Throughout Scripture, we see God using people who have tragic beginnings to bring about His plans. I was recently reminded that God uses us in spite of (or even because of) our pasts. You can find this story in the Book of Exodus, but the very short version goes something like this:
Moses was born an Israelite, adopted by an Egyptian Princess, murdered an Egyptian who was abusing an Israelite, was exiled to live the end of his life as a shepherd. Then God called Moses to service. God chose Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Pharaoh realizes that he has freed his workforce, and sends all his armies after them. The Israelites find themselves trapped in the wilderness between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army and they cry out for help…
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” Exodus 14:15-18 (NIV)
If the rod Moses carried was his shepherd’s staff, and many believe it was, then it represented his failure, his exile, and his fall from “Prince of Egypt” to “shepherd”. Satan would love for us to believe that our past makes us weak and useless to God. It is as if God said to Moses (and me….and you), “Give me your weakness, your failure, your brokenness and I’ll use it for my glory.”
And God did get the glory.
Moses was obedient. God parted the Red Sea. The Israelites walked across on dry ground, and…
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. Exodus 14:26-28 (NIV)
I love this story for so many reasons, but today I am left absolutely breathless that God of all Creation would take time to remind Moses (and me…and you) that He can (and will) use us despite our pasts.
He didn’t cover up Moses’s past or overlook it. He told Moses, “Raise your staff and stretch out your hand…”
What does your staff represent? What past sin came to mind when you started reading this? Is Satan using it against you? Are you hiding it, hoping that no one will know your history? Are you hoping it will be overlooked or forgotten about? Are you believing Satan’s lie that your past makes you weak and therefore useless to God?
Are you trusting God with your past, knowing that HE will use it for HIS glory?
Our past reminds us of our weakness; that weakness reminds us of our need to depend on Christ and it is in complete dependence on Christ that we find our strength. Finally, it is THAT strength, the strength that comes from complete dependence on Christ, that brings God glory.
It is my prayer that we come to understand our weakness as Paul did…
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:7b-9 (NIV)