Archives For July 2005

God Acts

July 17, 2005 — Leave a comment

1 Ki. 18:25-39; Acts 2:1-8, 32-33
Olivet Covenant Presbyterian Church
© Andy Campbell, 7/17/2005

This morning, we continue in our series “The Right Side of History” with the third of three things God does when He releases people from oppression. The first thing we talked about was that God Recognizes the oppression and God Reminds the people of His past faithfulness. We looked at how God heard the cries of the people of Israel as they suffered in slavery under the Egyptians. We saw how God heard the cries of His people when they were being oppressed at the hand of the Midianites. We looked at how Jesus’ coming was an answer to the escalating cries of God’s people for deliverance. We have been looking at how the American civil rights movement began with people crying out to God for justice.

We then looked at how God Prepares His people for action. We saw how God prepared Moses for his leadership role by giving him power to do miracles and giving him a spokesman to aid him in overcoming his shortcoming of speech. We looked at how God prepared Gideon by sending him on a mission to destroy an altar to Baal and then trusting God to pare down his army from 32,000 to 300. We saw how God prepared Jesus for His ministry through scholarship at a young age and then steadfastness to the Word of God during the devil’s temptations. We looked at how God prepared Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. for the bus boycotts in Montgomery that would begin the civil rights movement. Today, we will be looking at the climax of those stories. God has set the stage and He is ready to act.

We begin again with the story of the exodus from Egypt. Moses met up with his brother Aaron in the desert, and together they returned to Egypt. They met with the elders of the Israelites and performed the miracles God had empowered Moses to do – changed his staff into a snake, made his hand leprous and clean again, and turned water from the Nile into blood. When the elders heard that God was concerned about them, they bowed down and worshipped Him. Having the people of Israel behind them, Moses and Aaron went to see Pharaoh.

They told him that God wanted Pharaoh to let His people go out into the desert to hold a three day festival to worship Him. This was a pretty big request, since Pharaoh himself was considered a god. They continued, telling Pharaoh that if he denied their request, God would strike them all with plagues. Pharaoh told them to get back to work. He then increased the workload on the people of Israel, while reducing their work supplies.

Moses and Aaron returned to speak with Pharaoh, this time performing the staff-into-snake miracle that had been so effective with the Israelite elders. Pharaoh scoffed and summoned his magicians, who did the same thing. So, God directed Moses and Aaron to go down to the Nile in the morning when Pharaoh went down to wash up. So they did. God had them ask Pharaoh to let them go again, and again he refused, so God turned the Nile River, all the canals, streams, ponds, buckets, and jars of water in Egypt into blood. Fish died and the water stunk. It was undrinkable. Pharaoh’s magicians were unimpressed and replicated the feat, albeit on a smaller scale.

Thus began the affliction of many plagues on Egypt. Each time, Moses would give Pharaoh a chance to let the people go. Each time he refused and another plague would spread across the land. Frogs, gnats, and flies swarmed across the land. Several times Pharaoh told Moses that he would let them go if only the plagues would end. But when they did, he reneged. Next came a plague on the livestock. All the Egyptian livestock died, but none of the Israelite livestock was harmed. Then boils were sent to cover men and animals. A great hailstorm hit Egypt, destroying crops and killing any remaining livestock that wasn’t sheltered. Again, Pharaoh asked for mercy and received it. But when the danger was gone, he changed his mind.

So God upped the ante. He sent a plague of locusts that ate up what little vegetation remained after the hailstorm. For three days, a heavy darkness spread over the land. Pharaoh told the Israelites to go, but leave their livestock. Theirs were the only living animals left in Egypt. Moses replied that if they leave, their livestock goes with them. Pharaoh was unwilling to let them leave under those conditions. So, God sent the most terrifying of the plagues. God Himself passed through Egypt around midnight and killed the firstborn of every house that wasn’t marked with the blood of a sacrificial lamb. The Israelites had been instructed to smear the blood of a lamb on the lentil and doorposts of their front door as a sign so that God would pass over that residence. Such an effect this had on the Israelites, that it is still commemorated to this day as the Passover feast.

