This Is Only a Test
The scene is a jubilant one. The entire Israelite community had been miraculously delivered from the heavy bondage of slavery. Their jaws dropped as they watched God part the Red Sea so they could walk triumphantly into freedom. The book of Exodus gives us the account.
Miriam, Moses’ big sister, led the procession with clashing tambourines in what must have been the biggest “Praise Celebration” of all time. They had witnessed first hand how their mighty Jehovah had brought them out from under the cruel demands of Pharaoh and his chariot officers.
You would have surely thought that they would be riding this “wave of faith” for quite some time to come. But only three days later, they were complaining to Moses, “Why did you take us from Egypt and drag us out here only to have us die from thirst?”
Moses himself even got out of sorts. He complained to God, “What am I to do with these people”?
God calmly answered Moses (as if He was not surprised at all by their behavior),
“Walk on ahead of the people. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink. So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because they quarreled and they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:5-7).
They tested God… but in reality, God was testing them.
As we continue to journey with them in the hot desert sand through the Old Testament, we begin to realize that the picture only becomes more dismal. What the Israelites failed to see was that God was continually bringing them into a “wilderness of testing” for one purpose: to see what was truly in their hearts, to see if they would trust and obey Him without a grand display of miracles.
Even in our own lives, we travel through different places of testing. God has historically used this story of the Israelites as an example of how not to respond when faced with trials. (See Hebrews 4:11.)
The bottom line is that God is after something in each one of us. This thing called life is simply our own desert of testing. Why not allow God to part the “red seas” of your life? He has a “promised land” that He wants to bring you into so He can show Himself mighty and strong on your behalf.
With boldness and courage let us learn from our predecessors the valuable lessons of faith and let us remind ourselves, “This is only a test.”
Through The Bible Devotions
Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV) 19But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Once Joseph’s father had died, his brothers thought Joseph might now get even with them. They pretended that their father’s last words were, “Please forgive your brothers.” The Scripture today is Joseph’s response. Joseph knew that only God could judge and reward men for their actions. He left all judgment to God and assured his brothers that he would not take any action himself.
Then he went on to tell us a wonderful truth. God can take what man intends for evil and use it to save lives. The brothers had malice, envy and greed in their hearts, but God used the action they took to get Joseph into Egypt. He used a lustful wife to get him into prison. He used an ungrateful butler to tell Pharaoh about a man who could interpret dreams. God does not author the evil, or condone it, but He uses the consequences of the actions to serve His purposes. All things do work together for good to those that love God and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28).
In this story we see the omnipotence and sovereignty of God. He can use even the evil in the world to serve His purposes. What an amazing God! We do not need to fear that evil is out of control. God is on the throne of heaven. Though man sins against God and against us, our God can use it to bless our lives and the lives of others. Don’t be discouraged. Our God is over all and will use all things to bring glory to Himself. His glory fills the earth. Trust His all-powerful hand to bring about good in whatever situation you are facing.
Meditation: God is never caught off guard by the evil of man. He causes all things to glorify Him.
Our Source of Hope When Life Hurts
I knew something was seriously wrong the moment I answered my phone. My sister-in-law choked back tears as she told me a doctor had just diagnosed my 88-year-old mother with a life-threatening condition. “She has 20 minutes to talk with each of her kids and decide whether or not to have surgery,” my sister-in-law said. Twenty minutes to choose between life or death. The clock was ticking.
When I woke early that morning, I had no reason to suspect crisis would strike my family before noon. I would never have guessed that within hours, I’d leave home to sit vigil at Mom’s bedside until she took her last breath on earth a week later.
Life is unpredictable. Last year at this time, my mother was an active senior who drove and lived independently. And none of us suspected a mystery virus was about to strike and bring division, disappointment and loss. Who could have guessed a pandemic would force us into isolation, upend our plans, throw us into turmoil and leave us longing for hope?
Life changes in a nanosecond, and it deals blows we don’t expect. It’s so easy to find ourselves in a place of despair, longing for some type of comfort. I’ve struggled too, as I’ve grieved for my mom and for the losses suffered by so many around the world.
Thankfully, in my time of grief, I’ve found Romans 15:13 to be especially meaningful: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Hope is mentioned not once, but twice in this verse. One Bible dictionary defines it as “trustful expectation, particularly with reference to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Biblical hope is the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God’s guidance.” This contrasts to a dictionary definition of hope as “a feeling that what we want to happen will happen.”
The first mention of hope in today’s verse refers to God as the origin of hope. We anticipate a favorable outcome not based on circumstances, but on His person. We will face disappointments or life-altering detours. We will experience the death of a dream or the loss of a loved one. But no matter how difficult our circumstances, we can have hope because of who God is: powerful, wise, sovereign and good.
God is our guide, our comforter, our rock that remains steadfast when everything around us crumbles. He’s our constant companion who has promised never to leave us, not even for a moment.
The second mention of hope refers to us as the recipients. God pours hope into us when we choose to believe He is who He says He is and that He always keeps His promises. When we do this, He gifts us not with a flimsy optimism that everything will somehow work out OK, but with a rock-solid anticipation of a favorable outcome under His guidance.
And because we live among humanity desperately seeking hope, He wants our supply to spill over and splash those around us, creating in them a curiosity to know our secret. We can’t concoct this hope in our own strength; God makes hope possible by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. Imagine — this is the same power that raised Christ from the dead! (Romans 8:11; Ephesians 1:19, 20)
The more I meditate on Romans 15:13, the more God heals my hurting heart. He wants to do the same for you, my friend. We can hang on to hope knowing that someday, Jesus will return and set everything right. Someday, He will wipe every tear from our eyes. (Revelation 21:4) In the meantime, we can live in hope because the source of hope lives in us.
“O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! … you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings.” – Psalm 61:1-4 NLT
Based on a lifetime of study, military historian John Keegan defined a refuge as “a place of short-term safety.” While refuges have been important throughout history, strongholds have been even more important.
Strongholds are “not merely for safety from attack but also active defense.” These are centers “where the defenders are secure from surprise or superior numbers.” Because of their design, they can more easily “withstand sieges from attackers.”
The Bible makes it clear that God provides shelter for us. This is not merely a defensive refuge to escape danger; it’s more. He can lead us to a “towering rock of safety.” This means that God provides the strength we need and sure protection against any danger.
He also is our fortress, shielding us from assaults. He gives us the kind of safety provided by a strong tower. We may feel weak and vulnerable, but God can fill us with His strength. When our hearts are overwhelmed, we can cry to Him, confident that He will hear us and protect us.
Think about your problems and the adversaries you face. You do not have to cringe in fear or feel overwhelmed, hopeless, or vulnerable. Instead, cry to God. Commit your problems to Him. Be confident that He will shield you and provide a place of strength and safety where you can live in victory. That is His promise to you.