Space of Grace 2
"As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. "Then the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen." (Exodus 14:17-18)
When Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses. (Exodus 14:31)
But there is another problem immediately following this. Actually a lot of problems. Evidently when the Israelites looked on the bodies of the many soldiers washed up on the beach the next morning, they decided to relieve the corpses of their weapons and appropriate the them for their own use. But was that what God had in mind for them to do? Was that the message that they were supposed to take away from the stupendous event that had just taken place in their deliverance? Or was it rather a most unexpected testing of their fledgling faith that caught them off balance and caused far more problems than they thought they were going to solve?
In my opinion, indulging in the temptation to pick up all those weapons of war was a huge mistake, for in doing so they were taking up the weapons of Satan's kingdom, reliance on force and coercion for self-defense which acted to lessen their dependence on God rather than to strengthen it. You see, weapons of this world are used to impose control over others, not to increase dependence on God. If you notice in the ensuing stories, they became repeatedly involved in fighting wars using weapons of destruction rather than increasing their trust in God's protection for them that had been clearly demonstrated in this mighty act of deliverance at the Red Sea.
In addition to falling for the temptation to pick up the many weapons of Pharaoh's army, they also gravitated toward a life of living under Law instead of a life of Grace. And why was this? There are many ways to look at this and I believe traditionally we have failed to examine this in the light of the real truth about God as revealed in Christ. But again, let me remind you of the verse quoted above.
For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)
Moses is nearly synonymous with the concept of Law. Remember that Moses' own mindset was largely shaped not only by his training under God for 40 years in the wilderness after he fled from Egypt, but his thinking had also been formed through years of training in the courts of Egypt which had to be largely reversed by his training in the wilderness. Yet Moses, even though he was a close friend of God and was said to be the most humble man (besides Jesus) to walk the earth according to the Bible, still did not fully appreciate the full truth about God's character like God wants those in these last days to know and experience it.
If we are unwilling to move into a deeper and more intimate knowledge of God, past what even Moses came to know, then we will not be fully fitted to live successfully as faithful witnesses through the times of testing that are about to come on the whole world at the end of history.
God allowed the history of His people to take the course that it did partly because Moses and the people whom he led moved into the mindset of legal thinking and a legal relationship with God. I believe the evidence reveals that they missed a golden opportunity they could have taken through appreciation of their experience of grace just provided in their dramatic deliverance from Egypt. But because they viewed this event, just as we still do today, as God favor of one group of people over another by saving some while killing others, this view of God and the ensuing assumptions naturally led them down the path toward a performance-based righteousness instead of moving deeper into total dependence on God's grace, love and mercy.
Pharaoh drowned in the Red Sea, not because God hated him and wanted to kill him there, but because he made the foolish choice to move into a place of extreme danger provided by the grace of God while refusing to have that very grace change his own heart and attitudes toward the God who was holding back those waters. If the Israelites had understood, believed and embraced this view instead of thinking that they were better than the Egyptians; if they had rejected the notion that God was a God of war rather than mercy, they might have responded differently a few weeks later to the giving of the Ten Commandments. They might have acknowledged their complete inability to live up to that perfect declaration of perfect righteousness, confessed their true condition of weakness and turned away from the temptation to insist they could obey all they had been told. Then God could have immediately brought them into the New Covenant relationship with Himself and history might have been rapidly abbreviated. At least that is what could have happened in my opinion.
But that is not what happened, and God respected their choice to go the route of Law-keeping instead of embracing the same grace that had just delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh. The tragic results as recorded by history proves the utter failure of this course of thinking. And sadly we are still repeating that same mistake repeatedly yet today. When will we begin to learn that we cannot save ourselves by our own efforts and that attempting to use the techniques and methods of the enemy cannot promote the kingdom of heaven?
Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20)
Pharaoh died in the Sea, not because God condemned him and chose to kill him, but because Pharaoh thought he could presume on the grace of God and get away with it yet again. But what he did not take into account, and what many today still fail to take into account, is that grace is supernatural intervention preventing the natural effects of the principles of reality that God has created from having their full affect in our lives. Grace is what prevents all of us from suffering the natural consequences of sin in our lives. Sin always leads toward death; it is not God who imposes death. However, when we refuse to come into alignment with the principles God has put in place and we continually spurn the Spirit of grace offered to us by God to deliver us from the mindset of Egypt, God will at last respect our choice and will withdraw His Spirit that has been holding back the natural powers of the underlying principles of reality that function by cause and effect. He will at last, but with intense sadness and grief, finally allow us to experience the wages of sin which ultimately and always ends in death.
Notice in this next passage how God's commandment is not the problem. If we perceive the commandment of God as a term describing the natural 'laws' or principles that God has provided as the foundation upon which everything operates, it begins to make much more sense in our thinking.
So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. (Romans 7:12-13)
It occurs to me that the waters of the Red Sea in this story, and the fires of hell are strikingly similar. In both cases it is the condition of our own heart that determines the outcome of how we will fare when we come into that most intense space of grace. For grace not only works to suspend temporarily the consequences of natural laws, but grace is also a description of what God is like and the very essence of His being.
God is gracious, kind, forbearing, forgiving and compassionate. God never quits being these things by running out of patience and suddenly becoming vicious toward those who reject His love. But He does respect those who so fully resist the intended purpose of His attributes – to draw us to repentance and then to restore us to our original design of full synchronization with His heart and character – that they destroy all capacity for reconciliation. When the resistors of His mercy go past the point of no return, not in God's mind but because they have destroyed all spiritual capacity to repent, then God allows his natural laws to return things to their state of normality. Then it will be clearly seen what are the natural consequences for presuming on God's grace and mercy, and like with Pharaoh sin will take its final toll.
and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it;
This is exactly what will transpire at the end of time, in the final day of Judgment. This event in history is a microcosm of what happens again and again in smaller judgment situations until the sin problem is fully exposed and extinguished at that last day of final judgment. (Remember, the meaning of judgment is to expose what is hidden deep inside.) Whether it is with water as in the days of Noah or the demise of Pharaoh, or at the last day when the fiery presence of God is revealed first at the Second Coming of Christ and then a little over a thousand years later on the final day of Judgment; God's presence and grace will prove to be the destruction of all those who resist the power of perfect love.
Many struggle with the thought that in any way agape love could ever be associated with causing pain, suffering and death. But this is because we have such immature perceptions about the nature of love as well as the nature of sin. We also do not appreciate enough the centrality of the issue of personal freedom, while people on both sides of these issues argue endlessly over God's perceived fairness, justice and mercy. Yet we must be willing to allow all of our opinions to be open to serious modification or even replacement as God's Spirit leads us forward into a greater understanding through increased revelations of more profound truth than what we have yet observed.
As I read over this story again something caught my attention in regards to the connection between this story and the Bible's description of how sin will at last be completely eliminated. Take a look at the similarities between these two passages.
Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. (Exodus 14:30)
"For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me," declares the LORD, "so your offspring and your name will endure. And it shall be from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me," says the LORD. "Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind." (Isaiah 66:22-24)
We must be willing to challenge and reexamine our definitions of the terms that we are using in order to better align them with fresh revelations about God and away from the assumed but misleading inferences they have taken on over the centuries. I am discovering that tradition and religion and even our own mistaken assumptions have darkened our thinking extensively. We must be willing to be more open, to be humble and teachable and yet to maintain our perceptions of God's character and His reputation above reproach in everything we promote and teach about Him.
It is all too easy to think we are defending God while in reality we may only be defending our own ideas and presumptions about Him. Even those with very advanced perceptions of the truth about Him are in danger of this trap, maybe even more so. Sin is extremely deceptive and insinuates itself into the thinking of every human being infected by its influence genetically. That is why it is imperative that we remain flexible and pliable under the sweet influence of God's Spirit as He continues to reshape our perceptions to more closely resemble and reflect the beautiful truth about who He really is.
