Text: Proverbs 3:5-6, Ruth 1:1-5, Jeremiah 10:23
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Our lives each day is full of decision making and most of these decisions are borne out of impulse. We decide to eat bread this morning because we woke up tasty of brad, or maybe we planned to eat it. Others may decide to eat rice because someone suggested we should eat rice. You see that sometimes we make decisions based on what people say about us. What about you deciding to read law, or medicine or engineering or science or what have you because someone just said they are lucrative courses and boom you jump into it. What about business decisions; do you start a business because you heard that the business is lucrative, and people have been doing well in that business?
Ever since that initial decision by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, people have been faced with the challenges of decision-making. One obvious fact, with the fallout from the garden experience, is that people are incapable of making the right decisions. And yet making the right decisions is the essential pre-cursor to right living. The greatest power that has been given into the hands of man is the power to make decisions for himself. Joshua challenged the Children of Israel to decide as to whom they would serve – Joshua 24:15.
Today, our focus will be on our making serious life changing decisions without making God the centre of it. So many a time we feel that God is not necessary unless we get stuck and all of a sudden, we run back to Him.
- Without God we are Nothing – John 15:5
Case #1 – Elimelech
Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons. – Ruth 1:1
He chose to rule his own life by leaving Bethlehem of Judah to go to the land of Moab. The children of Israel were to live exclusively in the promised land. Though there was a famine in Bethlehem, he would have been far better off to have stayed there, for Bethlehem was the place God had designed for Elimelech and his family. Instead, he sojourned to what he thought was a better place. There was no record of God speaking to Elimelech to leave Bethlehem for Moab.
- He did not consult with God.
- He did not pray about this life changing decision
- He disregarded and dismissed the directives of God for them to stay in the promised land and set out based on what he himself thought was best.
- The result was not the best, it was the worst.
Such is always the case. Elimelech put a distance between himself and the place of God’s blessings and promises. Christians do the same thing when they make decisions based on human rationale instead of divine wisdom or guidance. Consider the prodigal son in Luke 15.
Marriages, families, careers, and reputations may get damaged when God’s people make their own decisions instead of following God’s direction. Have you considered the fact that the Bible is a record of God’s directions?
I often hear brethren say they need to pray about decisions which God has already made clear in His Word. All they really mean is they have not yet decided to obey (e.g., whom to marry). You do not have to pray for wisdom about matters already stated in God’s Word. Pray all you wish, but God will never give new revelation in addition to the Bible. You need only to obey what He has already said. When you submit to God’s word (Scripture), you take sides with God and position yourself in the arena of His blessing. When you do as Elimelech did and make decisions which seem right from the human perspective, you distance yourself from God’s blessings.
In Ruth 1:3, we are told that, Elimelech, Naomi ‘s husband, died; – Ruth 1:3.
Submit To God’s Direction
Case #2 – Moses (In His earlier Years)
Moses was brought up in the palace, and he was treated as the grandson of Pharaoh. When he was old enough, he was probably sent to be educated in the college, had grown up around the Temple of the Sun which has been called “the Oxford of Ancient Egypt”. Stephen while defending the gospel before his death said: “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22).
But Moses was something more than a royal student: he was a statesman and a soldier. Acts 7 tells us, he was “mighty in words and deeds”: mighty in words—there is the statesman; mighty in deeds—there is the soldier.
[The Jewish historian] Josephus says that while he was still in his early manhood the Ethiopians invaded Egypt, routed the army sent against them. In the panic the oracles were consulted, and on their recommendation, Moses was entrusted with the command of the royal troops. He immediately took the field, surprised, and defeated the enemy, and captured their principal city… and returned to Egypt laden with the spoils of victory.
Moses was a highly decorated military leader. Moses, by virtue of his military leadership and his membership in the house of Pharaoh, was a logical choice to perhaps one day be Pharaoh himself.
