#8 (THE "DIFFICULTIES ON THE JOURNEY" SERIES)
“WHY GOD MOVES SLOWLY!”
TEXT: Exodus 23:20-33; Judges 2:21-3:2
INTRO: A young boy found a cocoon outside one day while playing. He took it inside where his mother and father instructed him what it was. He was told how there was a life inside, one that at one time had been an ugly caterpillar. It was now being transformed into a beautiful butterfly. The boy was fascinated, and could hardly wait for the day when it would emerge. Finally the day came; he noticed a movement in the cocoon and noticed that a small hole was beginning to show in one end. He watched with anticipation as the young butterfly tried to emerge. For so long the struggle seemed to go on without any progress. The boy became impatient and decided to help the butterfly. He got a scissors and cut open a larger hole making it possible for the new butterfly to emerge quickly and easily. It was quite a sight, how colorful although quite wrinkled! The boy watched and watched, waiting to see this new life take flight and fly away to fulfill the purpose it was created for. However, with great disappointment he waited, for nothing happened. The new butterfly did not fly; instead it slowly withered and died! In talking to someone who knew much about butterflies he discovered what had gone wrong. In order for a butterfly to fly after emerging, they must have had to struggle through a tiny hole in order to force the liquids into the wings to make the wings fill out. The boy's efforts at speeding up this process by cutting the hole larger had caused this stage to be avoided, thus effectively ending the possibility that it would ever be able to fly and fulfill it's creative purpose. The desire to speed up the butterfly's deliverance only consigned it to certain death! Instead of helping it, he destroyed it! -- Source Unknown
God often does this with us also. He does not always deliver us quickly, because He knows that the process of struggling is healthy for us, it builds character. While we would like to have an easy and quick solution to our problems, this may not in the long run always be good for us.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that God only moves as fast in our lives as we are able to keep up and that is in keeping with His plan for us! God is not slow, He is doing a work of grace to prepare us for larger responsibilities and His will in our lives, we need to trust the process.
I. DIVINE DEAL Ex. 23:2O-26
A. Contact Ex. 23:20
1. God's offer here is wonderful! He offers to make contact with them!
a. He will send them an “angel” – “messenger”
b. This messenger would represent God to them.
c. God has always desired contact with His people!
2. They would not have to walk alone; God would go before them and be with them!
a. God never asks us to go anywhere without Him!
b. They were thus assured of victory, God never loses, and since they were going with Him they couldn't either!
3. Being with their Shepherd and knowing His voice and leading would be all that they would need!
ILLUS: DURING WORLD WAR I SOME TURKISH SOLDIERS TRIED TO STEAL A FLOCK OF SHEEP FROM A HILLSIDE NEAR JERUSALEM. THE SHEPHERD, WHO HAD BEEN SLEEPING, SUDDENLY AWAKENED TO SEE HIS SHEEP BEING DRIVEN OFF ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RAVINE. HE COULD NOT HOPE TO RECAPTURE THEM BY FORCE SINGLE-HANDEDLY, BUT SUDDENLY HE HAD A THOUGHT. STANDING UP ON HIS SIDE OF THE RAVINE HE PUT HIS HANDS TO HIS MOUTH AND GAVE HIS OWN PECULIAR CALL WHICH HE USED EACH DAY TO GATHER HIS SHEEP TO HIM. THE SHEEP HEARD THE FAMILIAR SOUND. FOR A MOMENT THEY LISTENED AND THEN, HEARING IT AGAIN THEY TURNED AND RUSHED DOWN ONE SIDE OF THE RAVINE AND UP THE OTHER SIDE TOWARD THEIR SHEPHERD. IT WAS QUITE IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE SOLDIERS TO STOP THE ANIMALS. THE SHEPHERD WAS AWAY WITH THEM TO A PLACE OF SAFETY BEFORE THE SOLDIERS COULD MAKE UP THEIR MINDS TO PURSUE THEM, ALL BECAUSE THE SHEEP KNEW THEIR MATER'S VOICE AND RESPONDED! – Source Unknown
4. Staying in contact with our Shepherd is important!
B. Contract Ex. 23:21-26
1. God now reveals that His contact with them would not be the only thing that was important, their response would be also!
a. They were to obey this “angel” of the Lord.
b. They were not to rebel against Him.
c. Obedience would play an important role in their success.
2. The contract called for them to completely avoid the practices and ideas of these foreign powers.
a. God would ensure their success only as long as they followed His commands.
b. This is still true; those most successful in God's Kingdom are obedient servants!
3. God will not destroy the enemy without their help, they will be a part of the process, but with His strength and help they won't be able to lose!
