Back to God
Why did God bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? We may readily say it is to free them from slavery and deliver them from the hands of their Egyptian oppressors. They had cried to God for deliverance “and the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large land, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites”(Exo.3:7-8). But then, that is not 'the reason' as everything God does is because of Himself not man.
Israel was God's own nation but strayed away and God delivered them to the hands of the Egyptians for one purpose: to lead them back to Himself. But it took them four hundred and thirty years before they finally came to their senses (a term commonly used for repentance ff:Mk. 5:15; Lk.15:17). They cried, sighed and groaned unto the Lord (Ex.2:23-24) and God heard their sincere cry of repentance for forgetting and forsaking the God of their fathers. Genuine repentance (Godly sorrow) must precede true deliverance. They were not just sorry for themselves that they were oppressed, which is worldly sorrow. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2Cor. 7:10).
But in delivering His people, God had only one thing in mind. He did not just want to deliver and free them from the hands of their oppressors and make them live a life of freedom for themselves, He wanted to have them back to Himself.
Lost and Found
When we lose something that is very precious to us, we are willing to pay any price to have it back. But our desperate action to regain it back must not be misinterpreted as just to have mercy on the object. It is primarily to claim back what is rightfully ours, regain possession of it and take it back home with us with joy and gladness.
Jesus painted it so beautifully in the parable of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the prodigal son (Lk.15:4-24). The shepherd left ninety nine sheep to diligently search for the lost one and the woman also searched everywhere to look for the lost coin and when they found their lost item, they all rejoiced. The shepherd laid his sheep on his shoulders, brought it home with him and called neighbours to rejoice with him. The same with the woman who found her lost coin and the prodigal son's father (Luke 15:5). There is always joy in our hearts when we find something that was lost, so also there is joy in heaven when a sinner comes back home (Luke 15:7,10).
The shepherd did not rescue the sheep and left it in the jungle to wander with the feeling that at least, he has rescued it and charged it not to run into danger again, but he brought it back home to himself, to the fold. The prodigal son's father also brought him home to himself and the woman brought the lost coin back to her collection. Their joy was in bringing them back to themselves. God had waited for four hundred and thirty years for Israel to return to Him and now that they had returned, He wanted them for Himself, not just to deliver them and leave them in their freedom. He rescued them for Himself to have and posses.
But it was evidenced that Israel did not know why they were delivered from Egypt. To them, they were able to attract the mercy of God and woo Him by their cry to save them from the oppression of Egypt! They have escaped the generational oppression and now, they would no longer live a life of servitude to do the biddings of Pharaoh and their task masters. They could live a life of freedom; raise families, pursue their dreams and ignite their visions, etc.
But they got it all wrong. Any rescue or deliverance that does not bring people back to God is a rescue into danger. When we are rescued from Satan, we must be in God, otherwise, it is not true deliverance. The 'jealous' God had to lead them to the wilderness to try their hearts; to determine if they really knew why He brought them out or not: it was for Himself, not for themselves. Sadly, all the generation of the people that left Egypt failed the test, about two million perished in the wilderness, never reaching the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey that God promised them. Why didn't God fulfil His promise to take them to Canaan? Because they failed to know why God brought them out!
It is much like the Christendom today. Many do not know why they are Christians. To them, it is deliverance from hell, sickness, poverty, death, troubles, oppressions, etc. But that is not the reason. Paul beautifully sounded the alarm to the Corinthian Church: “if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1Cor. 15:19). And just like Israel thought Canaan was just a walking distance away, which was true, but God surprised them by not taking them through the familiar route which would take just forty days, but led them to the wilderness which took them forty years! If we knew why God took Israel to the wilderness, we will know why He took Jesus to Golgotha?
Tried and Tested
The difference between Moses and today's leaders is that Moses was being entirely led by God and had no control of himself or any idea why he headed to the wilderness, nay the red sea! If it had been by himself, he knew the way to lead them through, certainly not the wilderness. How did he intend to lead the people across the red sea? He had no idea because he was not the one leading. The people were not his people; they were God's people and God deliberately led them through the wilderness, to try their hearts, prove His power and to prophetically point to Calvary.
At one time, Moses had wanted to deliver Israel, thinking he was the Messiah to deliver them from the oppression of Pharaoh. But that cost him the seat of the king of Egypt as Pharaoh- preferred and sent him to forty years in exile in the wilderness to unlearn all he had learned in Egypt, especially, thinking he was the Messiah to save his people. He learned that he had no credential whatsoever to save the people and if he was not going to fail the second time, he had to depend solely on God to lead His own people, His own way. They went to the direction of the wilderness blinded by the joy of freedom, not realizing that there was a red sea ahead, but it was God's doing.
