"Listen! Did you hear that? What was that?" Have you ever said those words at night when you heard a strange sound that you could not identify? Isn't it amazing how sensitive our ears are to strange and unfamiliar sounds?

When our family lived in West Africa we had a night watchman whose name was Maurice. Maurice sat on our large, concrete front porch almost every night with his tiny kerosene lantern burning. Maurice was almost bind. He saw poorly in daylight, and almost nothing at night.

At times I would bedevil Maurice at night. We would drive up after dark. Maurice would be sitting on the porch in the dark. I would open the car door and say in a high, falsetto voice, "Good evening, Maurice." With genuine seriousness he would always respond, "Good evening, madam."

When we moved to West Africa, our daughter, Anita, was two years old. She had to make a lot of adjustments to the house and the environment. The first several months we were there, it was not unusual for her to cry out at night. Joyce was quick to hear her and quick to respond.

I don't hear well. (I know, American men generally don't hear well after they go to sleep.) Life on the mission field was a physically demanding life. That combination of those two factors meant I slept soundly. In their society, the men were light sleepers and the women slept soundly. The mornings after Anita cried out at night, Maurice would say to Joyce with just a touch of disgust, "Madam sleeps like a man. Master sleeps like a woman."

God has sensitive ears. His ears are tuned to our plights and our cries.

  1. Life was tough!
    1. They had been invited to move into the country, to come as privileged guests who could settle in the choice land.
      1. For at least a generation, if not much longer, they had status and privileges.
      2. Then, suddenly, their whole world changed.
    2. A new ruler came into power, and the new ruler distrusted them.
      1. Overnight, by decree, the privileged guests became slaves (Exodus 1:11).
        1. They had been shepherds and herdsmen.
        2. Now they were forced to provide the brute strength for major building projects (Exodus 1:14).
      2. But the ruler still feared them.
        1. Even as slaves, their population was growing much too fast.
        2. So the ruler issued an edict to the midwives: "Kill every male child the moment he is born" (Exodus 1:15-19).
        3. But the midwives reverenced God and refused to kill the children.
        4. So the ruler issued another decree: "Parents, throw every newborn male into the Nile River" (Exodus 1:22).
      3. Can you imagine the suffering, the agony, and the fear of these people?
    3. God saw and heard what was happening.
      Exodus 3:7-9
      The Lord said, "I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them." (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      1. I have seen their affliction.
      2. I am aware of their sufferings.
      3. I have come to deliver them.
      4. Their cries are before me.

  2. I want to ask you a question: did the fact that God saw their affliction, knew their sufferings, heard their cries, and came to deliver them mean that all they needed to do was sit back, relax, enjoy life, and let God solve their problems?
    1. Moses came to enslaved Israel with a message from God: God will end your slavery, take you out of Egypt, and give you your own country.
      1. Israel's first reaction: "Thank you, God! Do it!"
      2. Moses presented this request to the king, and conditions got much worse, much more miserable.
      3. Israel's second reaction: "Moses, I hope that you can live with yourself after what you have done to us!"
      4. Then came the ten disasters that God brought on Egypt, and the last disaster secured Israel's release from slavery.
      5. Israel left at night with Egypt's encouragement and blessing.
      6. Then Israel was trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, and they declared that Moses brought them out there to die.
      7. God created a way to escape across the Red Sea and drowned the Egyptian army when it tried to follow.
      8. And Israel rejoiced in their freedom and praised God.
      9. Then Israel began crossing the dessert wilderness.
      10. And they complained about water and about food over and over.
    2. My questions are these:
      1. Would God, who destroyed their slavery, let them die in the wilderness? No.
      2. Would God, who delivered them from Egypt, deliver them from all their enemies? Yes.
      3. Would God actually lead them to the country He promised them? Yes.
      4. Would God actually allow them to possess that country? Yes.
      5. If they placed their confidence in God, would all that happen? Yes.
    3. My important question: Did that mean that all they needed to do was relax, enjoy life, and let God take care of the situation?
      1. Absolutely not!
      2. They had to leave Egypt at night--on foot! Would we try that?
      3. They had to walk across the river bed of the Red Sea in a wind blowing so hard that it backed the water up and dried the river bed. Would we do that?
      4. They had to walk across the low humidity, dry desert wilderness. Would we do that--and do it without complaining?
      5. They had to fight for the land--under God's specific direction and guidance. Would we regard that as God taking care of it?
      6. God did not do these things for them; but God made it possible; and God made the outcome certain; in fact, without God it would not and could not happen.