4. The quality of their future rested on what they did in the present! Our future glory is being shaped now!
ILLUS: THERE IS A LEGEND OF A WEALTHY WOMAN WHO, WHEN SHE REACHED HEAVEN, WAS SHOWN A VERY PLAIN MANSION. SHE WAS TOLD THAT THIS WAS HER MANSION FOR ETERNITY. SHE OBJECTED TO THIS PLAIN HOUSE BEING HERS! SHE WAS TOLD HOWEVER BY THE HEAVENLY GUIDE, "WELL THAT IS THE HOUSE PREPARED FOR YOU!" SHE LOOKED AROUND AND ACROSS THE STREET NOTICED A HUGE BEAUTIFUL MANSION OF GREAT BEAUTY AND SO ASKED, "WHOSE FINE MANSION IS THAT ACROSS THE WAY?" THE RESPONSE STARTLED HER, THE GUIDE SAID, “THAT MANSION BELONGS TO YOUR GARDENER!” SHE WAS SHOCKED AND SAID, "HOW IS IT THAT HE HAS ONE SO MUCH BETTER THAN MINE?" THE ANSWER WAS INSTRUCTIVE, "WE DO NOT CHOOSE THEM, YOU DO THAT BY YOUR EARTHLY FAITHFULNESS, FOR YOU SEE WE BUILD THESE MANSIONS FROM THE MATERIALS THAT ARE SENT UP BY YOUR SERVICE BELOW!" – Source Unknown
5. This was a more important contract with God than the “Contract with America” the Republicans talked about!
a. It was a contract of mutual assurances.
b. Their future depended on their present obedience!
II. DIVINE DELIVERANCE Ex. 23:27-33; Judg. 2:21-3:2
A. Confidence Ex. 23:27-28
1. God here promises to put a fear on their enemies if they will walk with Him!
a. Their enemies would be "terrified" of
b. Their enemy would know of God's
love and blessings on
This would really build
a. Great confidence would enable to them to be victorious!
b. They would not be afraid of the future or success!
ILLUS: THE STORY IS TOLD OF A TERMINALLY ILL WOMAN WHO CALLED HER PASTOR TO COME TO SEE HER. WHEN HE ARRIVED, SHE BEGAN TELLING HIM HOW SHE WANTED THINGS TO BE AT HER FUNERAL, THE HYMNS, THE PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE, EVEN THE MEMORIES SHE WANTED FRIENDS TO SHARE. TOWARDS THE END OF HIS VISIT SHE SAID WITH A TWINKLE IN HER EYE, "ONE MORE THING, PREACHER, WHEN THEY BURY ME I WANT MY OLD BIBLE IN ONE HAND AND A FORK PUT IN THE OTHER." WELL, THE BIBLE WAS NOT A SURPRISE, BUT THE FORK WAS!! THE PASTOR ASKED, “WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE BURIED WITH A FORK IN YOUR HAND?" SHE ANSWERED, "I'VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT ALL THE CHURCH DINNERS AND BANQUETS I'VE ATTENDED THROUGH THE YEARS, AT THE BEST ONES WHEN THE MEAL WAS ALMOST DONE, SOMEONE WOULD COME TO COLLECT THE DIRTY DISHES AND LEAN OVER MY SHOULDER AND WHISPER, 'YOU CAN KEEP YOUR FORK.' DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANT? IT MEANT DESSERT WAS COMING, AND NOT A CUP OF JELLO OR ICE CREAM, YOU DON'T NEED A FORK FOR THAT; IT MEANT SOMETHING REALLY GOOD WAS COMING LIKE CHOCOLATE CAKE OR CHERRY PIE. WHEN THEY TOLD ME I COULD KEEP MY FORK I KNEW THE BEST WAS YET TO COME. WHEN PEOPLE SEE ME IN MY CASKET I WANT THEM TO ASK 'WHAT'S THE FORK FOR?' ... YOU TELL THEM PREACHER; THE BEST IS YET TO COME!” THIS WOMAN HAD CONFIDENCE! -- Source Unknown
3. They could face the future with absolute confidence!
B. Conquering Ex. 23:29-30; Judges 2:21-3:2
1. This is the key part of this passage; God would not drive them out all at once in a short period of time!
a. God would go slowly with the victory, not because He delights in making them miserable, but for practical reasons!
b. To let them drive out all their enemies at once successfully would have left them with more victory than they could handle!
2. Quick and full victory would have left a lot of open land and empty cities that they were not strong enough to take possession of, they were not numerous enough or strong enough to handle all this before new enemies, wild animals, and weeds would take over, then they would have had to fight a second time!
a. God was saving them grief later by going slowly now!
b. This slower process would encourage their skills for future larger tasks!
