For this entry and the next several posts, I will be serializing an article that I wrote in 2002 about guarding our time with God in a time-pressured world. While I updated a few of the references (mainly due to the change of technology between 2002 and now), the essence remains the same.
Bricks Without Straw – Part 1
New Year’s Day of 2002 was going to mark a new beginning for me. In the last days of 2001, I assembled what I thought was a workable plan for taking my personal ministry in the direction of writing. Having graduated from seminary with a degree in Christian theology, I was looking for further avenues to use the information and insights of students and teachers gained during those years of study. I had planned to write and submit several articles as well as a book review for publication.
Life was already rather busy at the start of the year with work, family events and preparing for teaching both adult Sunday school and Wednesday night classes for the 4th & 5th graders at our church. With great zeal and an eye toward being practical, I scheduled specific times on Monday and Thursday nights to research and write the articles. For the first two months, the planned sessions of writing and study were working out well.
In March, however, my usually busy life would get even busier. My wife Julie was diagnosed with a large blood clot in her right leg. She was hospitalized for a week to reduce and stabilize this clot to prevent part of it from breaking off and causing a possibly fatal stroke or heart attack. By God’s grace, we caught it in time. For a week, I was visiting Julie in the hospital, going to work and being a temporary single parent to our two sons (with lots of help from family and friends). Through much of March, I continued to do a lot of “double-duty” as Julie was continuing her recovery. In April, my Mom was hospitalized for nine days with pneumonia and congestive heart failure. After a week at home, she spent five weeks at physical rehabilitation to rebuild her strength.
With my attention being split into several different areas and each requiring more time than usual, I was feeling spiritually stressed as there was less time (or so I thought) for prayer, Bible reading and study. My writing plans were shelved for several months. It was during this time that I read a passage in Exodus that really spoke to my situation. The passage is in the context of Moses’ return to Egypt. He was bringing a message from God to His people. It was a message of liberation and hope for the long-enslaved and oppressed Israelites. The knowledge that the God of their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew of their plight and was acting on their behalf must have been a great encouragement.
However, the Egyptian Pharaoh wanted no part of this. The building projects that were being done through the slave labor of the sons of Israel were considered to be of paramount importance to the Pharaoh. Despite an existing daily quota for the production of bricks to be used in the building projects, the Pharaoh issued a strange and seemingly self-defeating edict:
“You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. (Exodus 5:7-8)
Implementing this edict could seriously delay the projects. Yet, it was issued with a specific purpose:
[The Israelites] are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the men so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.” (Exodus 5:8-9)
Pharaoh wanted more than their slave labor. He demanded their time and attention. He wanted his work to dominate their time and thoughts. In his ungodly thinking, he thought that God and His words were nothing but a lie. The Pharaoh’s strategy was to keep the minds of the Israelites off God and His words by forcing the Israelites to devote more time each day to their work. Forcing people to use more of their fixed allotment of time and making their daily toil more mentally and physically burdensome was the strategy of an evil Pharaoh so many centuries ago and seems to be a strategy of Satan which 21st century followers of God must constantly guard against in daily life.