It was the second plague.
Because Pharaoh refused to let the children of Israel go, God caused the rivers to bring forth frogs. And they were everywhere – on the people, in their homes, on their beds, in their servants’ homes, in their ovens, and even in their food (dough).
But when Pharaoh had enough of this, he called for Moses and told him that if God would take the frogs away from him and his people, he would let the Israelites go. So, Moses did what he asked. He cried out to the Lord and prayed for Him to take the frogs away. Then, the Lord answered him and the frogs died.
But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not to them; as the Lord had said (Exodus 8:15).
Respite means a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant. During this plague as well as the others, Pharaoh would repent and ask for forgiveness. He would acknowledge his sin and he even called himself wicked and the Lord righteous at one point (Exodus 9:27). He would promise the Lord that if he took away his problems (plagues), that he would obey Him and let His people go.
But he didn’t mean it. He was just saying it to get out of his situation. As soon as God moved on his behalf because of Moses’ prayer, he got comfortable again, forgot about what he just went through, returned to his way of living and refused to let the Israelites go.
I know we all want this pandemic to be over. We want the children to return to school. We want to go back to the gym. We want to go to the movies. We want things to go back to the way they were.
But, like Pharaoh, are we only pleading with God so that this virus can stop and we can return to our daily routine or do we mean what we say?
Are we going to God in prayer because we want Him or because we want something from Him?
Are we complaining and murmuring like the Israelites about this current situation or are we giving thanks in it?
Just something to think about.
Difficult times don’t change who God is, but sometimes He allows things to happen to change us.
Who God is to you when everything is going right is who He is when everything is not going right in your life.
Despite how you may feel right now, He hasn’t changed how He feels about you or what He said about you.
He is still with you.
He is still good.
He still loves you.
He still cares for you.
And He will still do what He said.
For I am the Lord, I change not (Malachi 3:6).
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man that He should repent: has He said, and shall He not do it? or has He spoken and shall He not make it good (Numbers 23:19)?
God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM (Exodus 3:14).
Even though God has told me on three separate occasions that He was going to bless me with a husband, I got weary along the way. It’s been almost twelve years since my divorce and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever marry again.
Maybe God changed His mind.
Maybe you don’t deserve a husband.
Maybe the person God had for you married someone else.
That’s what the enemy was telling me.
I knew the last relationship I was involved in wasn’t going to last because he wasn’t what God described, but because I was tired of waiting and tired of being alone, I settled. I thought God had forgotten about me. I had become this woman that I didn’t like – desperate, begging for love and attention. To be in that relationship, I had to compromise, but what I was doing to please man wasn’t pleasing to God. I made sacrifices hoping to make someone happy, but when was I going to become a sacrifice to God? When was I going to make Him happy?
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1).
God said that if His people, who are called by His name, will humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways, then He will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and He will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). A lot of us want God to hear us when we pray, we want Him to forgive us and to heal us, but some of us only want to pray, but we don’t want to turn.
I repented to God for not trusting Him and for making a decision without consulting Him first.
Although that was good, it wasn’t enough. I had to also turn.
So I let Ishmael go so that what God promised (Isaac) can come.
I decided to go on a three-day fast a few weeks ago. I was hurting and crying. Depression was trying to creep in. I didn’t want to get out of bed and my attitude at work was horrible.
Nothing I tried helped and no one could help me, but I was reminded of what Jesus told his disciples. This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. I was desperate and willing to do whatever it took to get what I needed. That meant no food. No television. No social media. It was a fight, but I was tired of hearing my flesh, my wants and my desires and I wanted to hear God.
I usually pray throughout the day – standing, sitting down, lying down, walking, but this day I was lying prostrate on the floor, on my face, crying out to God, asking Him to help me. I didn’t pretend like everything was alright. I didn’t tell him what I normally tell my family and coworkers.
