The Big Picture

Written by Dawn Rutan

A few days ago I read Psalm 105, which talks about God’s wonderful works in choosing Abraham and giving him a land, sending Joseph ahead to Egypt to provide food for the Israelites during the famine, and then eventually redeeming the Israelites from Egypt through the work of Moses. And those are indeed marvelous works that we should remember in each successive generation.

In thinking particularly of Moses, I remembered someone who was important to the story, but we don’t even know his name. In Exodus chapter 2:11-12 we read:

“One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand” (ESV).

And then the word gets out and Moses runs for his life, straight to the wilderness where he would live and learn for roughly the next 40 years. God had him where He wanted him. But did you catch what it took to get him there? Seeing one of his countrymen being beaten. Have you ever wondered what happened to that Hebrew? It doesn’t say that he died from his wounds, but we also don’t know if he lived to see Moses return and free the people from slavery. For all he could tell, his suffering was entirely in vain. But God used that man’s suffering to set up the sequence of events needed to get Moses in place.

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Consider also the Hebrew women who lost their sons in order that Moses would be set adrift in a basket and found by the princess so he could be educated in the palace. Their suffering also seemed senseless at the time. And it is unlikely that many of them ever realized that their suffering provided a way for their future redemption from slavery, assuming they even lived long enough for Moses to reach adulthood.

There were a lot of individuals who suffered terribly while waiting for God’s plan to be fulfilled. And that still seems to be the case today. As we were reminded in Sunday’s sermon on Mark 1:29-34, Jesus came along and attracted a crowd, and He healed “many” of the sick and delivered “many” from demons. Something similar happened in John 5 at the pool of Bethesda. A multitude of invalids were there, but Jesus is only reported to have healed one. If you were one of the ones healed, I’m sure you’d be thrilled and would tell everyone what Jesus of Nazareth had done for you. But what if you weren’t healed? What if you had to be carried back home to the bed you’d occupied for the last thirty years? You might not be so enthralled with the God who allows suffering to continue.

It sounds cliché, but it really comes down to a question of faith—do you believe that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and He has plans that we can’t begin to conceive (see Isaiah 55:8-9)? The Bible is full of people who couldn’t understand why they went through often horrific circumstances. But through it all, God weaves the thread of His plan of redemption for mankind. He sets up rulers and tears down kingdoms; He controls the weather and the people; He knows our thoughts before we even speak them. If we call Him God, we have to believe that He is truly the Master of all things, including whatever difficult circumstances we may be facing right now. And if He is in control, then we have to trust that He will change our circumstances if and when He sees fit, and not a minute earlier.

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That’s a concept I wrestle with on a regular basis. Several questions confront me frequently, and perhaps they are ones we all need to tackle at different times:

  • Do I believe God is in control of all things, not just the big things?
  • Do I believe that He can change things?
  • Do I trust that He has heard my cries, and that He knows the desires of my heart?
  • Am I content to wait on His timing, or am I trying to take things into my own hands?
  • And if it is not His will for things to change the way I want, am I content to keep pressing on and trusting Him?
  • Can I keep trusting that He is using all things for His good purposes, even when they don’t make sense to me?

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).

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