Heart in Irons

Dripping cold off the edge of an iron leaf
It twinges quaking with the agony of past defeat
Should not the past be swallowed up with present victory?
No, the story memories tell is too weighty.

I once was swinging through the trees
The wind racing through my long hair
I once grasped for a vine with my toes
And slipping terror split my chest
Until I hit the ground hard and looked up
The branches were now so far away.

I can’t breathe the way I once did
My shallow coughing is hard and pressed together
Crunching down on my now deflated heart
Leaving no room for anything new.

A backhanded lash of cowardice
Steels my heart in indifferent irons
Crying comes whenever the weight shifts
And people do not know the life they disturb
With their well-meaning questions about the past
And now I stare out the portal of a swamped, sinking ship

Can you hear me?
Can you reach me on the other side?
Will I ever be on top of the waves again
Swinging from the tree branches enjoying new fruits?

But what’s the point?
No victory will last beyond the span of time
Except that which God does in time.
These trees grow and roots descend
At the behest of the one who gives birds their nest
The end of it all: will God defend?

So I do what is needed,
The trees tower, but I do not cower.
The irons are weaker than my heart
But He will be the one to break them.

A Quiet Voice

I speak. Will you hear?

The governing bodies of America are shifting
Like tectonic plates underground.
One presses from New York city skyscrapers
The other presses from the Appalachian Mountains
The molten center is in our capital.

One rises with Nature and Nature’s God
The other builds a tower to the Heavens
One rules by Constitution
One rules by Progress
They clash over one man.

His feet trample the mountain grass
He’s empowered by the wheels of progress
Yet the mountain people praise him
And the city-dwellers raze him.
Why?

He accepts the boundaries of stone
And breaks the bands of silicon.
He pushes back on man’s frailty
Establishes natural rights fruitfully.
A volcano is not self-centered.

Betwixt these moving forces mold
A new way through the new and old
One must accept God’s quiet voice.
As we are led to the defining choice.
A choice that may not be either or.

New growth must retain the life of the old.
What is that life, and where is it hidden?
Ask the quiet voice.
It will tell.
Listen.

4. Noah: Obedience is a Two-Edged Sword

The gospel is a two-edged sword: - The two sides of the gospel
Photo credit: christiantruthcenter.com

Hebrews 11:7–By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

This hard lesson from Noah gets to the grittiness of a stark reality depicted in both Covenants: some will not be saved. Faith is more than a spiritual exercise: it is the vitality of obedience that prepares us for the day of God’s judgment.

The Warning

Who was Noah anyway? His name meant “rest” and he was named by his father with a hope that “This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.” (Genesis 5:29) So he was a child born with destiny, but this is not why God warned him. God warned him because “Noah walked with God.” (Genesis 6:9). God is a good friend. He doesn’t keep from sharing his secrets with those who walk with him. (See the previous post.)

God warned Noah by sharing with him what He saw (the corruption of the world) and what he was going to do about it. (flood the whole earth). He let Noah, who could only see with his two eyes, what God saw in the unseen. This warning is privileged to one who is seeking to know the Unseen God.

The Obedience

Noah’s internal response to God’s wrathful declaration, is not depicted as sarcasm, terror, doubt, or some vain imagination. Reverence is the word that Hebrews’ author uses. Reverence is submission of the heart to the obedience of God. Reverence is worship of God as the one who is worthy when your world is not yet but soon will be very literally falling apart around you. Obedience is the material offspring of a Reverent heart. As total as one is so total is the other. Obedience is only 100% if Reverence is 100%. And what are we told of Noah in Genesis 6:22: “Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.”

The implications for the believer today are staggering. Anything that draws the heart away from total reverence of God is also drawing the person’s body away from total obedience to God.

This is the life of Faith: Walking with God doing what He gives you to do.

The Sword

“By which he condemned the world.” This is not vindictive as a way of saying, “Noah was looking down with grim satisfaction at all the sinners floating away.” No. This means Noah’s obedient actions were Noah’s proof that the world needed to be judged. Another way of saying it, because he did right, by the same rule everyone else had done wrong. Obedience is the sword that swings both saving those with faith, and condemning those without it.

This is the burden of Faith. Faith is 100% for God, and brings salvation, and is the just condemnation of the world who refuses to be whole-heartedly for One whom they cannot see. The tragedy was world-wide in Noah’s day, and one day again the tragedy will be world-wide once again.

