Hope Deferred

MCGEE NALL // SENIOR

Sometimes as college students, our hope gets deferred. We’ve all been there, in both the small moments and those that feel really, really big. Maybe you didn’t get the position in the club or job you thought you were made for. You’ve received rejection letters for nursing school. Your hard work gets overlooked and the snob gets all the glory at work. Your closest friends betray you. The person you thought you were going to marry walks away. A family member suddenly passes away.

Your wide-eyed look at the world, filled with all the possibilities you were promised growing up, disappears from your face. The path ahead looks a lot darker and scarier than it did before. We’ve all been there. It’s hard to see the light in those times.

This past Sunday, Vic, Grady, & Joel walked us through Exodus 5 and 6. Let’s review, shall we?

When we pick up in chapter 5, Moses and Aaron are before Pharaoh, pleading for him to let the Israelites go, just as God told them to. Pharaoh basically gives God the finger and says, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?” As we saw on Sunday, this basically translates to, “Who is the Lord compared to me?”

Since Pharaoh is such a stellar guy, he decides to increase the Israelites’ burden. Any aid they received from their Egyptian bosses was taken away, and yet their daily quota remained the same. Didn’t make enough bricks for the day? You were beaten to shreds. “Make bricks!” the Egyptian slave masters spit in their ear.

Against Moses’ best efforts to be obedient and help his people, this is how they respond in verse 21:

They said to [Moses and Aaron], “May the Lord look upon you and judge you, for you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

Ouch.

This isn’t some petty grievance your friends have against you. We’ve all tried to help our friends for it to only backfire, right? Maybe you were trying to be a good wingman for your roommate and, in your nervous excitement, you accidentally tell the guy this long, embarrassing tale about her instead.

Whatever experience you have, it probably wasn’t as extreme as Moses’ scenario: his people were literally being whipped and beaten before his eyes, no doubt some of their blood splattered right next to his sandals.

And what does Moses do? He turns to the only person he could, his only hope:

Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.”

Let’s pause here. Moses came to the fork in the road that we all should face at some point or another amid hopelessness and doubt: you can either throw a tantrum, angry that your obedience and faithfulness backfired; or you can fall on your knees and turn to the only thing that will truly satisfy and heal: God.

Those are the two options: entitlement, pride, anger; or humility, heart-break, desperation, and thirst. I think we all know which camp God prefers and is better for our souls:

The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 24:18-19)

Like Vic said, the Lord takes this chance to speak hope into a hopeless man. Remember, the God who says these words, the God of our faith’s patriarchs (that sometime feel distant and fictional, though they were as real as your fingertips), speaks this truth to you and me today:

I am the LORD…

I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel…and I have remembered My covenant…

I will deliver you from their bondage…

I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm…

Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God… (Exodus 6:1-8; read all of it!)

And that passage makes us feel all good and fluffy inside, doesn’t it? It should. But here’s the part we can’t overlook:

So Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage. (v. 9)

Obedience doesn’t always lead to ease. I know I’ve thought it before: obedience and faithfulness will lead to immediate success, immediate happiness, immediate simplicity…right? No. Not always.

So, we’re there. We are sitting with Moses in the pit, his hope deferred. A kick in the side when we’re already down. Discouraged, lost, desperate. Where do we go from there?

Here’s a summation of what was said, and, essentially what God tells Moses to do:

1.     Turn to the Lord. Always. He hears you. (1 John 5:14)

2.     Listen for His voice. His voice holds power, truth, and comfort. (John 8:47)

3.     Remember who He is, the promises He has laid out in His Word, and the promises He has told you personally in the past. You just need to remember. (Think of Mufasa’s pep talk in The Lion King. Which I just watched and it made me tear up, fun fact.)

4.     Be obedient to His call. Be faithful until the end. Remember the goal, the final prize for which we reach:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

As I was writing this, a lyric from Hamilton the Musical came to mind (you know it, don’t play):

Legacy. What is a legacy? / It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see

Despite all his faults and mistakes, we know the choice Moses made. He chose to plant the seeds. Without even meaning to, he left a legacy that directly affects us. He chose to “cultivate faithfulness” (Ps. 37:3) in his circumstances, no matter how dire they were and no matter who didn’t listen.

Do me a favor and read his section in Hebrews 11—it’s incredible. Moses followed verse 6:

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Moses was lost, confused, and frustrated in the wilderness for a huge chunk of his life. He could have thrown in the towel and said, “Look God, I tried,” and gone back to Midian. (Verse 16 says so!) BUT:

They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (v. 16)

It’s a lot easier to go back. It’s a lot easier to stay in the familiar, to backtrack into a simpler time. But more often than not, God doesn’t call us there. He moves us forward, into the uncomfortable and the unknown. Isn’t that part of what college is supposed to prepare us for, anyway? The unknown? Maybe there aren’t as many friendly or familiar faces where we’re going next, but the question is, will we remain faithful anyway? Will we follow the steps of Moses?

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. (v. 24-27)

Even though Moses’ hope was deferred, over and over again, he kept his eye on the reward: not just the Promised Land, but beyond. Upward. His prize was having a relationship with the Father, the King, and getting closer to Him, no matter the cost. What prize are you reaching for?

Posted on September 20, 2017 .