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Build With The Spoils Of Suffering
Once a Week
When Israel was in the wilderness learning about God’s promise to Abraham that “afterward they shall come out with great possessions” (Gen. 15:14), I can imagine men and women reaching up to feel their gold earrings or glancing down at the Egyptian clothing on their bodies. No mere display of fashion, that Egyptian plunder would bring them to a fork in the road, one path leading to glory, the other to shame.
While the gold and silver used in the tabernacle reflected God’s purity, perhaps they were also a constant reminder of where that purity came from: the fires of affliction. All throughout their 400 years of bondage, God planned for his people to build a new way of life from the spoils of suffering. That is the path to glory. But there is also the path to shame.
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Before God instructed Moses to take up a voluntary collection of gold and silver and fine clothing (Ex. 25:1-9), he first warned against making gods of silver and gods of gold (Ex. 20:23). The gold and silver were the spoils of suffering, but they could quickly soil them in shame. Such is the possibility in all of our suffering.
In reality, we often travel down both paths. God gave instructions for collecting the plundered materials in Ex. 25, but it is not until Ex. 35, after the Israelites wasted gold on idolatry, that the people then sacrificed their remaining gold to the Lord. How we make use of suffering is often like that, is it not? When the quick fix and shoddy coping doesn’t work, our idols fail us, and our feet are mucked in shame, God steps in to remind us of his plan to build a beautiful living temple out of suffering-tempered people. The Israelites wasted some of their suffering on an idol, but God makes sure that the supply warehouse of suffering never runs out.
When we hear those reminders from God in his word and in the words of our brothers and sisters, there is still a fork in the road, because no one else can make the choice for us. “All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the LORD had commanded Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD” (Ex. 35:29). May we all be so generous with our suffering and with the gifts it has given us.
Quote from Thomas Boston
It is not to be expected that immediately on one's humbling himself, the lifting up is to follow. No: one is not merely to lie down under the mighty hand, but to lie still, waiting the due time; humbling work is lonesome work; the Israelites had forty years of it in the wilderness. God's people must be brought to put a blank in His hand, as to the time; and while they have a long night of walking in darkness, must trust. "Who is among you that fears the Lord, that obeys the voice of his servant, that walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.
Suffering and the Heart of God, by Diane Langberg.
The Crook in the Lot, by Thomas Boston.
What is there in your current way of life that reflects the brightness of cross-burnished resurrection? Are there tangible signs of past or present suffering that display God’s beauty to those around you?
Praying for and laboring with you,