Application:

  1. Cultivate healthy reverence for God by examining your thoughts and affections toward him, and let every thing that is important to you be laid down on the altar of faith.
  2. Walk with God. Let your relationship with God be the basis for all else in your life.
  3. Obey him 100% in whatever he calls you to do. It is your salvation.
  4. Be real with believers and unbelievers about God: there is no middle road: there is only fully obedient and saved, and not fully obedient and condemned.
  5. Pray for those who are weak or lacking in faith that they may have a heart to trust in Him who is unseen.
  6. Establish relationships of trust with others and let them see your own faith in action.

We will talk more about “the righteousness which is according to faith” as we talk about Abraham.

Burnout

In the famous The Tortoise and the Hare story, children are taught that slow and steady wins the race. I wish ministers were taught that fast and steady brings the burnout.

One sign that God’s servants are hooked up to a finite power source such as coffee, food, screen time, entertainment, hobbies, relationships, or the praise of men is burnout.

The Almighty power of God will never burnout, and its power outlet is found on the side of the wooden beams of Jesus’ own cross.

If you’re not carrying His cross, you are powerless. If you are not deriving your every sustainence from the Word of God, you have only pseudo-power. E. M. Bounds was right, prayer is where the power is, but that’s just because prayer brings a person into contact with the Almighty power of God. Only the humble will actually be strengthened by it though.

God is a Father, Lord, Friend, Priest, and the One who has borne everything you have carried; He knows. The guilt from burnout needs to be kept in the presence of God. It is mere pride which drives a man away from God out of guilt. Humble guilt runs to God, not from Him. If you can’t hear Him, then for His goodness sake run to Him. Leave every net behind!

If the shell that the body of Christ is wearing now–the exoskeleton of denominational Christianity which is only affordable in a pluralistic, materialistic, and person-centered culture like America–is tiring out the very soldiers who live to sustain it to the point where they are morally, spiritually, and societally compromised, then we either need better leaders or a better exoskeleton. I’ve got a feeling that God wants both.

On Preaching God’s Word ~ A Poem

Don’t start talking beside the flower
Discussing its hue and classification.
That is description!

Don’t just let the smell be nosed
And tell people how fragrant it is.
That is reporting!

Don’t just finger its petals and thorns
And explain the touch of soft and sharp
That is informing!

You are not yet small enough
To know the flower properly yet
You are still outside.

Like the bee, lowly and industrious
Drawn by the sight, smell, and feel
You are in need.

Wanting life for heart and home,
You sink beneath the pedal’s crown
You seek the source.

The hidden warmth, the ever-present aroma
Of the sweetest secret nectar of Life
Now, you are before Him.

 

 

Bride

There is a bride
Who’s paralyzed.

Her under-developed body
Is cold, weak, shoddy
From lack of Spirit’s animation

Her imbecile consciousness
Is slowed by dimming influence
From lack of Spirit’s illumination

Her frame too frail
To through travail
Give birth to Spirit’s progeny

Her heart cringing fear
She curls up to look “in here.”
Closed up to the Spirit’s guidance

Clothed in dirt
Worms her dessert
Mixing sin with Spirit’s holiness

Precious daughter
Where’s her father?
Where’s a lover to romance?
Where’s a coach, trainer, or brother?
Where’s the Savior?

Here comes a minstrel
His song is sweet,
Her ears receive
Her mind perceives
Her heart conceives
Her body breathes.

Then comes a play mate
His games are fun
Her feet can run
Her eyes see sun
Her heart has won
Her chains undone

Then comes a father
His name is hers
His words she heeds
His strength she needs
Her mind he feeds
Her heart he kneads.

Then comes a lover
He gives up Himself.
Her face beams
Her eye gleams
She races streams
Her heart sings.

Then the Spirit and the Bride say:
“Come!”

Famine of God’s Revelation

Hearts harden under dull ears
And dim eyes
The eyes and the ears are purposed
To explore the very nature of God
Visible to us and audible to us
During this short life we have on earth.

“The eye is never satisfied with seeing”
“Nor the ear with hearing.”
“Rivers running endless to the sea,” the preacher says.
So how can our eyes and ears adequately explore
This very nature of God visible to us
Even though it is spiritual eternity in pragmatic time?

