Exodus Series
Speaker M.Noorhoff

How long would you remain faithful if you did not have a church to attend. If you were separated from your regular fellowship, your regular Christian friends? If you had no Bible to read. If you were persecuted, If you lost everything but the clothes on your back. If there was nothing holding you to God but faith alone? How long would you continue to see and feel his presence in your life?

 We talked about this a few years ago so I doubt anyone remembers but it is significant to what we are learning today so I will go through the story again.

 We are going to return now to Genesis and the time that fell between the time of Adam and Eve and Noah. The story starts with the two first brothers Cain and Abel and as you all know Cain killed his brother Abel because God accepted Abelfs sacrifice and not Cainfs. In many circles theologists and laymen alike have speculated as to exactly why Abelfs sacrifice was accepted over Cainfs.

Gen 4:5-7

5  So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6  Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?

7  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

 In some ways this is mirrored in the New Testament

Acts 5:1-10

1But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostlesf feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his ,wife not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.

And the poor woman who gave little but was praised for what she gave.

Luke 21:1-4

As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.

2  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.

3  "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others.

4  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

For God sees the heart and we should see our own poverty as all we have comes from Him

 Be a Cheerful Giver

1 Corinthians 9:7

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

 You see in this world today we would almost certainly put more value on Cainfs gift. Now there are several reasons speculated as to why Abelfs gift was recognized. One of course being that it was a blood sacrifice, Abel shed the blood of a lamb, this was to be the temporary treatment for man to cover him from his sin until Jesus the purest lamb of God was to be sacrificed on the cross for all manfs sins. This could not be the only reason for before the time of Noah, there were many animal sacrifices not to mention the barbaric sacrifice of children and young women. These though were not at all pleasing to God. In fact they were probably one of the reasons for his rage and wrath. So we have to turn to the heart

Gen 4:5-7

5  So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6  Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?

7  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."

 1 Corinthians 9:7

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

 Cain was a farmer and he toiled in the earth to raise crops but not too much because God later says he will make the earth hard

Gen 4:12

When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth."

Even still he turned the soil, he spent time in the field sowing and harvesting. Abel in the mean time was a shepherd who cared for sheep. Surely all the hard work Cain put in meant something. But no.

Cain came to believe that all his hard work meant something to God or at least as much to God as much as Cain thought it meant.

Abel though was different for he thanked God everyday for the pastures and the sheep. He knew his job was simply to care for them with everything God provided. His heart sang out about all that was good in his life came from God.

While Cain became self-reliant Abel remained God-reliant and thankful.

Cainfs offering surely came with the words gLook how much I worked for youh

Abelfs offering came with the words gI thank you for what you have given me and return to you the best of it and my thanksgiving.

In short Cain was a moaner He didnft master that sin at his door and Abel was a praiser.

 So Cain then killed Abel and when God punished Cain by taking away some of His blessings. Gen 4:12

He did this to show that Cain thought he had done himself was actually the work of God. He then cried out Gen 4:13

But God promises 1 Cor 10 13

 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

 God promised to always protect Cain or at least to take vengeance on anyone who would hurt him.

 But the generations after Cain had the mark of Cain and also grew self reliant self dependent forgetting about God and believing all blessings came from their own hard work.

 God hid his face from them. He continued to bless them (rain fall) but his presence and knowledge of himself were taken away or rather it was ignored by them. And thus they became ignorant of God.

God hid his face and they turned their face from Him. Cain turned His face from God

 But Noah was found to be faithful.

 There are times when God is silent and there are others when we simply can not hear him. We may be in the wrong position we may be in the wrong place. We may not expect to hear his voice. There may be times we ignore his voice

 We have just looked at times when God is silent because we have been unfaithful more particularly selfish Self reliant self dependent self focused so God went out of our focus. But there are other times when God holds back. It is often hard for us to distinguish. As Christians we must look clearly at this point to understand were we are personally. The more we sin the more we look at ourselves the harder it will be to look at the face of God the more we will actively try to ignore Him just as a child who knows that they have done something bad will try to ignore the parent.  We as parents can raise our voices but God prefers to wait He is so much more patient than I am.  When God seems distant you may fee that he is angry with you or disciplining you for some sin. Like I said sin does disconnect us from our relationship with God by quenching our fellowship by grieving the Holy Spirit but it is usually we who disconnect out of a feeling of guilt. There are times however that this feeling of abandonment has nothing to do with sin but is a test of faith. Will you continue to love, continue to follow, trust obey and worship even when you have no sense of His presence or visible evidence of his work in your life. 

 How can I explain this in a simple way? Often when our children our young and start to become selfish there will be a point where the child will refuse to go with you no matter how much you plead. Now you can yell and scream or you can drag the child along with great resistance or you can walk away al little and watch. I used to think this was cruel but I found out why so many do it. You tell the child you are going now and walk away. You then watch to see what the child will do a very stubborn child will not move but expect you to come back to him or her. A worse child will go the opposite way but most children once the feel the absence will try to look for and go to the parent. Of course the parent is not far away but just out of eyesight. Watching and waiting. God sees us and hears us but he is just out of our eyesight to see what we will do. The parent will let no harm come to the child but he will simply wait. Like I said God is very patient. The parent turns their face from the child but only in the childfs mind The child may feel the parent is a million miles away but it is really only a few meters. Have you ever felt this way with God. If so remember His promise.

I will never leave or forsake you. He has repeated it over and over again but we children often forget.

 This happens throughout the Old Testament and through this perhaps we can understand our own Exodus, journey better.

