16 February 2005

Leaders, Calling and the Imminent Conspiracy – Part 2

Now turning a stick into a snake, a river into blood and prophesying a series of specific devastating plagues has a tendency to confirm a man’s leadership. So after some time Moses and Aaron become the clear leaders of this God-initiated freedom movement. This confirmation of leadership is completed with the final plague and the first Passover.

The Israelites finally leave Egypt after 400 years of oppression with a bounty of gifts from their Egyptian neighbors and the smell of first-born death hanging in the air. God is most clearly victorious and Moses and Aaron are most clearly God’s chosen leaders.

This is not the end of the story. God will test the Israelites most definitively with the most important question each of us will face “Do you trust that I am good?” God is fierce in pursuing the HEART of the Israelites. Nothing will stop him from forcing this question. God is wild.

On their waltz out of Egypt, God interrupts the rhythm…
Exodus 14:1-4
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” And they did so.

God is stacking the deck again. The Israelites will be challenged to believe He is present and that He is good. A challenge they would fail.

Exodus 14:11-14
They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

“They said to Moses…” this is critical. The circumstances change dramatically and fear overwhelms the Israelites. Their immediate response is blame. Who brought us here? Why? He is to blame!!! The Israelites lost site of God’s supreme sovereignty and, when that happens, blame must be shifted to the human leadership God has instated.

“For what are we, that you grumble against us? … Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.”
And here is the key that unlocks the problem of authority. Moses responds to the Israelites continual grumbling with life-saving wisdom. The hand of God has chosen this set of circumstances AND this leader. So, Israel, you’re grumbling against the one who is finally responsible.

So when is our grumbling against authority acceptable? Before giving undue permission, let’s look at the question another way. Moses was unqualified for sure, but Pharaoh was an oppressive, evil and blasphemous megalomaniac. This man carried out genocide, conscripted the labor of millions of slaves and openly defied the living God. Yet God is clear that Pharaoh is merely a pawn in his redemptive story.

Ex. 10:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

Pharaoh’s heart is proud and unyielding to God but God does NOT encourage the Exodus without Pharaoh’s permission. Until recently it had never occurred to me that THE constraint to the Exodus was the authority of Pharaoh. God wanted it that way – it was the path to His Glory revealed.

The question of authority is a question of faith. Who is ultimately in control of the universe? Where does justice come from? Answer those questions and the question of submitting to “the Man” becomes one that reveals more of the content of our hearts than the quality of leaders. (See Korah’s Rebellion, Numbers 16)

Let me end the suspense for you. I am a pastor. I am marred by sin and if you spend enough time with me, I will let you down - better said, I will probably hurt you. Now, God is doing a redemptive work in my life to bring a more blessed state of giving and not receiving, but that is a process. If we are all waiting for perfect leaders, heck even good leaders, before we accept authority, we are headed for chaos. More importantly the humble character of Jesus remains locked on the pages of the text and not set free in our flesh and blood.
1 Peter 2:13-25
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,* whether it be to the emperor* as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants* of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

There may be no more counter cultural teaching in America today. That’s why I have a hunch Jesus would address it here thoroughly. Christ told the rich young ruler that he lacked one thing “go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” Relinquishment was the rich young ruler’s path to freedom, to real treasure – the unbounded beauty of fellowship with Jesus Christ. Could it be that Jesus might tell eternal-life-pursuing American Christians that the one thing they lack is to go relinquish their independent autonomy and follow Him through human authority? And could it be that through submission we might discover His infinite peace and mercy and His absolute Sovereignty?

This is why submission to authority is critical to the sojourn of the new heart.

1 comment:

  1. Hey! It's about time you shared all this stuff with us. I think it's a really cool and really important thing for leaders to let their "followers" (for lack of a better term) see into more of their day-to-day thoughts and ideas and life in general. Thanks! I bookmarked your page. :)