  3. "Those Israelites in Egypt and the wilderness were ridiculous beyond belief!"
    1. "They saw the plagues, they crossed the Red Sea, God gave them food and water in the dessert, and they still doubted, still had no faith--unbelievable!"
      1. "Over and over God provided their needs when they could not."
      2. "No matter what the situation was, God was always greater than the need or the problem."
      3. "Yet, every time things were tough, they stopped trusting God. Incredible!"
    2. We are just like them.
      1. "David, we are not! We have never been just like them!"
        1. "God never did the things for us He did for them."
        2. "The ten disasters in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the water and food in the wilderness--we haven't had those experiences."
      2. God did something greater for us than He ever did for them.
        1. He gave us Jesus.
        2. He gave us the cross.
        3. He gave us the resurrection.
        4. He gave us a level of mercy, grace, and forgiveness that they never had.
      3. When things go just the way we plan, just the way we expect, just the way we want, just the way that makes sense to us, just the way that fits our outlook and our perspective and our understanding, we declare, "God is at work! God is powerful! God can make it happen! It will happen because of God! Thank you, God! We trust You!"
      4. But when things do not work out the way we plan; or expect; or want; or that makes sense to us; or that fits our outlook, or our perspective, or our understanding; we quickly ask, "Where is God?"
        1. And we declare, "It is not going to happen! God can't do anything about this. This situation, this problem, this trouble is bigger than God."
        2. And we say, "If God is powerful as He says He is, this never would have happened in the first place."
        3. And we doubt, and we even want the worst to happen, and we ridicule those who dare trust God.
    3. Let's think about Israel for a second.
      1. Was God at work when the Egyptian king said, "No," to Moses? Certainly.
      2. Was God at work when the Egyptian army pursued the Israelites? Certainly.
      3. Was God at work when the dessert was hot, and dry, and there was little food or water? Certainly.
      4. Did God have lessons to teach:
        1. The king? He said He did.
        2. The Egyptians? Absolutely.
        3. The Israelites? Oh, yes.
      5. Isn't it easy to see that looking back? Do you think it was so easy to see if the Egyptian army was chasing you or you were walking in the hot wilderness?
    4. "Yes, but they saw the things God did!" Do you keep a list of your prayers that God has answered?

  4. We have transformed Christianity into a spiritual insurance policy with options.
    1. The options are almost endless.
      1. The basic policy is hell insurance, and you need to be baptized and occasionally attend a worship assembly just to have basic coverage.
      2. But to add the option of tragedy insurance, the cost increases--that takes more worship attendance and getting involved.
      3. The crisis insurance option cost still more: you have to add prayer and study.
      4. And the "protection for life" option is the most expensive.
        1. This is a family policy that covers husband, wife, and the kids.
        2. The cost for that coverage is serious godliness.
    2. But it is just religion, just a spiritual insurance policy.
      1. You just have to decide how much religion you want.
      2. Determine the cost, and buy for what you think that you can afford.
      3. If you cannot afford more than the basic policy, then you take your chances.

  5. Christianity is not an insurance policy! Christianity is an existence that uses this life as opportunity to prepare for life with God.
    1. That is why repentance is a crucial part of becoming and being a Christian.
    2. In becoming a Christian, repentance is the conscious choice to redirect life away from sin and toward God.
    3. In being a Christian, repentance is the unending process of making mid-course corrections as we learn more and more about being God's people.

At no time in history has God solved problems without effort from the people involved. Life is a mess.
Faith is built by our choosing to allow God to guide us through the messy problems of life. God has the map. Jesus Christ is the way. Let Him teach you how to live and how to be His person.
How much do you trust God? Do you trust He has the answers when the mess won't go away? Let God clean you up and show you the path to follow. Trust, repentance, and baptism will clean you up.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 4 October 1998

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