Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, Oct. 14, 2001.
"But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31, KJV).
A precious friend of mine said recently about her family's situation, "We have nothing. We are flying on God's wings." Her affirmation touched me to my core and I replied, "That is where we all are." Worldly goods, homes, lands, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, power, prestige, none of these things count for anything when we come into the presence of the Lord, as thousands did on September 11th. Those who remain behind must ask themselves, "What is important? What is life really about?" I have heard several say that the events of that day caused them to rethink their lives, to realize the truth spoken by another friend, "Life is not a dress rehearsal. It is all we have." Those of us who walk with God know that this life is merely the staging ground for our real life, which is in spirit, in the eternal realms of our Father. Our real life, which is in Christ (Gal. 2:20), has neither beginning nor ending (Rev. 21:6; 22:13). It is forged from the heat of His passion and the ground of His being. His everlasting Spirit has been at work in us since before the foundation of the world (II Tim. 1:9-10), and in Him, "we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
Abraham knew this to a limited degree, and early on, God told him about what would happen to his descendants: "Then the LORD said to Abram, "Know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and will be slaves there, and they will be oppressed for four hundred years" (Genesis 15:13, RSV). If he told his children about this, they had forgotten about it, and in any event, going to Egypt was what God had foreordained to save them from starvation when the great famine swept over the land (Gen. 41:30, 36, 54-57; 47:13, 20). There, they languished in slavery for four hundred and thirty years (Ex. 12:40-41; Gal. 3:17). Subjected to the whips of Pharaoh's taskmasters, and the cruel mud pits, they were forced to satisfy the king's incessant need to glorify himself in brick and mortar (Ex. 1:8-14). Into this bleak scene of despair and affliction, God sent Moses, the deliverer of that hour for His people. When he met with them, the text says, "And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped" (Exodus 4:31, RSV).
I feel sure there were those present that day who thought, "Great! It's time to get this show on the road. Pack up the donkey Eli, and let's get the heck out of Dodge." Not so fast, guys. Have you ever noticed that between the time God gives us the Good News and the time we begin to see it manifested in flesh, there usually are some unpleasant things which we have to endure? Sure enough, once Moses and Aaron took the news to Pharaoh that he was to let the people go, their lives quickly went from bad to worse (Ex. 5:2). Right away, the king took away the straw they used to make bricks and he ordered them to find their own straw but they still had to make the same number of bricks (Ex. 5:10-19). What happened next is very predictable. The foremen of the Israelite workers hammered Moses and Aaron, saying, "May the LORD look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us" (Ex. 5:21, NIV). Looking at the circumstances, feeling the lash on their backs, they were upset. Looking at the situation with his natural eyes, Moses said, "O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all" (Ex. 5:22-23, NIV).
Now lest we be too hard on him, have we not been guilty of this very thing? Have we not looked at our own lives, at the bad things which have happened to us, at the times when we didn't get our prayers answered, at the disappointment we feel when we don't get what we want and said, "Well, God, you have not kept your promise to me. It says right here.....," and then we gave Him the book, chapter and verse. I have done that a few times in my life. So, I understand exactly how Moses felt. It is part of growing up in Spirit, of learning to walk by the Spirit of God, rather than out of our own minds. And please remember, that we have a huge advantage over Moses. We have the indwelling Christ who leads us into all truth (John 1:17; 16:13; I John 2:27). Once we calm down, get off our high horse and down on our knees, we begin to feel the Spirit ministering life and God's unconditional love to us. In Old Testament days, they did NOT have the indwelling Christ. That came after the resurrection and was the reason Jesus gave for having to leave them (John 16:7). What they had under the Old Covenant was an "unction of the Holy Ghost," a King James expression, meaning they had a special measure of the Spirit to enable them to do whatever task God had assigned them (Ex. 31:3; 35:31), be it the ability to weave gold and scarlet and blue thread to make the curtain for the Most Holy Place, or the ability to make the Cherubim out of gold to go over the Ark of the Covenant, or in Moses' case, the ability to perform mighty miracles in the land of Egypt. He had the Holy Spirit, but I get the picture of the Spirit being applied to him from the outside, like a coat of paint. We on the other hand, have the indwelling Spirit living in our hearts, leading us, guiding us, and teaching us, and we have the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16).
After Moses told God how he felt, there follows six verses of God's review of who He is, what He had promised, and how He would do it (Ex. 6: 1-8). The next verse pretty much states the human condition: "Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage" (Ex. 6:9). I want to point out two things about this passage that speak to me. 1) Moses was not afraid to speak his mind and tell God exactly how he felt. I am constantly amazed at Christians who are very angry at God, but afraid to tell Him lest He strike them dead. How ridiculous! Do you think He does not know how you feel? 2) People's response to God is based on how their lives are going. When things get tough, many quit following Him as some of Jesus' disciples did (John 6:66). When that happens, God may heat up the furnace to make His point. I have heard it said that, "There are no atheists in the foxholes." One popular Televangelist observes, "When the plane is about to crash, people are NOT crying out for Buddha or Mohammed or Abraham to come to their aid. They are praying, 'Jesus help me.'" My personal belief is that people who are angry at God but afraid to tell Him how they feel, carry that anger around and often take it out on their family or friends. For me, I have learned over the past 30 years that God can take it. As He did with Moses, He starts with our anger and moves on from there.
