It happened three Sundays ago: my stiff neck loosened. I barely registered Alicia's touch on my shoulder as she stood behind me, praying softly. With my body bowed over, words of thanks and commitment pouring out, I hugged myself tightly, afraid that if I didn't, I would melt. And over and over I heard in my heart: "The LORD your God … will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs" (Zephaniah 3:17).
Jesus rejoices over me with singing? Me? The woman who's endured enough unanswered prayers and God-silence to wonder whether God intends to move in her life? The woman who's wondered most of her Christian life whether the cross really applies to her because of all the sins she's committed? The woman who's "helped" Jesus out time and again, but who should have used her talents in better, more spiritually mature ways? A stiff neck indeed.
I could have taken lessons from the Israelites—bound by slavery for hundreds of years, whom God brought to a place of freedom, but who preferred bondage in too many ways.
God Speaks and Moves
After hundreds of years of seeming silence, God commanded a displaced fugitive to lead 600,000 male slaves, plus their wives, children, and livestock out from under the long shadows cast by millions of bricks made and laid with sweat, blood, and tears; out from under the wet memory of baby boys surrendered to the Nile—without a fight—because a shrewd, ruthless king said so; out from under the certainty of food, water, and shelter; out and into the desert to make sacrifices to him and to be taken to a land flowing with milk and honey.1