The Bishop's Letters
In the Scripture readings from Exodus in the Daily Lectionary this week, we see the dramatic exchanges between Moses and Pharaoh in Chapters 7-11.
They are wonderfully rich passages that highlight so many important truths about God and his people. But I have found myself drawn to one in particular.
During the ninth plague, in which darkness covered the land for three days, Pharaoh called Moses into his presence and gave the Hebrews conditional permission to leave Egypt. He said, “Go, serve the LORD; your little ones also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind” (Exodus 10:24).
But Moses replied that that was unacceptable, because they were to go into the desert in order to worship the Lord with sacrifices and burnt offerings. “Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the LORD our God,” Moses said.
This was not just a negotiating tactic. It was a key theological principle. The Hebrews needed to take all of their livestock and possessions because, as he explained, “we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there” (10:26).
The people would not know what they were to sacrifice to the Lord in worship until the Lord told them. What a profound principle! True worship means offering all that we are and all that we have to the Lord, not knowing what he will ask of us. We hold nothing back, even though we don’t know in advance what God will actually require of us.
Surrendering to the Lord means we cannot say, “I’ll serve you, Jesus, as long as I get to…” Nor can we say, “I’ll serve you, Jesus, as long as I don’t have to…” God isn’t interested in negotiating a discipleship contract with us, in which he makes us an offer and we have our people get back to his people with a counter offer. God is only interested in our unconditional surrender.
But it’s not only the initial surrender of coming to Christ that matters, it’s the on-going surrender of the Christian life. As Paul challenged the Galatians, “After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” Whether it’s our money or our family life or our career or how we spend our retirement, the Lord asks for a daily yielding to his sovereign plan. God asks for it all, and our “yes” gives him permission to use whatever he wills. We won’t know what God will actually require of us until after we have surrendered.
But we do know that the best life possible is the life of “absolute surrender,” to use the phrase of the great Christian writer, Andrew Murray. Everything on the altar, nothing held back. As Paul exhorts us in Romans 12, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. John A. M. Guernsey
Click here for Bishop Guernsey's letter in PDF format.