The next day, Pharaoh was broken. He ushered the people out of Egypt with all their belongings. God continued to guide them as the left Egypt. He appeared as a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. Not too long after they had left, Pharaoh changed his mind again. He was not so willing to let such a workforce leave so easily, so he sent his army to pursue them. With the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army behind them, God acted again. He instructed Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea. When he did, the waters drew back and made a path of dry land across the sea. The Israelites began crossing to the other side. The Egyptians followed them in, and as the last Israelite made it to safety, God caused the waters to take their place again, killing the Egyptian army. The Israelites knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was God who had delivered them.

When we last left Gideon, he had returned to his army of 300 after having eavesdropped on a conversation in the enemy’s camp that assured him of victory. It was night and Gideon woke his men. He gave them each a trumpet, a torch, and a jar. He divided them into three companies and had them take up positions ringing the enemy encampment. The enemy was in a valley, so they took up places above them in the hills.

The were instructed to hide the lit torches under the jars. Then, they all blew their trumpets, smashed their jars and shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” What happened next was remarkable. The Israelites stayed put. In the valley below them, panic broke out. In the darkness, groggy men grabbed their weapons and began fighting whoever they came across. They were killing each other off. In normal battle conditions, not every man would have a trumpet and a torch, so it must have looked like the 300 represented an army of thousands more! Soon, the Midianite army began to flee. When they did, the Israelites pursued them.

When the dust settled, it was the Israelites who had been victorious, routing an enemy that far outnumbered them. Even so, Gideon had to remind them that it was God who delivered them.

From the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus went to trial, was scourged, and then crucified. Yet, it was God who was acting. At the height of the pain and suffering, Jesus intervened and asked God to pronounce His forgiveness on humankind. He then went to his death. Three days later, God resurrected Him, conquering death.

Jesus appeared to those who’d followed Him so they could be witnesses of the power of God. When He ascended into heaven to sit at God’s right hand, He promised that He would send the Holy Spirit in His place. In our second reading, we read that it was on the day of Pentecost that God fulfilled that promise. God, who had acted through His Son to bring open redemption to all who would repent, now entrusted those people with His Spirit, and through His Spirit, power to be His agents of liberation, both spiritual and physical.

In Montgomery, God acted through the implementation and success of the bus boycotts. Beginning on December 5, 1955 and continuing, uninterrupted until November of 1956, not a single African American rode the buses in Montgomery. Only God could have orchestrated such a far-reaching and disciplined boycott. Many people had to walk miles upon miles each day just to get to and from work. Carpools were organized, and many white women offered to drive their maids and nannies to and from their homes.

During this time, Martin Luther King, Jr. took their plea for justice up to the highest court in the land. In November of 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation on public transportation was unconstitutional and buses must be integrated. Through that year, bombs had been detonated at King’s home, as well as the homes of E. D. Nixon and Robert Graetz, the local NAACP chair and a white pastor of a black congregation, respectively. Yet, King and the Montgomery Improvement Association stuck by their plan of nonviolence and the nation watched as they succeeded without throwing a single punch.

In each of the preceding instances, God worked through the people He’d prepared to bring about the deliverance He’d promised. But the people He delivered had short memories. After the Israelites had been led out of Egypt, they began worrying that they would starve to death in the desert. So God provided them with food. When Moses disappeared to the top of Mount Sinai, where he was receiving God’s instructions for living, the people feared he wasn’t coming back and persuaded Aaron to make an idol for them to worship.

As a result of God triumphing over the Midianites through Gideon’s army, there was peace throughout the land for the next 40 years. But then Gideon died and the Israelites went right back to Baal worship. After Jesus’ ascension, it wasn’t a decade before there arose arguments among the leaders of the new church as to who could become and Christian and who couldn’t. And despite the success of the nonviolent beginning to the civil rights movement, it was just five years before large factions began to lose confidence in King and his methods. They began pressing for more physical means by which to act.

In an earlier sermon in this series I mentioned that it was interesting how the right side of history never seemed to rest with the status quo. When people become too comfortable with how their lives are going, they tend to forget what they, or their ancestors, had to go through to get where they are today. Where God has been involved, it usually means that his involvement is forgotten, first off. Given enough time, the status quo can morph into a means for oppressing people. Then the cycle is started again, but this time the status quo, who may have been delivered before, are now the ones God is delivering people from.