Well, perhaps one way is to avoid the trap
Of the insatiability of the eye.
The eye in our technological society
Has more than enough to see in picture and video
The ears are deafened by the machinistic murmurings
Of everything man has made incessantly drumming.

And somewhere the simplicity of God’s nature
Is lost to a thick and overpowering web of Man’s devices
Noise and flash,
Song and dance,
Light and music—
Are not all of these things the diet of our eyes and ears?

A famine! A Great famine! Devestating and ruthless!
Storm-forced winds tear away all peaceful stillness
The glaring desert sun scorches the bare ground.
The rain is not permitted enough time to gather
The ground is cracked and dry.
The seeds within wait to be sprouted by just one word from the Lord.

A single drop of His truth
To cool the burning thirst of our souls—
A quiet whispered hush
In which veracity can settle—
One candle in the darkness
When all pseudo-lights are extinguished.

Pray the Lord of the Harvest
Send the rain that brings real life.
Clear the ground of its towers of Babel.
Let the eyes close in sleep and wait til morning.
And then, once you’ve tasted of the voice of Heaven.
Do not forget He who speaks and shows Himself to you every day
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, and call on Him while He is near.”

The Scribe

After a return to translation,
– – I remember. My soul is spread out before God like a puddle of water in the hot sun. I feel my spirit rising up within me to moisten and soften my heart with tears that cleanse me of the world’s hardening smut and worthless frivolity. The English Bible is like a lantern with a fresh, warm firelight within it. The heat is intoxicating like wine’s drunkenness (without dissipation) that begets an even deeper sobriety. My melted form twists and swirls before the majesty of the Fire in which it was first forged, and in this white-hot groaning holiness, the dross collects around the mouth of my chest in guttural wailings and tears of joy and cries of laughter. The aches of futility are assuaged, and the drudgery of time is nullified, my youth kindles like a flame dancing on the wick of a single moment. I am opened up to the glorious goodness of God in humbled trust and the hope of glory is bursting from my heart in song, poetry, story, and questions seeking to lay hold of even more of the Answer.

– – This is only the birth of something new. From here, my thoughts and feelings are blessed to carry the fire of God’s Holy Word into every part of my being through my Journals probing and applying and forging of the truth of life’s mystery into a sensible, handled, accessible portal for myself and all who hear me to enter in to the same gateway into the Wonder of God’s person. Thoughts are laid like iron bars parallel upon the perpendicular wood of my emotions, laid out and empowered and straightened by the Holy fire purified, so that the locomotive of my will to choose and serve and love God with all my heart may transport this precious cargo all around the trail He himself has laid out for my wheels. Not to speed or slow except by His bidding for any hills or curves I cannot see from my own window on the side of the locomotive. As I seek vision, He shows me a map of the railroad upon which I am tracked, and helps me see ways to cultivate what I carry in my payload, even as He sets me in motion Himself. The payload is destined for a particular destiny of destination and the Boiler’s fire must not go out til there is no more track.

– – This birth and cultivation manifest a different sort of fruit than mere thoughts, but also a more excellent and beautiful abundance out of which my joy is mingled again with sorrow and expressed colorfully to the world: Heaven sings to the Earth and in the earth the reply rises from deep within it. A soul without song is an ember glowing but flickering with no tongue of flame. Music explosion makes the dance of heat give off radiant and comforting light to all who languish in darkness and who shiver in cold disbelief. They warm themselves with blankets of silence trusting their own heat to keep warm, when suddenly in their eyes and ears a melody of painful pleasure touches their dry frozen eyes with warm moisture and the dull ringing ears with magical delight. The skill of the composer to bend his heart and lightly carry his listener to a place where he has exercised the eternal possibilities of the finite, given the mind room to explore new patterns and meaning, and most of all, gathered all hearers into one solid pool of Eternity’s Elixir from which all souls take their draught which expediently refreshes it in God.

