Over the past couple of months, I’ve been reading through Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy (not the typical starting place for the Easter story, but I promise I’ll get there). I must admit, as the story of the Israelites unfolds, I find myself a bit flummoxed at their slowness to learn and quickness to grumble.
Over and over, God does amazing miracles right before their eyes, and they still struggle to believe. Just consider all that the Israelites witnessed:
- The Nile turned to blood
- The plagues of frogs, gnats, flies, hail, and locust
- The death of the Egyptian’s livestock and festering boils
- Darkness over all the land
- The death of all the firstborn of Egypt
Perhaps the Israelites sought to explain away these miracles as naturally occurring events. Maybe it was just a strange weather pattern that brought about the frogs, gnats, flies, and hail. Perhaps it was a solar eclipse that brought the darkness upon the land. Even in the midst of miracles, we have a propensity to look for natural reasons for why things happen.
However, as the story progresses, it becomes increasingly impossible to miss the Lord’s goodness and guidance.
When the Israelites reach the Red Sea, they are stuck. An army of chariots follows behind them, a body of water sits before them. At just the right moment, God miraculously parts the Red Sea. Every single Israelite crossed over unharmed. Each one had to step into the sea, beholding a wall of water. Could you ever forget such a moment? There was no natural explanation. The waters drew apart like a curtain in the opening scene of a grand play. And then, they returned, just in time to gobble up Pharaoh’s army.
After crossing the Sea and finding themselves hungry, God provided manna. Every day for forty years. Every day they feasted on His provision. When they were thirsty water flowed from a rock. Yes, a rock. Their clothing did not wear out and their feet did not swell.
And, yet, still their hearts struggled with unbelief. At various points they begged to return to Egypt, the land of their slavery. Some days redemption did not feel like a rescue. They security of slavery felt safer than a God of smoke and fire.
Unbelief in the future promises of God intermixed with a rose-colored view of their past and overflowed in present discontentment and grumbling. The hope of the Promised Land was eclipsed by a fear of battle odds stacked against them.
Earthly troubles caused them to miss the heavenly miracles.
As I read, I sense within my heart a prideful overestimation of my own inclination towards God. I think to myself: If I had seen all those miracles surely I could trust God. How could they miss the miracle when it was staring them right in the face?
And, then the Spirit faithfully reminds me of my own redemption. Of my own rescue. It is the miracle of Easter and it is a story I am apt to forget as I wander and wait in the wilderness of my own life.
Like the Israelites, we are in need of a divine rescue. Sin weighs heavy and our attempts to cleanse ourselves leave us worn and weary, stuck. An army of guilt pursues us from behind, and a sea of condemnation lies before us.
While the Israelites lived in the shadows of God’s redemptive plan, in Jesus we taste the fullness. They were slaves in Egypt, we were slaves to sin. They were protected by the blood of lambs, we’re protected by the blood of Christ. They feasted on manna, we’ve been given the bread of His body and the wine of His blood. They passed through the waters of the Red Sea, we’ve passed through the waters of baptism. Moses gave the Law; Jesus fulfilled it perfectly. The Israelites had to keep away from the Holy of Holies, through Jesus, we’re instructed to draw near.
They experienced a miraculous redemption, but it was just a shadow, a foretaste of something better. Easter is the ultimate rescue story.
Jesus takes all our sin, all our failings, all our loss. He bore all our sin that we might never experience the weight of it. He clothes us in His righteousness as a garment that never wears out. He tasted death so that we may experience life. He opened the curtain and made a way for relationship with God the Father. Oh, what redemption is ours!
And, can I tell you, that I often forget? In the messiness and mundane moments of life, I miss the miracle. Some days redemption does not feel like rescue. Like the Isrealites, I am easily tempted to go back to the slavery of sin, doubting the promises of God. Unbelief mixes with pride and I believe I am a better author of my own story and can find my own path. When disappointments come, I am slow to trust and quick to complain. My forgetfulness is the source of my hopelessness.
I am no better than the Israelites.
But, I have been given a better redemption. So I want a deeper joy. This Easter I want to see the spring awaken not just in the Dogwoods as they bloom, but in the far corners of my heart. I want to behold the miracle in a new way. I want to feast, remember, and most of all rejoice:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9)