Tag Archives: Moses

When You’re Beat…

“It isn’t over until the fat lady sings.” Those words are usually uttered by someone who’s behind in a game and is hoping for a comeback. But I want to use it in a little different way.

Back in the days when I was coaching soccer I had an interesting experience. I was coaching my oldest sons’ team. We knew our next game was against a good team, and their best player had played for us the previous year. He was really good and our guys really liked him. So their talk during practice was all about him – they were looking forward to playing him and were taking it as a personal challenge. So I decided that rather than avoid him during the game it would be best for us to go straight at him, to put our best people against him, to put our strength against their strength. If the guys were going to be watching his every move anyway, why not focus on him?

Game day rolled around and we beat them; he never scored. Our team had fun. The fat lady was singing. As soon as the game was over I headed to the other coach for the obligatory hand shake. As we shook he said something to the effect of “I don’t know why you focused so much on him and ran everything against him; you should have kept the play away from him so he wouldn’t have had as much of a chance to do some damage.” I was stunned. My first thought was “Let me get this straight. You just lost, we just won, he didn’t do any damage yet you’re telling me how I should have coached the game. What’s wrong with this picture?” My second (and admittedly probably prideful) thought was “Does the losing coach really have the right to tell the winning coach how to coach?  When you’ve just been beat do you have the credentials to talk about winning strategies? I don’t think so.”

Reflecting on it later I wondered “When you’re beat, do you have the right to tell the fat lady how to sing?” It made me think of Moses. God appeared in that burning bush and told Moses the game with Egypt was over, that God had won – and it would be up to Moses to follow through. Moses must have missed the part about the game being over. He still wanted to change the strategy. Moses should have known that when God speaks, it’s over. You’re done. He will have His way. But he kept trying to get out of leading (see his excuses in Exodus 3 & 4). He just didn’t like the song God was singing. But Moses didn’t have the right to tell God how to sing. Moses hadn’t yet heard “When you’re beat, you don’t have the right to tell the fat lady how to sing.”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not condemning Moses. In fact, I love him. I’ve used every one of his excuses, more than once, during my life. I, too, have tried to negotiate with God, to change the strategy after the game was over and the die had been cast. And I do know that when God speaks, it’s over; I’m done. He will have His way. But I try to tell him how to sing anyway. Yet I don’t have the right to tell God how to sing. For that matter, who does? Isaiah wrote “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘He did not make me?’ Can the pot say of the potter ‘He knows nothing?’” (Is. 29:16) Paul picked up that theme as well (Romans 9:20-21) “But who are you, oh man, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?”

When God calls, when God commands, when God directs, when God sends us… we’re beat. And “When you’re beat, you don’t have the right to tell the fat lady how to sing.” When life seems unfair or unjust, when we feel like God should treat us differently or change our circumstances to our liking, remember “When you’re beat, you don’t have the right to tell the fat lady how to sing.” As Paul concluded his thoughts he wrote (Romans 9:22-24), “What if God…did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy…?” Do we really want Him to change His plan so we can miss the mercy?  I don’t think so. So “When you’re beat, you don’t have the right to tell the fat lady how to sing.”

Precious Promises

She was our neighbor and a member of the youth group. She was also our occasional great baby sitter. I had been her youth pastor for about a year. I’ve forgotten the substance of our conversation but I remember her expressing concern that I would move to another church before she graduated from high school. I also remember telling her not to worry, that I would certainly be around for her graduation in a couple of years. A year later I took a call to another church in another state. She looked at me with her sad eyes and said, “You promised you’d be here for my graduation.” What could I say – she was right and we were both feeling pain. I broke a precious promise. And when I did that her trust was shaken.

Perhaps that’s why I am drawn to Moses encounter with God at the burning bush. Moses wanted a guarantee, a word of assurance that he could show to the people, that God could be trusted. (Exodus 3:67-9) God responded, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (I am the God who was present with your people in the past.) “At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians…” (I am the God who is present with you now.) “… and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey-the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (I am the God who will be present with you in the future.) I am the God who has never let you down. I am the God who has never failed to deliver on my word. I am the God who is faithful to all my promises.

God is both a promise-maker and a promise-keeper. In fact, God has made a promise to be faithful to His covenant. We see it in His call to Abraham – God called him to leave everything he knew and had and head for a place he had never seen – all because God wanted to build a great nation through him. That’s all Abraham had – the promise, the word of God. But he discovered that God delivers on his word – from Abraham, a nation was born. And Moses was called to go face to face and toe to toe with Pharaoh – all because God wanted to rescue Israel from slavery. That’s all Moses had – the promise, the word of God. But he, too, discovered that God delivers on His word – for Israel was set free.

Centuries later, when it seemed as if maybe God had forgotten His promise to send a deliverer, the man named Jesus marched to a cross, shed His blood, was laid in a tomb, but rose again! God’s people – you and I – were set free! God delivers on His word. God is the ultimate Promise-Keeper! On His word, and His word alone, we are free to love and serve – because the future is guaranteed. As the Apostle Peter later wrote (2 Pt. 3:13): “According to his promise, we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth where everything will work right.” We are free to be faithful to our word.

God wants us to be covenant makers not contract makers. A contract states what each party promises to do – you do this and I will do this. But if either party breaks the contract it is null and void. A covenant states what one party promises to do, no matter what. When we are covenant promise makers and keepers, we are like God!

Just imagine what being faithful covenant makers and promise keepers would mean – in our marriages, our families, our schools, our workplaces, our halls of government, our churches. What if, in our marriages, families, schools, workplaces, government, and churches we truly promised, “I am the one who will be there for you” instead of “I will be there for you as long as you provide me with all the satisfaction I have coming?” To be like God is to keep our promises even when we are not getting what we want or deserve. Thomas Carlysle, near the end of his monumental history of the French Revolution, concluded that the revolution failed, not because of corruption in high places, but because ordinary people in their ordinary places neglected to keep their promises. Lewis Smedes wrote, “If we do not keep our promises, what was once a human community turns into a combat zone of (self-centeredness.)” We are free to be difference makers – we can keep our word because God has kept His.

What if you really trusted God? What would your life look like? What would you do if you really trusted God – truly believed that He is with you? What would you do if you really believed that God is – that He makes things happen, that He is the answer to all your needs? What would you do if you truly believed that God was faithful to His word? What promise would you claim? Are you willing to trust God? A little boy was walking down the beach, and as he did, he spied a matronly woman sitting under a beach umbrella on the sand. He walked up to her an asked, “Are you a Christian??” “Yes.” “Do you read your Bible every day?” “Yes.” “Do you pray often?” the boy asked next. And again she answered, “Yes.” With that the little boy asked his final question, “Will you hold my quarter while I go swimming?” What quarters do you need to give to God as you head back out into the waters of life? I invite you to establish your trust in Jesus. Lay before Him your needs, your fears, your challenges, your dreams. Give Him your quarters – whatever they may be. For you can trust Him!