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Getting Unstuck

One day a guy named Moses was out minding his own business, tending the father-in-law’s sheep. He moved them from one place to another and then this happened:

“And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’” (Exodus 3:2-4)

God spoke to Moses out of a burning bush!

One day a guy named Balaam was out disobeying God. God had told him not to go off with some messengers but he was going to do it anyway. God sent an angel of the Lord Then this happened (as told in Number 22:22-31): the donkey could see the Angel blocking the way and she tried to dodge the Angel.

As the donkey tried to protect Balaam from running into the Angel with his sword drawn, Balaam beat the donkey three times. Finally, the LORD allowed the donkey to do something donkeys generally do not do: she spoke to her owner!

“Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?’ And Balaam said to the donkey, ‘Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!’ So the donkey said to Balaam, ‘Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?’ And he said, ‘No.’ Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face.” (Numbers 22:28-31)

God got Balaam’s attention through words that came out of the mouth of a donkey!!!

Just as an aside, isn’t it interesting that while Balaam is busy threatening to kill his donkey with a sword he is in the presence of an angel whose sword is already drawn against HIM? Then, when he finally sees the angel and the sword, he humbles himself.

I wonder how many times we threaten other people and the Lord is at that very same time ready to do the very same thing to us…yet,

restrains Himself.

Now, what were we talking about? Oh yea…God communicating with people in interesting ways…

If you read your Bible you will see that God likes to communicate with people. He’ll speak directly to people or through His Word. He will use dreams and visions. He will use a coin in a fish’s mouth (Matthew 17:27). He will use dew that will either cause fleece to get wet or let it stay dry (Judges 6:37-38).

Sometimes…He uses text messages or phone calls, and posts on FaceBook and other social media. One way He speaks to me is by allowing a theme to emerge from people and circumstances around me.

It’s like He is saying to me, “Hey, Mike! Check this out! Let’s look at this together.” It reminds me of a verse in Isaiah 1 in which God says to Isaiah, “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD” (Isaiah 1:18a).

When He does this, our ALL-KNOWING God is not hoping we will help Him figure something out. HE already knows. He does this because He is the ultimate good Father and He is guiding us to teach us something.

EVERYTHING God does for us is for our benefit because God needs nothing. (Just pause and let that settle into your soul.)

Recently, most of the world was shutdown during the first round of COVID and no one (BUT GOD) knew how any of this was going to work out. Some restrictions are being relaxed in some places as we learn real information about how it is transmitted, how to treat people who have it, how to be reasonably safe by practicing good hygiene and not coughing on one another…things like that. But, really, we don’t know how it will work out.

GOD KNOWS.

In the meantime, life is still happening. A disease God always and forever knew would come to us will not stop Him from establishing His Kingdom in the hearts of people and, through them, all across the earth.

In a VERY familiar verse God tells us: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11 – NASB).

In the King James and New King James the word “plans” is translated as “thoughts”. The Amplified Bible translates the Hebrew word “maḥašāḇāh” (pronounced as “makh-ash-aw-baw”) as “thoughts and plans”. The word means “a purpose, a device, an intention”.

He says that these plans are for our “welfare” but the word means more than that we will simply fare well. We tend to hear that word “welfare” and think it just means things will go okay...but it really means “peace or tranquility”. Think about that. God wants us to have tranquil lives.

God wants us to be able to have tranquil lives – EVEN when a disease is killing people and moving all our social landmarks around, even when traumatic things have happened in our past, even when there is marital strife or family problems.

God wants us to be able to have tranquil lives – EVEN in the midst of turmoil.

"For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11 – NASB).

Tranquility isn’t all He wants for us. He wants to give you the gift of “hope in your final outcome” (Amplified Bible). Everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will happen is a simultaneous even to God – He sees EVERYTHING. He knows our final outcomes and He wants us to have hope as everything rolls up for each of us.

In this one verse that is so familiar to us that we seem to gloss over it, God is telling us that He is well aware of the intentional mechanisms He has ALWAYS had in place for each one of us so we will live in peace and tranquility. This is so we can know that we can look forward to anticipating a good life.

That doesn’t seem to be happening much in the lives around us, does it?

It seems that everyone is in competition for our eyeballs and our souls. Our souls are prime real estate; we should be careful who we let get in there. Yet, we ARE in community and I think it’s good to pay attention to some of the things we see and hear.

So, God, Who often speaks to me in themes I perceive all around me, recently had 4 or 5 people all make the same declaration to me (or to the mob that is FaceBook): “I AM STUCK!”.

I wish I could say I don’t know that feeling, but I do. I know what it feels like to be emotionally STUCK but I also know it physically.

I grew up in New Orleans. Salt water fishing, crabbing and shrimping was huge in my life when I was young.

My dad learned that a barge was dredging a bayou that had silted up and was pumping silt and sand through a pipe buried under a road into a low area. This was to fill in that area so someone could build on it later.

This sort of thing happens all over Louisiana all the time. What made this interesting for us is that the dredge was pumping blue claw crabs along with the water and sand and we could use fishing landing nets to catch the crabs as they came out the other side.