Actually, next to Jesus, Moses is my all time hero. He stood toe to toe with the living God, and instead of being fried into a cinder, he walked away God's friend. "The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend" (Ex. 33:11). Moses said to the Lord, "If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is YOUR people." The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you REST" (Ex. 33:13-14, NIV). Truer words have never been spoken: the Presence of the living God brings with it rest and peace, and without that, there is no peace to be found anywhere on planet Earth.
Back to Egypt we go, where God gave Moses his marching orders and told him what was to come. He said, "But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it." Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded them" (Ex. 7:3-6, NIV).
For the next few days, weeks, months, however long it took, God poured it on the Egyptians. 1) He turned the water of the Nile into blood (Ex. 7:17-23); 2) He gifted them with zillions of frogs (Ex. 8:2-7); 3) He turned the dust of the ground into pesky gnats (Ex. 8:16-19); 4) He sent dense swarms of flies all over Egypt, except in the land of Goshen where the children of Israel lived (Ex. 8:21-24); 5) He sent a plague upon all the livestock of the Egyptians, their horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep and goats, but not one animal of the Israelites died (Ex. 9:1-6); 6) He told Moses to toss soot into the air and it became festering boils on all the men and animals on whom it landed (Ex. 9:8-11); 7) He rained down hail on the land of Egypt, killing men and beasts and beating down everything growing in the fields, the flax and barley, and stripped off the leaves of every tree everywhere except in the land of Goshen (Ex. 9: 22-26); 8) the Lord sent swarms of Locusts over the land to devour every living thing that was not ruined by the hail (Ex. 10:12-15); 9) He covered the land of Egypt with "darkness which can be felt" for three days (Ex. 10:20-23); 10) He passed through the land of Egypt and struck down the firstborn of men and beasts, saving the children of Israel by the blood painted on the lintel (Ex.12:12-17, 21-23, 29-33). You want to talk about trouble? They had trouble!
As a result of this final horrific act of judgment against Egypt, Pharaoh did let the people go. "There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. Many other people went up with them, as well as large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds" (Ex. 12:37-38). I have heard it calculated that counting the women and children, there could have been as many as two million Israelites leaving Egypt. That's a lot of mouths to feed. "Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD's divisions left Egypt" (Ex. 12:40-41).
Most of us will remember how God led them, "By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people" (Ex. 13:21-22, NIV). So far so good, but God was not through teaching them trust and patience. Yet again, we read that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, causing him to pursue the fleeing children of Israel (Ex. 14: 2-10). They were terrified, and said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" (Ex. 14:11-12, NIV). Isn't this typical human behavior? Here they had been groaning under the lash of Pharaoh for centuries, robbed of all their personal freedoms, begging God to bring them out and let them go home. When He did, they looked at Pharaoh's army, his chariots, his horses, his formidable weapons, and doubt and fear seized their hearts within them. They were ready to give up because they were not looking at God! Are we any different at times? We pray; we ask for God's help, but when He uses the unexpected to answer that prayer, we cry out bitterly that He has deserted us.
Now we come to the spectacular scene in Cecil B. Demille's movie, "The Ten Commandments," where Moses stretched out his staff over the Red Sea; the winds parted it, and the people went across on dry land (Ex. 14:16). In spite of the inaccuracies, I think the movie did a splendid job of showing the donkey carts, the camels, the geese, the little kids and old men moving through the sea, with Pharaoh's armies held back by the pillar of fire the Lord put there for that purpose (Ex. 14: 19-21). God took His revenge on Pharaoh, and delivered the children of Israel just as He said He would. "And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant" (Ex. 14: 31, NIV). Here again, when God delivers us, we believe in Him, but during the process, when we are in the "divine combine" with the chaff being beaten off the wheat, we moan and groan and protest just like the sons of Jacob did. God brought forth water out of the rock and rained down bread from heaven, but still they grumbled and complained (Ex. 15:27; 16:4, 12, 35).
When the Israelites finally got to Mount Sinai, God called to Moses out of the mountain and said, "This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself" (Ex. 19:3-4, NIV). While THEY were living through it, THEY saw their experiences as horrendous, dangerous, uncomfortable, and down right scary. God said of these same events, "I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself."
This story of the Exodus is very relevant to our situation today, as many stories in the Old Testament are. Our version of Pharaoh's armies are the threatened terrorists attacks. If you keep your eyes on the flesh and the dangers to our lives from anthrax or smallpox, you will be afraid, but if you keep your eyes on the promises and your ears open to the Lord's voice, you will confidently say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?"" (Heb. 13:6, RSV). Verse five of that chapter says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" God will hold your hand and lead you out of Egypt. You will cross over the sea on dry land as He carries you on eagle's wings into His promised land. When Pharaoh's armies or the terrorists are in hot pursuit; when we fear we will not have what we need and we cannot guess what tomorrow will bring, that is the time to ask God to carry us on eagles' wings to His bosom, so that we may see our lives the way He sees them. God had Moses remind the children of Israel, about the benefits of being in these uncomfortable places they had lived through. He said to them, "He (God) humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you" (Deut. 8:3-5, NIV). The Hebrew writer says it this way, "For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives" (Hebrews 12:6, RSV). This is another difference between us and Moses. He was referred to as a servant, but we are sons. "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (I John 3:1, RSV). May God help us to see that no matter what our lives look like to our natural minds, we are all "flying on God's wings."
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The poem, "Flying on God's Wings"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 10/14/01
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 11/04/08.