By a verse of translation a man is confronted by his darkness.
–     O that he would break at the sight and melt!
The next verse warms his heart with honest tears.
–     O that his laughter may accompany each drop!
Another and peace tests him with rest and sleep.
–     O that he may have the heart to keep pursuing his Beloved!
Still a fourth and the shape is delighting to his eyes.
–     O that he may preserve the art of the shape in all he does!
A Fifth and the Master knows the one who is just beginning to know.
–     O that he may cling to the Father’s hand and not let go!
A Sixth and the agony of the world’s condition is felt.
–     O that the scribe may not falter at the weight!
A Seventh and the glorious solution is realized.
–     O that God’s doings may be his only acts!
Eight, the numbers cease to count the length.
–     O that a finite man not grow weary of eternity!
Nine, who am I? I have forgotten myself for Him.
–     O that their happiness together be treasured forever!
Ten, the ripple has ceased and Christ is at hand.
–     O that nothing dare come between him and His God!
– – Words fail beyond 10, but colors and music and poetry and deeds of life can give the echo of Translation’s effects.

– – Even still there is more. In silence, He, that True Holy Spirit speaks, giving oxygen to the flame which fragile burns to light the way.
–     By this light, Jesus explained the Scriptures to his disciples so that their hearts burned within them.
–     By this light, Peter and the disciples proclaimed the deeds of God to all peoples and languages birthing the church.
–     By this light, Saints and Prophets saw visions, performed miracles spoke of the future, and conquered the world by faith.
–     By this light, the church spread abroad abolishing heresy and expanding His Kingdom around the whole world.
–     By this light, a monk translated the Scriptures for himself and started a Reformation of the church in Europe.
–     By this light, expositors and translators continue to reinvigorate the church with the fresh ever-true revelation of Jesus Christ.
–     By this light, I, a Light-bringing Advocate and son of the Word of Fire, live to remind God’s children using music and words of the Gospel of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ so that the church may be one, and the Earth be reshaped for the Glory of God.

– – And so, this gem, this secret Jewel of my existence I make know to you now, dear Joyous Bondwoman. Translation is the fountain in which I play youthfully, through which I am made wiser than many of the aged. It is the Treasure of my soul. It is the very firing of my secret furnace. It is my most intimate time with God. It is the Key in the ignition of my spirit. It is the inspiration of all music I do that is good. It is the stone upon which I sharpen the warrior’s sword and the oil with which I anoint my shepherd’s staff.
– – Without my translation, I quickly dim like a suffocating flame. The filth of the Earth I intake and spout forth futile flagrant folly and ferociousness without translation. Without my translation, many have been my failures and stumblings in anger, lust, and laziness, and anxiousness. The weakness of my mortal frame becomes a concavity which breaks to serve itself without translation. Without translating I see only ill in people’s faces, and readily condemn others. Only my own righteousness is my security without translation. By translation I am deeply reshaped to Christ’s form. Without it I am disfigured repugnantly to callous frivolity.

– – Still more, yea more. Still even more and more. Free time is but a canvas upon which to paint eternal mystery. O how I have sluggishly slacked in heart away from translating in Hebrew to this extent! How sweet and good and true love is when shared with another soul, though its effects are cultivated to similar results to translation with time-spent devotion to Christ. And in the light of Love like this life leaps and ladles out longevity. Time cannot validate itself without meeting eternity’s approval, and when I translate I cannot check the time.
– – I hope that your ears, as I have perceived them in the fire, be ready to receive this part of me so verbosely yet concisely expressed. This is translation, and this is what I pray that God has given you the heart to understand.

Matthew 13:52~”Every scribe who has become a disciple of the Kingdom of Heaven is like a head of a household who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”

 

Vision: God and the Scientist

I saw a man in a grey room typing at his keyboard. He was sitting in front of a computer, but his head I couldn’t see, except for a black square to mark out one whose face I could not see. He was a scientist. He was doing research on something.

I realized that he is being fed misinformation by those who do not acknowledge God, and who become foolish in their dark hearts.

And suddenly I knew. The answer is not better teaching.

The answer is God Himself intervening in the life of this scientist to bring Him to the knowledge of the Truth of Himself, in which all science is appropriated.

And as the Kingdom of Heaven latches onto him and lays hold. He passionately shares his findings and his way of thinking winsomely to the people in the scientific community.

Slowly the teaching in Science is changed back to a wisdom that advances the causes of science far into the reaches of unknown space. The galaxies were explored at greater depth. The human genome. The arch-robin and finches of the Galapagos are not classified separately anymore. A piece of flesh is sold in the marketplace for more tissue cells than ever before.

The Lord spoke to the scientist and he heard Him. He spoke and began to work wonders in his midst. A Christian who knew God but man knew not healed a nurse in a hospital.

