Grey Areas

grey area 2

“Suppose someone leaves money or goods with a neighbor for safe-keeping, and they are stolen from the neighbor’s house…if the thief is not caught, the neighbor must appear before God, who will determine if he stole the property.”

Exodus 22:7-8

Until this point, Moses and the men he had appointed had been handling every dispute the thousands of Israelites came up with and could not settle themselves. Here, God started laying some ground rules. Many situations were covered in detail so that no third party had to be brought in to decide the matter; they already had His decision on what should be done in writing.

But this verse caught my attention because, while He did significantly relieve the amount of involvement required of the human leaders, God did not just put in place a bunch of rules and then leave them to it. He wrote himself into them over and over.

If no one saw the thief, I saw, bring it to me. (v. 7-8)

If no one knows whose claim is true, I know, bring it to me. (v. 9)

When the complaint of the helpless falls on deaf ears, I hear. They can bring it to me and I will do something about it.  (v. 22-24)

The law was never entrusted to human hands with the intent that they would interpret or enforce it independent of their God. He did not designate a person who would be the go-to for difficult situations or grey areas. He designated himself.

It was not just a legendary document with mystical origins; it was communication from a God who continued to offer communication. A God who did not stand aloof, far-off, watching people struggle to discern what He really meant. A God who was heavily involved with his people, who did not ask them to stand and face the oncoming chariots without coming down himself to stand in the way.

Not too busy or too important to step into their individual situations.

He asked them to bring him into it; into disputes, into mysteries, into feasts. He intended for them to make Him an integral, familiar part of their daily lives. He was a God to be held holy and regarded with caution, but also a God that they recognized was for them; a God that was concerned with the smallest matters of the heart as much as He was with battles and territories and armies.


Teach me this: you still offer to be heavily involved with my oh-so-daily problems and decisions. You want my heart to acknowledge you in all of it. There’s no category where your preference is that I not bother you with it. And you come yourself to stand guard, to hold me firm.

There are not enough black and white situations for me to just go off of rules and not ask for understanding. Life is full of grey areas. And so, from the beginning, you have said to come to you when I don’t know what to do. Mold my view of you so that I expect your invested interest and help, and learn to come to you eagerly, with all of it.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all of your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6



“And the Lord said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘You saw for yourselves that I spoke to you from heaven. Remember you must not make any idols of silver or gold to rival me.”

Exodus 20:22-23


He had just explained this in the 10 commandments: No other gods. No images.

And then, His presence fills the mountain with smoke and thunder and the people draw back and ask for an intercessor, and the first thing He brings up to Moses is this:


You have just seen it, I have no rival. Don’t invent one.

The Lord went on to tell them that when they were building altars they weren’t even allowed to shape the stones. Why? Because what we design, we tend to worship. Anything we craft becomes a rival. And the God of lightning and billowing smoke should not have to compete with a pile of rocks.

How little it takes for my attention to drift. How low my view of Him has become when I allow anything to rival Him in my heart. How quickly I forget, even when He’s just reminded me. And so, just as He did with the Israelites, my patient God reminds and reminds and reminds:

Let your heart belong only to me. NO OTHER GODS.

“Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”

-1 John 5:21

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”

-Proverbs 4:23

I read today that “love vigilantly guards [marriage’s] purity.” (Ryan + Selena Frederick in Two as One)

I think the same concept applies to my relationship with the Lord. His love has made me secure. But I must not relax when it comes to the leanings of my heart. They require guarding. Love vigilantly guards.

So Lord-

Help me. Help me to diligently keep my heart. Teach me to immediately respond when it begins to construct rivals. Make me sharply aware when my worship drifts. Build our relationship and teach me to fiercely protect it. Let the echo of your words from so many years ago resonate through my heart still, reminding, always reminding:

No other gods. I have no rival.

No Water

no water“At the Lord’s command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Zin and moved from place to place. Eventually, they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink.”

