to restore us to the land our ancestors used to live in (Promised Land)-which is the land we were made for from the beginning. That is why we have such longing. When He leads us back, we will regain the unbroken fellowship on a sinless earth that man was created to enjoy. Of course, we see the whole story of salvation being told here, God feeling compassion for our captivity to sin, and promising in verses 6-8 to:
Free us from our slavery to sin
Redeem us with mighty power and great acts of judgment
Make us His own special people
Be our God
Bring us into the Promised Land
Where in that equation can we do anything to save ourselves or to get free of Satan's death grip? As we will see in coming days, God will free us from Satan's grip, but we will surely get ourselves into our own captivity by our rebellious choices!
7:3 But I will make Pharaoh's heart stubborn (remember-"will strengthen" Pharaoh's heart) so I can multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. Have you ever thought about this? What if, when things are going really badly, and problems are multiplying in your life left and right, that God wants to use those times to multiply miracles and wonders in and through you? Being a sign and a wonder doesn't have to come through someone wicked like Pharaoh. God can use His children as the same for His glory, according to Isaiah 8:18: Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion (NASB).
At these times, when all hope is gone, are we going to be whiners like Israel, or will we be a sign and a wonder of God's amazing deeds?
7:22 But again the magicians of Egypt used their magic, and they, too, turned water into blood. This verse sort of stumps me. I mean, if all the water was already blood, how did they find any that wasn't blood to change into blood? Perhaps they were just piggy-backing on God's miracle, claiming the same power. The REAL demonstration of power would be if they had changed the blood into water. I wonder why thy didn't think of that? But, of course, we know it wouldn't have been possible. Can you imagine the stench? Decomposing blood, dead fish everywhere...ugh! Also, according to verse 19, how could Pharaoh have returned to his palace and put the matter out of his mind (vs. 23)? And how is it that the wells were drinkable? Inquiring minds want to know.
18:21-35 Every time we are tempted to hold a grudge against someone for some offense they committed against us, all we have to do is stop and ask, "Have I ever done this to the Lord?" Many times the answer will be yes, but even if it is a sin we have not committed against the Lord (or others), the magnitude of the sins over our lives that God has freely pardoned far outweigh anything anyone could have done against us. Something that has helped me too, forgiveness from us toward others is not the same as excusing. We know that someday God will make those things right for us, so we wait for His vindication, but in the mean time, we forgive.
Why forgive? As the saying goes, "Unforgiveness is like eating rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die."
Questions for personal reflection:
Have you been eating a steady diet of "rat poison"? What must you do to get well?
Do you have any reservations about your life being used as "a sign and a wonder" to others? Does that thought bring you fear and worry or excitement and joy? Why?
Think about this. Those things that will happen to you, both good and bad (the ones you don't cause by your sin), are "divine appointments." Haven't we seen that through lives like Joseph? Even bad things that happen to us are not to bring about needless suffering, but to display God's hope through signs and wonders, displayed in us to the world.
I just read this morning about a 26-year-old Saudi woman (Muslim), who became a Christian-an infidel! Her brother locked her in her room for four hours, during which time she knew he was planning to kill her. Check out this poem she wrote and posted to the Internet just before she was martyred by her own brother:
There are tears on my cheek, and Oh! The heart is sad
To those who become Christians, how you are so cruel!
And the Messiah says, "Blessed are the Persecuted"
And we for the sake of Christ all things bear
What is it to you that we are infidels?
You do not enter our graves, as if with us buried
Enough-your swords do not concern me, not evil nor disgrace
Your threats do not trouble me, and we are not afraid
And by God, I am unto death a Christian-Verily...
...as to my last words, I pray to the Lord of the worlds
Jesus the Messiah, the Light of Clear Guidance
That He change notions, and set the scales of justice aright
And that He spread Love among you, Oh Muslims
--Fatima Al-Mutairi 2008
As we near the last of the last days before the return of Christ, we are going to have to begin seeing our problems in a new light, lest we lose our faith during times of great trials and persecutions.