God’s Presence Helps Me Finish
What has God started in you during deployment that you can commit to finishing?
We can find plenty of excuses not to be willing to do something—especially during a deployment. In week six we read that Moses and the Israelites have many miles to go, but the completion of the tabernacle serves as a milestone for the journey. The presence of God allowed Moses to finish this work, and we learn the presence of God will help us finish the journey of deployment well and strong.
About This Journey
Deployment can leave those at home feeling like we’re alone in the wilderness. When we live in the presence of God, we are never on our own. In “Deployed Not Despondent”, we journey through Exodus to help us recognize God’s activity around us and to see deployment through a lens of blessing and gratitude.
This Week's Readings
Ten Commandments “Do-Over”
And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.-Exodus 32:19
The Lord said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.”-Exodus 34:1
Doors slam. Fists pound. Hands slap. Voices rise. These are signs and symptoms of anger. Anger can cause an object, or even a relationship, to be smashed or destroyed. A popular blog site for military wives featured a post on “The Angry Stage of Deployment.” The writer describes it this way:
You know the time: probably at least a few months in, more likely somewhere past the halfway point, where your previously optimistic attitude deserts you and you are just mad. Mad at the military, mad at your spouse, mad at the whole situation.
The comments generated from military spouses show how common an emotion anger is during deployment. The ever-present concern is not to do damage to anything or anyone in anger.
Moses was trusted with the Ten Commandments, written by the finger of God. What did Moses do in anger? He smashed the tablets! He was provoked by the sins the Israelites had committed in his absence. He could have put the tablets down and dealt with the sin calmly; but no, he got angry and smashed them. He destroyed what was holy, sacred, and given by God.
Sometimes we too succumb to the powerful emotion of anger. We smash precious relationships, throw down God-given parental oversight, or foolishly cause financial damage. Sometimes the damage can be overcome; but in other cases it is permanent. When the dust settles, what do you do with your broken tablets?
God says, “Cut out two more like the first.” In his mercy and grace, God gives us a do-over and writes with his divine touch. God can make the second just as divine as the first. But a divine do-over is not without effort. God did not cut the stones. Moses had to cut them and carry them back up the mountain. God then used his divine finger to make them holy once more.
We do what God requires after we smash something in anger, but it is God’s grace that allows us to be part of the do-over to restore and redeem what we damaged, or who we hurt.
Even though they were the Ten Commandments do-over, the words upon the stones still influenced not just Israel but the world from that day forward. What can God do with things you feel you have smashed? Do not limit God’s transforming and redemptive grace. It is there especially for you.
How do you respond when you are angry? What does this passage teach you about dealing with anger?
Thank you, Lord, for the promise of a do-over, the promise that you will redeem what I have damaged in my anger. Repair damage I have done to others, and help me to speak words of health and healing. Bring restoration and peace to my relationships and grant me the gifts of patience and kindness. Amen.
A Look in the Mirror
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.-Exodus 34:29
You know that awkward moment when you spot someone who used too much self-tanner. Their skin is an interesting orange hue that defies natural color. You do not want to stare, but cannot deny the shock of their abnormal appearance. I always wonder what such a person thinks when looking in a mirror.
On Mount Sinai, Moses had been with the Lord. Scripture says he did not know that the skin of his face shone. He could not see the change. He did not have a mirror. Moses only saw the shocked response of his audience to his bright and shining appearance.
This change of appearance occurred while, for the second time, Moses met with God and received the Ten Commandments. When he came back into public view, the people noticed a change.
The physical change in Moses’ appearance from being in the presence of God is an illustration of how our spiritual countenance can appear different to others from our time spent communing with God. Moses did not try to fake the glow on his face. In fact, he did not know his face was shining. Unfortunately, there are people who act religious and righteous without the warmth of the glory of God glowing in their hearts. Sister, time in the presence of the Lord will make a difference in your life and your countenance.
You say, “But, I don’t have that kind of time!” You may feel like you don’t have hours to spend in prayer, but on the other hand how long does it take in the presence of Almighty God to make some change in your life? I believe that sometimes it only takes a moment. How long did it take the woman who touched the robe of Christ in the Gospel according to Mark (5:25–34)? In just a moment, she experienced a miraculous healing and transformation. A moment!
Am I suggesting that extended periods in Bible study and prayer is not necessary? No, that is not what I suggest. But, we cannot discount the impact of moments throughout the day when you hear a song that leads your heart to worship, or read a devotion or inspirational quote on your cell phone while waiting in line. There is no one formula for spiritual growth.
Read and meditate on these words from author Misha Boyett:
“Enough time” is not a five-step plan, some secret sauce that nobody else has figured out. It’s a spiritual condition of believing that there is enough time because God is enough, because God is making me enough. It’s leaning into the reality of grace.
How can you lean into the reality of grace today?
Father, make me fully present in this day. Help me be fully aware of your presence with me. Give me a countenance that shines with your glory! Amen.
You Want Us to Build What?
“Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the Lord has commanded:…”-Exodus 35:10
Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments.-Exodus 35:20-21
Looking out my window the other day, I saw a building contractor accessing a lot across the street. That does not sound unusual—unless you saw the lot. It looks about as wide as a sidewalk. That is an exaggeration, but seriously, it is hard to believe someone is going to try to build a house on such an odd-shaped piece of land.
People build in strange places—just look at the Israelites in Exodus 35. They were getting ready for a major building project—in the middle of a desert! I have been through a major building project, and it was challenging even in the midst of a city where building materials were readily available. Through Moses, God tasked the Israelites to build a tabernacle in a place where they could not run to the local Desert Depot to pick up supplies they missed on the first run. Where would all the materials and qualified people come from in a wilderness?
If I were an Israelite during that time, I’m sure I would think of many reasons not to build while wandering in the desert. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait until we arrive at the Promised Land? There, we will have an abundance of resources and skilled people. Think of the extra time we will have then, when picking up daily manna will not be on the agenda. Why build a tabernacle while on the move? That means we must move it wherever we go. Besides all of that, we are tired from traveling every day. Where will we find the energy to build such a monument?” Oh yeah, I could find plenty of excuses.
My summary of the situation would be: “We cannot do this now.” Emphatically!
If you are like me, you can find plenty of excuses not to do something—not to build something—especially during a deployment.
What might the Lord be asking you to build during this time? Relationships? Memories? Organization? Health? What excuses might you be making in order not to build?
Lord, I ask for courage, strength, and vision to build a godly life. Help me to embrace the tasks you have given me. Help me to hear your voice and your direction. Help me to willingly obey you and avoid excuses or distractions. Amen.
We Did It!
This Moses did; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did. In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected.-Exodus 40:16-17
There is nothing like the feeling that comes when you set and accomplish a goal.
You overcame the excuses. You set out to make something happen—and you did it!
I get that vibe when I read about the building of the tabernacle in Exodus. The account is a positive report of material, supplies, and labor offered freely by the Israelites to build something to honor God. It is amazing to account what was accomplished when everyone pooled their assets. There was more than enough material for the construction project. Those with specific talents completed their tasks and the result was intricate in detail and beautiful to behold. The people worked together. With God’s direction and help, they built something incredible.
Scripture lists the amount of material used in construction as 2,400 pounds of gold, 8,400 pounds of silver, and 8,400 pounds of brass. Other materials included fabric, wood, and precious stones. In other words, the tabernacle ended up weighing a lot! It is difficult to comprehend that the Israelites carried this weighty edifice by hand, or even how, as they wandered for decades in the wilderness.
When it would have been easier to make excuses to build it, much less carry it on a journey, what motivated them to complete the task?
God revealed his name, his glory, and his presence to Israel at Mount Sinai. He wanted the Israelites to know he was not a one place only God. He was—is!—a right in the middle of wherever you are God. The tabernacle became the ongoing point of God’s presence. It was the tangible reminder that God permanently dwelt among the Israelites, and it was a symbol of his promise to bless the nation.
What reminds you of God’s presence during this deployment? Where have you seen God right in the middle of a situation?
Lord, I pray for daily reminders of your presence. Direct my thoughts to you throughout the day. Help me point others to you by my words and actions. Amen.
So Moses finished the work.-Exodus 40:33b
We started this thirty-day journey with a letter from Tracie, a military wife who just completed the first month of a fourteen-month deployment. Here is her final letter to Deployment:
Fourteen months is a long time—a lot of living happens, a lot of good days and bad, a lot of holidays and special occasions, a lot of the mundane and tedious, a lot of mistakes, and, praise Jesus—a lot of growth!
As we prepare to part ways (please don’t take the huge smile on my face personally—it’s not you, it’s me), I want to thank you for being a tool in the hand of my God to change my family and me. We are not the same. Our family is more connected, and we have a stronger sense of purpose and direction than ever before. God used you to get us here—so, thank you! You have not been easy, but you have been worth it. You have been a trial (and that is putting it kindly), but you have also been a blessing, one for which I am truly grateful.
Over the past fourteen months, my family and I have experienced God’s faithfulness and goodness. We have experienced the truth that God really does cause all things to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). We really can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13). God’s presence has been with us and that has made all the difference.
P.S. Please do not mistake the thankful tone of my letter as an invitation to stay or as a welcome to return once you’ve left. While I sincerely appreciate the way God used you in our lives, I am very excited to say good-bye and I truly hope this is the last time we meet.
We could say of Tracie as Scripture says of Moses, she “finished the work.” Tracie, and many women like her, have journeyed as if led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They have questioned the direction of God’s leading but have seen him be faithful to provide. They did not just take God along for the journey, or squeeze him in a suitcase as an afterthought. They followed where he led. God’s presence in the midst of each day made all the difference.
Throughout the rest of this deployment, knowing God is with you will help you finish the journey and finish it well.
Take some time today to write your own letter to Deployment. Share your hopes, prayers, and desires for how you want to complete the journey.
Lord, teach me to number my days that I may get a heart of wisdom. Satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love so I may rejoice and be glad all my days. Let the favor of the Lord my God be upon me, and establish the work of my hands. Amen
(from Moses’ prayer in Psalm 90).
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