For the week of January 23, 2010 / 8 Shevat 5770
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 10:1 - 13:16
Haftarah: Jeremiah 46:13-28
Then Pharaoh's servants said to him, "How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?" (Shemot / Exodus 10:7; ESV)
The world has yet again experienced a great disaster - this time it is the devastating earthquake in Haiti. As it turns out, one of our adult daughters is actually there, and last we heard, she is fine. She is working with a small private school on a Youth with a Mission (YWAM) base in the city of St. Marc. The latest reports from the base director say that it looks as if they were able to open that city's port, and it may become an essential life line to the country.
About 75 years ago, British writer and philosopher G.K. Chesterton wrote, "It isn't that they can't see the solution. It's that they can't see the problem." Chesterton's quote is crucially important for effective disaster relief. In order to help people in need, we must first understand what their needs really are. Otherwise we will find ourselves spending immeasurable time, energy, and money for nothing. Good intentions will accomplish nothing, if they are not based on an accurate assessment of the actual situation.
This week's Torah portion includes the story of another horrible disaster: the ten plagues of Egypt. Due to Pharaoh's obstinacy, his country experienced devastating judgment from the hand of God. Pharaoh's servants understood Chesterton's word centuries before he ever lived. They knew why their country was suffering and they urged Pharaoh to take action accordingly. But it would take two more plagues, including the deaths of the firstborn sons, before Pharaoh would accept the problem for what it was and take appropriate action.
Please note that I am not drawing a parallel between the ten plagues and Haiti, except to say that in order for Haiti to emerge well from this disaster, its leaders and people need to look at their problems with open eyes and honest hearts. That's in addition to the wisdom needed in providing effective and immediate disaster relief.
The need to first discern the problem in order to provide the correct solution is a lesson for us all. I have been struck lately how the Scriptures dedicate far more space dealing with the problem of our alienation from God than it does on God's solution for that problem. It seems that we don't easily accept our need for God. We don't easily understand the depths of human depravity and don't readily accept responsibility for our wrongs. And so the Bible addresses this problem over and over again in so many ways.
Once we accept our problem for what it is, then we are in a place to discover the solution. Once we accept that like Pharaoh we are under God's displeasure due to our wickedness, then we are in a place where we can receive God's disaster relief: the forgiveness for our sins through the sacrificial death of the Messiah.
The human problem is not just a state of mind. Thinking better about ourselves will not automatically cause us to attain a greater standard of existence and behavior. The human problem is our alienation from God due to our rebellion against him. This is our disaster for which repentance and faith in Yeshua is the only relief.
If you wish to know more on how to receive God's solution for your life, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For regular updates about the relief work through the YWAM mission base in St. Marc, Haiti, click here.
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