Enemy Occupied Territory – Exodus 6:5-6

“You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them. Therefore, say to the people of Israel: I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment” (Exodus 6:5-6, NLT).

Moses was commissioned by God to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. Before confronting Pharaoh, Moses and his brother Aaron met with the Israelite leaders and rallied them with the hope that God would rescue them from Egyptian slavery, as stated in these verses.

When Moses and Aaron demanded in God’s name that Pharaoh release the Israelites, Pharaoh considered their demands an affront to his own sovereignty and reacted by increasing the Israelites’ workloads to an overwhelming level.

The more Moses demanded the release of the Israelites, the tougher Pharaoh made their lives.

This defining moment in the history of Israel is a classic case of the adversity one may encounter individually and collectively when trying to live faithfully for God.

When we are trying to live for God and obey Him, we should not be surprised or dismayed when we are confronted by hardships and adversities.

Because we live in enemy-occupied territory!

There is a dark power in the universe, Satan the devil, who was created by God but rebelled against Him.

And, Satan enticed humanity to commit the same sin (rebellion) he did. When humanity joined Satan in his rebellion against God, we became natural born citizens of Satan’s domain.

Since this dark power was originally created by God, his insurrection does not even constitute a war between equal or independent powers. It is more like a civil war—an uprising of a subversive political faction trying to overthrow a legitimate government.

And the main issue in this conflict is not an individual’s personal sins, though one’s sins may be many or few.

The real issue in this cosmic conflict is where your allegiance is—you are either a part of the rebellion or a citizen of God’s Kingdom (Colossians 1:12-13).

Satan and his cohorts continuously attempt to thwart the plans and purposes of God’s Kingdom that are being carried out by God’s people. And, Satan does not give up any ground without a fight!

But remember that God works best when all seems lost, when there’s no hope, when failure is inevitable, when it seems impossible to succeed!

So, we must stand firm in our faith when Satan causes adversity to attempt to deter us from obeying God.

We know that God will eventually rescue us and secure the final victory in our behalf.

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11, NLT

God’s Merit Badges – Job 36:15

“God rescues the afflicted by their affliction; He instructs them by their torment” (Job 36:15, HCSB).

In the story of Job, Elihu was the fourth and last to speak from among Job’s friends. Elihu was younger than the others and waited to speak, giving deference to the older men.

Though younger, Elihu believed he was speaking God’s truth in confronting Job, but he claimed neither human superiority nor inferiority to Job.

Elihu had listened carefully to Job’s claims of being pure and innocent and being unjustly oppressed by God.

And Elihu reminded Job that as a human being, he was not in a position to bring accusations against God, his Creator.

Elihu declared to Job that instead of being a sign of God’s unconcern as Job had supposed, affliction was a mark of God’s mercy, keeping one from the path of iniquity.

In other words, the very thing that afflicts you may also be what saves you.

God can use your affliction to rescue and restore you to Him and His will. Your affliction can spiritually develop you into a human being that is prepared for spending eternity with God!

Admittedly, affliction is not my first choice for spiritual growth. In fact, I like to avoid affliction as much as possible. So, I often recite from the Lord’s prayer the supplication that Jesus teaches us to pray for protection from affliction: “And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13, HCSB).

Indeed, our affliction may sometimes be one way that God deals with issues in our lives that could potentially cause us to be unfaithful. But this verse does not say that God afflicts us, but that He rescues and restores us through our affliction. (Remember, it was Satan that afflicted Job; it was Satan that tested Job, not God.)

Because affliction causes us to throw ourselves on God’s mercy!

That which causes my pain and suffering is also that which can restore me to intimacy with God.
     That which causes me to give up and quit is also that which empowers me to endure and persevere.

So what we perceive to be our problem is actually the solution to our problem!

In fact, our affliction may even prevent evil or temptation from overtaking or overcoming us: “Be careful that you do not turn to iniquity, for that is why you have been tested by affliction” (vs. 21).

When I was a boy, I joined the boy scouts. In scouting you earn merit badges for demonstrating a useful skill or a good behavior. By earning merit badges, a scout may advance in rank. Advancement in rank acknowledges the scout’s growing ability to serve others better.

Our afflictions are God’s merit badges. They are designed to empower us to become more obedient and productive as Jesus’s disciples.

“Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons.” (Hebrews 12:7, HCSB)

Growing Wheat in a Field of Weeds – Matthew 13:24-30

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. The landowner’s slaves came to him and said, …. ‘So, do you want us to go and gather them up?’… ‘No,’ he said. ‘When you gather up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but store the wheat in my barn'” (Matthew 13:24-30, HCSB)

In this parable, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a man who sowed wheat in a field but is sabotaged by his enemy who sows weeds among the wheat.

Now, that’s not really the way we envision the Kingdom of God, is it? We sort of understand the wheat field, but the weeds don’t really fit into our understanding of the Kingdom of God.

So, the servants of the owner of the field want to pull up the weeds, but the owner commands the servants to let the weeds grow with the wheat and then he instructs the servants to separate the weeds when they harvest the wheat.

This parable demonstrates the sovereignty of God over His creation. “Evil” coexists with “good” for a period of time.

Then, Jesus interprets His own parable and explains that the sowing of the weeds in the wheat field is unquestionably the work of Satan, the Devil (vs. 38-39).

But God is Almighty and His Plan is Supreme, even to the extent that He can use the evil actions of people and even the Devil himself to work His good purposes.

God is able to grow and harvest wheat in a field full of weeds!

God remains undaunted by evil in the fulfillment of His good purposes. Although the evil one is working throughout history and even the circumstances of our lives to disrupt God’s plans and purposes, God is active in this present world but He is not necessarily reactive to evil.

So God works through the circumstances of our lives to declare Himself and His redeeming love to us.

God is resolute, intentional, and deliberate. He has a plan and purpose and is actively pursuing His plan of building His Kingdom in our lives.

Sometimes our lives may seem to us more like growing wheat in a field of weeds. But Jesus assures us in this parable that our life is really a field of wheat with some weeds growing in it!

We are God’s wheat field! And God is the master! He wants us busy growing wheat, not pulling weeds! 

“A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10, HCSB).

Fragile: Handle With Care – Job 3:20

“Why is light given to one burdened with grief, and life to those whose existence is bitter?” (Job 3:20, HCSB)

In the well-known story of Job, adversity came upon him to the extent that he lost everything including his wealth, family, and health. When his three friends came to sympathize and comfort him, Job posed the question in this verse.

In Job’s bout with depression he was unable to see any good or meaning to his past or future life.

And the grief counseling provided by his friends quickly degraded to faultfinding that seemed to drive Job to self-indulgent self-righteousness.

Like Job, for most of my life I had enjoyed the benefits of a “successful” lifestyle and had never really encountered significant personal tragedy. Until I experienced personal tragedy for myself, I never realized how fragile a person’s psyche can be in confronting adversity.

I always supposed myself to have a high level of mental and emotional toughness that made me invulnerable to the despondency caused by the misfortunes of life.

So I never dreamed I would be able to relate to Job!

When adversity came upon me, I often found myself falling into despair over some insignificant event of the day or by recalling some previously forgotten memory. Sometimes, I even imagined how things might have been had the tragedy not occurred or had God intervened according to my specifications.

So maybe I’m more psychologically fragile and not as well-adjusted as I had supposed I was! I had to throw myself on God’s mercy!

But, in searching for my own mental and emotional stability in adversity, I discovered an answer to Job’s question:

Faith grows and develops somewhere in the tension between vulnerability and invulnerability. When we are most vulnerable is when we can best receive God’s light and life.

But there is a dark side to vulnerability, because it also makes us susceptible to other voices that may include our own despair or the well-intentioned but maladroit advice of others like Job received from his friends.

That’s why it’s not a place we can stay for long.

Yet, neither should we be impervious to the overwhelming emotions that the tragic realities of life can stir up.

Faith is the spiritual interplay between these opposing psychological forces and faith is how we find resolution to our distress.

Through your vulnerability you receive God’s grace, and then God can develop your faith into an invulnerable faithfulness that helps you endure life’s difficulties.

Furthermore, God grows your faith so it can be shared with others.

Experiencing the pathos of personal tragedy elicits God’s overwhelming lovingkindness to sustain you past your anguish. And in so doing, you will then be empowered to share God’s grace with other suffering ones.

The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:3-4, HCSB).