Most importantly though, we must guard our own spirit and keep open to the convictions of the Spirit of God about the ways we present the truths we are learning about Him. Sadly, one of the most successful schemes of the enemy of our souls is to infect our spirit with a spirit foreign to the very truths about God that we are learning with our mind. If Satan can get us to become proud, even in our knowledge about God; if he can cause us to become aggressive or defensive or impatient or any other ungodly attribute while at the same time promoting truthful facts about God that we are discovering, then the lack of congruity between what we are saying and how our spirit comes across will only negate everything we are trying to share with others about God. This is one of the greatest dangers that I see among those who are discovering exciting insights about God's true character.
But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24)
It is no where near enough to simply assemble factual truths about God, facts about how wonderful His character is and how loving He is toward His enemies, if our own spirit is not becoming saturated and transformed by that very grace we are seeking to teach to others. I speak this not just from observation of this taking place in other lives (of course that is easier to see), but tragically in my own experience as well. All too often I find my own spirit out of sync with the very truths I am sharing with others.
It is at those times that I feel the quiet but persistent conviction of the Holy Spirit alerting me that I need to check my spirit, that I am in need of humbling myself and to be more thoroughly transformed and healed by the same grace that I am seeking to tell others about. If I fail to listen and submit to that conviction my message loses its power for good and actually becomes false testimony. If my own heart and spirit is not being changed by the truths I am sharing with others, then what hope will that give others of experiencing any change for their lives if it cannot change my life enough to heal my spirit?
It is clear from Scripture that it is not a head knowledge of the truth that saves us at last, but a real transformation of both heart and mind. That is what Jesus was speaking of when He talked about worship in both spirit and truth. Salvation is the process of resynchronizing us back into complete harmony with the natural principles, or what is often termed laws, of the universe as God designed us to live. I am starting to see that this particularly applies to my spirit and disposition even more than to my intellectual beliefs. This is why so many will be lost while fully expecting to be saved, because they presumed that having all the facts of truth figured out and getting their act together through obedience to all of God's commands was what God expected from them.
But the Bible teaches us that far more than simply getting our facts straight, what is most important is an intimate, personal knowledge of God that only can save us, not a head knowledge truth. The kind of knowledge referred to in relation to salvation is the same word used in Genesis where Adam knew his wife Eve and the result was that they had a baby. If Adam had only known Eve like many of us think we know God expecting to be saved, Adam and Eve would still be waiting to have a baby from that kind of knowledge. Likewise, if we are not willing to go far deeper in our intimacy with God so that the natural outcome results in the formation of a new life in Christ within us, we too will still be waiting for something to transpire when the day of judgment reveals the shallowness of our religion.
On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.' (Matthew 7:22-23 NRSV)
Jesus answeredo harden my heart against Your warnings and rebukes like Pharaoh did. Rather, give me a new heart and a right spirit so that as I pass through the waters they will not overwhelm me but will rather fill me with amazement and joy at the wonders of Your love and the power of Your grace.Glorify Your name in my life and in the lives of all those with whom I am connected so that Your glory will more quickly fill the whole earth as You have said it will do.
Thank-you for what You are increasingly revealing about Yourself. Thank-you for the amazing revelations about who You really are that are pouring out increasingly on those carefully studying Your Word with open minds and hearts. Thank-you most of all for the Spirit that You have given to lead us into all truth, not just head knowledge about You. And most of all, thank-you for what You are doing to heal and restore and make alive the heart that You have placed in me. I trust Your love that is working within me as I watch in amazement how Your love is transforming me, even if I am so slow. Cleanse me of all resistance to Your love in me so that Your restoration process can progress and others can be attracted more intently as they see how radical Your love really is. Thank-you Jesus.