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The Season of Hagar

“So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” Genesis 21:15-19

This year I obeyed God’s voice and by faith I left an Egypt behind. I fled a slavery that not only I have been bound to for a long time, but generations of my family. When God’s people fled the slavery of Egypt, they had for generations been abused, mistreated and enslaved. However, in order to flee slavery it meant fleeing into the desert, into the wilderness. When Hagar was thrust into the desert with her son she was cast out. We can enter into a desert either by necessity to leave a situation or because we have been rejected and cast out. Either way we find ourselves in a time in our life when we need food, we need water, we need something to wear, we need a safe place to sleep. We need. We need the basic necessities of life. Earlier, when Hagar was pregnant with her son she had fled Sarai because of Sarai’s harsh treatment of her, but it was not yet time for her to leave so God told her to go back. However, the first time Hagar was in the desert was when she met El Roi, The God Who Sees. He sees you. He sees you in the desert. El Roi is in the desert. He can help you.

I recently attended a women’s coffee connection at church and one of the women at my table’s discussion was talking about how she was studying Genesis with her church and how they had focused on hospitality. In ancient times it wasn’t like today. There weren’t gas stations or credit cards, there wasn’t an Amazon or even cars with paved roads. In ancient times hospitality was not just a nice Christian kindness, it was literally about survival. Hospitality and community become a necessary part of survival in the desert.

I have needed the hospitatlity of believers and my local community like never before as a single mom. It takes time to build a new life and as I desperately am working hard at trying to follow God’s lead for laying the foundations and building the walls of my new life I am realizing how my son and I are not going to survive this desert season without help. Somedays I really do feel like Hagar. I am so thankful God delivered me out of Egypt. I am so thankful to no longer be a slave, but I do get weary and I do get discouraged and at times extremely worried about how I am going to make it through the desert. How can my son and I make it to the promised land? Somedays it feels a lot harder being in the desert than other days. On the days when I feel weary and tired, on the days where I feel like I just don’t know how we are going to make it financially, like I’ve poured myself out to the max and things are still not working. On those days I have to remember all that God has done for me and give thanks. Like when the Israelites went three days without water after God’s amazing deliverance at the Red Sea. They went three days without water only to find bitter water. It wasn’t until afterward that God brought them to Elim, where 12 springs of water were waiting for them in the desert. Going those “three days” and finding “bitter water” can feel debilitating and terrifying…but we have to have faith in the God who has proven Himself faithful over and over again. God knew where the 12 springs of water were and he was leading them to those springs. We have to have faith.

“Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters. Exodus 15:27

What was one of the mistakes that God’s people continually made in the desert? Grumbling. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 tells us that we have divinely spiritual weapons for the destruction of strongholds. One of those weapons is the weapon of thanksgiving. When we find ourselves in a desert place where it seems like we might not make it, thanksgiving can demolish the strongholds that would keep us trapped in that desert. God doesn’t want us to stay in the desert, if we heed His voice and follow Him then He will get us to the promised land. But, it is really important to give thanks instead of grumbling in the desert. Grumbling in the desert can actually cause us to stay there longer!

Personally, it is hard for me to ask for help. I hate to be an inconvenience or a burden, I don’t want to make people angry or annoyed. However, I am realizing that if I don’t ask for help, we are not going to make it through our desert because there will be times when we’ve “gone three days” and we are in need. Sometimes God will provide for us Himself, other times He will use people. Either way God has prepared a place for my son and I in the desert. He will never tell you to flee an Egypt without preparing the way for you first. If you were cast out, God knew you would be and He prepares the way ahead of time for those that love Him (Romans 8:28).

I cannot even begin to list the number of ways and people that God has sent into the life of my son to prepare the way, and in remarkable “God ways” that just testify to His glory and honor. Like the place we fled to, the day I called to tell her we were coming was the very day after her roommate told her she was moving on. Perfect timing happens when God is writing our story. Or the bed I got just this week for my son, a solid wood, hand-made sleigh style toddler bed. I needed one for my son and someone “happened” to ask if anyone needed a toddler bed. Really? Things like that don’t just happen. God is with us.

What it comes down to for each of us is are we really going to rely on El Roi or are we going to go back to Egypt. When the Israelites saw Pharaoh and his armies chasing after them they cried out “…it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness”. In other words “it would have been better to be in my comfort zone, preserve my pride, have more money, all of my Christmas decorations, my beloved possessions and…be mistreated and abused…than to die in the wilderness trying to get away”*. What was Moses’ response?

Do not fear. Stand by. See the salvation of the LORD.

If we choose to continue to follow Jesus to the promised land then it is going to be on His terms and sometimes that means being humbled and accepting something you would never have accepted in Egypt, and other times means being so incredibly blessed that you feel like a queen or a king in the desert!

When we are in need we can cry out to El Roi and stand on precedence in scripture and boldly come before that throne of grace.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6”

I think it is important to notate that a person can make a really big difference in our lives even if they only help us one time for our whole life, that was their role that God sent them to play in our lives, that is it. Other people will have much larger roles that last for a longer season or even for a lifetime. However, every single one of them was part of God’s plan in your life to give you a hope and a future as Jeremiah 29:11 talks about. We also get to be a part of other people’s lives, whether it is just for one time or for a lot of times. God gives us a hope and a future, if we surrender to Him and trust Him He will help us.

