...be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16. ESV.)
(I have been a writing maniac lately and cannot quite remember if I have posted this yet or not. I don't think so. But, if I have...please forgive me.)
I know God is good and does all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). With that said, God's word also tells believers to "be wise as serpents".
John Piper, in his book A SWEET AND BITTER PROVIDENCE, reminds me,
"Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road.... And the point of bible stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns...." (p.101)
Now, I want to look at Moses and the Exodus. It must be important because there is an entire book in the bible regarding the Exodus. God's people had been calling out to Him because their affliction and labor was great.
"...the time came when: 'The Israelites groaned because of their difficult labor, and they cried out; and their cry for help ascended to God because of the difficult labor. So God heard their groaning, and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the Israelites, and He took notice' (Exodus 2:23-25.)"
God took notice. I cannot help but believe God does pay heed when we pray...when we lift up our voices and call out to Him. But I also feel His response is going to be different (though within the context of His written word) depending on the situation and the hearts involved. So, again looking at Exodus, we have God's people who were crying out to Him and we have Pharaoh. Now, not all of God's people were upright in heart (as can be seen when an idol is introduced and when the selection happened for the promised land...however God's covenant was with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not Moses, not these specific Israelites, and certainly not Pharaoh.
A lot went into getting the Israelites out of Egypt...numerous talks between Moses and Rameses; showings of God's power (like turning the water of the Nile River to blood, etc.); plagues; deaths; etc. But finally, after heartfelt pleading and God's ultimate sovereignty, the Israelites were freed! There was quite a bit of whining and complaining but not a single one returned to Egypt and Pharaoh's oppression. And what if someone had decided to return to their master, Rameses? What would the reader of Exodus think then? Perhaps something along the lines of, "WHAT A FOOL!" Because it most likely would not appear to be a wise move, right?
In his book DOES GRACE GROW BEST IN WINTER, Ligon Duncan says the following,
"It is the Holy Spirit at work in you who uses suffering to make you grow in grace. That is why the same suffering bears entirely different fruit in those who by faith trust in Christ than in those who do not."
Which raises the question in my mind...who am I to judge someone based on their circumstance? Shouldn't I be praying for them, encouraging them, trusting God in their situation, and looking for fruit? Would it be right for me to criticize and/or slander someone in the midst of their affliction? In my opinion, NO! God alone is judge and jury not me! He has called believers to not be foolish...not to act on His behalf and convict sinners when only He can see hearts and what an individual NEEDS for their salvation! Who am I to take that away from them?
During the message I heard on Sunday, the pastor reminded me, "Jesus...challenge[d] people to repent and by faith live the lives God expected of them, instead of trusting in dead traditions." God "challenges" those without salvation and leads them to the cross to show them they NEED a Savior...in whatever means necessary to get their attention. How did God get your attention?