How did you do that? “You ask because you will not believe. Ask and you will believe.” said the old man.

The scientist read his Bible and began to pray, and God found in his heart a pure passionate fire to live for him. The seed of rebirth was born in his heart, and flowered in living salvation. He began to speak to others about the revelation he found which was a light bulb to all his scientific teachings in darkness.

This is all I saw.

Interpretation: I believe it is the only answer to true salvation of the scientific community. God has to personally intervene. You who complain that the teaching must be better, and groan under the weight of misinformation called fact, and limited perspective called exhaustive, just take heart. All it takes is God intervening, and He will intervene in answer to the cry of His people, and He will remember His new Covenant in Jesus Christ. He is the Savior. Science is not the answer. Jesus truly is the answer, because only when God Himself intervenes to save, do we see the lasting powerful change and know in our hearts the goodness of God.

 

The God of Tenth Chances

To be sure, the subject of God’s character is an inexhaustible topic. Books about books will continue to be written, but in my experience there are few books which will reverence the One who is being studied from a personal standpoint. Whenever I listen to preachers I listen for the soft hush ready at the edge of every word apprehensive they might miss His still small voice when He speaks. I wait in the listening of men like John Bunyan, Leonard Ravenhill, T. Austin Sparks, or any believers who have suffered martyrdom for their faith, and my soul reaches out its hands to be warmed by the fire of holy men of God who let the Holiness of God forge them. Men like these came out of that fire the color of molten metal: that Amber shade of reverence that tempers each word at just the right temperature to comfort and confront the selfish human heart. In my study, I have been discipled not to know the content, but the character, not the plot-lines but the person, not the heroic deeds, but the heart of the One who did them. And one such story amazes me, simply put. And in light of so many who mistakenly wag their bony fingers at God in the Old Testament and say, “You are all wrath and no love. You look nothing like Jesus.” I feel compelled to patiently try to keep back my smile as I look them seriously in their misguided expressions, and assure them that there is more to the story if you know where to look.

The story is familiar thanks to Cecil De Mill’s The Ten Commandments, but as often happens whenever something is taken out of its culture and put into the vein of another set of values, the story gets rewritten in ways that obscure what was originally going on. One thing that has helped me to see more of what is happening in the story of Moses and God versus Pharaoh in Egypt over the people of Israel, is translating the passage from Hebrew into English. Syntax, Word-meaning, nuances, and idiomatic phrases are much more refined down here at this level, and some of my findings I want to share with you. My aim is not to tell you a different story: My aim is to tell you more about the Hero.

Who is the hero? Well, the obvious answer according to the way the story has been told is that it is Moses. And Pharaoh is the villain. This is close, and its easy to see how the hero’s side is the one Moses is on, and the villain’s side is the one that Pharaoh is on, but I can tell you with complete confidence that the hero isn’t Moses.

How do I know that? Well, for one thing the action does not originate with Moses. Moses is not the one who is on a quest to save the people of Israel. That is God’s doing. Moses isn’t the one who goes through and slaughters all the first-born of Egypt, that was God. God was the one who remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God was the one who gave the words to Moses to speak. Moses isn’t the hero, he’s the Hero’s message boy. And God wanted him to be his message-boy. In fact, he grew angry when Moses refused to be his message boy, and let him have a message boy himself so he would actually go. Moses isn’t the hero. The hero is Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who made man in his own image, and against whom Adam and Eve sinned. Same God.

It’s also the same God who saw the intentions of all humanity’s hearts in Genesis and saw the need to shorten man’s life-span so that evil would not become irreversibly rampant. Evil would have taken over the whole world except one man, God’s remnant– the one man who stood in the gap. It’s all God needs to keep his foot-hold or his work. He chose a remnant, he held onto a single thread a number of times in the Bible, where He kept on holding onto the hope and plan that he would in the end save his people.

So his people, in this passage are the people of Israel. God is fighting for them, and Moses is the servant who does his master’s bidding. His master is the hero. The villain is Pharaoh. Pharaoh is shown to be the villain in plenty of actions he does like drowning the Hebrew babies, and in things he says. One of the things he says to Moses and Aaron when they come to him, “I do not know Yahweh. Who is he?” Boy are you ever about to find out!

