Pastor’s Note July 24 2017 – “In-n-Out Egyptian Flesh Pots”
Listen to last Sunday’s sermon here.
“Where’s that God of yours?” angrily asked Lieutenant Dan in response to yet another empty net on the shrimp troller Jenny in the 1994 picture Forrest Gump played by Gary Sinise. In his inimitable way, Forrest Gump [Tom Hanks] responds: “It’s funny Lieutenant Dan said that, because right then, God showed up.” The next scene switches to hurricane force winds with Lt. Dan up the mast screaming at the top of his lungs:
“You’ll never sink that boat! Come on! You call this a storm? Blow!…. Blow! It’s time for a showdown! You and me! I’m right here! Come and get me! You’ll never sink this boat!”
In Exodus 16-17, the Israelites, right on the heel of Yahweh’s great salvation from Egypt (Exodus 4-15), put Yahweh to the test in the harshest way, denying even His presence in their midst (“Is the Lord among us or not?” Exodus 17:7). Their hearts are shown to be hardened, just like Pharaoh’s! (Psalm 95:7-8). So, as the Song of the Sea becomes a paradigm of salvation (Exodus 15), this testing at “Massah and Meribah” (literally, the place of testing and contending with God) becomes a paradigm of our own hardened hearts (see Hebrews 4:7). Salvation is a rescue operation, but it’s not complete if our hearts aren’t transformed (John Wesley’s heart was ‘strangely warmed’ in his conversion experience; see Hebrews 3:19).
There are three layers to this test of the heart:
First, how do we react when God takes us into a place of want and need? The text explicitly states that Yahweh led them into a place that had no water (Exodus 17:1; see also Genesis 22:1; James 1). The people’s failure to respond properly is equally unequivocal: “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17:3).
This then leads to the next question: Are you satisfied with God’s provision, whether it is little or much? When the Israelites are craving for the “flesh pots” of Egypt (Exodus 16:3), they are also saying: we are not happy with our circumstances, we want something else! (or to put in real terms: we want In-N-Out Burger, not Five Guys!). In our culture when “increase” is the metric of happiness and success, how do we react when God gives us in different ways when what we think we deserve? In Philippians 4:11-13, the Apostle Paul forges for us the pathway to true freedom: he is able to be content with little and with much. His heart is at peace no matter the circumstances, whether the Lord choses to manifest His goodness to us through times of measurable increase or through wants. Paul says with confidence that he can put up with both: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). His heart, like John Wesley, has been ‘strangely warmed:’ it is no longer hardened by unbelief, but has been softened (“tenderized” as Gordon Hugenberger likes to say) by the transformational power of God in his life (Jeremiah 17:9; Ezekiel 36:26).
The third layer of the testing brings it home to us even more powerfully: do we trust that Jesus Himself in our provision in the test. Jesus Himself is the “way.” He “provides a way out” in our testing (1 Corinthians 10:13), because He is “faithful.” Do we really believe that Jesus is the One who completely empathize and sympathize with our “weaknesses” (i.e., our hardness of heart and brokenness, Hebrews 4:15)? When we fail the test, He succeeds (Matthew 4:1-11). This is why in our failures, we approach the “throne of grace” with “confidence” so that we receive “grace and mercy” in our “time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
The hardness of unbelief is a powerful force, far more powerful even than the great temporal might of Pharaonic Egypt. In Jesus and His victory over his own “Massah and Meribah” (he was “without sin” Hebrews 4:15), we have the confidence that He has the power to change our heart and give us true contentment in His provision.
In the end, Lieutenant Dan “got it.” It was a long hard road from hardened unbelief to peace, but in Forrest’s own words: Lt. Dan finally “made his peace with God.”
Are you ready to let God give you a new heart? Are you ready to make peace with God and accept His provision in your life, even if it is less than you think you should have? Let the Lord Himself be Your provision this week. Allow Him to soften your heart and come to a place of peace.
Let us know in the comments or reach out to a pastor if you’d like to tell us more!