Saturday, February 4, 2012

Put Your Hands Up!

A girl can learn a lot from Moses.

Yes, that Moses, the guy who wrote as God dictated His Ten Commandments and penned the first five books of the Bible, the Moses who pleaded with Pharaoh to "Let [his] people go," the Moses who killed an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew.

Yeah, so I never said that everything a girl can learn from Moses is necessarily a "do as I do" sort of situation. Today, though, Moses - well, his example, more like - taught me a couple of things that are as relevant in my Christian walk today as they were in his walk through the Desert of Sin 5,000 years ago, and no. I'm not being allegorical about that. "Sin" is the actual name of the desert.

Join me, if you will, in Exodus 17. Having made it through the aforementioned desert, the Israelites are now in a place called Rephidim. They've had their fill of manna and are insisting on water to drink, doing a trick they could've learned from me, basically saying, "God, in spite of all the miracles You've worked on my behalf - the plagues You've sent, the seas You've split - You must not REALLY exist if You don't give me what I want RIGHT NOW." God does, of course, provide, but the Israelites soon learn that thirst is the least of their problems.

They're attacked by the Amalekites. The Amalekites were the descendants of Esau; the Israelites were the descendants of Jacob. Anybody sensing the tension? It doesn't take a PhD in Bible History to know that the former group had a birthright-sized bone to pick with the latter. In spite of themselves, God was on the side of His Israel, and the passage tells us that,

"As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning. but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning." - Exodus 17:11

Following this prescribed pattern was so important that, whenever Moses's arms got tired, his brother and another guy would sit on either side of him and hold up his hands (v. 12). By this, we can know that the victory was NOT due to the Israelites' battle prowess. But there's also a couple other things we can know from this passage, as well.

The first is that God DOES have a prescribed way of doing things. Now, I'm NOT suggesting that we should throw up our arms whenever we're fighting one of life's many battles. Out of work? Reach towards the sky, and BAM: instant employment. Infertility? Hands to Heaven. Congratulations! It's a BABY. In fact, I'm a sports fan, and if you do that gesture in my direction, I'm either going to assume you're saying, "touchdown!" or that Kentucky's scored another three point basket.

What I AM saying, however, is that God blesses when we do things His way. Why did He only give enough manna for that day? "In this way," He said, "I will test them and see whether they will FOLLOW MY INSTRUCTIONS" (Exodus 16:4). I'm not promoting legalism here, but it's undeniable from these texts and others that God wants His people to do things His way.

The second principle that jumps out at me from this passage is a symbolic one. After reading the same account in May of 2003, I described it this way in my journal: "It's only when our arms are useless - stuck straight up in the air, for instance - that God can really work without us trying to interfere and, inevitably, mess things up."

There are a lot of other times in early Exodus when God tells Moses (or his brother Aaron) to do this same gesture. "Stretch out your hands over the dust, and it will become gnats" (Exodus 8:16). "Stretch out your hands over the waters of Egypt, and they will become blood" (Exodus 7:19). "Stretch our your hands over the sea, and it will divide" (Exodus 14:21).

Time and again, God tell His children to lift up their hands, in a sense, relinquishing their control of the situation, so that He could get to work in it. It reminds me of something Louie Giglio says in his "How Great is Our God" talk. He's mentioning how understanding the vastness of the universe helped him to grasp the vastness of God. That changed Louie's life. In the way only he can, Louie said,

"[Until then], most of my praying had been advising God, correcting God, suggesting things to God, drawing diagrams for God, reviewing things with God, counseling God."

But in understanding Who God is, Louie was finally able to toss his arms in the air and say, "You know what? You're gonna be better at this than I am, God. You take control from here." And if you know anything at all about Louie's ministry, then you know God's done exactly that!

This is a lesson I learn and relearn a thousand times a day. We are to "Cast our cares upon Him" - another image, by the way, that involves us throwing our arms up just like Moses had to do! - and while I'm pretty good about doing that, I'm even better at picking my cares back up. When my arms are full of my struggles, though, how can they be free to lift them up to the only One Who can fix things, the God Who is big enough, as Louie (and the psalmist) puts it, "to breathe stars"?

So, see? Exodus isn't all about the Golden Calf, and Moses is more than just the baby who was hidden in some bulrushes. He's a guy that a girl can learn a lot from, if only she'll put her hands up and listen.