Vol. 9, No. 3
Priscilla's Page *Editor's Note*
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We can all relate to situations in our lives when we thought things could not have gotten any worse, but they did. We need to remember, no matter how bad something may be, it could always get worse! The ultimate worse for any of us would be eternal separation from God!
God is the one standing between Christians and Satan to keep trials, tribulations, upsets disappointments and set backs from overwhelming them. God said, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me" (Psalm 50:15). David said, in speaking of God's care and protection, "The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands" (Psalm 138:8).
After God called Moses to be the deliverer of the Israelites, God told him before he ever stood in Pharaoh's presence with that divine demand that Pharaoh was not going to let the people go. God had said, "But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand" (Exodus 3:19). Pharaoh's exact words were, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go" (Exodus 5:2).
When Moses stated God's demand again, Pharaoh told his taskmasters that Moses and Aaron were keeping the people from their work; they were making them rest from their labor because they wanted to go and sacrifice to their God. So he told his taskmasters to increase the backbreaking labor by instructing them, "You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves" (Exodus 5:7).
To make matters worse, the taskmasters told the people their quotas for making brick would not be diminished even though they now had to gather the straw themselves. The situation got even worse! "Also the officers of the children of Israel, whom Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, 'Why have you not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and today, as before?'" (Exodus 5:14).
At this point the officers of the children of Israel cried out to Pharaoh wanting to know why he was dealing with them in such a harsh way. He said, "You are idle! You are idle! Therefore you say, 'Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.' Therefore go now and work; for no straw shall be given you, yet you shall deliver the quota of bricks" (Exodus 5:17-18).
As they came out from Pharaoh and met Moses and Aaron they said to them, "Let the Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us" (Exodus 5:21).
As Moses turns to God, his reaction to the plight of his people is charged with emotion and dismay! He said, "Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all" (Exodus 5:22-23). Can we feel his chill? However, this whole sad predicament is about to change completely! God tells Moses, "Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh...I am the Lord" (Exodus 6:1a-2). After God sent that tenth and final plague, the death of all firstborn in Egypt, Pharaoh told the Israelites to rise and go to serve God as they had said. Things got worse before they got better!
The Book of Judges is the narrative of God's people in a vicious cycle of disobedience, idolatry and rebellion. "In those days there was no king in Israel" (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). Judges 17:6 states the result of having no king. "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Chapter 19 is the graphic, horrifying account of everyone doing what was right in his own eyes.
A certain Levite took for himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. His concubine played the harlot, left him and went to her father's house for four months. The Levite took his servant and went after her to speak kindly to her and bring her back. She took him to her father's house.
After they had spent several days with her father, they started home. When it had gotten late, the servant suggested they stay in the city of the Jebusites. "But his master said to him, 'We will not turn aside here into a city of foreigners, who are not of the children of Israel; we will go on to Gibeah" (Judges 19:12). So they went on to Gibeah, which belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. This Levite thought surely he would be safe among his own people. He was soon to learn he had made the most tragic mistake! He would experience a monstrous betrayal!
As they were enjoying the hospitality of one of their own, suddenly certain men of the city, perverted men, surrounded the house and beat on the door and told the master of the house to bring the man out that they might know him carnally. The man begged them not to commit this immoral outrage of wickedness. He even offered these men his virgin daughter and the man's concubine! He said, "Humble them, and do with them as you please; but to this man do not do such a vile thing!" (Judges 19:24b).
The situation got worse because his pleas fell on deaf ears. The men took the concubine and abused her all night long! The next morning, the woman came and fell at the door of the man's house where her master was staying and died! The situation sunk to an all time low when her master dismembered her body and sent it throughout all the territory of Israel! "And so it was that all who saw it said, 'No such deed has been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt until this day. Consider it, take counsel, and speak up!'" (Judges 19:30). The men of Israel called out the men of Benjamin for this notorious act.
Chapter 20 tells how the children of Israel fought against the men of Benjamin for three days before God gave them the victory. The cause of this despicable behavior is repeated again in the last verse of the book, "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). Things got worse before they got better!
In startling contrast to the Book of Judges, the Book of Ruth is one of love, devotion and redemption. Ruth was a Moabite woman who forsook her pagan heritage in order to cling to the God and people of Israel. Elimelech and his wife Naomi and their two sons left Bethlehem, Judah and went to Moab because of a famine.
While in the land of Moab, Elimelech died. Being a widow in those days, Naomi's situation certainly took a turn for the worse. Naomi's sons married and they were in Moab for ten years; then her sons died. Naomi's situation had spiraled to a worse state! She decided to return to the land of Judah because she heard the famine was over. She encouraged her daughters-in-law to return to their mothers' houses. One did return, but Ruth clung to Naomi.
Upon her return to Bethlehem, the entire city was excited because of them, but Naomi was anything but excited. She said, "Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?" (Ruth 1:20-21). At this point in her life Naomi is feeling so rejected, defeated and useless.
In the course of time, through Naomi's counsel and favorable family circumstances, Ruth marries Boaz who was a near kinsman, and she gives birth to a son named Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse who was the father of David. "Then the women said to Naomi, 'Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a near kinsman; and may his name be famous in Israel!'" (Ruth 4:14). Through her daughter-in-law, meaning was restored to Naomi's life. Ruth was King David's great-grandmother! Things got worse before they got better!
Paul's letter to the Philippians is one of joy and encouragement in the midst of adversity. He had such a wonderful outlook on life in spite of all the baggage of his past life. He said in Philippians 1:12, "But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel." When Paul wrote those words he was in prison. His attitude was one of continued optimism despite this most dreadful circumstance.
Some of the things that had happened to Paul for the furtherance of the Gospel are enumerated in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. He had suffered being beaten, stoned and shipwrecked; being hungry, thirsty, cold and naked; going without sleep and in numerous perils! Yet he says, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell" (Philippians 1:21-22). How many of us "rate" in that league of faith, trust and obedience?
He wrote he was hard pressed between the two, desiring to depart and be with Christ. Then he says, "Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith" (Philippians 1:24-25). What is Paul saying? He believed with all his heart he was ready for eternity right then, but he also recognized God still had some great things to be accomplished through his life!
He then tells the church in Philippians 2:12-13 to work out their own salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who works in them both to will and do according to his good pleasure. He further states, "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). Finally, he tells them to be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to let their requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6). Verse 7 is God's promise for this obedient faith, "and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
It matters very little how much we plan, anticipate and attempt to control others, control life's situations or even control our own little world. We do not know from one second to the next what is going to happen! However, we can know we can deal with whatever does happen through Jesus Christ our Lord. When we persevere in obedient faith, God keeps us by his power. No matter what is going on, who may be involved, how it happens, why it happens or when it happens, our faith and trust in God is unwavering! His promises of peace and deliverance are ours, when things get worse before they get better!