Moses, Crazy Faith, and Waiting for God

I wrote this book called Crazy Faith: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives. In it, I lift some characters from the Bible and from life and

 

Crossing of the red sea
Crossing of the red sea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

talk about the incredible, crazy faith they had to have had in order to do what they did.

 

What I have come to realize, however, is that crazy faith, or having crazy faith, does not mean one does not feel fear or anxiety as he or she waits and works for God to “show up.” I have come to recognize something that I have dubbed “the Red Sea moment” that all bouts of crazy faith must have.

 

This “Red Sea moment” is, of course, about Moses. The Bible is good about telling stories without getting into the “meat,” or the human factor …of being human as one waits for divine intervention. Moses has been told by God to lead the Israelites  to The Promised Land. What should have been 11 days, two weeks at most, turned out to take 40 years. No doubt when they finally reached the Red Sea (or, more correctly, the Sea of Reeds), they were all ready to get on with their lives.

 

That desire would have been shared by Moses, maybe even more so, since he had been leading the people for so long!  Moses had been roped into the job of leading the Israelites through the wilderness by God, and he had relied on the voice and direction of God throughout the journey, albeit he acted in frustration and not faith when he hit a rock that God told him to merely speak to, a breach in faith that cost Moses getting into the Promised Land.

 

So, maybe Moses thought about what his frustration and doubt had wrought for him as concerns that rock as he now stood on the bank of the Red Sea. Can’t you see him? Standing there. holding a rod over the vast body of water, because God told him the waters would part?  There he stood, as the Israelites, murmured against him …and as the Egyptians got closer and closer. Moses and the others could hear the hoofs of the soldiers’ horses, and might have been able to feel the earth vibrate and tremble as “the enemy” made its way to the exact place where Moses and the Israelites stood.

 

But stand there he did. With the rod in his hand, holding it out “over the water,” which would only have been over the edge of the sea, ebbing and flowing onto the land. How crazy is that?  Moses most assuredly had doubts and fears….but he chose to believe that God would do what God had said He would do. And God …did.

 

That’s a wonderful story …but the point is that before there was the parting of the Sea there was probably a trembling of Moses’ very soul. Where was God? And when was God coming?  His disobedience and frustration, which led him to hit a rock that God had merely told him to speak to, convinced him that God was 1) present, even when we don’t know it, 2) unimpressed with disobedience based on doubt, and 3) eager to show His/Her children that He was in fact, God.

 

The Red Sea moment had to have been terrifying for Moses.

 

Our “Red Sea” moments are terrifying to us as well. When we stand on the bank of a “sea” or on the edge of a “precipice,” needing God and believing God will come to us because God sees where we are standing and knows the situation we are in. when we can hear the “hoofs of the horses” getting closer and closer to us, we are being allowed to feel what Moses most probably felt.

 

The key is to “stand our ground” while we wait for God. That is hard and that is scary …but that is what God would require, if the Bible is to be believed.

 

The edge of the Red Sea, waiting in faith for God to “part the water”  in our lives so that we can get to another place, perhaps THE place God has put in place for us, is not a comfortable place to be. We may even look at it as a test to see if we have faith or just give lip service to the same. Crazy faith means having stilled voices but enlarged spirits that are making room for God to do a new thing.

 

Moses, in spite of feeling terror for sure, and worry about what the Israelites were thinking about him and what they would say if the Egyptians got there before the waters parted. Hr might have been seen mouthing  quiet prayers as he waited for God.

 

Many people have waited, like Moses, swallowing their fear and trying, working, to regurgitate their faith. Such regurgitation of faith has its own rewards.

 

A candid observation …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Weird Peace of Faith

I wrote a book called Crazy Faith: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives, in which I describe how “crazy faith” can and does propel people to do amazing things.  Faith doesn’t make sense, it is not logical, but it brings stability to unstable situations and gives sight where the circumstances at hand would beg blindness.

Then, this morning, I heard Rev. Lance Watson describe “courageous faith,” a faith that made the Biblical character Joshua tell the sun to stand still so that the Israelites could face their enemies. Whoever heard of such? And yet, courageous (crazy) faith makes people staunchly believe in something greater than themselves, and in standing on that belief, beat incredible odds.

Faith, it seems, gives people courage, the “courage to be,” as Paul Tillich describes. The very last line of his book, The Courage to Be, reads: “The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt.”

The anxiety of doubt comes when we are in the midst of the most scary, the most traumatic situations of our lives. We wonder where God is, if God hears, if God cares …I imagine the slaves in America wondered about the presence and goodness  of God as they endured that horrible institution; I imagine, as well, that Jews, suffering under the brutality and insanity of Adolph Hitler during the Holocaust, wondered the same thing…”Would God allow such evil?”

And yet, it seems, God does allow evil, and the courage to be means that one is able to hold onto his or her belief in God “in spite of” one’s situation.

As a pastor, I have seen many a person struggle with the whole notion of the goodness of God, the presence of God, and the purposes of God. Why would God allow an innocent child to die of brain cancer, or a beloved mother to die an early and brutal death? Years ago, I watched a young mother struggle with her idea of God as she mourned, in excruciating pain, the death of her teen son who was murdered in a drive-by shooting. In the recent unrest in the Middle East, I can imagine mothers and fathers both in Gaza and in Israel wondering why God would allow such evil – the evil of war caused by people who will not listen to each other – to exist and to flourish.

God does allow evil.  That is a bitter pill to swallow.