FREE SEAFOOD!

My dad and I and one of his best friend’s, John went and John took his 23-year-old nephew Joey. Joey was “intellectually disabled” and operated at the mental level of a 5-year-old. I was 14 and had never met anyone like Joey. Physically he looked just like a young man and he was quiet, so I never really noticed much about him but WOULD in a short time be VERY aware that he was different.

My dad and Mr. John went off to get something to drink and left me and Joey there catching free blue claw crabs with those nets. He told us not to do anything stupid and I was 14…so I did! I overreached trying to net some of those crabs and fell into the sticky wet sand that was just off the shore.

Now, in some old time Western movies there is something called quicksand that occurs naturally when sand and water mix in a certain way. In Louisiana we didn’t see much of that. Mostly we saw water…and mud. However, the dredging basically caused that whole area to be quicksand and I found myself it up to my thighs.

I was…you know it…STUCK!

I could feel it gripping me and as I struggled to get myself out I sank more. I soon found myself to be waist deep in that quicksand. It was terrifying. I cried out to Joey to help me. I was holding the handle of the scoop net and extended it out to him so he could pull me in.

The problem was that he had the mentality of a 5-year-old and, apparently, to a 5-year-old the sight of a terrified 14-year-old in jeans and a (formerly) white t-shirt stuck to above his waist in mud colored quicksand and screaming for help was hysterical.

Joey stood there laughing and laughing…and pointing at me. I was very amusing to him as I began to threaten him and tell him what I would do to him if he didn’t help me and I somehow got out.

That made him laugh all the more.

By the time my dad and Mr. John got to us I was hopping mad – which is not a good term for how mad I was because, as I learned, you can’t hop in quicksand. I yelled at my dad for help and he pulled me out immediately.

Now, my problem with calling on Joey for help is that he wasn’t capable of helping me. Physically he could because he had the body of a grown man but intellectually he couldn’t comprehend that I might die. To him, my predicament was just funny. But calling on Joey wasn’t my first mistake. My first mistake wasn’t not listening to my dad.

What was my first mistake as I tried to get out of that quicksand?

My first mistake was that I tried to save myself. I called out to ME, someone who was not capable of saving me. Trusting ourselves is called “flesh” in the Bible and Romans Chapter 8 brings death into our souls. Sometimes, if you are STUCK in quicksand for instance, it can bring physical death too because the more you struggle the faster you sink.

I was STUCK and when we are stuck we MUST call out to someone who is capable of helping us. Someone stronger than we are and someone who is not limited by whatever is holding on to us. This is as true for being STUCK emotionally or spiritually as it is for being stuck physically.

As several people one day all at once all mentioned they were STUCK, I sat there pondering what it meant. I prayed to the Lord and asked Him, “What do You think about this?” and what came to me was a verse from Psalm 40 – verse 2. So, I went to my Bible and read the chapter.

There is no indication of what trial provoked this poem from David. For sure, he had many of those! We just know that he was STUCK and what do STUCK people need? They need to get UNSTUCK. We also know that he knew better than to try to save himself – that he would need God to do that for him.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1)

The words “I waited patiently for” don’t refer to spend time “waiting” as we think of it. That would imply time spent in anticipation of something happening. This term means something completely different: “I bound myself to”.

The root meaning of the term is that of twisting or winding a strand of cord or rope. The word is used to signify depending on and ordering activities around a future event. David had bound himself to the Lord God concerning whatever He would eventually do.

That’s the thing about trusting God: we also must learn to trust God’s timing. When we want something, when do we want it? NOW! To paraphrase the great Christian author, Oswald Chambers, the definition of the word “lust” is: “I gotta have it now”.

As we read through the first three verses of Psalm 40 let’s notice something: David does only two things, both of which are really acts of worship and acknowledgement of God’s power: (1) there is an implied cry for help and (2) he binds himself to the Lord.

Meanwhile, we will see that God will do SIX things all of which benefit David, not Himself.

THIS is our God.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1)

  • God inclines toward us.

The first of the six things God does when we bind ourselves and cry out to Him is that He “inclines toward us”; which means he stretches out toward us and pays attention to us. We do the same thing when we are listening so intently to someone that we lean forward in our chair.

This is especially important to remember in those times when it seems as if He isn’t listening at all.

He is.

We tend to approach God as thought He’s one of us. But, no, He is incredibly beyond us. God is different and He is trying to bring us closer to how He is.

  • God hears our cry.

The second thing God does when we are bound to Him and cry out to Him is that He “hears our cry” a term that means that He ACTIVELY listens to us. The word “cry” is most often used in the Bible to refer to people crying out to God for help.

Our God is a Father Who is ever ready to come to our rescue. He NEVER neglects His children.

My earthly dad and I had our troubles…but when I cried out to him that day, he heard me and came to my rescue. In that incident his actions were a portrayal of God listening to me and rescuing me.

