You know how you can fall into rabbit holes on the internet? I fell into one this week, reading story after unbelievable story about terribly selfish people expecting huge favors from others for little to nothing in return. One person rudely demanded one of their Facebook friends hand over a free flight voucher to them, and then got upset when the flight voucher wasn’t everything they desired. I was amused by the stories of incredible narcissism and entitlement, but had it been me receiving those kinds of requests? I would have been so pissed. Demanding so much from others when you don’t deserve anything is just one of the rudest things a person can do.
The Israelites hopefully would no longer have to deal with that kind of rudeness now – at least from Pharaoh, their slave master, whose land they were finally leaving. There were a couple of routes that the hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children could take to freedom, but one led them straight into war. The other, although safer from battle, led the children of Israel to a huge sea, and essentially a dead-end (verses 17-18). Still, the children of Israel followed Moses and Aaron onward.
Perhaps on the way, the freed Israelites discussed another tradition God was giving them in addition to the Passover. Every firstborn male, whether human or animal, needed to be consecrated to God. This potentially laborious process was to remind the children of Israel of their God and what He did for them. After all, the road before the Israelites was long and rough. They needed to hold tight to their faith in God in order to survive the trials that were coming their way – the first of which was just around the corner.
The Treasures Within:
My Life Is Not My Own
I wonder if some of the Israelites were getting tired of all of the rules. All they had wanted was to be free of Pharaoh – and now all this extra stuff? They had already lived through the trauma of not just years of slavery but weeks of violent plagues. They had slaughtered lambs and splashed blood everywhere to keep from dying. Now they needed to consecrate their firstborn sons to God too? God needed their time, their energy, their animals, their children – nothing, apparently, was too precious for God to request it. Why did God want so much from them? Why was He asking for so much?
Many of us echo that same cry today – we don’t like to sacrifice. In fact, we feel that if everything in our lives were perfect and fair, then we wouldn’t have to sacrifice. But our God begs to differ. He asks for our money in tithe, our time in worship, our obedience in our daily lives – and the list goes on. Our pet sins, our ill-advised relationships, and even parts of ourselves and our identities – it seems that there is nothing too intimate, too sacred to keep separate from God.
And That’s Okay
Why do we have to sacrifice so much to God? So we will remember. Yet it’s not simple events that our God wants us to remember, it is Him. When we invite God into our lives, asking Him to set us free from our own slave-holders, we aren’t just asking Him for a simple favor. God is an all-or-nothing kind of God. He doesn’t want to fix up just a small portion of our lives. He wants to save us, replace our stone hearts with pure ones, give us life abundantly. He wants us to be all-in with Him because He knows that’s what’s best for us. But we forget this. We ask God for quick miracles and want to go back to life as we knew it, only to find ourselves in another mess a few steps down the road. God doesn’t want this for us. So He asks us to give everything to Him. We are to be His – heart, mind and body. We cannot forget this.
But that level of commitment is scary. To hand over our most precious possessions, habits, desires, dreams – the very essence of ourselves to Someone we can’t even see? It sounds like too much and for so many of us, it is too much. But God wants us to know that we can. Of all the people in the world to trust, God is the first and best and He constantly proves it. From the moment the Israelites step foot out of Egypt, God takes tender care of them. He leads them away from a sudden, shocking war and towards the Red Sea. Most mind-blowing of all, He promises never to leave them and He keeps that promise. The promise that someone makes to “never leave” sounds impossible, filled with caveats, and inherently untrustworthy because literally everyone leaves us at some point. But here God gives us a concrete, eye-opening example of what that looks like – the pillars of cloud and fire, staying day and night, actually never leaving the Israelite camp. God wants us to get this – He will truly never leave us, just like those pillars. This kind of relationship is unmatched by anything on earth. It is supernatural. It is trustworthy. Will we dive in to this love?
God’s Message To Us:
“You can trust yourself to Me.” Some of us are stumbling awkwardly through life, like someone with an ill-fitting mask on. We tell ourselves we can see fine, that this is good enough. We make ourselves believe that the tripping and falling is just part of the process. Yet we are crippling ourselves, hobbling ourselves, when clear vision is just a sacrifice away. That is the life we live when we refuse to sacrifice for Jesus. We insist that we are Christians, that we’re looking to Jesus, on the pathway to heaven. Yet we’re stumbling and falling – into sin, into depression, into disease. We have convinced ourselves that this is normal, part of the process. In reality, we are missing out – on clear vision, on beauty, peace, joy, a transformed life – all because we do not want to sacrifice our most precious possessions to God. But God is an all-or-nothing kind of God. He asks for all so that He can give us all. We can trust Him. He is worth it. Will we take off the mask?
What do you think? What part of the Israelites’ journey so far do you identify with? What was God teaching you as you read this chapter?