Yahweh is shown in this story to be very patient. It is something about Him that I have come to appreciate more and more. He says to Pharaoh, not quite like what Moses said in The Ten Commandments, “Let my people go, and they will serve Me.” or here in this first account “Let my people go into the wilderness to celebrate a feast to me.” His first request was let them come and eat with me. The intention of this request was shown to be answered later on in Exodus of what God was talking about in Exodus 24. The elders and Nadab and Abihu and Moses and Aaron go up and they get to eat and drink together in the presence of the God who they could see, by the way. God was interested in celebrating, but he was also interested in holiness. So here he was, God the hero, commanding his subject Pharaoh king of Egypt to release the children of Israel who had been suffering great affliction under his hand. And what does Pharaoh say. He says, “Who is Yahweh, that I should obey His voice?” God is so patient. He knows Pharaoh is hard of heart. God is part of the reason why his heart is hard.

So then begins a contest between God and Pharaoh, and God agrees to this contest, for no other reason I can surmise other than He wanted to show the world what he could do. He had to show the world how powerful He was to humble the proud. But if that was all he showed them we would just be reading a variation of the book of Job, where God flexes his muscles for Job. No, no, no. What we see here in Exodus is the just, merciful, thorough, and patient devotion God has to deliver His people, from the proud who he knows from afar. This story is prototypical for the whole Gospel which we who name the name of Christ hold to be a treasure in our hearts. The Gospel, the good news, the bitter-sweet reality is that God will stop at nothing to get his people back, but not without giving his rival every chance in the world to set him free.

So, God is a God not of second chances, not of third, or fourth, or fifth chances, but here we see that God is a God of Tenth chances. Even the seventh chance, he considered being done with the contest, but He is so patient to give his rival every chance to submit before He goes for the jugular. Because all the terror He unleashes in Egypt, the staff-snake, the blood, frogs, lice, flies, disease, the boils, he says to Pharaoh, “You still won’t give up?” Then he brings 3 more signs of his power, Hail, locusts, and darkness, and still Pharaoh’s heart is hardened.

Is God cruel to tease him? Cruel? Did you watch closely? God is King. He has the right, and he gives Pharaoh ten chances to turn back before he whips out the big guns. God isn’t cruel, he is merciful! He is also devoted to finish the fight He starts so he can have his people free to serve him.

Have you ever considered this, when you read the narrative of God versus Pharaoh, never once does it say that God was angry with Pharaoh. If you don’t believe me check the story again for yourself. God’s wrath isn’t mentioned until much later. In fact the first 10 signs God does in Egypt, God sends them by the hand of Moses. It isn’t personal yet, but then, when the 10th plague, which is the 11th sign is given out, the last straw that broke Pharaoh’s camel’s back, We read an interesting statement in Exodus 11:4 which we do not see earlier on in the story. God says to Moses, “About midnight, I will go out into the midst of Egypt.” In the Hebrew it is glaringly obvious with the presence of the first person pronoun, ‘I’. I tell you, when I translated that my soul shuddered through me. God’s patience has run its course, and now He himself is coming to rescue His people. And the blow is devastating. He cripples Pharaoh, and Egypt by taking the one thing they have left, what the American President J.F. Kennedy said once in his speech on peace, “We all cherish our children’s future.” God took that future away from them because of their pride.

Yes, God is one who kills; we are the ones who deserve death. But can you see His patience, His incredible forbearance which Peter, who saw Jesus closer than anybody else did, recognized? He said, “God is not slow in fulfilling his promise, but is patient with us not wanting any to perish but all to come to the knowledge of repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9)

O the tenacious love of Yahweh, who will not let the proud stand to oppress the children of freedom! The proud person’s days are numbered, because they are nothing like God.

God is a hero who takes down Pharaoh and sets free His people, and even after his people are free to go, that last intention of Pharaoh’s heart is proven yet again to be evil continually, through and through. He lashes out with the last of his strength at the Red Sea, and Yahweh obliterates his military. Pharaoh knows by the end, only when he has lost everything, that he is beaten.

Now it gets personal. God is with his chosen people who have seen His wondrous works, and now we see the anger of God. We see it when the people complain, when they refuse to obey, and we see God very personally involved in leading the people in a cloud by day and fire by night, he feeds them he gives them water, and all they do is complain and say we want to go back home.