David continues…

“He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.” (Psalm 40:2)

  • God brings us out of pits and out of what causes us to be stuck.

The third thing God does when we cry out to Him as those totally committed to Him is to lift us up…take us away from what causes us to be stuck. The word “brings” is a verb meaning “to go up, to ascend, to take away, to lift”. It carries with it the connotation of an upward motion.

I like the idea of God causing me to ascend.

He lifts us out of the “horrible pit” - literally "a destructive prison, dungeon, or well". The term “miry clay” means “sticky mud that CLINGS” to you, holding you down.

The quicksand I was in was my horrible pit and miry clay. As hard as I struggled it would not let go…it kept pulling me down. And it sucked my sneakers AND my socks off me!!! The “miry clay” stole my sneakers!

“Miry clay threatens to steal something from us. It steals hope, joy and peace Our firm foundation is made of Jesus; He is our hope, joy, peace – our Savior.” (Laurie McInerney)

Are you STUCK? What is YOUR miry clay? God is powerful. Whatever you’re stuck in is no match for His power.

You know, when my dad pulled me out of that quicksand it wouldn’t have helped me any if he had just set me right back down in the quicksand or on the slippery edge of the roadway where I could slip right back into it.

“He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.” (Psalm 40:2)

  • When He rescues us, God sets us on a firm foundation.

The fourth thing God does for us when we cry out to Him is that He causes us to stand on a solid place. The Hebrew word for “rock” is “selah”. It can mean a lofty place but it figuratively refers to a fortress.

In Psalm 18 David gives us this beautiful image of our God:

“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2)

If we choose to receive Him for all these things He will be those things for us too!

Now, the reason I fell into the quicksand was because I wasn’t paying attention to where I was placing my feet.

“He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps.” (Psalm 40:2)

  • God establishes our steps.

The fifth thing God does for those who bind themselves to Him and call out to Him when desperate is that He “prepares our path to be firm and certain” – the literal translation of the phrase “establishes our steps”. This speaks to us walking intentionally with Him.

The Apostle Paul advises us to live intentionally with God:

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 - NASB)

I once quoted that verse to a man I pastored who kept falling over things and breaking his feet and said, “God is telling you to watch where you put your feet!”

If we cry out to God He will establish our steps.

So far, we have seen that God has done five things in response to our cry out to Him. Those first five had to do with responding to the danger in which we found ourselves.

This sixth one is a different kind of special because, in doing it, God actually enables us to respond to His love and goodness and rescue.

“He has put a new song in my mouth— Praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:3)

  • God puts praises in our mouths.

He gives us new songs. The word “new” means a “fresh new thing”. Why is that important? Because every, single time God does anything for one of us it’s a one of a kind, never been done before thing. Even if its been done for someone else before it’s a fresh decision from God and it has many unique qualities. They are all “new mercies”.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22 - ESV)

God puts a new song in our mouths. I see this as us speaking (or singing) a testimony about what God did for us. In fact, that is what David calls it:

“He has put a new song in my mouth— Praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:3)

Praise to our God. “OUR God”. Doesn’t that phrase sound good?

The thing about praising God for what He has done for us is that it is not intended to be used to market ourselves as being special or a super Christian or even “God’s favorite”, like some are fond of saying about themselves.

“He has put a new song in my mouth— Praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:3)

Praising God is meant to highlight God and only God. The result is that many will see what God has done for us and will know that He really IS a loving and vigilant and responsive Father. They will see that and “fear” …be in awe of Him. Then our initial trust in Him that causes us to bind ourselves to Him and cry out to Him will result in them trusting Him as well.

This is one of the most effective forms of evangelism there is and it all starts with the humility of admitting to ourselves that we aren’t strong enough to save ourselves.

Think about this, for your own life: ARE YOU STUCK….in anything? There are many kinds of “quicksand”. Satan loves hurting people.

It could be sadness or depression or pride. Fear is on the prowl in our world right now. It is a spirit…a demon who enjoys ensnaring people. Is it some diagnosis that consists of lots of initials? It can be anything which ensnares you.

Are you STUCK? There IS a way out of the horrible pit, the miry clay. His name is God.

Are you BOUND to Him? Are you totally committed to Him? Or do you still intend to trust yourself, stuff, substances, other people or, really, anything of the earth to save you? If so, maybe it’s time to admit that nothing of the earth can save you.Only God can do that. Maybe its time to bind yourself to Him.

Will you cry out to Him? Will you stop struggling and pridefully fighting Him?

Why did I say it like that: “pridefully fighting Him”? Because when I presume to do something for myself that only God can do…even in the name of strength or faith…I really AM being prideful.

We can never forget that: “‘GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:5b-7)

I hope you will stop resisting Him. Let allow Him to BE God in your life. It’ll feel good to have your feet set on a rock again and your steps established.

Pastor Mike McInerney

Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.

Decatur, TX

© July 12, 2020

(Originally presented on this date as a teaching at Hope Church in Rhome, TX.)

©2018 by Mike McInerney Ministries