Blessed are the Troublemakers

Scripture Focus: Exodus 10.28-29
28 Pharaoh said to Moses, “Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.” 
29 “Just as you say,” Moses replied. “I will never appear before you again.”

Reflection: Blessed are the Troublemakers
By John Tillman

The Pharaoh of Joseph’s day had been personally blessed and prayed for by Israel himself. While Israel’s children lived there, Egypt enjoyed the blessings of God and was a channel of God’s blessing to the world.

Any nation that simply allows God’s people to flourish can be so blessed. Even the evil nations of Assyria and Babylon, when they acknowledged the God of the Hebrews among them, were blessed. But any nation, even the nation of Israel or a nation calling itself a “Christian Nation,” can become a nation of cursings instead of blessings. 

Moses’s Pharaoh treated him like an irritant. From a certain perspective, it’s understandable. Moses was demanding. He inconvenienced the privileged life to which Egypt was accustomed. He destroyed the peace. He disrupted the economy. He upended the established order. Pharaoh considered him a troublemaker. 

But Moses was not a troublemaker in Egypt any more than Elijah was a troublemaker in Ahab’s Israel. (1 Kings 18.16-18) In both countries, prophets brought correction through words, demands, and demonstrations of power. It was the leaders who were the troublemakers and made decisions that led toward certain disasters.  

Reading the progression of the plagues and the responses of Pharaoh is like watching a classic tragedy, like Macbeth. He makes horrible choice after choice after choice. We don’t understand how, in the face of so much evidence of God’s power, Pharaoh could still stiffen his neck, harden his heart, and refuse to give in.

Every time we have “trouble” it doesn’t mean God is displeased with us. Sometimes, as Moses did, we will experience “good trouble” when we are doing the right thing. But it is always good to pause and consider if we are “going Pharaoh.”

Moses was a visitation of grace, an opportunity for change. Pharaoh rejected it. Even his leaders realized that Egypt was falling to ruin but he wouldn’t give in to them either. (Exodus 10.7)

We don’t have to look far in the news headlines to see autocratic leaders, bringing their countries to ruin by stubbornly refusing to abandon foolish directions. We don’t have to look far in our own hearts to find moments we resist or resent calls for change that God puts in our path.

Blessed are the troublemakers who demand justice. We should have the humility not to treat them as irritants, but consider whether the source of trouble might instead be our own hearts.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
Open, Lord, my eyes that I may see.
Open, Lord, my ears that I may hear.
Open, Lord, my heart and my mind that I may understand.
So shall I turn to you and be healed.

Today’s Readings
Exodus 10 (Listen 4:44
Matthew 21 (Listen 7:10)

Read more about The Ram and the Cornerstone
He rammed his teaching into the foundations of the religious leaders’ security and pride, knowing what their violent response would be.

Read more about Ahab and David
Rather than the friendly relationship David had with God and his prophets, Ahab considers Elijah his “enemy.”

Suffering and Sin

Luke 13.2-5
“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Reflection: Suffering and Sin
By John Tillman

Jesus taught his disciples that they were wrong about tragedy and wrong about sin. His words don’t at first seem comforting. 

“Repent or perish,” he says. It’s not that “they” were sinful, it is that “all” are sinful.

We don’t suffer for sins. We suffer in sin.

The disciples had a hard time letting go of the cultural idea that people who suffered were suffering because of their own sin. So do we. 

We cling to this idea today because we feel less responsible for problems in the world when we can believe that only the lazy are poor, only the promiscuous are in danger of sexual assault or disease, only hedonists become addicts, and only nihilists suffer depression or have suicidal thoughts.

Our culture prefers to explain sin and suffering by pointing the finger at individuals. We prefer to believe that people are basically good and that evil is an aberration. Scripture offers a more realistic truth—that there is no one righteous. No not one. 

Our culture also is ill equipped to deal with suffering or death. When the only joys one acknowledges are limited to this life, anything that shortens life or even makes life less comfortable is evil. 

But Jesus wasn’t threatening earthly death or suffering. Earthly suffering or death holds no terror for those holding on to Christ and his cross. Our fear of death and suffering is directly related to how tightly we are clinging to things of this world for our hope.

When it comes to sin, we like to picture ourselves occasionally getting splashed with it as if we were on the shore of the ocean. But a better analogy is that we are drowning, forty fathoms deep in sin. Every part of us is soaked and our lungs are being crushed by the pressure of sin’s weight.

Our hope is not that others more sinful than us will attract God’s wrath and allow us to live comfortably in this life. Rather, there is a sinless one who chose to suffer on our behalf and who grants us his righteousness. He lifts us from the depths and no matter our sufferings in this life, offers us a new and restored life in him. 

Whatever tragedies we face, we can do so with a partner in Christ, setting our face toward our Jerusalem of suffering, knowing that Christ will walk with us every step.

Prayer: A Reading
He was telling them, “The Son of man will be delivered into the power of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him. — Mark 9.30-32

Today’s Readings
Exodus10 (Listen – 4:44) 
Luke 13 (Listen – 5:02)

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Read more about Meaning In Suffering
In secular culture the meaning of life is to be free to choose what makes you happy in this life. Suffering destroys that meaning. — Tim Keller

Read more about Light and Dark and Joy :: Joy of Advent
When the disciples and religious leaders saw the man born blind, they saw only sin. Jesus saw God’s glory.