When Obedience Hurts (Exodus 5)
Sometimes God speaks clearly to us and we obey with an eager heart, only to find ourselves worse off, by any earthly consideration, than we previously were. In His omniscient wisdom, the Lord may call us to an act of obedience that results in no immediate good. God may actually allow our obedience to temporarily worsen the situation we are hoping to improve.
If you have experienced this, you know it is confusing and bewildering. Some wind up paralyzed by a slew of doubts and questions about God’s will, and their faith is shaken. Others have utterly shipwrecked their faith, revealing their true allegiance, because they conclude, “If obeying God does not immediately improve things for me, He must not be worth following.” Still others, however, struggle through the confusion and bewilderment, which is no less real to them, yet it drives them to wrestle with God.
Moses obeyed God by imploring Pharoah, but it only led the king to inflict harsher punishment on the Israelites. Now the leaders of Israel were so angry with Moses that they called on God to judge him (Exodus 5:21). Moses had his own slew of questions, but he chose to bring them to the Lord, saying, “why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? ... You have not delivered Your people at all (5:22-23). This candid prayer may look more like distrust than faith. But remember, Moses brought these questions to the right Person. That requires faith.
Everyone who tries to walk with God will, at some point, come to a step of obedience that makes life harder. Some become discouraged, some turn away from the Lord, some take an attitude with God… and some wrestle it out and strengthen their faith. The LORD is unmoved by the wide range of results, but continues giving out tests of faith to every single person who wants to follow Jesus. I am reminded of a time recently when I watched an old man at a potter’s wheel, making a new clay vessel. He said, “I make every piece of pottery the same way.” He slapped down a vague lump of unshapen clay on the center of the wheel and began spinning it around, shaping it with his hands. Watching the potter work, I thought of what a vague mass of raw material we must be when we are born again. He added that his clay was literally dirt mixed with water. My mind ran to Genesis 2:7, how God formed us from the dust of the ground.
“I make every piece the same way.” The statement rings in my ears. You want to follow Jesus Christ? Thank God for that desire, but know that He has only one method for making disciples. He has to completely strip us of our pride, our self-reliance, our boasting, our apathy, our hidden selfish motives. He has to instill good things in their place. He will test our faith. He requires full access to the clay to do His work. Be assured that He “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). But this “good” may not be seen quickly, or even at all on this side of eternity. Remember that “all things” includes what is seemingly pointless, frustrating, discouraging, and confusing.
The Lord was preparing Moses for a rebellious people who would murmur in the wilderness. God was weaning him from any love for the praise of man. God was teaching him to trust and to stay put for no other reason than, “I AM has sent me…” (Exodus 3:14). If God is doing the same for you, praise and thank Him.
The Rock Church