When God speaks to Moses from the burning bush, he knows that Pharaoh will not let the Hebrews go “unless compelled by a mighty hand.” God has a series of signs and wonders in store for Egypt. There comes a point when Pharaoh would have been willing to let them go and we’re told that God hardened his heart, because he was not done demonstrating his power. It was all part of God’s plan.
I did not intend to preach a sermon featuring 9/11 on the 10th anniversary. I decided to use text from Genesis 15, when God met with Abram (not yet Abraham) and renewed his covenant to make of him a great nation. God explains that it will not happen right away; as a matter of fact it will not happen for another 400 years.
Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Gen. 15:13-14
God planned to bring the Hebrews out of Egypt hundreds of years ahead of time. Abram’s descendants would someday be innumerable, but at this point of the story he doesn’t even have one. God has ordained the events of history. He creates kings and kingdoms, that rise and fall in order to bring about his will. That’s when I realized the anniversary of 9/11 was staring me right in the face again. My attempts to avoid it were failing, so I gave in. Why fight what is obviously beyond my control?
God does not do surprised. He is not simply aware of events that affect our lives, he is in control of them. God allowed Egypt to form a powerful army and empire so that he could strike them down. The Egyptians, Hebrews, and every nation in the middle east would know what God had done. Jeremiah the prophet warned Jerusalem time and again that Babylon would cart everyone off into captivity and that after Israel had suffered enough God would judge Babylon for the evil done to his people.
Would God do that? Did he just use Egypt and Babylon to carry out his will, and toss them aside when he was finished with them? Consider that the earth and everything on it belong to God. More than that, he created the heavens and the earth, all that exists, and each of us. We are made in his image, and in a sense we are all God’s children. He creates kings and kingdoms, and has ordained the events of history according to his plan and all to achieve his specific purposes. Paul explains in Romans 9:
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh,“For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. -Rom 9:14-18
Recall a parable Jesus shares about a man hiring workers for his vineyard. This post is getting long so I’ll summarize: workers that had toiled many hours, during the heat of the day, expected to get paid more than those working only a few hours. All had agreed, at different times of the day, to work for a penny. First, the land owner pointed out he paid them what they agreed to work for. He met the stipulations of their oral contract. Secondly, he points out that he can do whatever he wishes with his own money. If he wants to be generous, he will do so.
We all deserve to burn in hell forever. Some of us have received grace, and so should be eternally grateful. We must not begrudge God for extending grace and mercy to others. Kings and kingdoms rise and fall, empires crumble, economies fail, and God is never surprised. In times like 9/11, or the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, or the stock market collapse of 1929, or the presidential election of 2012 (if Christ does not return there will be one) things to us seem so uncertain. They are not. God is quite certain everything will turn out according to plan. The best thing we can do is rest assured that his plans do not fail. If you think about it, there’s really nothing to worry about.
One final thought: Matthew 6:25-34 deals with being anxious about what the future holds. A little long to cut and paste here, but definitely appropriate.