Read: Exodus 3; Esther 4
Let's start with a bit of fun Christmas trivia. Ready? What character in a Christmas classic TV show said that the fog was as thick as peanut butter? Give up? It was Yukon Cornelius in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. When Yukon's friend Hermey heard the oddly worded quote, he corrected Yukon, saying that the right wording was not peanut butter but pea soup. Not to be outdone, Yukon then told Hermey that he should eat what he wanted to eat and that he, Yukon would do the same.
That little incident tucked into the Christmas tale, along with many others never fails to cause me to smile. Even though my husband and I know many of the lines from Rudolph's adventure by heart, we really enjoy watching it each year. Especially when the misfit toys are taken off the island to be united with little children who will love them.
What a fun way to end the story. Rudolph and his friends are appreciated for the gifts they have and the toys, though imperfect, have new homes; however, what if there were an alternate ending? One that sometimes happens in the real world? What if a few of the toys decided not to get on Santa's sleigh? Why would this ever happen? What if a few were afraid to leave their island, even though they longed for what might await them in a new place? What if a few of the here to fore unwanted toys were so accustomed to the way things were on their island that they preferred the status quo, rather than choosing to make a change?
Thankfully, that didn't happen to any of the misfit toys, but in the Bible, we often see a struggle when people have the opportunity to stay in the place where God finds them or step out in faith to take hold of an opportunity that He gives to them. Let's consider a few of them that we meet in the scriptures. Let's watch how God dealt with His people, sometimes talking directly to them and sometimes using other folks to share His message.
1. Moses. I love Exodus 3 because there we meet Moses in all of his humanity and also learn a great deal about God's patience and persistence. Moses was both reluctant and reticent, rather than jumping for joy, when God called him. If you will, God told His man that it was time to leave the "island" where he had been for the past 40 years. There was an amazing opportunity to partner with God awaiting him Exodus 3:10. Moses' reaction to God's call was much different than it would have been 40 years prior to his encounter with Him at the burning bush. Before Moses fled to Midian, he had zealously desired to lead his people out of their bondage. This was because he believed that they knew that God would use him to bring about their deliverance, Acts 7:23-25. When it became evident that this wasn't the case, Moses left Egypt, along with his ambition to lead the people out of slavery. Forty years of living the life of a shepherd away from the prominence he had in Egypt had evidently changed Moses. Gone was the confidence in what he could do for God. In its place, were excuses that Moses gave as to why he wasn't the man for the job. In response to Moses' downplaying his own abilities, God didn't shower his reluctant man with glowing accolades concerning his qualifications.
Instead, the Lord promised to be with him. God would be his Enabler, the One Who would supply what was needed so that Moses could do what he had been called to do.
Even so, Moses continued to throw out objections to God's call, saying to God that he didn't even know His Name. The pagan gods all had names. What if Moses was asked that question? God patiently instructed His man by saying that He was the One Who had given covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. His Name was I AM. The One Who had given Moses' people promises in the past was the same One Who was speaking to Him, Exodus 3:14-15.
God didn't stop there. Moses was to gather the elders of his people together and tell them wonderful news. Their God, I AM, had seen the oppression and suffering that they had endured in Egypt, and it was now time for their deliverance. Yes, there would be opposition from Pharaoh, but God would work in a mighty way on their behalf, and Israel would be set free. They wouldn't leave empty-handed because God would give them favor with the Egyptians so that they would leave fully supplied with good things. Even after all of this assurance, In Exodus 4:1, Moses once more, voiced an objection. This time, he said that the people wouldn't even believe that God had appeared to him. This was yet another reason that Moses gave, proving that he should not be the one for this mission; however, in the end, God didn't allow Moses to "remain on the island", and Moses didn't miss the opportunity to lead his people out of Egypt. God didn't allow for an alternate ending. Moses was the man He chose, and Moses was the man God used, warts and all.
When we meet Esther, we will see that often, God allows His children to choose either the ending He desires or one of their own making.
2. Esther. I love the book of Esther because we are reminded that God worked and continues to work in unseen ways on behalf of His people. We are also reminded that He watched over the promises He had given them as He does with every promise He has ever made, Jeremiah 1:11-12. Though He never held up a sign, showing that He was doing something wonderful, we can see the imprint of His power and love behind many incidents in the Book of Esther. God's people were in mortal danger and faced certain death due to a wicked decree that their enemy had written against them, Esther 4:7-8. The wonderful thing? God knew that the plot against the Jews would be hatched, and He had already made preparation to thwart it. Esther had been made queen, and she could therefore plead for mercy on behalf of her people; however, Esther 4 tells us that there was a serious potential problem. Even though Esther was the queen, she wasn't permitted to approach her husband the king unless he called for her. Even though she was queen, there were many other women in the king's harem, and it had been 30 days since Esther had been summoned to be with the king. If she stood before unbidden and he did not raise the golden scepter when he saw her, she would be put to death, Esther 4:11. Enter Mordecai, Esther's relative. He held out before Esther the possibilities of two endings her story might have. She could decide not to cry out for mercy for her people. The king didn't know that Esther was a Jew, and she could keep that fact hidden. However, Mordecai let Esther know that if she did not speak up, deliverance would come to the people through a different source. If she remained silent, Mordecai warned, she would not escape when it was discovered that she was a Jew.
Could it be, he asked her, that she had received her royal position as queen so that she could plead the cause of her people? Was she in this place of prominence for "such a time as this? Esther 4:14". The choice was hers. Would she choose the status quo and do nothing or would she choose a different path? Would she trust in God--though His Name isn't mentioned, or would she stay on the island and do what was familiar? Praise the Lord. Esther had the choice, and she chose to work in concert with God.
How about us? Each day provides choices small and big that offer us the opportunity to trust God's promises and His power as both Moses and Esther eventually did. With His grace and enabling, may we take steps of faith.