THE ONLY WAY TO FACE LIFE
Dear Friends in Christ,
We are living in trying times. Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union, said, 'It all looks as if the world is preparing for war.' We have had two world wars in the last century and we still haven’t learned a final lesson. That’s a crying shame.
Yet the Lord has informed us we should not be surprised. At the Great Temple in Jerusalem Jesus instructed his disciples and all future generations until the Lord returns, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” He went on to say, “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Unfortunately the unsettling conditions that exist cause many people to turn away from the Lord instead of turning to him. If God is real, they complain, how can he allow this to happen? Faith in the LORD God is tested to the nth-degree. The problem can be traced to Eden. Sin has made a mess of things.
Every day, more than that – 24/7, we struggle with sin in us and sin around us.
That’s why the lesson we learn from the nation of Israel is so important. Israel clearly calls out to us, “There is Only One Way to Live Life” by 1) knowing the enemy; by 2) keeping the eyes of faith looking upward.
Some might think that what I am about to say is not only pessimistic but am also expressing paranoia. The Christian life is a struggle imposed on us by the enemies of God. Who are the enemies? You must start with the Devil, whom the Bible says is like a “roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” But in the words of Walt Kelly, the author of the cartoon Pogo, “We have met the enemy and they are us.” The sinful flesh is a constant thorn looking for the easy way and always concerned for the almighty ‘I.”
The book of Exodus is all about Israel’s exodus or journey out of Egypt to the Promised Land. The LORD had big plans for Israel. They were his special nation chosen completely by grace to be the blood brothers and sisters of Jesus. “Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised!” says the Scripture. Their father was Abraham, as God promised, “all the nations of the earth would be blessed” through them. Jesus would be a blessing for all nations.
Yet as we look at their history it is at times hard to see how they were God’s people. They lived for 400 years in slavery in Egypt sweating and toiling under their cruel Egyptians masters. They cried out many times to Jehovah God to save them. He seemed to be silent.
While Israel struggled there was one who didn’t mind a bit. Egypt loved the free labor. There was one more - Satan and the entire demonic force with him. He was happy to hear the complaints of God’s people. In fact, he wouldn’t have minded one bit if the seed of Abraham was gone once and for all like the Incas and the Aztecs and the Mayans whose races have been wiped out. If Israel had been wiped out, so would God’s promise of salvation. It would be a lie. Abraham’s seed could not be the people to bless all others. God would be the greatest liar of all.
Don’t underestimate the great enemy we all have. He’s no joke. The Bible warns “…take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Our lives are like a mist – here today but gone tomorrow. That’s really a blessing. Our God has limited time for him and his band to interact with us.
So many think Satan is unreal and made up. They often think that he is a manipulation tool used by the church to scare people into their church seats. It isn’t surprising when one sees how many times, Jesus, God the Son who was raised on the third day mentions him. Jesus calls him
- The tempter
- The prince of the demons
- The one who perverts the Word of God
- He works in demon possession
- He is Satan, the Adversary, the devil, the slanderer
- He caused Judas to betray Christ
- He branded the devil as “a liar" and "the father of lies"
- He is a murderer
- He is the prince of this world
- He blinds people physically and spiritually
- He is a fallen angel
- He sows weeds among the wheat
- He snatches away the Word
- He is "the enemy"
- He is "the evil one"
- Jesus viewed Simon Peter as a target for Satan
- His children are the unbelievers.
Understand those are the things that Jesus taught about him. There’s a whole lot more in all of Scripture.
He was driving Pharaoh to oppose God’s people. That’s his mission to be the enemy of God’s people. There is Only One Way to Live Life - know the enemy.
There is a second part to the theme “There is only one way to live life – have the eyes of faith looking heavenward. The psalmist says it so simply, “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
I use the following phrase a lot: “God is faithful to his promises.” Maybe I should try to say it another way, but the truth is so right on and comforting. The Lord was faithful to his promise with Abraham’s children. God had promised Abraham that his offspring would inherit that land of Canaan. That was the land flowing with milk and honey. They would not stay in Egypt. The land of the Jordan River was their land, not the land of the Nile. The Lord was beginning to act on that promise.