The Egyptians too were surprised. They knew Israel was headed in the 'wrong' direction and that emboldened them to run after a defenseless people with chariots and all weapons of war. They cornered them. Mountains on both sides, red sea in the front and the host of Pharaoh coming with fury at the back. The children of Israel cursed Moses on discovering that they were 'trapped', but Moses was as surprised as they were. It was either they drown in the red sea, climb the unclimbable mountain or defenselessly face the fury of Pharaoh's army. They forgot all the miracles God had done and all they could remember were the curses they learned in Egypt and they rained it on Moses. Only when we have no natural ability, strength or way out that God's power can be experienced.
But today's leaders know the way, and it is neither the way of wilderness nor Golgotha. It is a short route where there is no mountain, no red sea and no host of Pharaoh trailing behind. The power of God cannot be seen in such routes because there is no red sea to part, no army of Pharaoh to subdue. No miracle to experience, no victory, no conquest and the people never saw the Shekinah glory of God. They lead people to Canaan without the wilderness experience and without subduing the inhabitants of Canaan and they became easy preys to the giants. Such leaders often get their rewards on earth through the respect, accolades, fame, success from such venture. Jesus will tell them He know them not in heaven, they that worked iniquity on earth.
The Wilderness Experience
When the “Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness. (Exo. 14:10-12). If they knew they would go through the wilderness, they perhaps would not follow Moses and God knew it. So He kept them and even Moses from knowing, so that his flesh (emotional attachment and pity for the people) would not betray him again.
This is the reason why many people are not experiencing the power of God today because they are under a leader that knows the way, his way: leaders that have more pity on the people than God, their maker. Leaders that would not want to lead people through a difficult path, but would solve their problems, dry their tears, fight their battles, pamper them, etc. The people are their members, not God's people. But that is not the type of training God gives to His children. No king pampers his child knowing that he would succeed him one day (Prov.3:11-12; Heb.12:5-11).
God wanted to lead His children through the wilderness to teach them the art of war so that they could fight and defeat their enemies and to depend on Him alone. He wanted to teach them how to posses their possession by driving out the giants from the land He already gave to them to posses and occupy. Although, He was leading them to the land that is flowing with milk and honey but they were the ones to drive out the giants from it. He was leading Jesus to victory over Satan, but the way was Golgotha. God did not promise us an easy way. (Mat.7:13-14; Luke 13:24). Paul told Timothy: “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2Ti 2:3). “But watch thou in all things, endure affliction…” (2Tim.4:5).
Those who preach or believe the way of the cross is an easy way or present the Gospel as such are not speaking the truth. It is more dangerous to run with half truth than blatant lie. The children of Israel missed it, just as the church is today. They cursed Moses and threatened to return to Egypt. So that the people would not curse the present day leaders and lose their credibility, ministry, members, leadership and of course investment, they lead them through the back door: previewing for them the milk and honey of Canaan, but not the children of Anaks, the giants on the way. Presenting the victory of the cross, without the blood trail to Golgotha.
Moses had been tried, tested and paid his dues. His ego had been dealt with and his pride had been put to a humble defeat. Many of today's leaders never had a burning bush encounter of Moses or the Damascus encounter of Paul. They had no terrible past to look back to and regret their ‘zeal for the Lord’ unlike Moses, Elijah and Paul who were humbled and made to see their utter haplessness. They never faced Jannes and Jambres in the court of Pharaoh or the mastery of the Jews in stoning a perceived heretic. Rather, they are people of clear sight, visions, plans, systems, strategies and back-up programs to achieve their aims. The pedigree and charisma are impeccable qualifications to endear them and make the people trust and follow them to destruction.
“From” To “In”
As said earlier, when God brought Israel out, He had only one thing in mind: to bring them back to Himself. He told Moses to tell Pharaoh: “The LORD God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness” (Exo. 7:16). Their deliverance was in coming back to Him and not just saving them to do their own biddings.
True deliverance is 'from' to 'in'. God will not liberate, save or deliver just so that we can be 'free'. There is nothing like absolute freedom. Jesus constantly charge people: “go and sin no more” (Jn.5:14; Jn.8:11). It is from sin to holiness. You are free from something but bound to something. If we are free from sin, we must be bound to righteousness; otherwise, it is not freedom. If we are free from death, we must be bound to life. He has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1Pet. 2:9).
Many may claim to be free from sin but yet they are not bound to righteousness. Jesus gave a beautiful illustration in the Gospels: “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. (Mat 12:43-45; Luke 11:20-25). “He called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come (Luk 19:13).
