October l9, 20l2
Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh, My!
I love you, O Lord, my strength. - (Psalm 18:1, ESV)
Friend to Friend
I will never forget how the movie The Wizard of Oz lingered in my heart for days after I first saw it. I was just a child like the heroine Dorothy who won me over the instant she sang the dreamy lines of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I was deeply moved by the story of this young girl who had been caught up by a complicated dog matter and a whirling tornado that transported her to a strange land far, far away.
While watching the adventure play out on our humble television set, I joined the story in my imagination. I cheered for Dorothy as she came to the defense of her spirited puppy, Toto, when a mean, witchy woman wanted to have him killed. I sank deep into the couch cushions and trembled with fear when the black and white farmhouse was lifted in a storm then fell crashing down in an unfamiliar place of Technicolor.
Along the yellow brick road, I made friends when Dorothy made friends. Never again would I look at a scarecrow, a lion or a tin can the same way! I shared in her longing for a safe return home to her Auntie Em and their farm in Kansas. My heart-hopes soared with hers as Dorothy was told that there was a powerful man in the Emerald City who could help her: the Wizard of Oz!
As with any good story, there were scary struggles and frustrating setbacks. Flying monkeys captured her… a wicked witch tried to destroy her… but even still, determined Dorothy continued on the yellow brick road toward the Emerald City because her hope was there. Her hopes were placed in the powers possessed by the famed Wizard of Oz.
Sadly, after all the ups and down they went through, Dorothy and her friends found out that the wizard was, in fact, powerless. Powerless! What a stinkin’ disappointment!
Dorothy was crushed. Her buddies were crushed. I was crushed. How in the world could this happen? Hope had skipped along side of them the entire journey down the yellow brick road. How could anticipated strength possibly fade to weakness?
Alas, it did.
Hearts were heavy with ache.
All seemed lost as Dorothy and her companions confronted their disappointments. Then a surprising shimmer of hope broke through when it was revealed that Dorothy actually possessed the power that she needed to get home. She had the power all along. Her ruby red slippers were the key!
Let me just say – at this point – happy dances were thrown down both on the screen and in my living room.
Tears fell as goodbyes and hugs were shared. Then Dorothy grabbed Toto and made her way home by calling on the power that had been with her all along. Within seconds, they found themselves somewhere over the rainbow of a dream: home. Safe and sound.
To this day, that story still moves me.
I can relate to Dorothy on so many levels. She was a girl with a dream and a song in her heart. An average, ordinary girl who had to deal with complicated people and sort through difficult circumstances. A girl who knew what it was to place her hope in other people and be disappointed. A girl who finally came upon the strength she needed to find her way home.
Isn’t that all of us?
Aren’t we continually looking for the strength we need to bring our hopes into reality?
Moses was a man who faced complicated challenges and whirling storms of circumstances too. Born in a time when he, as a Hebrew baby, was supposed to have been killed, Moses was saved by God’s sovereign grace when Pharaoh’s daughter pulled him from the Nile and kept him as her own.
A Hebrew among Egyptians, Moses was raised in a land and culture that was far, far removed from his heritage and from the One true God of Israel. As far as black and white is from Technicolor.
You know this story! We saw it on the flannel graph boards in Sunday school as little girls. We watched Charlton Heston acted it out on the movie “The Ten Commandments.” Moses had it all in the palace – lost it all when he murdered an Egyptian soldier – then, eventually, risked it all for the holy God who called out to him and commissioned him from a flame. (Need a refresher course on the details? Go read the book of Exodus. It’s completely amazing.)
Moses set out to free his people in the power of God. Though the Pharaoh doubted God’s strength, the Lord displayed His might, plague after plague, until finally it looked like Pharaoh got the memo. He let God’s people go. Moses’s yellow brick road of rescue led him and the Israelites out of Egypt and into a dry and dreary desert. (Say that ten times fast!) As they ran away from Pharaoh’s army, the Israelites ran smack dab into a seemingly insurmountable obstacle: the Red Sea. Major problem.
Not one to be hindered by impossibility, the LORD took care of business in a huge and powerful way as He parted and held back the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites so they could escape destruction and experience deliverance. After His people crossed over safely, God made another strength statement by sweeping the Pharaoh and his army into the sea, killing every last one of them. (Exodus 13 and 14)
My goodness. What a story! What. A. God! Girl – if this doesn’t get you excited about the strength of God, I’m not quite sure what will!
“Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” (Exodus 14:31)
Then a big ole’ party went down as Moses and the Israelites sang to the LORD a song that’s commonly referred to as the Song of Moses.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.(Exodus 15:2)
In Exodus 15, Moses calls God his Strength and celebrates the power that brought salvation to his people. Oz is the Hebrew word for strength. How about that!? El Sali, is a Hebrew name for God of my Strength; God my Rock.
King David also calls God his Strength in Psalm 59:9, O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. Then again in verse 17, O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. (Psalm 59:17)
You might be struggling with this… wondering where the strength of God is in your story. Maybe things are good for you right now, but you know of others who are in shady places along their yellow brick roads. Each of us is guaranteed life challenges, but God promises to be our strength when we call on Him. He is not a puffed up and powerless wizard of Oz hiding behind a curtain, pulling strings. He is the God of Oz – El Sali –the God of Strength who loves you and longs to move in and through your life.
Will you trust Him deeper today and allow His joy to be your strength?
Dear Lord, my Strength, El Sali, You are powerful and loving. Thank you for allowing me – this average, ordinary girl with complicated relationships and difficult circumstances – to have access to your perfect Strength when I am weak. Help me to trust you when all my heart sees are lions and tigers and bears.
In Jesus’s name, amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
Read the first half of Psalm 84:5. Blessed are those whose strength is in you. Who is this comment directed to? In what ways has this been true in your life?
Nehemiah 8:10 says, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” What do you think the joy of the Lord looks like? Have you seen it lately? If so, in whom?
More From the Girlfriends
Don’t you just love a good story? I sure do. I’d love to hear your strength story! Stop by my Facebook page right now and leave me a comment about how God has shown himself mighty in your life! The strength-party is here: www.facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic.
To be honest, there are a million times that I feel more weak than strong. What a battle! Yet, I know the best response is to trust in God’s strength and choose to praise Him…in and through it all. Music really helps me. My new CD, Uncluttered is purposed to sweep you away from life-noise and to focus your heart and mind on the one thing that matters: your relationship with Jesus Christ. We are running a great CD Special now, so swing by www.GwenSmith.net…or you can download the songs from iTunes or Amazon.
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