No, I got honest with God. I know He knows and sees everything, but I told him anyway. Then, I told him what I wanted Him to do for me and that I was giving him three days to do it. I know. That’s pretty bold, but that’s how God wants us to come before Him. Besides, a lot can happen in three days. Jesus is a great example of that.
Each day, God gave me scriptures to read. Here I was crying because I felt rejected, but God began to show me in the scriptures how I rejected Him. You see, any time you reject the truth, you reject Him . When I realized what I had done to Him, all I could do was cry, repent and ask for His forgiveness.
By the third day, the Lord said, I have done what you asked.
The following morning, the Lord said, Whatever you fight to get, you will have to fight to keep. God did what I asked. It was His job to give it, but it was my job to keep it.
This reminds me of the parable of the lost coin. That woman became so desperate to find her coin that she lit a candle and swept the whole house.
Sometimes we lose things because we don’t understand the value of what we have. Because she was diligently seeking it, she found it and when she found the coin, she acknowledged what she did. She didn’t blame anyone for this. I found the piece that I lost.
What that woman did was what I had to do to get back what I lost. I lost my joy because 1) I couldn’t see my value and 2) I couldn’t see the value in the words that God gave me. I stopped believing what He said and I didn’t trust Him like I should. I was acting like Esau – like I was going to die if God didn’t give me what I wanted now. But I forgot that God hated Esau (flesh).
Today, I’m so grateful for what God has done, but I’m asking the Holy Spirit to help me not to take what God did for me lightly or for granted – that I keep, protect and guard what He has given me because what He has given me is too valuable to lose.
If Jesus won’t lose all that the Father has given Him, then I shall not lose all that He’s given me.
[Scripture references: Matthew 17:21; Luke 15:8-10; Romans 9:13; John 6:39]
rebuild: to build something again after it has been damaged; repair; to return something to its original state
The Jews were imprisoned and enslaved for 70 years in Babylon. When they were led captive, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, burned and destroyed God’s temple, the walls and gates.
We’ve read and taught about the broken walls, but have you ever thought about the broken people who returned to Jerusalem after 70 years? The temple was later rebuilt, but the walls and gates were still in the same condition – broken down and burned. Because of this, the people were in great affliction and reproach (Nehemiah 1:3). These people were hurting. They were ashamed of the condition of their city. All they could see was devastation, loss, defeat, ruin, and rubbish.
I know it sounds like what they went through was bad, but it was actually for their good. You see, the reason why they were in captivity was because they disobeyed God. If you transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations (Nehemiah 1:8). But God didn’t leave them. He didn’t reject them. He just waited for them to turn back to Him (Nehemiah 1:9).
While enslaved in Babylon, I believe they realized how good God was to them – that He wasn’t unfair or hard (when compared to the Babylonians). They realized how much He loved them. They learned that it was better to do what He told them to do rather than to do what they wanted to do. What God allowed the Babylonians to do to them wasn’t to harm them, but to help them. Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good (Deuteronomy 8:5, NLT).
But before there was a rebuilding, there had to be repenting. Nehemiah confessed his sins and the sins of Israel (Nehemiah 1:5-11). He just didn’t tell the Lord ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘Forgive me’. He acknowledged what they did and admitted that it was wrong.
The people that returned to Jerusalem after captivity was called the remnant (Nehemiah 1:3). They were the ones that remained. They survived. Even though it didn’t feel good (the results of disobedience), they endured the chastening. Someone once said that if disobedience got you in the situation you’re in, then obedience can get you out. So true!
For years, I believed a certain way, I thought a certain way, and I behaved a certain way. Just like Eve, I knew what God said, but because what I heard sounded good and what I saw looked pleasant to the eyes, I disobeyed God. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they hid and sometimes we hide because we think that God doesn’t want to look at us anymore. We’re ashamed of ourselves and what we’ve done so we think God is mad at us or ashamed of us, but God says, If you return to Me, I’ll return to you.