“You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance. The place O LORD, which You have made for Your dwelling, The sanctuary, O LORD, which Your hands have established.” Exodus 14:17

References and Notes:
*Pharaohs don’t typically just let their people go. The most dangerous time for a woman (not sure for a man) fleeing an abusive relationship is when she leaves. If she is lured back by her abuser’s remorse and sorrow or by the wealth and comfort of Egypt the manipulation and control and the abuse for both a woman or a man is likely to get even worse because the abuser realizes that their prey could get brave enough to leave. It is important to have a plan and to work with a professional or the domestic abuse hotline if at all possible. The Lord is our Deliver but we have to take steps of faith, He meets us there.

Naomi’s Baby Story

I told my baby story at my shower – I didn’t know if I’d every have a baby shower, and I’m so thankful to God that I did. I hope you find the story of my journey through infertility encouraging to you no matter if you face infertility or not. We will all face something that feels crippling or overwhelming at some point in our life. We are all busy with the building of our household whether it has children in it or not – who will you trust with the building?

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/raven-at-death-valley-1306968

Strengthened in the Wilderness

Yesterday I posted about staying faithful to God in the wilderness, even a wilderness that comes upon us because of the sins of others. We are to fully follow God–whether He tells us to go back into a wilderness or to go forward into the Promised Land. Not every wilderness is the result of another’s sin. I’ve suffered in the wilderness because of my own sins (see my post But, there is a Redeemer) and I’ve suffered in the wilderness simply because we live in a fallen world and there is a curse of death upon our bodies (see my blog series starting with 5 Years). No matter how we end up in a wilderness though, if we humble ourselves before the Lord and recognize His authority by submitting to Him then God will provide for us in the midst of the suffering.

Think about Elijah, when Ahab and Jezebel brought suffering upon Israel because of their sin. The land was parched with drought, and on top of that Ahab and Jezebel were out to kill Elijah. Jezebel was out to kill all of the prophets of God in fact. It was a dangerous and perilous time to be a prophet of God–but God provided for Elijah. Elijah was faithful to God in the “wilderness” season of his life and God in turn transformed the actual wilderness into a safe haven for Elijah:

“Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.  You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”

So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.” I Kings 17:2-6

One of my favorite verses in Exodus is chapter 15 verse 27:

“Then they [the Israelites during the Exodus in the wilderness] came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.”

God had created these 12 springs of water, one for each of the tribes of Israel, way before the Exodus. In His providence He created a safe haven for them, a place to camp at. Interestingly, and importantly they were tested directly before this provision with a time of wondering where there was no water, and a time where there was only bitter, unfit water.

Whether we’ve brought the consequences of sin upon ourselves, or whether we are suffering because of others or even because of the way we were born–God longs to be tender and affectionate towards us in the wilderness. He longs to provide for us supernaturally and providentially. God is able. Sometimes we find ourselves in a wilderness all of a sudden, and sometimes, just like Caleb, Joshua and Elijah, we need to obey God when he tells us to enter into the wilderness.

It is in the wilderness where God can teach us and refine us. It is in the wilderness where God chooses often to show Himself mighty and strong. It is in the wilderness where God delights in magnifying His love and His provision to His faithful ones. It is in the wilderness where you suddenly become aware of how much you have to rely upon Him. It is in the wilderness where He opens up the Rock and nourishes us with Living Water.

He is all that we need.

Ark of the Covenant | God’s Design

Exodus 25:9-22

Observation
God, the master artist and designer of the universe, was very specific with the pattern for the ark. Artists and designers do tend to be detail oriented! In fact before laying out the pattern God commands Moses in verse 9 saying:

“Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.”

Then in verse 40 God repeats:

“See that you make them according to the pattern shown to you on the mountain.”

When God says something once we’d better listen, when He says something twice…well it is really important! (:

The Specs:

  • Made of acacia wood
  • 2.5 cubits long / about 3.75 feet
  • 1.5 cubits wide / about 2.25 feet
  • 1.5 cuts high / about 2.25 feet
  • Overlaid with pure gold inside and out
  • Inside: put the Testimony that God was going to give Moses

The Description:

  • Gold Crown:
    (rim/border) around the top
  • 4 Golden Rings:
    attached to the four feet
  • 2 Poles:
    made of acacia wood
    overlain with pure gold
    inserted into ring to carry ark with
    never to be removed
  • A Mercy Seat
    overlain with pure gold
    2.5 cubits long / about 3.75 feet
    1.5 cubits wide / about 2.25 feet
  • 2 Cherubim:
    (winged angelic figures)
    solid hammered gold
    on the two ends of the mercy seat
    cherubim to be made of one piece with the cover
    wings spread upward, overshadowing the mercy seat
    facing each other
    looking toward the mercy seat

