TOBI BENTON

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

I’ve been hanging out in the book of Exodus for several days now.

I know, right?  Exodus.  Not the Gospels, or the Psalms, but the story of a people who have only ever known the hard life.  The never work enough hours to get ahead life.  A life of little gods with wealth, education, and power sitting on thrones, dividing people into different treasure piles like spoils of war.   Exodus begins as a story of a people oppressed with no hope for delivery.  In one way or another this is everyone’s story.

I think we were created with an innate desire for an unconquerable champion.  No matter what you wrap your head around as to how and why we exist, at the core of you is a child who wants a father good enough, strong enough, devoted and loving enough to stand between you and any enemy.  A father you know CAN. NEVER. FAIL.photo17photo8photo4IMG_1472

The people of Exodus couldn’t imagine a father this good.  How could they?  Family generations before them had done their best, trying to hold heads high while backs bent low in labor.  Authority figures confirming a person’s value was in what he had to offer, and once used up as dry as straw, a slave’s final offering was to become one with the mud.  An empire rising to new heights, one slave-brick at a time.

What we believe about who God is and how much we can trust Him ultimately comes from relationships, those with our parents and with authority figures in our lives.  And because every single person we relate with is a human being there can be no accurate reflection of how perfect our Heavenly Father is.  No matter how good your father and mother are.  No matter how badly they failed.

We are all Exodus people.

You’ve asked it.  Who is God?

And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.  – KJV

 God, God, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true—loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. Still, he doesn’t ignore sin. He holds sons and grandsons responsible for a father’s sins to the third and even fourth generation.  – The Message       Deut. 34:6,7

God’s not afraid of your question.  He’s not challenged by any character assault you may have by your beliefs.  I think He’s actually thrilled when we choose to follow him out of Egypt and into the proving grounds of the desert.  After all, many times the familiarity of what enslaves us is better than risking the unknown pains of freedom.  You and your grumbling ways of following Him, He’s just so happy you decided to come along.

Want a litmus test about what you believe?  Read the book of Exodus.  If you find yourself wondering how a people could have witnessed and experienced the miracles they did and then cry out for Egypt when they were hungry and thirsty, well that’s the place to stop and remember you struggle with bondage and belief as well.  The Israelites only knew a god who exploited them.  A pharaoh father who tried to kill them.  Maybe what they feared is what you fear?  That God delivers us from one kingdom to enslave us to His.  Evidence of the never get ahead in life we work so hard against.

But our God?  He doesn’t need you.

When Moses asked what shall I tell the people your name is God said I AM WHO I AM.  

I am merciful.  He doesn’t give us what we deserve.  This is compassion for the woman whose husband left her for another woman and new baby, whose teenaged sons turned her into the villain, and whose government said she could pay the high price of child support out of her $35,000 annual income.

I am grace.  He gives us what we don’t deserve.  This is filling that compassion with something tangible and life changing.  This is clearing out your spare room, buying beautiful new linens and pillows, packing her belongings in a little U-Haul trailer and setting her spot at your table until she can stand again.  This is helping her find a lawyer and make wise decisions, because it’s not your pain that has drawn the clouds dark and made things so hard to see.

I am long-suffering, steadfast in love and goodness, and faithful.  He stays with us until the end.  This is you.  Two years later.  2:00 AM conversations, shared family celebrations because she knows she belongs in your Christmas photo, and always, always pointing her towards hope.

I am forgiving.  Every wrongdoing, rebellious act, back-slide, and willful sin, these He forgives.  This is you, sending the bus fare after she is kicked out of a work program, telling her one year after she moved out that your home will be her home again.

I am just.  It’s the very last thing God says about Himself.  And for some reason it’s the very first thing we remember about Him.  Right?  He says He will punish our sin.  And we finally have Him caught, this God who professes great love and forgiveness can’t be any better than the Egyptian with a whip.  We don’t really care who God is.  The real question we live is why would we need this God?  Why God?  Because this is you.  Telling her she has two months to learn to stand again.  That she’s been given the tools to make wise decisions and you will stand with her until the end of time, but you won’t participate in her slavery.  You want her free and living the life she was created to live.

Holding the sons and grandsons responsible for the father’s sins even to the third and fourth generation, I AM proves He will go to any length to get Egypt out of us.  If your father isn’t willing to trust our God is only good then he is the one who will teach you to see pharaoh instead.  He will shape your world view.  He will be responsible for raising you in bondage.  This is what generational sin is.  Not the rebellion or selfish actions, but the distorted view of God we pass to the children.

Maybe why God? is the perfect question.  Why does he punish the sins of the fathers?  Because in His great mercy, compassion, everlasting grace and love He wants you out of Egypt and Egypt out of you.

So, I’m hanging out in Exodus.  Reading and re-reading the story of a people who didn’t know God and a God who promises to bring slaves out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.  Forever faithful to the oppressed.  This is our hope of delivery.

Amen, Favored One?  Amen.

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