Then the Lord said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go!”
Jeremiah 15:1 (NIV)
I was really struggling with my current waypoint on this life journey. I knew where God had led me and was continuing to lead me but I didn’t want it. At least, I was afraid of it for all sorts of reasons. I wanted to run away.
One Sunday morning we were among our local gathering of Jesus’ followers. Every week there are people available to pray with and over those whoever needs it. I thought about going up for prayer, but was fighting with myself internally about doing so. Then, ironically, Wendy leaned over and whispered in my ear that she thought I should go up for prayer.
As my spiritual sister was praying over me, her hand on my heart, she suddenly just stopped praying. She was quiet and said nothing for a long moment. She then told me that, in her mind’s eye, she had been given an image of me as a little boy. “It’s like the first day of school and you know you need to go. You know it’s the right place for you to be, but you’re anxious and afraid and don’t want to be there. Father God just wants you to take His hand. He will walk with you where you need to go.”
I began to weep.
You see, what she didn’t know is that when I was a child, on the first day of school, my mom had to take me kicking and screaming into my kindergarten class. In fact, a few minutes into the class I got up, ran out the door and ran all the way home to plead with my mom not to make me go. My kindergarten teacher ran down the sidewalk after me. She was wearing heels. I got the “Walk” sign at the traffic light on the corner. Of course, mom drug me right back to school kicking, screaming, and crying. I recall her having to do so several times in those first weeks.
When I told my dear sister this, and why I was crying, we then shed a few tears together and a hug.
Here I am over 50 years later and I’m spiritually still having to learn the same lesson that I had to physically learn when I was five years old.
The story of God’s relationship with the Hebrew people is, in itself, a word picture of spiritual lessons like the one I just described.
God delivered the Hebrew people from being slaves in Egypt. Working through Moses, God pursued, delivered, provided for and then made a covenant with the Hebrew tribes to be in relationship with them just like a husband and wife make a covenant to be in relationship with one another.
Fast forward about 800 years and the marriage between God and the Hebrews is on the rocks. She’s a serial adulterer constantly breaking covenant and chasing after other gods.
In today’s chapter, God begins with the statement that even if Moses were to stand before Him to plead for the Hebrew people, it wouldn’t not change His mind. He then says “Let them go!”
What did God through Moses repeatedly tell Pharaoh?
“Let my people go!”
Later in the chapter, God says, “I will enslave you to your enemies in a land you do not know.”
The Hebrews had not spiritually learned the lesson that God was trying to physically teach them in their infancy as a nation. God physically freed them from slavery in Egypt only to have the Hebrews spiritually give themselves over to be slaves of sin and idolatry. The consequences? Back to physical slavery in Babylon to learn the lesson that wasn’t learned 800 years earlier.
In the quiet this morning, I’m reminded of an observation I’ve repeatedly made along my spiritual journey. God doesn’t work like the American educational system in which you keep moving up a grade whether or not you actually learned anything during the school year. In God’s Kingdom system, I have to actually learn the lesson before I get to move up to the next level of spiritual maturity. Jesus expressed frustration with His disciples regularly. “Where is your faith?” He would ask along with “Why are you so afraid?” When those same disciples couldn’t drive the demon out of a boy, Jesus responded, “You unbelieving and perverse generation. How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?”
When Paul wrote the believers in Corinth he complained that they should have spiritually matured to eating solid food, but they were spiritually still bottle feeding on milk. It’s possible, he implies, for people to remain spiritual babes sucking on the bottle and never graduate to solid food.
It’s possible for the Hebrews to have never learned the spiritual lessons of God’s very real deliverance, protection, and provision during the Exodus.
It’s possible for me to have not learned the very real lesson of kindergarten and to be spiritually afraid and anxious of where I know I need to go and am being led by God’s hand.
In the quiet this morning, I enter this Good Friday mindful of Jesus going where He needed to go, led by the Father’s hand. I’m equally mindful of the reality that it is possible for me to be freed and delivered from my enslavement to sin, only to willingly allow myself to be enslaved once more. And God will let me enslave myself just as He let the Hebrews enslave themselves, if I fail to learn the lesson.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.