Faith, Miracles and the Exodus
NCW 33, April 1996 (Part II): Answering the Third Rebellion
Q. Why, having seen some of the mightiest miracles ever performed by God, did the children of Israel continue to rebel against Moses and the Lord? What lesson does this have for us today?
Perhaps a clue is to be found earlier on, before the great miracles had even taken place. It is written: "Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to Him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage" (Ex.6:9, NIV).
We have repeatedly taught in this Covenant that even though the mind may believe something, the heart takes longer, and the flesh longer still. Even after seeing mighty miracles -- the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, and others, the Israelites, though witnesses with their physical eyes, yet continued to disbelieve in their hearts.
If a soul is in deep anguish, it senses become distorted. "A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit" (Prov.15:13). I don't think we have any idea what it was like for the Israelites living in slavery generation after generation. Of course, God had to judge them for their lack of faith, but He was also merciful to them when Moses pleaded their case.
When a man is happy, he cannot pull a long face; he may try to, but it will always be the face of a clown. When he is happy inside he shows it on the outside. If you hear a Christian with a sad face saying: "Oh, I am so full of the joy of the Lord," you can be certain it is not true. If I am full of the joy of the Lord, it will pour out of every cell in my body.
"..I had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there..." (2 Cor.2:13). "While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols" (Ac.7:16, NIV). "When Jesus saw her weeping...he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled" (Jn.9:33, NIV). All these passages refer to spirit showing itself instantly in the flesh. The spirit of wrong shows itself in the flesh and, thank God, the Spirit of God does the same.
The Israelites in Moses' day were not a happy people. They had been ground down to the dust. Their will power had been beaten out of them. Their joy was crushed. And such a person, faced with the most wonderful thing in the world, will not find it easy to respond joyously always. Inner healing takes time. Yet, as the celebration of Miriam shows (following the Red Sea crossing), it is possible for the Spirit of the Lord to descend powerfully on even the most crushed soul and transform it instantly. They key, as ever, is faith.
I am not apologising for the Israelites. There is no doubt that they did lack faith. In fact, in that vast multitude of souls who formed the exodus from Egypt, how many kept faith constantly? Only three: Moses, Joshua and Caleb! And only two lived to see the Holy Land. However, we must never under-estimate the condition of the inner life in forming the attitudes of people and the way they react to life situations.
Pride, as we have repeatedly taught in this Covenant, has two aspects: arrogance and self-pity. When it is not one, it is the other. I am not in the least bit surprised that the Israelites constantly rebelled, and neither am I surprised when the modern western generation, steeped as it is in wealth and liberal ideas, views miracles with the same apparent disbelief. Their senses -- their eyes and ears -- are titillated, but their hearts are so numb that they remain impervious to God's Spirit.
In the short history of the New Covenant Church, little more than a decade old, we have had one rebellion after another. The causes have been different. Some have received the Word in their minds with joy but, seeing the new heart-commitments they have had to make, have fled. Others have received it in their hearts but, understanding the consequences of having to radically change their lives, have similarly fled. Mind, heart, and flesh -- unless all three have accepted the truth, there will always be rebellion. And it is a fact that when a soul comes to Christ, rarely do all three parts come at the same time.
And so it was, I believe, with the Israelites. Miracles do not, I believe, convert in the complete sense. It is faith that converts. It is written in the Pentateuch that God spoke to the Israelites through miracles, but to Moses He spoke face-to-face. To the former He revealed His power because of the faith of the Prophet; to the Prophet He revealed Himself because of the faith of the Prophet. In short, had it not been for Moses, none of the miracles or the Exodus would ever have happened.
History, they say, turns on small hinges. And those hinges are usually special individuals (good and evil). What would have happened if Moses had never have been born? Could Aaron have carried off the exodus? Or the young Joshua?
We recently had a major rebellion in the Church. They convinced themselves they were on a "higher path" and that they could carry this work to its next stage of realisation. Believing they had a loftier view of the Covenant, they took an extreme position that the Church had no organisation and that like-minded people would naturally gravitate to them, and they would grow. They found like-minded independent souls who had no church affiliation and invited them to fellowship together with them. None wanted to. They wanted to remain by themselves. Surprising?
We have two choices as human beings: to be organised, or to be organised. Human beings are, by very nature, organising. No matter who you are, you will organise in some way because it is an instinct God has placed in you. The real choice is whether we organise as slaves under despots or as free men and women under righteous leadership. Every social and religious experiment that has attempted to down-play organisation has failed. The communists tried it...several times. The Red Army in Communist China effectively got rid of ranks in the military so that a Private could disagree with a General if he felt the General was wrong. The result was chaos and the experiment soon abandoned. Though it is possible to hold organisation down to minimum levels in small groups, once a certain size is reached, organisation is imperative. The art is finding a balance between freedom of action and obedience to organisational structures.
The Israelites had been slaves against their will for years. They quite understandably resented authority figures. Moses was one such figure. The only thing that broke their rebellious spirit was a supernatural display of power. But such displays cannot command loyalty for ever. A time must come when loyalty is based on something higher, namely, the love of God. Moses did not feel compelled to obey against His will -- He obeyed because He knew God and loved Him. He was a meek and mild man. He willingly submitted. Only once did he rebel but not, I believe, willfully, but by carelessness, when he took personal credit for a miracle in his exasperation with the people.
The rebellious soul is a soul not submitted. It is the soul, quite likely, still suffering from unresolved hurts. It has no excuse, of course, for God promises to heal the soul that repents, submits, and obeys in faith. Such a soul He can, and does, bless.
Do not suppose that the story ends when you are submitted, in faith. God may not bother you any longer, but Satan surely will. Satan has his last stake in our flesh, and he will suck every bit of our physical life out of us if he can. Many Christian workers do not know this, and Satan will seek to wear them out to the last cell. But if they know this "trick" of his and also know God's grace, every time they are exhausted doing God's work, they will get supernatural recuperation. I testify of it, for though I have felt at death's door many times, I have received supernatural grace and strength and found myself able to do even more.
If you become exhausted doing work in the world, what do you normally do? You take some vitamins, maybe have a holiday, get your wife to give you a nice massage; but if you are exhausted in God's work, all the vitamins, holidays and massages in the world will never help you. The only thing that will recuperate you is God Himself. Paul often said that he did not count his life dear to himself because he wanted to finish his mortal probation with joy. So when parents, spouses, children, or your brethren in the Gospel say to you, God's worker: "You must not work so hard," simply say, "Get behind me, Satan!" Remember, Satan's last stake is in the flesh, and once you know that all your fresh springs are in the Lord, you will draw on Him. Beware of quitting before God tells you to; if you do, you will go rusty, and that leads to "dry rot" always.
So, yes, the Israelites were physically exhausted, and the thought of trekking through miles of desert with enemies behind and enemies in front, with thirst and hunger always looming ahead, must have been a nightmare to those without faith. And so also has this Church been a nightmare for those who wanted quick results and were not willing to endure trials in faith. They have all fallen away, just as the Israelites died off in the desert. Who is left? The Moses's, Joshuas and Calebs, and the children of the faithful.
So, don't excuse the Israelites for their faithlessness, but try to understand them too, because theirs is a condition that is still with us today. It is called human nature, and it is a pathological disease that afflicts all mankind. The cure is, moreover, gradual --- it's called sanctification, and it takes time, faith, patience, endurance, and...love.
This page was created on 9 May 1998
Last updated on 9 May 1998
Copyright © 1987-2008 NCCG - All Rights Reserved