We see the same thing with Abram (Abraham) and His Wife Sarai (Sarah) The father of many nations for that is what his name means is childless. But he held to Godfs promise even though his wife lost faith Abram kept his. And God kept his promise.

 Just read through the Old Testament and you will find this over and over again. Those who were willing to go to find God those who did not give up those who were willing to move from where they are to where God is are rewarded greatly and realize God was there all the time.

 As the Hebrews were wandering God was always there behind each rock showing himself every once in a while but when the stubbornness reappeared he would move forward again out of their sight. Those that searched for Him always found him. But sometimes he seems distant

 Besides Jesus, David probably had the closest friendship with God of anyone. God took pleasure in calling him "a man after my own heart." Yet David frequently complained of God's apparent absence: "Lord, why are you standing aloof and far away? Why do you hide when I need you the most?' '{Why have you forsaken me? Why do you remain so distant? Why do you ignore my cries for help?"  "Why have you abandoned me?'

 Of course, God hadn't really left David, and he doesn't leave you. He has promised repeatedly, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

 Friendships are often tested by separation and silence; you are divided by physical distance or you are unable to talk. In your friendship with God, you won't always feel close to him. Philip Yancey has wisely noted, "Any relationship involves times of closeness and times of distance, and in a relationship with God, no matter how intimate, the pendulum will swing from one side to the other." That's when worship gets difficult.

 To mature your friendship, God will test it with periods of seeming separation-times when it feels as if he has abandoned or forgotten you. God feels a million miles away. St. John of the Cross referred to these days of spiritual dryness, doubt, and estrangement from God as "the dark night of the soul." Henri Nouwen called them "the ministry of absence." A. W. Tozer called them "the ministry of the night." Others refer to "the winter of the heart."

 But God has not promised "you will always feel my presence." In fact, God admits that sometimes he hides his face from us. There are times when he appears to be MIA, missing-in-action, in your life.  Floyd McClung describes it: "You wake up one morning and all your spiritual feelings are gone. You pray, but nothing happens. You rebuke the devil, but it doesn't change anything. You go through spiritual exercises... you have your friends pray for you... you confess every sin you can imagine, then go around asking forgiveness of everyone you know. You fast... still nothing. You begin to wonder how long this spiritual gloom might last. Days? Weeks? Months? Will it ever end.)... it feels as if your prayers simply bounce off the ceiling. In utter desperation, you cry out, 'What's the matter with me?

The truth is, there's nothing wrong with you! This is a normal part of the testing and maturing of your friendship with God. Every Christian goes through it at least once, and usually several times. It is painful and disconcerting, but it is absolutely vital for the development of your faith. Knowing this gave Job hope when he could not feel God's presence in his life. He said, ':I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him. I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I turn to the south, but I cannot find him. But he knows where I am going. And when he has tested me like gold in a fire, he will pronounce me innocent."

  When you are a baby Christian, God gives you a lot of confirming emotions and often answers the most immature, self-centered prayers-so you'll know he exists. But as you grow in faith, he will wean you of these dependencies.  God's omnipresence and the  manifestation of his presence are two different things. One is a fact; the other is often a feeling. God is always present, even when you are unaware of him, and his presence is  too profound to be measured by mere emotion.

  Yes, he wants you to sense his presence, but he's more concerned that you trust him than that you feel him. Faith, not feelings, pleases God.

 The situations that will stretch your faith most will be those times when life falls apart and God is nowhere to be found. This happened to Job. On a single day he lost everything-his family, his business, his health, and everything he owned. Most discouraging-for thirty-seven chapters, God said nothing!

 How do you praise God when you don't understand what's happening in your life and God is silent.) How do you stay connected in a crisis without communication? How do you keep your eyes on Jesus when they're full of tears? You do what Job did: "Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."

 Tell God exactly how you feel. Pour out your heart to God. Unload every emotion that you're feeling. Job did this when he said, "I can't be quiet! I am angry and bitter. I have to speak!" He cried out when God seemed distant: " Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God's intimate friendship blessed my house." God can handle your doubt, anger, fear, grief, confusion, and questions.

 Did you know that admitting your hopelessness, your poverty to God can be a statement of faith? Trusting God but feeling despair at the same time, David wrote, ":I believed, so I said, 'I am completely ruined!'" This sounds like a contradiction: I trust God, but I'm wiped out! David's frankness actually reveals deep faith: First, he believed in God. Second, he believed God would listen to his prayer. Third, he believed God would let him say what he felt and still love him.

 Focus on who God is-his unchanging nature. Regardless of circumstances and how you feel, hang on to God's unchanging character. Remind yourself what you know to be eternally true about God: He is good, he loves me, he is with me, he knows what I'm going through, he cares, and he has a good plan for my life. V. Raymond Edman said, "Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light."

 When Job's life fell apart, and God was silent, Job still found things he could praise God for:

That he is good and loving. Job 10:12

That he is all-powerful. Job 42:2 37:5 23

That he notices every detail of my life. Job 23:10 31:4

That he is in control. Job 34:13

That he has a plan for my life. Job 23:14

That he will save me. Job 19:25

 Trust God to keep his promises. During times of spiritual dryness you must patiently rely on the promises of God, not your emotions, and realize that he is taking you to a deeper level of maturity. A friendship based on emotion is shallow indeed.

 So don't be troubled by trouble. Circumstances cannot change the character of God. God's grace is still in full force; he is still for you, even when you don't feel it. In the absence of confirming circumstances, Job held on to God's Word. He said, "l have not departed from the commands of his lips, I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.