He called Moses to lead them. Moses balked. Satan must have snickered and thought what a lousy leader he will be. How many times have you had the opportunity to serve the Lord and his people, but balked. How many times have you let someone else do it? I am sure that brings a smile to Satan too. Remember he is the enemy.
Let’s fast forward. Moses visited Pharaoh. The Holy Spirit spoke through him. Moses made it very clear the LORD wanted him to deliver the message, “Let my people go!” Pharaoh did what enemies of God do. One ear and out the other. This was not a suggestion from the Lord, this was a command. The Lord was not just tapping on the heart of Pharaoh’s heart, he was banging on the door of Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh ignored. Ten plagues later all very serious from turning the Nile and all water in Egypt to blood to a locust plague to the death of the first born of all human and beast during the Passover. Pharaoh remained an enemy.
While the last plague of the death of the first born caused him to change his mind, it was only for a little while. His heart was so hard. Satan again could only smile in his contemptuously evil way. Pharaoh was doing Satan’s will. The escaping Jews became the target. No more Israel, no more free labor.
So began the chase. He called up the military. It was massive - 600 chariots with two soldiers on each, the cavalry of horsemen and infantry of foot soldiers.
The Lord was leading Israel literally by a cloud in the forward ranks. The rear guard seemed no match for Egypt’s elite fighting forces. The Lord then went to the rear to protect Israel – darkness on Egypt’s side but light on Israel’s side. But all Israel could see was that they were trapped. The Egyptian army coming at them from the north. Mountains were west and south. The Red Sea to the east. Hundreds of thousands of Israelite men, former slaves, not fighting forces and thousands and thousands and thousands of women and children. What were they going to do? Look up, Israel! Look up!
The beaches of the Red Sea offered no cover. What now? The Lord was in control. “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.”
When you think about it, the Lord could have done all kinds of things to help Israel. Because the Lord is the Lord, in a millisecond he could have been built a bridge to the other side. He could have levitated the one or two million people and carried them to the other side. He could have smacked the Egyptians dead. But look what the Lord did. All night the wind blew and the waters formed two walls with dry ground in the middle. It must have been a long night with the Egyptian army breathing down their necks.
I don’t want to say he took his time, but the Lord could have worked faster. Can you relate to what Israel was going through? We have a problem and we cast it to the Lord and we wait and wait and wait. Chemotherapy? Radiation? Rehabilitation? Recovery? Or we wait and it seems to end the way we didn’t want it to anyway. Maybe it was for a loved one.
Don’t underestimate the blessing! So much time to talk to God; so much time to mine the nuggets of truth and the promises from his word; so much time to wrestle with God in prayer; so much time to draw closer to him and let others, even though they never tell you, how a Christian endures the tests and hard times to the blessing of others.
Remember again that the Devil wanted nothing more than to have the bodies of all the Israelites strewn along the beaches of the Red Sea. Something similar would occur in the Valley of Elah between the armies of Israel and the Philistines. The Philistines had Goliath on their side. The Devil wanted Israel out of the picture once and for all. Why? Without Israel there would be no Savior; Without the Savior, there is no salvation; without salvation, there is no hope. Without hope, the devil wins.
Between the Lord and Satan, Satan never wins. The enemies of God were destroyed. “The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.”
After 9/11 President George W. Bush terrorists need to be right only once to inflict havoc and hurt on our nation. Our nation’s security needs to be right 100% of the time.
Satan has tried for millennia to destroy God’s plan to save. He tried to destroy Israel. He even tried to destroy the Christ child when Herod decreed that all male babies two and younger who were to be put to death born when Jesus was born. But the manger of Bethlehem and the cross of Calvary and the empty tomb of the garden are real. The victory for all has been secured.
God has made the promise that when it comes to his people, the church, “the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” You, by your faith in Jesus are part of that church. You are part of that church as long as you know that there is only one way to live life – with the eyes of faith focused upward.