God did not call us to ourselves or to achieve our goals, pursue our vision or ambition as many motivational speakers turned preachers preach today. He saved us and called us to Himself. “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2Tim. 1:9). He did not save us to display our giftings, abilities and strength for Him or to labour, work or please Him, but to be with Him. It is for His own purpose. He is looking for relationship and intimacy, not services and sacrifices. When Jesus chose His disciples, He chose them primarily that they might be with Him. “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him” (Mark 3:14).
Coming to Him supersedes labouring for Him. There is nothing else we can offer Him that is greater than ourselves. We must learn from Cain and Abel. Offering our perceived and sincere best does not draw His sympathy. He does not need our service, He needs our presence. He does not need our ability, but availability. He does not need our sacrifices, He needs us. He does not need our activity, He needs our heart. He needs us in Him.
When anyone comes out of a crisis, there is tendency for a post traumatic experience, i.e. seeing things through the eyes of the experience. This may sincerely affect, impair or damage our judgment and make us hallucinate. When we are born and raised in Egypt, our thoughts are on Egypt and it will take God to take Egypt out of us, even when we are out of Egypt. The children of Israel were trained to labour in Egypt and so were used to work and labour. But here, God was calling them to Himself; to rest in Him, a totally foreign language to them and it cost that generation their lives. “Wherefore I was grieved with that generation ... So I sware in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Heb 3:10-12). “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb 4:9-11).
Many Christians today also have been trained to engage in activities and services for the Lord; organizing various programs, crusades, revivals, conferences, etc, rather than being in Him and entering into His rest. They have no idea what it means to enter into rest in God. They are active and zealous to do great works for the Lord, to please Him. They want to save the world, when they could barely save themselves. They want to gather great crowd, healing services, prayer meetings, etc when God want them to sit at his feet.
The rich young ruler was surprised when, instead of Jesus telling him the 'good thing' he came to ask for in order to have eternal life (wherever he got that theory from), Jesus told him to sell all he had, give to the poor and come to follow Him (Mt. 19:16). The only unfulfilled condition , according to Jesus was to go lay aside all his achievements and possessions, sell all he ever had and follow Him. He must empty himself of himself and come just following, not organizing or fixing. That is the language that is foreign to many who grew up or trained in the theory of laboring for God. The only labour God is calling us to is to labour to enter into His rest, not labour to please Him. There is nothing we can do for Him to please Him than to come to Him (Is.64:6).
When Israel got to the wilderness, the God that saved them came to meet with them and to dwell with them. He had longed for that. He could only show His acts in Egypt, but not until they came out of Egypt could He show Himself (2Cor.6:17). Now, He came to show Himself, but Israel rejected Him. They said His presence was terrifying. His glory was too blinding and they gave God their terms (Ex.20:19): 'stay at the mountain; don't come down to where we are. We would send a representative to meet you at the mountain. Tell Moses everything you wish to tell us, just don't come here to meet us'.
How disheartening and disappointing! They desired freedom, cried for it, prayed for it, longed for it and now God gave it to them with a condition that they must worship Him. They came to the wilderness and the very God that saved them came to meet with them to receive their worship but they rejected Him and instead they suddenly discovered the talents, gifts and ideas they possessed and energized themselves in labour, services and activities that gratified their sensual and religious pleasure and all they came out with was to worship a golden calf instead of the Lord God of heaven that brought them out (Ex.32:1-3).
This is also the way of the end time church. God had expended so great a cost to save us, that we might come to Him and worship Him. But like Israel suddenly discovered the great potentials, strengths and abilities in them to do great things, we deviate from the simplicity of being with Him and worshipping him to doing great works for Him which He really didn't need. It is us He needs. We are to be His object of sacrifice and He is to be our object of worship. God does not need our great abilities; we must lay them aside and come to Him as a sacrifice, a living sacrifice – that is our reasonable service (Rom.12:1). We are the sacrifice, not our ministry or labour.
WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH
God’s purpose is to call us to Himself so that we might worship Him. But that, too, has to be His own way: in spirit and in truth, not in songs and dancing.
Oftentimes we loosely use the phrase 'praise and worship' to describe a time of singing and dancing in our services. This is one of the errors Satan has successfully imported into the church. Is there anywhere in the Bible that song is worship to God? Songs don't worship God, it is us that worship God and our worship may be expressed in various ways including songs, but the song is not the worship, we are. We may sing songs of praise and worship, yet we do not worship. We may worship Him in spirit and in truth and yet we do not sing songs. We must break away from the traditional beliefs in our services which only gratify our own flesh by releasing emotions in singing and dancing orgy, calling it praise and worship. Worship is in spirit and it truth, not in dances and songs.