-Exodus 17:1


At your command, they ended up camping where there was no water.

In hindsight, you made water come gushing out of a rock, so it was no big deal. But at the time, thousands of people were losing daylight and there was NO WATER. No time to move somewhere else, tormented by thirst from a long day’s journey, not knowing how far they’d have to travel tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, and still find no water, and prod their livestock on with no water, and watch their kids with no water.

Anyone who doesn’t know You starts to ask: “Who exactly is running this operation?! How can He be this All-Knowing God if He led us here?!”

And even those who do know You fight back those questions.

But if I know You well, and I’m here by your command, and there’s no water, I start watching closely to see what You will do.

Because I know that You don’t lead those who follow You into traps. You don’t bring them into something that wasn’t planned out all that well. You don’t drop them into a helpless situation and leave them to fend for themselves.

That’s not who You are. That’s not how a good shepherd acts, and You call yourself the Good Shepherd.

You are a God of details, of  “do not be afraid,” of  “stand still and see what I will do.”

And when You direct my steps into dry places, I must learn to expect that You will bring the water. When you direct my steps into danger, I must learn to remember that You stay and stand guard. When I don’t understand why You led me here, I must hold on all the tighter to who I know You are.

Because if I discard what I know of You when I interpret what’s going on, I come away with wrong assumptions that damage my heart. I turn on You and complain, instead of just asking for help from a God I know is ready and willing to help me.

To emotionally survive what we will walk through, I must learn how to keep my heart from going there.  I must look around, see that there’s no water, take a deep breath and say,

“Okay, I don’t understand this, but I still trust You; so I will watch closely to see what You will do.”




The Roundabout Way

walking in circles


“When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness…

-Exodus 13:17-18

It was wilderness that had them questioning Your goodness, wondering if they would die, and pining for slavery. But they did not turn back. Battle might have turned them back.

It was not even a battle they were entirely avoiding. Israel would battle Philistia for years to come. But they weren’t ready now, and so You took them through the wilderness to give them time. 

How many times have I banged my fists against the wall in frustration over how much time we could have saved if You had just led me directly? I have sobbed in agony over lost time, lost plans, roundabout routes. I have glared as I’ve questioned You bitterly: why the detour? Why the mystery? Why not just show me where we’re headed and then take me straight there?!

Maybe it’s because I wasn’t ready for the battle.

Maybe if I’d gotten there earlier, I would  have turned back. Maybe the roundabout way was not to steal away my precious time, but to give me precious time before I faced what would come. You give treasured lessons in the wilderness and essential preparation en route. And You know human hearts.

You know when they’re ready and when they’re not. You patiently endure our complaints and accusations all along the way as You gently steer us around the battle that would have destroyed our young courage before it had time to find its footing.


Thank you for giving me time. Thank you for not rushing my unsure soul into the fray. Thank you even for the wilderness, for the roundabout way, because they show that You were taking your time with me – even when I did not realize I needed it.





Slaves. Warriors.


“On that very day the Lord brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt like an army.”

-Exodus 12:51


They had no military training. Until this day, they had been slaves. They did not know how to wage war; they knew how to make bricks. They had been oppressed, broken, despairing. Their infants were murdered, their slave-drivers were harsh, their leader disappeared to Midian for 40 years.

But this day, they swept out of Egypt like a force and left the most powerful nation in the world  plundered, trembling, and begging for their blessing. This day, they were warriors, and not a one of them had lifted a sword.

The world feared them.

Because to take on Israel was not a matter of overcoming 60,000 fighting men – it was to take on the living God who had devastated Egypt and crushed its deities.

This God who does not choose the strong, the bold, the best. This God who takes the weak and does mighty deeds; who takes the coward and brings down the fearsome; who lifts up the least and makes him ruler. This God took slaves and made an army that the world watched in terror.

This God calls me.

So I do not have to be the best, the bravest, the strongest. I can just be me and He will still work wonders.




photo credit: Marc Czerniec