This week our children have been learning a phrase at Vacation Bible School that I love for them to be hearing from such a young age: “Always Be Ready”. There are so many cases in the Scriptures when God tells someone (or someones) to pick up and go, often without them knowing exactly where they are headed or what to expect. That was certainly true in the book of Exodus, and in particular on the night of the Passover.
On the night of the first Passover, God commanded the Hebrews to slaughter and eat a spotless male lamb from their flock, no less than one-year-old. God gave them specific instructions for how to prepare the lamb, eat the lamb, and to smear its blood on the door-frames of their houses so that the Angel of Death would “pass over” them. After God gave the instructions for the lamb, He told them how He wanted them to dress as they ate.
Exodus 12:11: This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
Be dressed and ready to travel. Cloak tucked in, belt censured tight, sandals strapped on your feet, and staff in hand. Eat quickly, because tonight you will need to travel light and fast. On this night the Israelites did not have much opportunity to count the cost. If they wanted to survive and make it to their destination along with Moses and Aaron, they had to leave everything behind. Indeed they only had each other, the clothes on their backs, and their equipment for travel.
I don’t know about you, but for me to pick up and go on a moment’s notice would involve a great deal of counting costs, difficult decisions, and de-cluttering of my life. Many of us would love to believe we are willing to pick up and go whenever God says; but many of us also could not because of how tied down we are.
When I was in seminary in Ft Worth, I was always moved by the annual “missionary yard sales”. Each semester individuals and families who had committed their lives to the international mission field would literally sell almost everything they owned in order to raise money for missions since, of course, they would not be taking those things with them. All their stuff. Gone.
Would you pick up and go if God called? Could you? If your life is anything like mine, these are some things that would likely be major factors in responding to God’s call:
- Relationships. Even the most important relationships in our lives (our spouse, our children, our closest family and friends) cannot replace a healthy and obedient relationship with God. No human being can “complete” another human being, and no relationship is meant to be more significant than our relationship with God. The amazing thing about being obedient to God is that His calling on our lives will actually make our other relationships more fulfilled and more alive.
- Goals. Setting goals is a good thing. I consider myself a very goal-oriented person and goals help keep me driven and focused. We all need set physical, personal, professional, relational, and spiritual goals. On the other hand, if we set our goals without consulting God, we are likely to find ourselves achieving goals and resetting new ones that are steadily moving us away from His best. Sometimes our goals become so entrenched that they are almost completely immovable, even by God Himself.
- Status. The biggest problem with trying to gain status is that we focus on the wrong economy. In God’s economy, status is achieved by being the least and serving the most. In God’s economy our identity is found in Christ and what He has done for us, not in what we do for ourselves. In our culture’s economy, status often comes at the expense of others and even at the expense of ourselves.
- Activities. We live in a culture that offers and expects more than we can possibly sustain. The busyness of our work lives, family lives, and extracurricular lives can often rob us not only of the time we need with God, but also of the time necessary to even enjoy the things we have and do. Many of our activities are both healthy and enjoyable, and there is nothing wrong with them. Unless they force us to put our needed time with God on the back burner and prevent us from being able to GO and DO when He leads us. Being busier doesn’t mean we are more important or living fuller lives. It can actually mean the opposite.
- Stuff. If there is one thing about which the Bible is clear time and time again, it is that the love of money and the love of earthly things cannot fulfill us. Putting our trust in material things can actually destroy us. The thing about “stuff” is that material things are actually a form of grace. We call them “common grace,” and God has given us the ability to eat, drink, love, explore, work, play, own, sell, and utilize for enjoyment. We run into problems when we place our focus and trust in the results of common grace as opposed to the Giver of grace.
Always be ready. This can be hard for churches too. The thing that always amazes me about the Early Church in Acts and in the Epistles is how “light and fast” they traveled. They had few if any concerns about buildings, committees, and alliances. The Church was all too willing to take on buildings and political power in the later years of the Roman Empire, but early on these things were not an option. Neither were they an obstacle. As I have spent time with church planters around the world who are in the beginning stages of their churches’ existences, they too seem to travel light and fast. But they too are often all too willing to take on the added pressures and obligations of buildings, committees, and alliances. These things are not bad in and of themselves, but they can easily become reasons to not obey God’s call and too costly to give up.
Would we go? Probably. Could we go? That is a harder question. But God’s commands to the Israelites on the night of the first Passover were not only a one time thing. After reading Exodus 12:11 above, does it make you read this familiar passage differently?
Ephesians 6:13-17: Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.