That is where we are today. Far too many of us are happy with the status quo. We benefit from the status quo. But do we see how what is normal and expected for us is oppressing others? Poverty is a global hot-button right now. None of us can claim to be impoverished. Even if we struggle to make ends meet and pay the bills, we have far more wealth than two-thirds of the rest of the world. But we still clamor for more. More money, more things. All the while, others are suffering and dying, naked and hungry.

They are crying out for deliverance… from us. Yet I think that we still have the opportunity to play a very positive role. God can prepare us and use us to act if we let Him. What we must do is recognize what side we’re on. During the times of Israel’s exile, no matter how far off course Israel strayed, there always remained a remnant of those who would choose to be on the side of God. We can’t fool ourselves any longer and assume that we’re on the right side because we read the Bible, go to church, and sing some songs. We must look at our actions. Are we acting as oppressors or liberators? You can passively oppress people, but you cannot passively liberate them.

God will free the oppressed. There is no question about that. We have a choice as to our role. I choose freedom. What will you choose?

God Prepares

July 10, 2005 — Leave a comment

Isa. 41:9-13, Eph. 2:8-10
Olivet Covenant Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA
© Andy Campbell, 7/10/2005

As we continue our series entitled “The Right Side of History”, we come to the second of the three moves God makes when freeing people from oppression. Last week, we talked about the first one: God recognizes suffering and reminds people of His faithfulness. We pointed out how in the story of the exodus from Israel, of Gideon leading Israel out from under Midianite oppression, and in the ministry of Jesus, God first recognized the oppression His people were enduring, and then God reminded them of how He’s been faithful in the past. The second move God makes, and the topic for today, is “God Prepares”. He prepares the people through which He will work, and He prepares the circumstances in which He will work.

Throughout Biblical and modern history, God has taken the time to prepare people for the things He asks them to do. Moses was living outside of Egypt when God called to him through the burning bush. Though he’d been raised in a palace, he was working in the desert as a shepherd. Moses had killed an Egyptian when he saw the man beating a slave. Fearing he would be caught and killed himself, Moses fled.

When Moses heard what God wanted him to do – be the person that demanded Pharaoh release his Israelite slaves – he balked. He assured God that he was not the man for the job. God’s response was that He would be with Moses the whole time. Moses then tried to tell God that the people wouldn’t believe him, that they would ask him to prove he’d spoken to God by telling them God’s name. God responded by telling Moses to tell them “I AM WHO I AM” was His name, “I AM” for short.

Then Moses worried that even with God’s name, the people wouldn’t believe him. So, God gave Moses the power to turn his staff into a snake and back again. If that weren’t enough, God also gave Moses the power to make his hand leprous and clean again, and then the power to turn water from the Nile into blood. Surely the people would believe that what Moses had to say was true if they saw him empowered to do such miracles.

That still wasn’t enough for Moses. He told God that he wasn’t a good public speaker. Some scholars have taken this to mean that Moses had a speech impediment, like a stutter perhaps. At this, God was getting a little impatient. He said not to worry about it, that He made his mouth and He’d make sure that everything came out smoothly. Moses’ response was, “Sorry, you’ll have to find someone else.” God said that He knew that Moses’ brother, Aaron, was an excellent speaker and he would make Aaron Moses’ mouthpiece. Moses had run out of excuses.

But he still was afraid that if he went back into Egypt, the people who were looking for him would find him and kill him. God had been working in the time that had lapsed since the day Moses had left Egypt. Moses had gotten married, had a few kids, and was getting the hang of the shepherd thing. In the meantime, the men who were searching for Moses had all died. In the book of Acts, Stephen says that Moses was 40 when he fled Egypt, and that it was 40 more years before God appeared to him in the burning bush. During that time, God was preparing the circumstances from which He would deliver the Israelites.

Gideon’s story is similar. For seven years, the Israelites had been hiding out in caves in the mountains, trying to eek out a living while the Midianites kept coming and stealing their crops and cattle. Gideon was beating some wheat in a winepress, to hide his actions from the Midianites. Then, one of God’s angels showed up. He said, “The Lord is with you, brave warrior”. Gideon, a bit perplexed, said, “Then why is all this happening to us? I mean, don’t you see me threshing wheat in a winepress of all places? Where are all those miracles that the Lord performed in Egypt? We sure could go for a good old fashioned plague about now. The Lord isn’t with us. He brought us out of Egypt and has abandoned us into the hands of the Midianites.”