I couldn’t see things clearly because of the walls (lies) that the enemy had built in my life, but every time I hear a sure word or receive revelation concerning something I’m dealing with now, the walls begin to fall. God is tearing down every belief, thought and lie of the enemy so that He can build me the way He wants me to be. Is not my word like as a fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces (Jeremiah 23:29)?
God wants to take away the old so He can give you something new – a new heart and a new spirit. He wants to remove the stubborn heart and replace it with an obedient heart (Ezekiel 36:26). Some have lost strength along the way and some have lost their trust and faith in God and in His word, but God is able to restore and rebuild those things, too.
Let God rebuild you so that you can help rebuild others.
This past Sunday, I got the opportunity to repent – not just to my pastors, but to the entire church for not being in my place.
I had some things in common with Hagar, Sarai’s handmaid (but not anymore). She was the one chosen to bear Sarai and Abram’s child. But after Hagar got pregnant, I think she started to smell herself. No, really. I think she either felt herself equal to Sarai (as she had become Abram’s wife to bear his child) or she thought she was better than Sarai because she was able to do something that Sarai wasn’t able to do, which was to carry Abram’s child.
She was blessed with such an honor to carry their child, but she forgot who she was. She forgot she was still Sarai’s handmaid. She became too familiar with her. Hagar’s problem was she no longer respected the anointing on Sarai’s life. She didn’t honor the woman of God.
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine (1 Timothy 5:17).
Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you (Hebrews 13:17).
Sarai was not some mere woman. When God spoke concerning Sarai, He said, ‘I will bless her and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her’ (Genesis 17:16). Hagar may have been the new wife, but Sarai was still the ‘first lady’.
Sarai didn’t like Hagar’s attitude and disrespect towards her so she told Abram about it. Abram, being the smart man he was, changed his name to Bennett. My name is Bennett and I ain’t in it. Just joking. But seriously, he told his wife that he was going to stay out of it, that she was her maid and this was between them.
When Sarai took matters into her own hands, Hagar ran away. I can only imagine what Hagar was thinking when she left. Who does she think she is? She can’t have no baby. I’m having his baby. They are going to need me before I need them.
But do you know what I loved most about this passage of scripture?
Abram didn’t run after Hagar to try to convince her to come back. Sarai didn’t run after her, crying and begging her to come back. I don’t know how long Hagar was in the wilderness, but I do know it was good for her to be there because there were some things in her that needed to die and where she was caused her to grow up. No one took her position or her place, but if she really wanted it – if she was really serious this time, she was going to have to return to the place she left and take it back.
One day, the angel of the Lord found Hagar in the wilderness and asked her two questions:
1) Where did you come from?
2) Where are you going?
She didn’t have a problem answering the first question, but she couldn’t answer the second question because she didn’t know what she was going to do. She didn’t have a plan because she ran from the plan that was created for her.
Now I know that Isaac was the plan and he was the promise of God, but when Sarai told her husband to marry her handmaid, Abram came in agreement with it and God honored it. (I didn’t say God liked her idea, but He honored it). At any time, God could have stopped this plan and He could have shut up Hagar’s womb, but He didn’t. He allowed it to be because that was what Sarai wanted.
By asking the above questions, the Lord wanted her to realize that she was going the wrong way – that she needed to change her direction. I don’t think Hagar wanted to remain in the wilderness, but she may have been too proud to go back. But God dealt with her. He spoke to her through an angel. Return to your mistress and submit yourself. What he was really saying was:
You were wrong, Hagar. Go back.
You were wrong, Hagar. Apologize.
You were wrong, Hagar. Make it right.
But maybe she was afraid. What was Sarai going to do to her once she returned? What were the people going to say? Would Abram and Sarai receive her back?
So, the angel gave her a word that gave her the confidence to go back. I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count (Genesis 16:10, AMP). That was God’s way of letting her know:
I see you (Genesis 16:13).
I haven’t forgotten you.
I didn’t leave you. You left Me.
You’re still a part of the plan.
