I wish I could begin with something nobler about my heart but sometimes I want to be a judge more than I want to be a deliverer. This realization came to me one morning while reading Scripture, you know, minding my own business. I was on my living room couch reading Stephen’s speech of Israel’s history in Acts 7. I could see the little petunias spilling out of my window box on this serene morning; steam swirling upward from my coffee. In other words, I wasn’t looking to be convicted. But Stephen stuck it to me at Moses’ part of the story, anyhow.
Now some of you remember Moses as the one who endured plagues, parted a sea and carried the Israelites on his back through the desert; you remember him as the great deliverer. But did you know he was a judge before that? I didn’t know this.
Moses Made Himself A Judge; God Wanted To Make Him A Deliverer
Before God visited Moses through the burning bush—way before that—Moses saw an Egyptian and a Hebrew fighting. He looked a couple directions and then killed the Egyptian, buried him in the sand, and did it all in the name of protecting his fellowman. The next day Moses saw two Israelites quarreling, stepped in, after which one of them lashed out, “Who made your ruler and judge over us?” The answer is that Moses had made himself judge and this hardly ever goes over well. I’ve tried it a couple times.
Our flesh is prone to judging though, isn’t it? We like to draw our lines in the name of ‘righteousness’ and keep these people who we like and agree with “in” and put those people who live contrary to our worldview “out”. Life is so much more comfortable and safe when we can just lop people off, which is why judging feels so good. And at times, deceivingly, right.
So word had gotten out about Moses’ tiny, little killing, and you know the story: he fled to a desert in Midian for forty years until the Lord appeared to him from a burning bush where He sent him back to rescue Israel from the hands of the Egyptians. At this point in Stephen’s speech my coffee was still hot. I was still delighting in the flowers. And then somewhere in this bubble of Christian bliss, Acts 7:35 happened: “This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer.” This was revelation for me.
God hadn't called Moses to be a ruler who judged but one who delivered. Click To Tweet God hadn’t called Moses to be a ruler who judged but a ruler who delivered. Apart from this being somewhat prickly for me, because I had to take an honest look at my heart, this was the greatest news ever. Ever. God hadn’t sent an Old Testament judge to Israel; rather He’d sent a rescuer. He didn’t tell Moses to go bury a bunch of sinners in the sand.
No, no, no.
He sent him to liberate a nation. And this whole rescuer notion didn’t originate with Moses, it was God’s idea. Our merciful God’s idea. It was a plan that took forty years in a desert for God to work out in Moses, because going from being a self-appointed judge to a God-appointed deliverer takes some serious humbling.
I thought about a family I’d met who wasn’t living in what you’d call a biblical setup. I’d developed a friendship with them. At some point I realized that part of me cared more about them getting their lives all cleaned up than I did about investing in their souls. It would have been easy to leave them in the sand where they “deserved” to be, because after all, they’d made all these wayward choices. But the Lord was speaking to me. Like Moses, God was sending me to deliver them into truth, not a judge who left them separated from it.
And then I really started thinking…
Judging is quick, clean and easy (kill, bury, walk away.) But when you’re a deliverer you’ve got plagues to face, Pharaohs to contend with, big seas you have no power to part. You’ve got to roll your sleeves up and sometimes water turns to blood and flies and frogs take over and the people you’re trying to rescue, curse you. Judging means you only have to consult yourself, while delivering means constant interaction with God—think of all the dialogues God and Moses had over the course of rescuing Israel. (Think of the amount of conversations Moses had with God when he killed the Egyptian: zero.)
Judging Is Quick And Easy, Delivering is Ongoing and Requires Your Heart
Judging takes five seconds and none of your heart. Delivering is ongoing and means you actually have to care. Judging others makes us feel good about ourselves in a false, Pharisaical way. Rescuing people will always reveal to us how truly weak and incapable we are. Rescuing requiring us to rely more wholly on the Lord—the way Moses did at the edge of the Red Sea while a host of chariots tore after him. The truth is, Moses only needed the strength of his hand to kill the Egyptian, but He’d need the power of God to part the Sea and deliver Israel.The truth is, Moses only needed the strength of his hand to kill the Egyptian, but He’d need the power of God to part the Sea and deliver Israel.Click To Tweet
I think my fleshly propensity to judge is often because rescuing people requires more than I want to sacrifice. When I bury someone under the sand of my judgment, they’re so much less of a hassle. But when the Lord says, look at that person, he or she needs rescuing, then my very being is required. This is true because judging moves us away from people while delivering draws us toward them. We might get inconvenient phone calls and someone might actually need us, but this is when our small sacrifices remind us of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The one who actually draws near to us as both Judge (John 5:22) and Deliverer (Mt 1:21). He’s the only one who can be trusted with both offices, the only one worthy of each. Because of Jesus, I wonder what would happen if we—His Bride —began moving toward our relatives, neighbors, enemies with a heart of deliverance instead of moving away from them in judgment. To humble ourselves before God, take those who need rescuing by the hand, stand beside them at the point of their need (and ours), and like Moses, say…See the salvation of the Lord. (Ex 14:13).