But there is something weird about faith, because even in the midst of going through and suffering through abject evil, those who have faith experience a “weird” peace, the “peace that passes all understanding.”  After a while, the person filled with faith has an ability to surrender doubt into the unknown. He or she is not aware of where the anxiety of doubt is going; one only knows that yesterday, he or she was upset and worried, and today, the worry, the anxiety, is gone.

And that is in spite of the fact that God allows evil to be.

We might feel better if God put a hand in front of all evil and all discomfort that confronts us, but God doing that would not necessarily increase our faith. Faith actually comes in the enduring and survival of, evil in our lives. Evil comes at us like a giant Tsunami, sometimes stunning us in its ferocity and intensity, and if we can find ourselves standing when the giant wave of evil passes back into the sea, we find that our faith in God increases. Somewhere in the midst of the fury of the evil that sometimes boxes our spirits, if we get to that place of weird peace, we are able to ride the evil and not allow ourselves to be consumed by it.

Evil is strong and distasteful, but God is greater than any evil. That does not mean that God prevents evil; we have already established that God allows evil, and we may never understand why …but in the end, God really is greater than evil.

Maybe that’s why faith is so perplexing. Anyone who has experienced a weird peace in the midst of adversity knows exactly what I am talking about …

A candid observation …

Are Capitalism and Christianity Compatible?

It so happened that as I was reading something this morning about the requirements Jesus asks of those who love and follow him that a thought struck me…and stayed with me.

What Jesus asks of us seems fundamentally incompatible with the principles of capitalism.

As I read and study, it seems clearer and clearer that Jesus got in trouble, yes, because he riled church leaders, but more so, or at least equally so, he got in trouble because he got in trouble with government officials.

Jerusalem and the Jewish people were under Roman rule and Roman oppression. The Romans ended up destroying the Jewish temple in 70 AD because the Jews had tried to lead a rebellion against the Romans. While Jesus was alive, he noticed the disparity between rich and poor, the “haves” and “have-nots” and he spoke against that…and in so doing, angered the government.

Jesus was in alignment with Hebrew scripture, which asked the Israelites to take care of the poor, of the widows. Yes, the God of the Hebrew scriptures was angry at the Israelites for breaking covenant and for following false gods…their apostasy seemingly grieved Yahweh enormously. But this same God was furious at the Hebrew children for forgetting their role as His “chosen” ones. In the Book of Isaiah, the very first chapter, the prophet writes, on Yahweh’s behalf, “Stop doing wrong! Learn to do right.  Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”

It is a motif which appears throughout the Hebrew scriptures. In the Book of Deuteronomy, part of The Law, Moses says to the Israelites, on behalf of Yahweh, “Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset because he is poor and is counting on it…Do not deprive the alienor the fatherless of justice or take the cloak of widows as a pledge…(24:17) In the 15th chapter of that same book, it reads, “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardh

Quadruple combination opened to the Book of Is...
Image via Wikipedia

earted or tight-fisted toward your brother. Rather, be open-handed and freely lend him whatever he needs…”

In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet writes, “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord.

Jesus, the reason for Christianity, asks followers to take care of  “the least of these,” and says, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to  the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

None of what I just quoted seems to be in alignment with the principles of capitalism. The free market system is such that the acquisition of profit and possessions are the prize, the goal, often at the expense of the poor, who are exploited so that profit margins may be larger.

Indeed, the tension between government and labor seems to be partly because unions ostensibly work to protect the poor and the laborers, who would be mercilessly exploited without such protection. What capitalism aims for the the biggest gain for its buck. That in and of itself is not bad…but I am just not sure that it is in alignment with principles of Christianity.

I wrote a paper which I presented at Oxford University several years ago, saying that there seems to be a real tension for some American Christians between the Bible and the United States Constitution. Both documents are important, but they are used and manipulated in order to accommodate the desires of people at any given time, and for some, the Constitution is a document more worth defending and quoting than is the Bible.

Why? Because where the Bible admonishes followers of God to treat each other fairly and with dignity, the Constitution seems to make it OK to treat others the way one wants…because we have the freedom to do so.  The Bible talks about the way God works, giving, for example, the same amount of money to a person who has worked for one hour as to the person who has worked a full day. (Matthew 25) The Constitution, written to define and protect the idea of republicanism, wrote of the “inalienable rights” of people – but those people were primarily property owners, white male property owners, at that.

Capitalism, or the ideas of capitalism, were written into the Constitution, along with the omission of the need to treat all people fairly, including blacks, women, and whomever else might join the new republic. And so, at the outset, it seems that the Constitution was in direct conflict with the Holy Bible.

All that being said, it seems highly unlikely that the division between rich and poor will ever go away, no matter what the Bible says. There is resentment against the poor in this very Christian nation; the “victims” are too often blamed for their predicaments and the fact that this is a “free country” is thrown up in our faces as proof that “anybody” can make it. Hypothetically, that is true, but in reality, that is scarcely the case. And no amount of Christian mouthing off about the unfairness of capitalism is going to change that reality.

If Jesus were to visit this nation, this world, today, I wonder what He would say? So much of the world lives in abject poverty, while the rich squander money and scramble to make even more. The very rich make money and stash it, against Biblical principles, but perfectly in compliance with the working of capitalism. The poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed…are scorned, used, manipulated…and too often, forgotten.

It seems that capitalism is really held more dear to hearts than is Christianity, except in certain instances or as applies to certain issues…like contraception or homosexuality. The Bible is cast aside in its call for fairness, for example, as all-male Congressional committees listen to the conditions of women, or all-white juries serve in trials involving black and brown people.

As I watch and read, it just doesn’t seem that capitalism and Christianity are compatible; they work against each other. There is definitely an issue here. And it’s a serious one.

A candid observation …