A blog for those interested in issues of faith and justice.
Monday, November 20, 2006
A question of timing...
"One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand." Exodus 2:11
Reading Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest (see Oct. 13), something pierced through the usual jumble of thoughts in my mind and I saw something I hadn't seen before.
Moses had the right idea back in the days when he acted on behalf of a Hebrew brother who was being persecuted by an Egyptian. Right motive - surely God could see that - apparently wrong thing to do. He ended up fleeing for his life and then spending 40 years tending sheep in Midian.
One day, while the sheep were grazing at Horeb, God gave Moses an assignment - go back to Egypt and lead the Hebrews out of slavery. Moses wasn't impressed. In fact, he did pretty much everything he could to wiggle out of it. But God wasn't taking "no" for an answer. It was time for justice to be done!
But why now? Think about it: 40 years had passed since Moses tried to do a "good thing" for his people. Now, all of a sudden God shows up with a plan. Why didn't God help Moses 40 years ago when he was anxious to step in and address the injustices facing his people? Chambers says:
"In the beginning Moses had realized that he was the one to deliver the people, but he had to be trained and disciplined by God first. He was right in his individual perspective, but he was not the person for the work until he had learned true fellowship and oneness with God."
This, by the way, is not a prescription for pious inactivity. In terms of our willingness to be used by God to address injustice, where are we in relation to Moses' experience? Are we rushing ahead? Are we trying to wiggle out of an assignment? Are we witnessing "plagues" that don't seem to serve any purpose? Are we wondering where God is in the midst of global poverty?
Or, maybe this is all wrong. Maybe we shouldn't expect God to "direct our paths" specifically. Maybe we should stop talking about justice and just get busy doing justice on the basis of general principles gleaned from Scripture and our own conscience. But then, here's the way Chambers concludes his piece:
"We may have the vision of God and a very clear understanding of what God wants, and yet when we start to do it, there comes to us something equivalent to Moses’ forty years in the wilderness...We must also learn that our individual effort for God shows nothing but disrespect for Him— our individuality is to be rendered radiant through a personal relationship with God, so that He may be "well pleased" ( Matthew 3:17 ). We are focused on the right individual perspective of things; we have the vision and can say, "I know this is what God wants me to do." But we have not yet learned to get into God’s stride."
As we consider our efforts in acting justly, we must constantly assess whether or not we are walking on our own or getting into God's stride - being yoked with Christ.