May 8, 2020 by Aaron Brown
I find it easy to judge the Israelites. Don’t you? I think about the beautiful and bloody story of God making his covenant with Abram to the binding of Isaac. I think about Jacob wrestling with God and how God saved Jacob and his sons from famine by the hands of his son Joseph. The Book of Genesis is full of times when those Patriarchs encountered our God. The covenant was passed down generation to generation. In an amazingly awesome display of God’s power in the plagues of Egypt, the Israelites regain their freedom by simply walking away from their oppressors with their gold. Even after the pillars of cloud and fire lead them day and night and the pillar of cloud protects them as the Egyptian army pursues and the sea opens an escape on dry land, the Israelites grumble. God feeds them manna from heaven and quails and even provides water gushing from a rock, they whine. “Why did you bring us out to the desert to die? We could have been back in Egypt eating leeks and garlic.” How can the Israelites whine? After not only the amazing stories of their fathers, but their own encounters with God, they bemoan their situation with, it seems, very little appreciation and thankfulness.
These stories came to mind as I began to read Psalm 44. “O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old.” I remember those people who have shared their faith with me over the years telling and retelling what God has done in and through these stories. The Psalmist goes on through the first 8 verses of chapter 44 to remind us of God’s sovereignty. “You (God) with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the people, but them you set free; for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.” What an amazing thought! You drove out the nations, but you also planted them there. God is in control. The Psalmist confesses, “For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me, but you have saved us from our foes…” Doesn’t that thought fit with so many stories from the Old Testament?
I find myself in this beautiful tapestry of our heritage of faith, the magnificent stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Joshua rushing through my mind. Thoughts of my parents, Sunday School teachers, pastors, and friends who have helped build my faith remind me of this thread connecting us all. I, like my ancestors of faith the Israelites, am forgetful. I forget that the point of the stories is not that Abram had faith, although he did, or that Moses followed, although he did, or that Joshua conquered, although he did. The point is God entered a covenant with his people, with us, and said, “If I break my covenant, may I be cut in half” in Genesis 15. God is faithful and God is in control. O God, we have heard with our ears what deeds you have performed in the days of old. Forgive me for whining and being forgetful. Please fill my heart with joy and gratitude that I do not have to trust in my own hands to save myself. Thank you for those walking on this journey with me! May our hearts come together in your arms in this time of separation. Amen.