O Israel, hope in the LORD;
for with the LORD there is unfailing love.
His redemption overflows.
He Himself will redeem Israel from every kind of sin.
That is how my God operates. He only does things in abundance. He consistently overwhelms. He restores completely...and then adds some on for good measure.
I have been taking a look at the book of Exodus, at the lives of Moses and the Israelites, at the faithfulness of God, at the deliverance of God's chosen people. And, as I have been reading and studying and meditating, I have been learning so much about what true redemption looks like. Somehow in all of my previous study I have overlooked some profound gifts the LORD gave to the Israelites, some beautiful ways that He provided for His beloved children. He never forgets. He notes every detail.
And, the following is something that I love, love, love about God's provision...
And I will cause the Egyptians to look favorably on you. They will give you gifts when you go so you will not leave empty-handed. Every Israelite woman will ask for articles of silver and gold and fine clothing from her Egyptian neighbors and from the foreign women in their houses. You will dress your sons and daughters with these, stripping the Egyptians of their wealth. Exodus 3:21-22
Seriously, God? The oppressors are really going to look favorably upon their slaves, sending them out of their country with all of their silver and gold and wealth? That is really hard to believe...
And the people of Israel did as Moses had instructed; they asked the Egyptians for clothing and articles of silver and gold. The LORD caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the Israelites, and they gave the Israelites whatever they asked for. So they stripped the Egyptians of their wealth! Exodus 12:35-36
Yes, seriously. Redemption. The Israelites must have looked like some kind of procession leaving Egypt, having replaced their shackles with solid gold bangles. The juxtaposition of their fine robes next to their dark, leathery skin probably evoked a bit of confusion among those they met on the road. Their sun-kissed skin and calloused hands would be a sure sign that they were laborers, that they were not strangers to hard work under the hot sun, that they were likely property of another. But, their fine clothing would suggest something quite different, something like redemption.
But, it seems that as time marches on we forget the blessed redemption in our lives. We turn aside. We avert our eyes, searching for something different. And, when we do, life somehow blows up in our face. This is not a new occurrence.
When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. 'Come on,' they said, 'make us some gods who can lead us. We don't know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.' So Aaron said, ' Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.' All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, 'O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!' Exodus 32:1-4
Fail. It happens to the best of us. We are really excited. We are marching on the right path, wearing our fine clothes and beautiful jewels, walking in freedom. And, then, life explodes. Things are taking too long. Things are not going the way we planned. Surely, things need to change. And, so, we try to force our own change...sometimes using the very abundance God gave us when He redeemed us from our past errors. Have you ever wondered where the Israelites came up with all these gold rings? Yes, Egypt. God brought them out of their oppression wearing crowns of victory...that they then melted down into a worthless idol.
I want to shake my head at their foolishness. I want to judge their stupidity. I want to (not so gently) remind them from where they have come. I want to implore them to have patience, to wait on the LORD, to remember how He has saved them, to hold fast to His promises, to don their gold rings as a reminder of God's redemption.
But, who am I?
How many times have I forsaken the redemption that is mine? How many times have I forced my own way? How many times have I melted down my reminders and shaped them into something I felt I could better understand, something I could wrap my mind around? How many times have I looked back and thought, "Maybe that wasn't so bad. And, the future looks too hard, so maybe I will just try to squeeze myself back into that familiar place where at least I know what to expect"? How many times have I rushed ahead and wasted opportunities and gifts? How many times have I questioned how this wilderness could possibly be where God wants me to be?
When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, 'At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, 'Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.' So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.' But his father said to the servants, 'Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.' So the party began. Luke 15:17-24
There are those fine clothes and gold rings again...