Seven strifes and sinful complainings later, God is ready to wipe them out. It’s written in Exodus 32! What? A God of love? Of course! Somehow many have come to miss the anger of God that is backed by his great love which he has for his people. It is not an out-of-control. Hardly! As he said to Moses in Exodus 34, Yahweh is “Slow to anger” literally it takes a long time for the anger to come out of His nostrils. Yahweh is an angry God, because his very name is Jealous. (Ex 34:14) Jesus showed us this in the temple when he cast out the money changers and sellers out of the temple. Zeal for his house consumed him. Anger and zeal and jealousy are not weaknesses in God’s character, they are part of what make Him good. Of all the people in the world, he did not expect the Egyptians or the other nations to know him, but he did in his heart hold that the Israelites would know him. The affront to God was not from Egypt who sinned in ignorance; it was the nation He had chosen for himself to call his own, and to show the whole world how He could love such a people.

And in this moment, God in the Old Testament is written off by many as being nothing more than a wrathful and vengeful God? You bet he’s wrathful. If a man had just patiently won a battle against an ignorant enemy, only to have the prize you fought for whom you loved so much criticizing you and begging you to go back, even erecting images to fantasize over what they used to have in their idolatrous slavery, you would feel some of what He felt.

Enter Moses, God’s message boy who God brings along for this expedition, and in Exodus 32, Moses intercedes for the people, by being part of God’s secret council. Moses represents God to Himself by being the mediator, by demonstrating his understanding of God’s character, and implores him to show more kindness and truthfulness, and God changes his mind.

The fatalists out there like some of my Calvinist friends don’t appreciate the gravity of what Moses did. To think that any sinner could change God’s perfect mind is tantamount to blasphemy. But to think of it from the standpoint of relationship, God is one who invites us into His council and considers what we have to say. Not many of us get to this point with God, because most of the time when we pray it is us who are changing our minds to God’s. It takes great humility, communication, and trust with God, for you to have a say in His council. And God is gracious enough to gladly give us this chance. After all, one might argue, which God would be better? A God who did everything the way he wanted it because that was best for everyone, or the one who entrusted the decisions of what was best for all to others who he let into his council, and still managed to do the perfect and correct thing. One is aloof, the other is accessible. Our God is not aloof, but he is accessible to the humble.

What a hero! What a God! So patient, so kind, so . . . what many of us might call “human.” Jesus, the human, showed us, better than anyone else what God is really like. Because in him, “We beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the father full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14) Jesus is God, just as the Word was God in the beginning with God. And he mysteriously assumed the whole essence of Creation in Himself because all of it subsisted through him.

And God is the God of Tenth chances, because even after 10 times of seeing if there was any other way, God Himself steps into the picture, and what a dreadful sight to behold! 10 times it is proven that creation will fall apart unless He himself comes to rescue us. Jesus, God Himself came Himself to save the world, Himself, because no one else could do it. God made the promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 that the people of Israel would come out of Egypt into the promised land, and that this covenant was contingent not on what Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob did, but on what God did. And God himself walked in between the pieces, knowing that if Abraham broke the covenant, then He would have to pay the price. And so Jesus died on the cross, and gave his life willingly because no one else could do it.

Does God deserve what we do to Him? He has been good, we cannot see that. We would rather blame Him, and shame Him, than bless Him and confess Him. You who see only a harsh and unloving God in the Old Testament, the issue isn’t with God, it’s with your heart. The Bible says, “Seek Yahweh while he  may be found.” You’ve got one chance this vapor of a fleeting life to seek out and know and love the God who you are called and created to obey. And Jesus Christ isn’t some milder version of an angry God, He’s the entire package with all the tears, laughter, jealousy, power, healing, and wonder-working of God as He is known through the Old Testament.

Take heed, you who are on your ninth chance God has given you, because His patience does end. You have an intercessor now who has gone to the cross for you, and if you spit on him, and refuse him with your heart, your soul is forfeit. There is no more sacrifice available for you who will not look at the love of a God so tender and good, who gives His all so that you can be free to serve him. I tell you here that God is a God of Tenth chances, and Jesus said to forgive your brother 490 times, but know that one day it will be too late. Either your heart will turn to stone, or your body will turn to dust. “Cleanse your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts you double-minded.” James 4:8.

So much more needs to be said on God’s behalf. This is a beginning, a taste, a call to recognize and remember the one whose image you bear. He is calling you to repent, and represent Him well in the world as perfectly and humbly as Jesus did.