The angel brushed the pessimism off and told Gideon that he is the one God is sending to deliver the Israelites out from under the oppression of the Midianites. Gideon said, “Wait. You have the wrong guy”. Sound familiar? “My family is the weakest one in our clan and I’m the scrawniest, weakest guy in my family!” Then the angel responded, “Even so, the Lord is with you and you’re going to beat the entire tribe of Midianites like you were beating up just one person.”

So Gideon, still skeptical at this point, tells the angel that he’s going to need some proof that the angel represents who he says he represents. Being a good host, Gideon tells the angel that he’ll be right back with an offering for him. So, he went and prepared him a meal and brought it back. The angel had him put the food on a rock and then made fire come up out of the rock and consume the food. Then, the angel disappeared all together. At this, Gideon freaked out a little. He thought that he was going to die because he’d seen God’s messenger face to face. God calmed him down and assured him that he wasn’t going to die.

But God did want to send him on a little mission in preparation for the big one yet to come. He told Gideon that He wanted him to go and tear down the altar that his father, Joash, had made to honor Baal and the wooden statue of the goddess Asherah. He was to use the torn down altar to build a new altar to God and then he was to chop up the statue to use as wood for a burnt offering. Then he was to go ahead and offer a bull as an offering. Gideon did all that, but he was too afraid to do it in broad daylight so he waited until night came.

The people of his town were mad! They wanted Joash to bring Gideon out so they could kill him. Joash told them to let Baal deal with Gideon, if Baal was really as powerful as they thought he was. Nothing happened. Meanwhile, the Midianites and their allies, the Amalekites, had crossed over into Israel’s turf and camped out in a valley close by. Since Gideon had accomplished his first task, the Spirit of the Lord descended upon him and he set about gathering his own troops.

Gideon, wanting to make sure he got this right, asked God to confirm that He was, indeed, going to use him to deliver Israel from Midian. He told God that he was going to leave a wool fleece outside overnight and if when he woke up there was dew on the fleece but all the ground around it was dry, he’d know that everything was still on. So, Gideon did that and guess what? Wet fleece, dry ground. Apologizing in advance, Gideon asked if God could do the opposite this time. When he woke up the next morning, wet ground, dry fleece.

That morning, Gideon got all his troops together, all 32,000 of them, and was ready to fight. But God said, “Hold on a minute. Gideon, you have too many people. If you go down there and defeat Midian with this many people, then you all will think that you did this yourself. I want you to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was me who did this. So, go tell them that whoever is scared and doesn’t want to fight can just go home.” Gideon did and 22,000 people left!

“That’s still too many,” God told Gideon, “Tell you what, have them go drink from the spring and I’ll tell you which ones to keep and which ones to dismiss.” Gideon had them all go get a drink and God told Gideon to only keep the ones who drank using their hands. The ones who got down on all fours and lapped at the water were sent home – some 9700 of them! Only 300 were left. “That’s more like it. I’ll use these 300 and everyone will know that it was Me who delivered the people from Midian,” God said.

Gideon must have been pretty nervous at this point. He was left with just one percent of what he originally started out with. No amount of preparation could prepare him for that! God, knowing this and wanting to confirm victory one more time, had Gideon sneak into the enemy’s camp that night and eavesdrop on some conversation. He heard this guy tell his friend about a weird dream he’d just had. He dreamed that this loaf of bread came rolling down a hill and ran into one of the tents. Instead of the tent stopping the loaf, the impact made the tent flip upside down and then fall flat on the ground. The friend interpreted that to mean that they were doomed to be beaten. That bolstered Gideon’s confidence and he went right back to the camp, woke the 300 up and said, “Let’s go. God has given the Midianites into our hands.”

Through some miracles and tests, God prepared Gideon and the surrounding circumstances for the deliverance of the Israelites from the oppression they suffered under the Midianites. God was also at work in the ministry of Jesus, preparing Him and the circumstances around Him for His crucifixion and resurrection, the deliverance of all humankind from the death penalty attached to sin.

Right from the beginning, Jesus was being prepared for His ministry. When His parents were returning to Nazareth after being in Jerusalem for the Passover when Jesus was 12, they noticed that He had gone missing. When the finally found Him back in Jerusalem, He was sitting in the temple listening to the teachers and asking them questions.