Application

Exact Pattern
A quite simple observation is that God has exact patterns, plans and results in mind. Since God is perfect, His plans our perfect. This reminds me of Jeremiah 29:11, of Romans 8:29  and the many other verses throughout scripture where God tells us that He has plans for each one of us. The many verses where God speaks of those plans come to mind too. The plans of His desire for us to know Him, where He commands us to seek Him, to live for Him. He is very specific in the “how” as well: Romans 12, Matthew 16:24, Matthew 5, 6, and 7, John 15, Psalm 119, I Peter 3:1…so many more! That is why it is so important to read and study the word, so we will read of God’s plan for us and then read and apply how to live for Him. Not only that but be literally transformed by God’s truth and spirit living within us. God is detail oriented about your life, if you let Him be your Shepherd then He will lead you according to His will in your life and you will never be more satisfied than when you are living in obedience to God!

The Mercy Seat
The most astounding and amazing application that God touched my heart with from this passage is in Exodus 25:22:

“There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim, I will speak intimately with you of all which I will give you in commandment to the Israelites”

God commands us intimately.

The implication of that sentence should blow us away. It stirs awe in my heart before the Almighty God. That the King of Kings and Lord of Lords does not stand afar and command us like a stranger. Even though He has the complete right to command us that way and the power to make us obey. Although we don’t deserve and literally cannot be in His presence without instantly dying (apart from Christ) because of our sin. In spite of all of this, He chooses instead to command us to come to Him. His desire is to teach us His commands in a very loving, affectionate and intimate manner. God through the sacrifice of His Son Christ longs to meet with us from the Seat of Mercy….not the seat of judgement which is what we deserve. He, Who ALONE has the right to judge – no one else has that right cause we have all failed. He Has come in mercy…how beautiful…how wonderful is that?

Come to the mercy seat today, do not delay. There is a day coming for each of us when this window of opportunity will be no more. The day we draw our last breath will be the day our fate is sealed based on this critical decision, will you repent before the mercy seat and let God command you intimately? God desires for you to come to Him now.

I find humor in the fact that when I first read Exodus 25:9-22 it wasn’t until six days later during my time with God that He revealed to me the wonder for verse 22. It just goes to show how blind I am to God’s truth apart from the illumination of the Holy Spirit! (: It is so exciting when God shows us a nugget of truth too, it is like pure gold, it is Him, He is truth, God is THE treasure!

Ark of the Covenant | An Offering

Exodus 25:1-8

An Offering
God commands for an offering to be taken in order for the sanctuary to be built.

Key points:
1. Is that He commands for it only to be collected from those who give it willingly and ungrudgingly:

“And the Lord said to Moses, Speak to the Israelites, that they take for Me an offering. From every man who gives it willingly and ungrudgingly with his heart you shall take My offering.”

Application:
The key point is that God only would accept an offering from those who gave it willingly. He did not want it from those who would give with the wrong attitude in their heart. He did not want an offering of legalism or with any resentment attached, but one of worship, with a true desire to give. Today the same applies, no matter if we give 10, 15, 30, 50 or 70% to God we need to make sure our hearts our free from any resentment and that we are with willing heart, actually desiring to give to God. Trusting Him and worshiping him with our tithe and our offering. When resentment or greed rear their ugly heads we should be quick to confess and repent, asking for God to create a clean heart within us.

2. The offering was to be of gold, silver, bronze, blue, purple, scarlet, fine twined linen, goat’s air, rams’ skins tanned red, goat skins, dolphin/porpoise skins, acacia wood, oil, spices, onyx and other stones.

Application:
I wonder how many people today would give God some gold, silver or bronze with a willing heart or without any resentment. Not too many of us possess these types of articles, but what would the equivalent be? Our money, our TV, our piano, our nice clothing, our possessions of value and quality. How many of us without any  resentment would willingly give of our own personal possessions? Seriously consider what your reaction would be in the event God asked you to give an offering like this. What does the outcome reveal, do we value our things, our money, our possessions more? Do we trust in what we have more than God to provide for us? Matthew 6:31-34 says:

So do not worry, asking, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.

Right before this passage Jesus commands us by saying:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where theives break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destory and where theives to not break in and steal. For where your treasure is , there you heart will be also.  Matthew 6:19-21

This conviction hits me particularly hard today. Even this past week I happened to be shopping for winter clothes since I didn’t have any snow boots and no heavy coat. We just moved somewhere where shoveling snow is a part of life and going anywhere requires facing extreme cold. I couldn’t find anything that fit me or that was affordable and time was running out before the snow started falling. Instead of trusting in the Lord, praying about it and seeking His kingdom first I gave into worry, even frustration and impatience. I hate to admit that I sinned in my frustration and anger towards God and my husband. It is the clarity of God’s Word and the strength of His promises that I should be relying on instead of being so short sighted and consumed in my own selfishness…

Lord please help me to give willingly and without grudge or resentment. Heavenly Father please help me to remember that you are Jehovah-jireh, my Provider. Please open my eyes to recognize opportunities for generousity. Please open my ears to recognize when you are commanding me to give an offering. Lord please also burden my heart in response to and open my eyes to recoginze my greed, selfishness and worry.