There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,Psalm 86:8-13
nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
The first part of verse 8 is nearly identical to Exodus 15:11 which is the song of Moses immediately following the plagues, the parting of the sea and God delivering his chosen people from slavery. I don’t know that David was quoting that here, though it wouldn’t surprise me. But, for fun, let’s put ourselves into the story a little bit.
Imagine with me that you are Moses, and you have just witnessed the demonstration of the vast power of THE God of all creation. Specifically, you have just seen THE God of the universe attack and demolish 10 of the gods that the Egyptian people had worshipped. You have just seen God part the sea so you could walk through on dry ground and then close it up again to swallow up the entire Egyptian army. You’ve just seen God do so many things, and you stop for a moment and say: “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?”
Of course, we know that it doesn’t take long for things to go awry for these chosen people whom God had delivered. It doesn’t take long for them to revert back to worshipping one of those gods that THE God had defeated. And even when they decide to comply with God’s way of life for their community, they complain, whine and moan about Egypt.
Eventually, you (Moses) lead the people to the promised land and you send in 12 spies to see what you’re up against. 10 of the 12 come back and reveal their mindset, likely the same mindset as the majority of the Israelite community saying, “We were like grasshoppers in their eyes.”
Of course, you aren’t perfect either. You, Moses, lose your temper with the people who never seem to be able to trust God. And it’s that event that keeps you from being able to enter the promised land, seeing it only from a distance, a mountaintop away.
Now, back to our Psalm. David is the writer of this Psalm and he’s doing so many, many years after these events. He knows the wins and the losses, the successes and failures. He has some of his own of both. So, into the context of the verse: “There is none like you among the gods, O LORD” King David also brings “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.”
This is enlightening. Here, we can see what the problem was for the Israelites. They had spent 430 years in slavery. Whatever traditions they had from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were likely long forgotten. Maybe there were some remaining stories about father Abraham offering Isaac, and Jacob wrestling with God all night. But, having spent 430 years as slaves, and even though they desperately wanted their freedom, and even though they had been physically set free from the bondage of Egypt, they were still slaves to Egypt, even longing to return. They were slaves to the Egyptian way and were simply ignorant of God’s way. They may have wanted to walk in God’s truth, but their lives had been shaped for generation upon generation to think as slaves. They may have truly desired in their hearts to worship God alone, but their hearts had been divided by the idol worship of Egypt.
For most of my life, I thought of truth simply in terms of an idea or statement. As in, the opposite of that thing you do when you’re lying to someone. But, truth, as we discussed yesterday is so much more than an idea or the opposite of falsehood. It is that, but it’s much more than that. It’s reality versus fiction. More specifically it’s being aligned in the desires of our hearts, the obsessions of our mind, the identities of our soul and the ambitions of our capabilities with God’s reality.
David’s cry: “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” was precisely what the Israelites needed coming from Egypt, and it’s what we need today immersed in Egypt.
We are, by the way. We are immersed in Egypt. If you have a TV or a computer or a smartphone, chances are you’re immersed in Egypt. If you have all three, you (like me) are completely saturated with Egypt. Instead of being shaped by God’s truth to walk in his ways, our hearts are divided between THE God and the gods of our slave masters. And, like the Israelites, as much as we may want to be free of the idol worship of our oppressors. Numbers 11:4-6 recounts: “Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
Now, as much as I would like to get up on my soapbox and use this verse to illustrate that anyone who desires to eat onions is someone who desires to go back into slavery instead of worshipping God, we simply don’t have time for that. (Don’t get mad at me, it’s right there in the text!) What this text illustrates is that the Israelites were driven by their “strong cravings.” Specifically, they were being influenced by some among them who were driven by these strong cravings.
Man, if that isn’t true of the world that we live in today, you have my permission to slap me silly and shave off my beard. Sorry, I should have said ain’t. If that ain’t true of the world today, I don’t know what is. And yes, I know that’s not how that expression goes.
You see, that’s Egypt. That’s the slavery of Egypt – being at the mercy of our strong cravings. Being under the influence of others with strong cravings. Unless our cravings are trained in the way of God’s truth, which is a process not a present, no matter how much we may desire to live lives that are in alignment with God’s truth, we will constantly be drawn back to the old idols that are around us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Unlike the Israelites who had left the environment of Egypt, we’re still immersed in it. And if we don’t have a right understanding of what it means to live in alignment with God’s truth, we’ll fail every time.
David hits the nail on the head when he says, teach me your way, that I may walk in your truth. Walking in God’s truth is not about memorizing the right concepts, it’s learning an entirely different way of life. This is the heartbeat of this podcast and of my call as a pastor. Yes, truth in the form of ideas are vital. But, they are all but worthless without the rest of the framework that supports them.
While Egypt has hacked our desires and uses them against us on a continual basis to get more of the money we receive in exchange for the hours of our lives that we give, God’s process is entirely different. It’s all about desiring Him.
It’s responding to his steadfast love toward us with steadfast love toward Him. It’s uniting our heart with fear, worship, reverence, awe and respect for Him. It’s giving thanks to God with our whole heart. Yes, giving thanks for who He is and what He has done for us. But even more than that, it’s just simply thanking God for God. It is glorifying His name forever instead of seeking to make much of our name.
Our culture runs contrary to the truth of God’s reality. Our culture is obsessed with division right now. We may be the most divided as at any point in our history. That’s the culture of Egypt, not Heaven. Our culture doesn’t give thanks it seeks it out. We don’t want to be thankful we want to be thanked, appreciated, honored and noticed. That’s the culture of Egypt, not Heaven. Our culture could never glorify God because giving glory requires humility and our culture celebrates pride and hubris. That’s the culture of Egypt, not Heaven.
Yesterday, I asked if you were aligned with God’s truth. Are you true? We also have to ask ourselves, are we true with Egypt? Are we more in alignment with God’s truth, with God’s reality or are we more in alignment with the reality of our oppressors?
To be aligned with culture is to be aligned with the manmade idols that are worshiped today of pride, preference and position. Alignment with these is slavery and oppression. We think we are getting what we want by fulfilling our strong cravings, but what is really happening is we keep adding shackles to our soul, longing to receive a new identity in Christ but unable to shake free from the identities being thrust upon us by this dark world.
What is the way out? Jesus. But, maybe not Jesus like you are used to thinking. Yes, Jesus is the prince of Egypt that sets us free from bondage.
And yes, Jesus is Moses leading us out of slavery into the wilderness. Here is where we find the fork in the road, the wilderness. To the left we have the option of the Israelites who’s strong cravings kept leading them away from THE God, back to idol worship and resulted in circling the wilderness for 40 years. To the right, we have the Jesus option. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and praying. Where the Israelites could not deny their hunger and grumbled and complained until God gave them what they wanted, Jesus denying his flesh, feasted on the food that was available to Him to eat that the disciples knew nothing about.
As Robert Frost has said: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Do we take the well-travelled path and allow ourselves to be driven by our strong cravings, playing the role of pawns in the schemes of the oppressors of our society; or, do we take the Jesus road, deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.
He said He is the way, the truth and the life for a reason. The only way to experience the life of Jesus is to become the reality of Jesus. The only way to become the reality of Jesus is to follow Jesus into his death. Following Jesus is as much methodical as it is mystical. Yes, there are unknowns, depths of our salvation that are beyond our understanding. That’s the mystical part. But there are things we know. And when we walk in his footsteps, when we methodically put our feet where His feet walked, we give him the space and access in our lives to do the more mystical work of transforming us, even to the point of transforming our desires and cravings
The way of Jesus is the only way out of Egypt. Which road are you going to choose?