I haven’t taken back what I gave you (Ishmael).
I will still use you.
I will bless you.
So, Hagar got back in her place and in her position and I’ve decided to do the same. Please know that repentance was just the first step. Even after Hagar returned to her mistress, there were things she had to do and there will be things that I will have to do because Hagar didn’t see what the angel said until she did what the angel said.
[Scripture reference: Genesis 16]
Jesus spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the dresser of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why cumber it the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Lord, let it alone this year also, until I dig about it and dung it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down” (Luke 13:6-9).
Like this tree, you were planted on purpose – for a purpose. The owner picked this tree, but he didn’t plant it. The dresser planted it for him and he was responsible for taking care of something that didn’t even belong to him. It belonged to another man. The bible doesn’t tell us how many times in three years the owner examined this tree, but he was a very patient man.
Just like God has expectations of us, this man had expectations of this tree. He expected it to produce fruit. So it was very disappointing to keep looking, but never finding any fruit on the tree especially when he knew what this tree was able and capable of producing. There should have been fruit by now. He, along with other people, needed what this tree could produce, but they never got the opportunity to eat from it and enjoy it.
When he picked this tree, he didn’t pick it for nothing. He didn’t pick it so that it could look good in his vineyard while taking up space. There was a reason why it existed yet it wasn’t fulfilling its purpose. So after three years of finding no fruit, he told the dresser to cut it down. He never called it useless. It just wasn’t useful. Cumber means to be in the way or to be idle or inactive. The tree was just taking up space, using up all the soil. He could be using that ground for something else.
But the dresser said, Lord, give it another chance. Yes, he interceded on behalf of the tree. Have mercy, Lord. Let me do this one thing. No one is saying that the dresser was lazy or that he wasn’t working, but sometimes what we’re doing is not productive. Either we’re not doing the right thing or what we are doing just isn’t enough. We can always do more.
Isn’t it interesting that the owner didn’t have to tell the dresser what to do? He already knew exactly what he had to do. Some of us know what we should do, but we don’t want to do it or we are afraid to do it or we don’t like change. To see change, that man had to change what he was doing. He had to do what he wasn’t doing before. That’s what repentance is. It is change. The dresser’s words revealed repentance, but his actions following his words revealed true repentance.
Every tree (believer) has leaves, but not every tree (believer) has fruit. Producing fruit is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but I’m examining my life and I know there should have been – not just fruit, but much fruit by now. I’m in my forties and I’ve been saved since I was a teenager, but this has nothing to do with age. This has everything to do with growth. Whether it’s the fruits of repentance or the fruit of the Spirit, someone should be able to see it, eat from it and enjoy or benefit from it. If we’re not bearing fruit, then that means there is something we are refusing to do during the process. It’s not the Dresser’s fault. It’s not the soil’s fault. We are the ones refusing to grow in certain areas of our lives.
But I thank God. Someone prayed for us. Someone didn’t give up on us. Someone didn’t leave us nor forsake us. Someone is pleading on our behalf. God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy and He chose to have mercy on us. He spared us. He gave us space to repent and He has given us grace to do this year what we haven’t done in past years.
God is longsuffering to us. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. So let us repent of laziness, procrastination, unfaithfulness and disobedience. The only time I hear believers talk about their assignment is when it comes to the church, but your assignment is beyond the four walls of the church building. The family God gave you is your assignment. That job God gave you is your assignment. That neighborhood or that city you live in is your assignment. God has given us many things and He is looking at how we are dressing and keeping what He gave us (Genesis 2:15).
Some of you may see yourself as the keeper of the vineyard and some of you might see yourself as the tree, but however you see yourself, do what you were placed on the ground or in the ground to do. This parable was really about repentance and I just want us to examine our lives, see where we’ve come short (not anyone else) and repent of our sins.
We will not be the tree that God cuts down, but we shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth fruit in season (and out of season). Our leaves shall not wither and whatsoever we do shall prosper (Psalm 1:3).