The Battle and the Response – Despair Leads to Grumbling or Faith

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Morning Office Post Reflections Wednesday 4/19/23

Wednesday 1st Sunday After Easter Morning Prayer

Each morning St. Andrews Reformed Episcopal Church does morning prayer and this blog post is a summary of the discussion that took place after prayer from the scripture readings. 

Scripture Readings from Morning Prayer:  

  • Psalm 94
  • Exod. 17
  • John 20:24-31

In our walk with the Spirit, there are times when we can feel lost, alone, and distant from Him. We may question His presence in our lives, or even complain as He seems inactive in the midst of our struggles. Yet, as we dive into the readings of the daily office, we are reminded of God’s goodness, even despite our sinful nature and our inability to see Him by faith.

Despair Leads to Grumbling or Faith

….But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

The Grumbling

We are presented with grumbling Israel for our first reading this morning. There was no water for them to drink, and it appeared that God had abandoned them. They asked their intercessor, Moses (Exod 7:1.,20:18-20), for water. It is clear with how Moses responded that the Isrealites did not ask because they wanted to trust in God, but because of the hardness of their hearts. 

We read in Hebrews 3:7-12 that we ought not to harden our hearts like the Isrealites. When given a chance for a fresh start in freedom, the sons of stone hearts craved the desires of slavery in Egypt  carving an idol of gold. Some of the Israelites didn’t want redemption, since it would require Egypt inside to leave. This stone heart ultimately led them into 40 years of wilderness and not entering the rest of the promise. Even in this bickering, God was merciful to them, and, heard the petitions of the people through Moses and provided water. Regrettably, even in His mercy, the Children of Israel still rebel. 

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Needing a Sign for Faith

Thomas, notably called “Doubting Thomas” for this famous passage, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. He, like the children of Israel, asked for a sign. But he, unlike the children of Israel, wanted to believe but was not able to enter in that faith for himself. We see this by the different responses from Israel and from Thomas. A powerful experience left Thomas to proclaim “My Lord and My God”, Christ came to Thomas, and for that matter, all believers may come to the throne of grace boldly (Hebrews 10:22-23). There is antithesis to the response of the believer and the unbeliever. Did Thomas need a sign because he was ungrateful or grumbling? Was he a radical skeptic that didn’t believe in the possibility of the resurrection or was he in despair? Jesus does not rebuke him and like the gentle gracious servant He is, comes to Thomas and fulfills his request. Ask and you shall receive and Thomas reached out and believed. 

Waging the Eternal War with Amalek

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”  And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner, saying, “A hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

The Promise of War

Waging war with Amalek is a theme in the Old Testament, where Amalek is the archetypal enemy of God’s people. We can think of Haman, the enemy of God’s people in the book of Esther. Haman was a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites (Esther 3:1). Hamam desired the destruction of God’s chosen people and waged political war with one of the main heroes of the story: Mordecai. The Amalekites represent the enemies of God who come against His people to oppress and destroy them. In Exodus 17, the Amalekites attacked the Israelites in the wilderness, and Moses commanded Joshua to choose men to go out and fight against them.

In this context, we can see the parallels between the Israelites’ battle against the Amalekites and the mortificaiton of sin. Just as the Israelites needed to fight against the Amalekites to enter into the promised land, we need to hold captive every thought, crucify the flesh and all evil desire, and put on the full armor of God against the evil one.

In Psalm 94, we see a similar theme of God’s people crying out to Him in the face of their enemies. They are oppressed and persecuted by those who seek to do them harm, and they cry out to God for deliverance. However, in the end, it is God who is the true victor over their enemies.

Christ the Resurrected Victor and Answer to Psalm 94

Who rises up for me against the wicked?

Who stands up for me against evildoers?

If the Lord had not been my help,

my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.

When I thought, “My foot slips,”

your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.

When the cares of my heart are many,

 your consolations cheer my soul.

Can wicked rulers be allied with you,

those who frame injustice by statute?

They band together against the life of the righteous

and condemn the innocent to death.

But the Lord has become my stronghold,

and my God the rock of my refuge.

He will bring back on them their iniquity

and wipe them out for their wickedness;

the Lord our God will wipe them out.

In this Easter season, let’s remind ourselves that the resurrection of Christ is the ultimate answer to the cry of Psalm 94 and the eternal war with Amelekites. Through His death and resurrection, Christ has overcome the dragon and has inaugurated a new creation in which justice and righteousness reigns. He is the ultimate Victor over all the dominion of darkness, principalities and powers that the psalmist laments. 

In the resurrection, Christ has shown Himself to be the true King and Judge of all creation. He made a mockery of the prince of the power of the air, and has made a way for us to be reconciled to God with confidence. As believers, we can find hope and comfort in that Christ has overcome the world and will one day bring ultimate justice and restoration.

The resurrection of Christ is also a call to pick up our crosses as His followers so that we may rise against the agents of chaos. Just as Christ has overcome the forces of darkness, we too are called to pray and petition against injustices. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. We are called to work for the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth, and to bring the hope and love of Christ to all those who are suffering.

Coram Deo: 

We are like the Israellites

For we are the most miserable offenders: entitled, ungrateful, arrogant contrarians that hate all the sin everywhere else except the sin in us. When we say that we are the most miserable offenders, we are acknowledging our own fallenness and need for God’s grace, and recognizing that we are in no position to judge others. It’s a reminder to approach others with humility, kindness, and a willingness to extend grace, just as we have received it ourselves. When we fail, may we be supportive to each other like Joshua and lean on the Lord who overlooks our immaturity and condescends to us. Let us be like Thomas when the Lord reveals Himself to us and proclaim “My Lord and My God”.

Does it feel like God isn’t there? 2 Peter 1:17

“ For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,”

Sometimes we can feel like the Psalmist “O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?”. As we reflect on these readings, we are reminded that we are all sinners in need of redemption, and yet God still loves us and offers us salvation through Christ. We can trust in the promises of God and his prophetic word, even when we feel like God is distant or silent. Not only can we trust it, but Peter tells us we can trust more surely than God the Father speaking from heaven to the Son. We are encouraged to persevere in faith, paying attention to the lamp of God’s Word shining in the darkness until the day when Christ returns and the morning star rises in our hearts. We can find ourselves in this very situation and this is a great reminder to remember the works of the Lord, to reflect on where we have come from and where we are going. The life of faith is one where we are ascending to high places to touch, taste and see more of God. The uphills are hard, but worth it. Don’t grumble. Don’t give up. Keep going because the downhills are easier and once we reach the valley, the only way out is up another mountain. 

Join us for Morning Prayer because the war rages. Build yourself up in the reading of God’s Word and join us in listening to sermons throughout the week. We have good news, a Kingdom message. We have won! The Kingdom is here and Christ’s Church is the outpost of Heaven on Earth.

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Saint Andrew's REC

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