ILLUS: WHEN AMERICAN AIRLINES TRAINS THEIR PILOTS THEY FIRST SEEK TO PROVE THEM BY USE OF A SIMULATOR. THE SIMULATOR IS DESIGNED TO PRESENT THE PILOT WITH A VARIETY OF POTENTIAL PROBLEMS SO THAT HE WILL BE ABLE TO HANDLE ANY EMERGENCY IN THE FUTURE UNDER REAL CONDITIONS. HE LEARNS ON A SIMPLER LEVEL WITH SMALLER EVENTS, EVENTUALLY BUILDING UP TO COMPLICATED EVENTS AND THEN ON TO FLYING A REAL PLANE. AREN'T YOU GLAD THAT THEY LEARNED ON A SMALLER SCALE FIRST!? THIS IS SIMILAR TO HOW GOD WORKS IN OUR LIVES ... HE GIVES US VICTORY OVER SMALL THINGS FIRST, AND THEN BUILDS FROM THERE. IF WE CAN'T HANDLE THE SMALLER THINGS, HE DOESN'T DESTROY US WITH LARGER THINGS. – Source Unknown
3. Some people want quick easy victories, they want the short cuts. If they take them, they will miss out on becoming all they could be!
ILLUS: WHEN JAMES GARFIELD, LATER TO BECOME PRESIDENT OF THE U.S., WAS THE PRINCIPAL OF HIRAM COLLEGE IN OHIO ONE FATHER ASKED HIM IF THE COURSE OF HIS STUDIES COULD BE SHORTENED SO THAT HIS SON MIGHT BE ABLE TO COMPLETE HIS STUDIES IN LESS TIME. GARFIELD SAID, “CERTAINLY, BUT IT ALL DEPENDS ON WHAT YOU WANT TO MAKE OF YOUR BOY. WHEN GOD WANTS TO MAKE AN OAK HE TAKES ONE HUNDRED YEARS, BUT WHEN HE WANTS TO MAKE A SQUASH HE REQUIRES ONLY TWO MONTHS.” – Source Unknown
4. God did not want to solve one of their problems by creating a new one, He knew that victory would be better for them in a longer time frame!
5. God lists several reasons for giving victory over a span of time here in Exodus 23 and in Judges 2 & 3:
a. Partial victories would give them time to grow stronger.
b. Partial victory now would give them time to adjust to a new environment.
c. It would prevent wild animals from multiplying and creating a new problem down the road.
d. It would allow a new generation of Israelites who had never fought before to learn how to fight and develop their skills.
e. It would also keep them dependent on God over a longer period of time, thus keeping them from developing self-sufficiency.
f. It would keep them from having more than they could handle!
6. God still works this way with us, for often the same reasons!
7. He doesn't want to overwhelm us with more than we are strong enough to handle!
C. Commitment Ex. 23:31-33
1. While God reiterates His action, He again makes clear to them that He is calling for a commitment on their part!
2. They are not to water down their commitment to Him by compromising with those they are to drive out.
a. God implores them not to make a covenant with the enemy, only with Him!
b. He warns them that they are to cling only to Him if they are to weather the storms and succeed!
ILLUS: VINES ARE INTERESTING THINGS; THEY HAVE NO REAL STRENGTH IN THEMSELVES ALONE. THEY ARE EASILY DESTROYED BY WINDS OF ADVERSITY AND STORMS. THE ONLY THING THAT MAKES THEM A SUCCESS IS WHEN THEY HAVE LEARNED TO CLING TO SOMETHING STRONGER THAN THEMSELVES. BY GROWING ON A STRONG TREE AND CURLING AROUND AND AROUND IT THEY ARE IMMUNE ALMOST FROM DANGER. IF CONTRARY WINDS BLOW AGAINST THEM THEY ARE SIMPLY BLOWN TIGHTER AGAINST THE TREE. IF WINDS COME FROM THE OTHER DIRECTION THEY ARE PROTECTED FROM HARM BY THE TREE ITSELF BLOCKING THEM. NO MATTER WHAT DIRECTION THE STORM COMES FROM, THEY ARE HELD IN PLACE. THEY CAN SPEND THEIR TIME GROWING BECAUSE THEY RELY ON THE TREES’ STRENGTH. – Source Unknown
3. God warns them that if they compromise the pagans will be a "snare” to them.
a. In the Hebrew this term, “snare” is stronger than the English term would suggest, it means “destruction” not just “stumbling.”
b. God wanted them strong and safe, and victorious in the long run.
4. Victory would not be quick and easy, they couldn't handle that, though they would have preferred it that way no doubt!
5. Trust Him with the process, He is not slow, only we are!
CONCLUSION: Why is it that God seems to move so slowly so often in answering our prayers? God’s purpose in our life is not so much to remove conflicts as it is to build our character and to teach us faith. Victory over time keeps us relying on God and gives us the time to mature so that we can handle the victories that come without producing sinful pride. God moves slowly so we can keep up with Him! He will rarely move faster than the rate at which we are willing to follow Him, or are able to follow Him!