We usually speak of right times for right actions, or right actions in right places, but we find in the holy scriptures that sometimes it doesn’t work that way with God, or our sense of the ‘right time’ and ‘right place’ differs so much from God’s perpective that we get perplexed sometimes to the point of depression, feeling that God abandoned us.  The prophet Isaiah may have found himself in such perplexity when God said to him, “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, / so my ways are higher than your ways / and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9, New Living Translation).  Sometimes our troubles arise not from what God has not done, but from our wrong reading of His process and His calendar.

When the time came for God to set the Jews free from their years of slavery in Egyptian, there came up a Pharaoh who did not ‘know Joseph,’ a king who was ignorant of the history of how his kingdom had been helped by the ancestors of the Jews (Exodus 1:8).  We might say, ‘the wrong Pharaohs in the right season.’  When the time finally came for the saviour of those slaves to be born, that was when the government of Egypt made a decree to kill all new born Hebrew males (Exodus 1:10-16).  Some spirit, it would appear, was monitoring the heavenly calendar.

Years later, God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, assuring him, “I have SURELY seen the affliction of MY PEOPLE which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry … And  am come down to deliver them” (Exodus 3:7-8).  Any sufferer privileged to have such an awesome encounter with the Almighty God would begin to dance that their troubles have come to a prompt end. To hear God personally promise, “I have come down to deliver,” was the greatest assurance anyone would wish. That was prophecy reinforced. Unfortunately, when that promise came from God was when Pharaoh got madder against those people whom God Himself called “My people.”  

Anyone would have thought, as God began to hurl plague after plague upon Egypt, that the Jews were about to be set free, especially as the “God that cannot lie” had been heard Himself to say, “I have come down to deliver.”   Unfortunately, it took about two more months of consistent ‘plague warfare’ before the powers of Egypt relented, very reluctantly but by force, to let the Jews go, thus fulfilling prophecy at last.

While the promised lingered, the Egyptian government tormented the people of God worse than before there ever was a prophecy of deliverance.   The suffering got so intense that the sufferers themselves wished they had never been promised the freedom.  They accused Moses for making their case worse (Exodus 5:21).  Even Moses, despite his unusual encounters with God, was distressed of nearly accusing God. He said,Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!” (Exodus 5:23, NLT).  He accused God frankly and bluntly for having “done nothing.” He didn’t see anything that God had done in progressive line with His repeated promises.  If Moses had been dealing with a man, he might have called that person a liar.  Can a great prophet of God get so low, like the rest of ‘ordinary’ mortals?

How could God be at work, yet all we see is “nothing”?  How could God have ‘come down to save,’ yet all that we still see and hear is Pharaoh?  How could God say that He has heard our cries, yet the cries continue more painfully than before He said He had heard?  How could God call any people ‘His people’ and let their pains linger?  What is the calendar of God that we sometimes cannot read?

In the opening verse of the closing chapter of his book, the prophet Daniel makes a declaration that falls into the present category of worrisome interventions of God that sometimes seem out of time to our pains and our calendar.  Many things appear to be out of place to mortal reasoning in that scripture.

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book (Daniel 12:1).

Michael was an archangel, a “great prince” standing before God for the oppressed Israelites in Babylonian exile.  Any people for whom such a mighty angel stands should have no trouble at all, let alone great trouble as never before.  Even if there had been any trouble, “at that time” this great angel stands up for them, such troubles should have promptly ceased.  Unfortunately, the scripture says that the standing up of this great angel for his people would mark for them the commencement of “a time of trouble” like never before.  Gladly, however, the verse does not end with the troubles, it ends with the promised deliverance; the total deliverance of God’s people:  “thy people shall be delivered, every one.”

It will appear that when God stands for anyone is when Satan gets more provoked against them (1 Corinthians 16:9).  Satan gets mad at those for whom God stands, and intensifies his attacks against them, if only to distress them; make them feel abandoned by their God. Trouble then, is not always a sign of God’s absence, but sometimes His closeness.  It was when Jesus seemed closest to God, filled with the Holy Spirit, that Satan was nearest and loudest with temptations (Luke 4:1-2).

Sometimes troubles come to cause us to take our gaze from the Master to the storms, just when Help is nearest.  Then, it is time to look up.  Just before the Life Giver is about to come to give life, and give it more abundantly, is often when the devil comes to steal, to kill and to destroy (John 10:10).  Days of unusual troubles sometimes precede the day of the Saviour’s glorious appearance.  That is the time to sit up and look up.

Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28).

Often, when help is near is when troubles seem fiercer, Pharaoh madder, burdens heavier, and darkness thicker, everything forcing you to look down.  Thus says the Lord, Michael stands up for the people of God.  There shall be greater trouble, yes, but it shall not last, and it shall not prevail.  No night of weeping is strong enough to prevent the morning of joy (Psalm30:5).  “Look up and lift up your heads… thy people shall be delivered, every one.”  Amen.

From The Preacher’s diary
July 13, 2022 

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