Moses saw one of his Hebrew brothers being beaten by a taskmaster, went to his aid, and killed the guard. Something about this story of Moses has a contemporary feel to it. Many people today are devoting their lives to reaching the top of the pyramid. Moses was in line to own the pyramids. But Moses made a very costly mistake. With one impulsive act, Moses fell off the pyramid.
At age thirty-nine, Moses had it all. Power, prestige, education, wealth, and a career with unbelievable potential. By anyone’s standards, Moses was successful. When we think of Moses, we tend to think of the plagues, the Red Sea, and all the other miraculous things God did for Israel under his leadership. Those events transpired in the last forty years of his life. But we tend to overlook his early years. We can’t afford to do that, because it is the study of his early years that yields tremendous insights into how God will often work in our own lives—and help us hit that tape at life’s finish
line. God called Moses at the age of forty to go back to school. Now Moses didn’t know this at the time. He thought he had not completed his education. He was well read as an Egyptian, maybe B.A., M.B.A., and Ph.D. But there was one degree that he was lacking. Moses needed to get a character modification.
Acts 7:25 makes it very clear that right around the age of forty, Moses knew he had been chosen by God to be the deliverer of Israel. He was right about the task, but wrong about the timing. As a result of his forty-year miscalculation, note what happened:
And on the following day he appeared to them as they were fighting together, and he tried to reconcile them in peace, saying, “Men, you are brethren, why do you injure one another?” But the one who was injuring his neighbour pushed him away, saying, “Who made you a ruler and judge over us? You do not mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday, do you?” And at this remark Moses fled and became an alien in the land of Midian. (Acts 7:26–29).
Stop for a minute and think about what he was trying to pull off. His goal was to take two million slave laborers, plus women and children, out of Egypt and back to the land of their fathers. These people were the economic backbone of Egypt. Yet Moses believed they would follow his leadership, revolt against Egypt, and find their freedom. It takes a special kind of man to attempt this kind of rebellion.
- He must have had great self-esteem.
- He must have had great self-confidence.
- He must have had great courage.
Moses believed in himself. He knew he was gifted and well connected. And he knew he had what it would take to pull off the Exodus. He knew it because he had succeeded in everything he had undertaken up to that point in his life. That’s why he fully expected to be successful in this venture as well.
Let us look at this story from another angle. Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well. (Exodus 2:11–12, 15).
Notice one fatal flaw in this account. As Moses contemplated going to the aid of his Hebrew brother, Scripture says that “he looked this way and that.” In other words, he looked around to his left and then to his right. But do you know what he failed to do? He never looked up.
There is a type of self-confidence and self-esteem that is healthy and good. But there is an excessive self-confidence that is very harmful to one’s spiritual health. How do you tell the difference between the two? Easy. A wrong self-confidence is usually characterized by prayerlessness. We’re so busy instituting our plan and following our instincts and leading, and we are so confident it will all work out as we have planned,
that we never bother to look up. It’s not that we are going against God, it’s just that we don’t have a sense that we really need to depend on Him. We think we can handle things without bothering the Lord.
In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” The person with excessive self-confidence really doesn’t believe that last phrase. He may believe it intellectually, but he doesn’t believe it experientially. That’s exactly where Moses was.
This is why Moses’ failure had to be particularly bitter. He knew God had placed him in a position of power and authority to secure the release of the children of Israel. And he had blown it. And worse still, he was the only one on the horizon who could have possibly helped Israel.
Similarly, many a time we make so many journeys in life without first looking up because in our thinking, we have everything in place:
- Is it marriage? I have a good job.
- Is it career? The money is readily available.
- Is it to travel overseas like Elimelech? I have what it takes.
- Is it changing jobs? I have the qualifications
- Is it time for promotions? I am qualified.
- Is it sending your children to school? I can afford it.
- Is it preaching the gospel? It is the Lord’s task, no need to consult Him – Acts 13:2-4.
In everything, pray like your whole depends on it and prepare like you have never prayed. O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps – Jeremiah 10:23. Let us learn to seek God first in all we do and we will become better people.
May God bless us in Jesus name – amen.