Waiting is hard. Jump in a time machine and any Israelite living in Egypt about 4000 years ago could tell you that.
But God does listen; He does hear; He does respond. Not according to our demands, however. He is not one to be swayed by our offenses. He hears our “hosannas” (read Psalm 118 or any Triumphal Entry passage) and acts according to His loving mercy.
A tough pill to swallow.
This year Easter and Passover gracefully coincide. I am so happy when this happens. First because it means my family gatherings can be two-part. And secondly, that’s just the way it should be. The Resurrection makes so more sense in light of the Exodus and the Lord’s redemption.
Lately, I have been listening to a lot of sermons online. I’m a huge Mark Driscoll fan, but recently I’ve added Tim Keller to my playlist. This stems partly from my desire to hear both of them at the Gospel Coalition convention held here in Chicago last week (I didn’t go, but I wanted to). Anyway, on the first evening, Keller gave a sermon entitled, “Getting Out.” It was all about the Exodus and the Gospel. And it got me thinking—mostly about the power of redemption.
Keller begins by saying, “There is no more basic word in the Bible than ‘redemption.’” In the simplest of terms it means “release from bondage”—to be let go, to be freed. But he argues that redemption has many layers. We can be freed from bondage objectively, but the subjective freeing is the one that really matters. This salvation comes only through grace. Crossing over, as Keller describes it.
In the story of the Exodus, God provides a way for the Israelites to escape out of Egypt. After hundreds of years in bondage to Pharaoh, they are free. They follow the Lord’s instructions to the T (Read Exodus 12:3-11). And the Lord says, “Eat it in haste, for this is my Passover.” They hightail it out of Egypt with matzo drying on their backs. Life is good. But then they make it to the Red Sea. You can just imagine the panicked faces as the people began to realize their dilemma. How will they crossover?
This is the action scene in the Exodus story. God performs a monstrous miracle. He parts the Red Sea--two walls of water with a dry path in between. Keller makes a keen observation about this scene. The Israelites had two choices: they could marvel at the Lord’s redemption or fear the walls of water. The same is true today. We can either praise God for His provision and steadfastness, or we can faint at the idea of following Him in faith. I guess it’s a good thing we are saved by the object of our faith and not the quality of it.
The celebration of Passover tells the story of God leading His people to freedom. First they are led from their oppressors in Egypt, and then (more literally), through the torrents of a wild sea. It is here, on the other side of that crossing over, that the Lord gives His people the law. It is here that the Gospel is most evident. For you see, God did not give the law and then free the Israelites from bondage based on their obedience to it. On the contrary, He first freed the people and then mercifully gave them the law—a clear path to follow, in order that they could be holy.
Henri Nouwen, in his book Finding my Way Home says, “Waiting is a dry desert between where we are and where we want to be.” The Israelites could totally relate to that (and unfortunately for them, the Exodus was just the beginning of their desert experience). I have been seeing this season creep up a lot lately in my own life. I don’t like it. But I’m sure that’s not the point. In another of Nouwen’s works he writes,
A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. . . Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are. Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Waiting, then, is not passive. It involves nurturing the moment . . . [being] alert, attentive to the voice that [speaks], “Don’t be afraid. Something is happening to you. Pay attention.”
I am not alone. The Scriptures are full of stories about people waiting for God. Joseph, Naomi, Hannah, David—they had hopes and fears much like ours. But at this point in history, I am thankful to have the assurance of a Savior. My waiting is reduced to petty human imperfections and trials. Pale excuses in the face of Jesus’ whole and lasting redemption, don’t you think?
First on my Easter/Passover checklist: To remember that redemption is the full reflection of God’s mercy and grace. All I have to do is be still and wait.
And Moses said to the people, "Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent." - Exodus 14:13-14