Of Dead Hamsters and Precious Lambs

Pine Lake, GA

From Exodus 11-12

“Because the Lord kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the Lord for the generations to come.” Exodus 11:42

We came home Tuesday evening after an afternoon in the park with good friends, a short trip to a nearby lake and beautiful sunset and as we walked in the door she did what she always does: ran to the hamster cage. I heard her say, “Oh look, Robert’s laid out all flat and just sleeping…Mommy, I think Robert’s dead!” I rushed over to the cage and his little brown eyes were opening and closing slowly. It happened in the three to four hours we had been gone from the house. Some of the wood chips surrounding his body were bloody, so I feared the worst and the only one I could suspect was our other hamster, Lucy. They nipped at each other on a fairly consistent basis, but I don’t know how this last time went down, I only know that Little A was hysterical and I told her to take Lucy into her room for a few minutes.

I called my parents. Having raised about a million hamsters growing up, my dad is the resident expert on said rodent behavior. I couldn’t get them, so, just like every day of these past six years, this one came with its own challenge…I picked him up and turned him over, the bleeding was coming from his lower abdomen, and poor thing, he was heaving for breath. I stood there and prayed. I prayed for a miracle and thought, “Lord, don’t let this little guys suffer.” He took about 4 more big breaths and that was it. I wrapped him up in tissues and placed him in a shoe box and closed the lid.

Being true apartment dwellers for years now, we own no shovel and had gotten rid of our garden spade somewhere along the way, for at least a little while Robert would be under the bag of salmon in the freezer. Little A sobbed. My heart ached for her, she said, “We only had him for 5 months!”

Wring my heart out, Little One.

And so this week’s study on Pharaoh and Moses and these people who had been slaves for 430 years continued, this time with loss and preparation. This is the loss of the one and only homeland they had ever known. One ruled by an oppressor so fierce and stone-hearted, that he was ready let his own son die at the expense of his stubborness…it was here that God began to give instructions, as part of the Passover, the time commemorating that God would indeed spare his people of the last, most devastating plague of the death of all the first-born in all the land. But it required the shedding of blood. The blood of something perfect, spotless, whole.

It was specified (Exodus 12:5-6):

-the lamb was to be a year old

-without spot or defect

-they are to take it in on the 10th day of the month, but aren’t allowed to slaughter it until the 14th–why? My commentary says so that they could make sure it was genuinely without defect, but someone shared in our class that she read it was because in this time it would become precious. I certainly don’t know what kind of bond can be formed in a matter of four days, but I looked at one way that Webster defined this word: too valuable or important to be wasted or used carelessly.

The selection, care and preparation of this animal were some of the first instructions that God gave to the Israelites. It must have been seen so foreign, but if this was the same God that had brought all these plagues that the Hebrews had not only experienced and by His very hand spared, then they knew it was in their best interest to obey. They were told to cook this lamb thoroughly, share with other families if the portions were too big, prepare with bitter herbs, and burn up whatever was left. They were to eat it with sandals on their feet and cloaks on in preparation for a journey that would take much, much longer than any of them anticipated.

When I think of “precious,” I think of first-borns and I think of the relatively small amount of pain that I had to see my daughter experience this week in the loss of something dear to her and I think of the magnitude of the Father’s love for us to give His precious son.

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross
My guilt upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no powr’s, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

©1995 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music
Words and Music by Stuart Townend

When It Feels Like the Whole Free World Is Against You

Sunset

From Exodus 5-7

Chapter 5 of Exodus begins with tough times for Moses: after his initial request to Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to go out to the desert to worship their God and his blatant refusal, the Israelites are ordered to make bricks without straw and retain their daily quota. The task proves to be impossible.  Fingers are pointed, who’s to blame here?  Moses gets it on every side, the foremen come to him, as do the Israelites, everyone is either discouraged, angry or overworked, some, all three. The chapter closes with Moses asking God, “Why?”  What then, enabled Moses to stand firm and keep going–what fortified him to obey God and charge through these proverbial bricks walls?  Nothing was working out as planned, in fact, things had gotten way worse, so what then, helped Moses to stand firm throughout this process to free God’s chosen people?

1) A Constant Reassurance from God that He Would Do What He Said:

Exodus 6:1 “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country…I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and Jacob as God Almighty…I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.” And here, in the following verses are the words that this thirsty soul, for one, longs to hear. Because it is here that the Great I AM also becomes the great I WILL:

I will bring you out from the yoke of the Egyptians

I will free you from being slaves to them

I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgement

I will take you as my own people

I will be your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians

I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob

I will give it to you as a possession

I am the Lord

2) Supportive Friends and Family–You see, Aaron would be a constant companion to Moses throughout his lifetime, this wasn’t just a man who would do the public speaking for Moses. Yes, this public speaking thing was a plus and this was why Moses originally asked for help, but Aaron would become a rock for Moses. We see in 5:20, that the foremen found Moses and Aaron, again, in Chapter 7:1, God compares Moses to himself (imagine!) and Aaron as his prophet, that Aaron would listen and do just as Moses commanded him. Who’s in your corner? Listen to them, love them, respect them and above all else value them as someone God has placed in your life to help you accomplish His purposes.

3) Knowledge that It Doesn’t Take a Perfect Pedigree, Just a Willing Heart: It’s interesting to see that there is a lengthy side note going on in Exodus 6: 13-25, what may seem like a bunch of names and numbers is extremely important. We’ve seen throughout the book of Genesis how significant birth order was in a family, being the firstborn in a family meant being the recipient of so many rights and privileges: a father’s birthright, blessing and inheritance. We’ve also seen the devastating consequences when that order is upset by sin as in the story of Jacob of Esau, however, these verses point out that Moses’ family was no where cut and dry privileged, in fact, not a single person in his close bloodline was a firstborn, and yet here he was, hand-picked by God to save his chosen people.

4) A God that Helped Him Take Baby Steps: What were these baby steps? Notice that when Moses initially went to Pharaoh, he did not immediately ask for his people’s release, he began with a more reasonable request: 5:1b: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness. Of course Pharaoh says “no.” He reasons, “I do not know this God, nor will I let these people go.”   But this wasn’t Moses’ first step of faith…

Leave the life you knew for 40 years, travel with your family to a place where you know you will find trouble and all kinds of heartache, all because God was asking you to? Check.

Prepare for your meeting with a mighty, godless leader by witnessing God turn a staff into a snake, your own hand leprous and then healthy again and watch water turn to blood before your very eyes? Knowing that you will have to perform these same signs in front of said godless leader? Check.

Stand up to the leader of the most powerful nation in the world? Check.

None.Of.These.Steps.Were.Easy. But they were necessary. Friends, God didn’t place us on this earth to do the easy stuff. He didn’t. He placed us here to reflect his glory and to do his work, sometimes it’s as “easy” as living a life of integrity, however, other times it’s going to mean a huge leap of faith. Just know that the Great I WILL will never leave.