[This post is part of our Spiritual Caffeine collection, geared toward encouraging students to grow as disciplemakers.]
I used to be a janitor at a local high school. One night when I was emptying the feminine hygiene boxes in the girls’ bathroom, I came across the wrappings of someone’s lunch: orange juice, container of raspberries, foil wrapper from a sandwich. Seeing this, I stopped and prayed. I also found myself asking: “What would cause someone to hide in the restroom and eat a meal?”
Identity: A look back to Israel’s Exodus from Egypt
God had made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their descendants were now slaves in Egypt, and God was about to free them in a miraculous way. God speaks to Moses and gives him a message for His people:
“I am Yahweh, and I will deliver you from the forced labor of the Egyptians and free you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am Yahweh your God, who delivered you from the forced labor of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as a possession. I am Yahweh.” Moses told this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their broken spirit and hard labor. (Exodus 6:9)
Do you see the statement “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God”? God is promising his people that their identity will be anchored to his character—in his identity. Verse nine, however, tells us that they were so broken and with so little hope, they couldn’t even imagine their identity being attached to God himself. But he does it. God is faithful to his promise. He gives these Egyptian slaves a new identity. They are now the people of God.
Forgetting who they are
Fast forward to the golden calf. It’s a bone-headed move. The Israelites have quickly forgotten the God who loves them and have run into the arms of something else. God has delivered his people, just like he had promised. He is even going to keep his promise of giving them the land of Canaan. But, he tells Moses, “I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people.” (Ex. 33:3) Remember the promise… “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.” This is too much for Moses to bear. The promise of God’s presence is more precious than anything else. Having an identity that is anchored in the character of God is too important.
“Then Moses said, ‘If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me – on me and on your people – if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.” (Ex. 33:15-16)
Finding out who we really are
Just like it was for Moses and the Israelites in the desert of Sinai, God’s presence is what gives us our identity. Our identity is found in the immovable unchangeable character of Christ and the forgiveness he gives. That identity gives us hope when we find ourselves in broken in spirit.
It is in the deliverance, freedom, and redemption of Christ that we find our identity—our hope. In the midst of pressure and pain, that hope—that identity will not disappoint. It is anchored in the love of God and sealed with is presence—the Holy Spirit.
“And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Rom. 5:4-5)
That night standing in a bathroom stall, my prayer was for hope. I was asking God to help this young woman discover the hope of an identity anchored in the forgiveness of Christ.
My prayer today is for your identity too:
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13)
God, help us to embrace the hope found in an identity anchored with you and then overflows with hope in all circumstances.