After His baptism by John, Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days and was subjected to temptation by the devil. He didn’t eat anything and, naturally, became really hungry. So, the devil played first upon His physical needs. He tried to get Jesus to succumb to the hunger pangs and use His miraculous powers to turn stones into bread. Jesus’ response was that man doesn’t live on just bread, but on the very words of God. Next, the devil tried to appeal to His ego. He showed Him all the kingdoms in the world and offered them to Jesus if He would worship him. Again, Jesus fired back with scripture. He said that the commandments say only to worship God and only to serve Him. Trying to get Jesus to test His divinity, the devil dared Him to jump off the temple wall, quoting scripture and assuring Him that angels would swoop in to save Him. Jesus resisted saying that you’re not supposed to put God to menial tests.

The temptations Jesus faced were extreme and were to prepare Him for the types of temptations that He and his disciples might face over the following three years. Towards the climax of His ministry, as the stage was being set by God for His redemption of humankind, Jesus went up on a mountain with Peter, James, and John to pray. Bright light shone all around and Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus. Then the voice of God reiterated that Jesus is His Son whom He has chosen.

All that preparation was leading up to His crucifixion. Even in the garden of Gethsemane, only hours before He was to be crucified, He prayed for God to find another way. But God had prepared Him and He submitted to God’s will.

Even if we look at the civil rights movement, we can see God preparing people and places. The most poignant instance is the event that got the ball rolling, the Montgomery bus boycotts. When Rosa Parks refused to get out of her seat in the colored section so a white man could sit there, she was not doing something new. Others had been arrested before for doing the same thing. In fact, she had been arrested before. Yet God had prepared the circumstances so that this time, it would unite all the African-Americans on a single front in Montgomery.

Fourteen years earlier, Rosa Parks had been waiting for a bus downtown. When her bus came, it was so crowded that after Mrs. Parks had paid, the bus driver instructed her to get off the bus and walk around and enter through the back door. Initially Mrs. Parks refused, but the bus driver was insistent. So, Mrs. Parks got off the bus, walked to the back door, and the bus pulled away, leaving her standing there. Mrs. Parks committed the name of that bus driver to memory and swore to herself never again to take a bus that he drove. Wouldn’t you know that the one time she didn’t take notice of the bus driver was on that day in December 1955. The very same bus driver who told her to give up her seat was the one who had left her standing on the curb a decade and a half earlier.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had just arrived in Montgomery in 1954. He was still the “new kid on the block” when Mrs. Parks was arrested. Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, two blocks south of the capitol building, was his first (and only) pastorate. When a group of pastors got together to decide how the boycott should continue, they formed the Montgomery Improvement Association. They elected King president of the organization. He was reluctant to be elected president. He was only 26 and thought himself to be too inexperienced. The other pastors saw his recent arrival as an advantage. He had not been there long enough to make political enemies. From Montgomery, King would go on to lead a thirteen year movement that would begin to free African-Americans from the oppression of segregation and discrimination.

Over and over again God prepared His people, unlikely and reluctant though they may have been, and He prepared the surrounding circumstances for the action He was going to bring about to set them free from oppression. Paul tells us that it is God who prepares us and gives us His Spirit as a pledge of His faithfulness. Peter urges us to prepare our minds for action.

I think that God is working right now to prepare us and the circumstances that surround us for another great move of liberation. I don’t know exactly what form it will take, nor can I tell you what your role will be. But, as we have already seen, God has heard the cries of people crying out from their oppression. He is, even now, raising up unlikely leaders and preparing the way for His action. Soon we will see God act through those people, perhaps He will choose us as the conduits of His action. Next week we will talk about that third, and most visible step, of being on the right side of history.

2 Chr. 7:12-14, Phil. 2:5-11
Olivet Covenant Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA
© Andy Campbell, 7/3/2005

Last week we looked at three instances of God freeing people from bondage, both physical and spiritual. We identified three things that God does when he frees the oppressed: God recognizes the oppression and reminds the people of his promises, God prepares people for action, and God acts through those people. This week we are going to look at the first of those three: God recognizes and reminds.

Let’s take a look again at our texts from last week and identify the oppression in each one. First was the story of the Exodus. Exodus 2:23 says, “The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God”. God responds to this plea in Exodus 3:7, “The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering”. So we can easily identify that slavery at the hands of the Egyptians is the oppression that the people are suffering.

