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Lesson 3: The Birdcage *

Introduction: Sometimes life gets discouraging. This past week I argued an important religious liberty case. The judge did not want to hear the argument that I had taken many hours to prepare. Instead, he wanted me to give "yes/no" answers to a series of questions that could only be harmful to my client. Worse, they involved potential defenses of the opposing party which it had never raised - and, in my opinion, were not properly a part of the case. Many people had been praying for me in this argument - and I considered it to be a disaster. Why is it that you do the right thing and disaster comes? Let's dive into the Bible and consider a story that illustrates this problem!

  1. Taking the Wrong Turn?

    1. You recall that God's people were in slavery in Egypt for hundreds of years. God, working through Moses and Aaron, forces the Egyptian Pharaoh to free God's people. Let's pick up the story by reading Exodus 13:17-18. What did God's people expect? (They expected that they might have to fight before they reached the promised land. They were armed for battle.)

      1. What did God expect? (He expected that His people might change their mind if they faced armed resistance. Thus, God seemed to adopt the strategy of avoiding battles.)

    2. Read Exodus 13:20-22. What gave the people confidence they were going in the correct direction?

      1. Do you wish that God would be as clear in His leading in your life?

    3. Read Exodus 14:5-9. God's people were ready for battle. Were they prepared to battle a force of this size and military sophistication?

      1. Does it seem odd to you that God would say that He was leading them to avoid war, and then allow the Egyptians to catch up with His people as they tried to escape?

    4. Read Exodus 14:10-12. Was God right in His prediction of how the people would react?

      1. Put yourself in the place of God's people. They have been following God's directions. God knew they could not stand against the Egyptians. Why did God allow this frightening thing to happen? Why did God allow them to think they would die?

      2. Read Exodus 14:13-14. Is this an answer to why God would allow this when He knew they were not up for the fight?

        1. Is this same answer applicable to us in our discouraging circumstances?

      1. Is this the entire answer to our question about why God would allow this - that the people needed to learn to trust God and let Him handle their battles? (Read Exodus 14:1-4 and Exodus 14:15-18. The main answer is that this difficult and frightening situation would give glory to God.)

        1. Consider this a moment: how many of your difficult and discouraging situations involve an attack on "your glory?" Not God's glory, but your glory?

        2. Are you comfortable with any resolution of a problem which brings glory to God?

          1. What if God's glory seems to come at the expense of you or your family?

    1. Let's re-read Exodus 14:13-14. If your primary goal in life is to bring glory to God, how would that affect your fear? How would it affect your discouragement? (Our attitude makes all the difference. If we know the goal of our life, and of every situation, is to bring glory to God, then we can feel comfortable with the outcome. Especially, in this situation we see that God promises them protection without having to fight!)

      1. Is God's willingness to fight, while His people "stand firm" and watch, a situation that applies only here? Or, does it apply to all of our problems in life? (This is the great thing about "God's glory." If it is God's glory which is at stake, and not your glory, then God is going to undertake the battle to protect His glory. If you would quit worrying about your glory, and let God fight the battle for His glory, your "nerves" would be a lot better. Your life would be more peaceful.)

  1. The Spectators of Faith

    1. Read Exodus 14:19-20. What parallel do you see for the solution to your current problems? (If we want to know God, He will give light for daily living. If we are hostile to God, we stay in darkness. The result is "neither went near the other." You are way ahead of the bad guys.)

    2. Read Exodus 14:21-22. In my new home, the main freeway dips into a tunnel under a huge waterway. One moment you are looking at the surface of the water, the next you are below the surface of the water. This tunnel is often jammed with traffic. When I was talking to a local person about this, she suggested that motorists were nervous about making "the plunge" below the surface of the water. What kind of feelings would you have if you were looking at a towering wall of water on each side of you?

      1. I painted a picture of God's people as spectators to this fight. Is that a fair picture? (Only as to the fight. They are required to "move forward." They are required to exercise faith in God.)

      2. Is our faith experience like theirs - that if we don't move forward, we can look forward to being captured by "the bad guys?"

        1. Should that equation be part of every faith decision?

    3. Read Exodus 14:23-25. Who do the Egyptians credit for their problems?

      1. Should we pray that our enemies will be "confused" and have the "wheels fall off" their endeavors?

    4. Read Exodus 14:26-28. The Egyptians are now "believers" ( Exodus 14:25). Why drown them? (Barnes' Notes points out that in every Egyptian monument Pharaoh is depicted as leading the army. He also points out that Psalms 136:15 says that Pharaoh died with his army. The total destruction of Pharaoh and the army meant that God's people would not be threatened by the power of Egypt in their journey to Canaan.)

      1. What does this suggest about the deliverance that God will ultimately bring to His people? (The wicked, even those who believe in God, will be totally and permanently destroyed.)

    5. Read Exodus 14:29-31. What made the difference between these verses and Exodus 14:10-12?

      1. What does this suggest is the reason for difficulties and discouraging times in your life? (When you see God's deliverance, it strengthens your faith and trust in Him!)

    6. Friend, in every problem, every discouraging event, we have the opportunity to place our faith in God and let Him fight the battle for His glory. If the battle is for our glory, we have picked the wrong battle! When the goal of our life is to promote the glory of God, then a sense of peace and confidence comes into our life knowing that God is "on the point" in the battle. Our job is to simply follow Him.

  2. Next week: Seeing the Goldsmith's Face.

* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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