When Jesus told that woman at the well those words, saying: “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father... But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (Joh 4:21-24), there was no cultural, emotional or religious attachment to it. Our worship of Him must be just that.
The Bible recorded that Abraham went up the mountain to worship God as God commanded Him. But there was no record that he was there with guitars, tambourines, drums and a set of choir singing all the way, yet He went ‘to worship the Lord’. “And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together” (Gen 22:5-6).
Abraham's worship was acceptable to God because it was in spirit and in truth. Our worship of Him must come from Him to us in our spirit man and then from us to Him in our spirit man. No soulish activity to provoke emotional display and when that is involved, it is just a response of our soul and it must not be misinterpreted as worship.
Songs are the spontaneous response from our inner man when it is attuned and one with God. We see this example in Moses, Miriam, Deborah and even David among others. The cistern of our spirit bursts as an overflow of our inward worship from the depth of our being. Songs from such is not just songs, but a product and expression of a deep inner worship, coming from God to our spirit man and rising from our spirit man back to Him in songs. If it doesn't come from God, it is not of God and it may not come in song; it may be in silence or tears, but commonly song. That is not even worship, it is only a song, emanating from worship of Him in spirit and in truth. Song is good but must not be interpreted as worship.
Often, our worship with instruments, dancing, songs, shouts, body movements, etc are just display of our cultural, natural and religious talents. They are exhibits of our abilities, strength and services to God which are soulish and only profitable for bodily exercise. Many times, they come from our lips, head, societal instinct and traditionally acceptable way of worship, but true worship must be in spirit and in truth and may not involve any of those. Using those are not wrong, just like dancing and singing are not, but they are not the worship.
When we wait or depend on songs, instruments, body movements and other soul activities to get us into the 'mood' or usher us in to God's presence, then something is fundamentally wrong with our relationship with God. Worship of God should not depend on things. When we are in the spirit, worship springs up from our inner man to Him when we are awed by Him and song follows just to express it. A waiter awaits the order of what the client desires, not giving him what he thinks he wants. What do we have that we can give Him? We should rather wait on Him to impress Himself in our hearts. We should be like Mary and not Martha (Lk.10:38-42). The waiting is always the problem, so we kick-start with a song to lead us into His presence like Saul did when he could no longer wait for Samuel to perform the needed sacrifice (1Sam.15:12). God will not accept what He did not order like Cain's. “…to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1Sam.15:22).
When we get to the summit of worship with God, the Holy Spirit Himself gives us expression which may flow into our hearts as a previously unknown or unheard of song or other ways as a token of our worship to the Father and it succulently ejaculates our heart at such time of clandestine intimacy with the Father. Many spirit inspired (not soul inspired) songs or hymns are received at such heights and that is the worship acceptable to God, because it comes from Him, not the one that comes from hand-made instrument and professionalism of worship leader or team (if there is anything like that).
Worship is not song, worship is worship and it has to be in spirit and in truth. It is a grave error to think worshipping God is singing songs to Him, especially songs whose copyright is of the world but adapted and given to God as a stale sacrifice. It doesn't go beyond gratifying our sweats and sense of fulfillment, which is soulish. It gives us temporal joy and like a drug, makes us feel high for a time and alter our emotions to set us on a mental attitude which fluctuates according to the vicissitudes of life. That is all it does, but does not give God fragrance. Such is for us, not for Him. What is for Him comes from Him.
While it is not necessary that our hands are raised up when we worship, but such is an automatic and physiological response of our body to the awe of God. When we get to His throne, something must bow in us in submission. We can bow without anything, but when God touches us, something bows in us; knees may bend, hands may be raised, head may bow, tears may flow, etc. If He does not do all these in us, we cannot do them by ourselves. It has to be Him. Everything is of Him, for Him, to Him, in Him and through Him. “For in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
The graphic picture of a foetus still in the mother's womb readily encapsulates our relationship with God. It finds rest, comfort and life in the womb of the mother and does not need any self effort, abilities, services to survive but to be culled and warm inside, feeding, maturing, developing, etc. As long as it is connected by the umbilical cord, the source of life, there is continued sustenance and life is guaranteed.
Jesus said “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples (John 15:4-8).
God is calling us to Himself, to His rest: a place of intimacy, where we can know Him more and see that His love for us is deeper than the sea. That rest is not a passive surrender of the mind, but an active working of the spirit; pressing in into Him, not through our beautiful works, services, abilities and sacrifices. We are to cease from OUR labour. To quit the kitchen and sit still at His feet. We are to only labour to enter into HIS rest.
“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (Heb 4:9). “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb 4:11). For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Heb 4:10). “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it” (Heb 4:1).
He who has an ear, let him ear what the spirit saith to the church
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