Our second story was the story of Gideon. In Judges 6:6 we read, “Israel was in great need because of Midian; and the cry of the children of Israel went up to the Lord”. It is the people of Midian who are the cause of oppression. More specifically the Midianites would descend upon the fields of the Israelites at harvest time and steal their crops, their cattle, and their sheep. Israel was starving to death.

The third story we looked at was Jesus’. In Luke 4 we read:

17The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus recognized suffering people and put them into four basic groups: the poor, the imprisoned, the blind, and the oppressed. It is widely accepted that all of humankind fall into those groups, for sin has made humankind spiritually poor, captive, blind, and oppressed. Although that is true, it must be noted that Jesus’ ministry on earth also shows the literal outworking of the passage.

Yesterday, millions of people gathered across the globe to cry out together on behalf of those living in poverty. The Live 8 concert in Philly was sponsored by the ONE campaign which is made up of a coalition of relief and aid organizations among which are Christian organizations such as Bread for the World, World Concern, World Vision, AERDO, the Christian Reformed Church, Church World Service, the Episcopal Church, Mennonite Central Committee, Operation Blessing, Sojourners, and the United Methodist Church, to name a few. People are indeed crying out to God so that he might hear and intervene. People all over the world were taking to heart what we heard in our first reading today from 2 Chronicles, that God will hear our cries.

God’s ultimate recognition of human suffering is found in the death of Jesus. Our second reading reminded us of that. God allowed himself to be made nothing, the image humans, who suffer. And to live out that suffering, Jesus lived the last years of his life as a vagabond, despised by the majority. He not only suffered human esteem, but he suffered physical torture and a most painful death. God recognizes human suffering because God has experienced human suffering.

I believe that God did hear the cries of millions of people yesterday. So what can we expect to happen next? According to the stories we’ve been following, after God heard the cry of the people and recognized their suffering, God reminded the people of how he’d worked in the past. In the exodus story we read, “God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob”. Then in the Gideon story we read, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land”. And in the ministry of Jesus, “I did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, I came to fulfill them” and “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms”

Each time God delivered his people, he started by recognizing their oppression and then by reminding them of what he’d done in the past. In fact, it was this hope of deliverance and restoration that sustained the children of Israel through their lengthy periods of exile. By the time Jesus showed up on the scene, the Jews had identified Rome as their oppressor and expected a militaristic deliverance. That is one of the reasons Jesus was not universally recognized as the Christ by the Jews. He didn’t fit their expectation.

What promises is God reminding us of today? Let me tell you what I think. Remember what God did for Israel in Egypt. Remember how God delivered his people from the Midianites. Remember that God sent his own Son to deliver all humankind from the death sentence of sin, that he was resurrected and seated at the right hand of God, where he sits as a reminder to us of what God has promised all of those who accept his selfless sacrifice. More recently, remember how God freed African Americans from their slave masters. Remember how God used Martin Luther King Jr. to deliver African Americans from legalized segregation. Remember how God ended apartheid in South Africa. Remember those things and know that God is faithful. God has heard our cries.

God is a God of deliverance and he will work to free people from oppression until the day comes when oppression is no more. As we have already seen, God uses people as instruments of deliverance through which he works. We tend to think that God chooses great people to do great things. Yet, if we look at Moses, Gideon, even Jesus, we see that the opposite is true: God chooses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. Moses was a fugitive shepherd, Gideon was the youngest male of the weakest family in the weakest tribe in Israel, and Jesus was a manual laborer from a half pagan Judean town. God chooses the ordinary, sometimes the tragically flawed, as his instruments. Many of us fall into that category.

Don’t be surprised if someone you know is suddenly inspired to take up the cause of an oppressed people group. Don’t be surprised if God stirs within you a passion to work for justice on behalf of those who have none. Don’t be surprised, expect it. That’s how God works.

You may feel unprepared to take up a cause. You may feel anxious when God stirs inside you. You may think, “God can’t seriously be asking me to do this. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.” That’s alright. Remember, the people we recognize as great deliverers in history all had those same thoughts.

Once one can see that God has been faithful, one can be assured that he will continue to be faithful, even in light of new oppression. That will serve to embolden those he’s called, and that may mean you. Once emboldened, God will prepare those people, and the surrounding circumstances, for his action. That preparation will be our subject next Sunday.