A Tale of Bricks
God Answers the S.O.S.
The children of Israel had been crying out for God to free them from their cruel Egyptian taskmasters. The Lord had heard their cries and commissioned an eighty-year-old-shepherd named Moses to lead them out of their bondage.
A seemingly impossible task needs supernatural intervention. Moses, considering his human ability, said, “Who am I?” As God revealed his plan to this new leader, He assured him, “I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.”
Interesting, isn't it? Calling an insecure person to do a radical and outrageous deed. What was God thinking?
With constant pressure upon Christians to be “conformed to the world” and have their children's minds shaped by its philosophies, hidden agendas, and tolerance for sin; with the agonizing stress of seeing prayer, the ten commandments, righteous judgment, and Judeo-Christian values being siphoned out of society, culture, and public education, God's people have called upon Him to deliver.
But who is He commissioning to lead through these perilous times and onto a spiritual victory? Shepherds: overwhelmed, ordinary, already-busy-enough—and often insecure—shepherds. Oh, not the sheep-shearing kind. The parent kind. Those tenderhearted mothers and fathers who, day after day, shepherd the hearts of their children. The kind that hazard their own lives in order to protect their lambs. The kind who choose to suffer affliction, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. The Moses kind.
You Must Gather Your Own Straw
For a long time the Hebrew slaves had depended upon the Egyptians to supply the necessary fiber to reinforce their earthen bricks. “Necessary” may be the wrong word . . . let's replace it with the right word: mandatory. You might say that they had a corner on the market—or so they thought. So when Moses informed Pharaoh that the time had come to let the Hebrew slaves go, Pharaoh's blood began to boil (it's okay, God said it would happen). “Let them go? No! I'll not let them go. And from now on they'll gather their own straw, too!”
No biggie, right? Wrong!
The Israelites were spun into a state of hieroglyphic hysteria. “What? What? No more free straw samples? No middle straw-man suppliers? No bales of straw? No access to the straw warehouse? No visits from straw salesmen? No straw substitutes? No more straws that break our camels' backs? What are we going to do? How will we manage?”
There was only one solution: gather your own straw.
Homeschoolers don't take education for granted. We don't rely on the government's programs to instruct our kids or come up with a solution to meet our needs. Not that the government's education ideas are all bad. They aren't. We just don't rely on them. We simply believe it's our prerogative, calling, obligation, and right—not the state's—to take the responsibility for nurturing our own children's minds, hearts, and behavior.
Again, a seemingly impossible task, but richly fortified with supernatural intervention. God gives His people brains, the Divine Scriptures, and His Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul said that “we have the mind of Christ,” and that [we] “can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth [us].” Overwhelming? Sure. Tedious? At times. Nevertheless, we are not without a “token” of our own: “And it shall be our righteousness . . .” (Deut. 6:25), “. . . and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6) and “. . . ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance” (Col. 3:24).
Your Work Shall Not Diminish
The Egyptian taskmasters turned into human pressure-cookers. Scripture tells us they “hasted” the Hebrews. God's people now had to locate their own straw, gather it on their own time, transport it themselves, deliver it to the appropriate posts, and all the while maintain the same daily production quotas. The tale of bricks just went from overwhelming to virtually impossible.
The officers of the children of Israel went back to Pharaoh and tried to reason with him. “You're putting all this pressure on us and demanding more work, but the fault rests on your own people.” Ouch! (Can you believe they laid the blame on Pharaoh? What audacity.)
If we look back on why and when homeschooling became popular (and increasingly necessary) we would have to say that it was when public education began to veer away from God's standards of truth, justice, wisdom, and morality. His absolutes were overruled by everyone's “rights.” Creation was exchanged for evolution. Morality was traded for tolerance. Discipline gave way to acceptance. Respect was swapped for self-expression. God's Word was kicked out of the way, praying was made a punishable offence, and soon everyone was doing what was “right in their own eyes.” Chaos erupted. Oppression revived. (Where have we seen this pattern before?)
The friction between the world's steel and the Christian's flint created the homeschool spark, which, in turn, ignited a fire that is presently setting the world ablaze with renewed hope and energy in the realm of education. Naturally, that created another problem for some of us.
My family and I reside in a homeschool friendly area—and we thank God! The county's monitoring is minimal and the local office staff are happy to help homeschoolers file the appropriate forms. There's nothing cumbersome or wearying about the process. I have relatives, however, in a neighboring state who annually jump through a myriad of hoops goaded on by county staffers who have . . . well . . . opposing views of homeschooling (perhaps hostile is a more appropriate word).
Ye Are Idle, Ye Are Idle!
“You must not have anything better to do!” raged Pharaoh. “You think you're going to leave my domain to serve God? Think again. You're obviously not living in the real world. Get over it and go back to work.”
The officers left Pharaoh's court that day wondering what they were going to do. They forgot all the prayers, and cries, and pleadings they had offered up to God for so long. Their noose was tightening and God's promise of deliverance seemed winnowed with the morning sandstorm. They only saw the tale of bricks and the wall of impossibility. Before it could get better, it would have to get worse.
I Am The Lord Your God
Moses called upon God and God assured him of victory. “Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive the out of his land . . . I am the LORD . . . and I have also established my covenant with them . . . Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm . . . and I will be to you a God . . . and I will give [you your] heritage: [BI am the LORD.”
Behind the tale of bricks stood an authority with a potency greater than dynamite. Remember that God brought the Israelites to Egypt in the first place. They flourished as a nation because He blessed them. He also allowed Egypt to bring them under the anguish of slavery. He sent Moses to deliver them. He hardened Pharaoh's heart. He permitted the taskmasters to increase their burdens. Situations were allowed to become unbearable so that they would know just how great a deliverer Jehovah was.
Jehovah, Yahweh, the One who is eternally self-existent, the One who is truly present: this name is consistently associated with setting people free, redeeming them from bondage, leading through difficulties, and providing solutions for seemingly impossible situations.
As home educators, you will periodically face your own tale of bricks. Enduring will deepen your relationship with God in the most personal way. He hasn't forgotten His word to you. He may not remove the obstacle, thorn, or trial today or tomorrow, but by His grace, He will prove His sufficiency to sustain you. Moreover, He'll enable such burdens to work out for your good. In a refreshing way, you will understand that the verse “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” is not a cliché; it is a holy truth.
On the eve of Israel's exodus, God revealed a purpose to Moses that cannot be overemphasized: “that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” (Exodus 11:7b).
The Savior is perfecting His will in you through your personal tale of bricks. In the process of time He builds a testimony and ministry and “puts a difference” between those who are His and those who are not. As He works, you will know Him in an exciting new way.
In the meantime, be faithful to call upon Him, believe that He hears you, and continue to gather your own straw (without diminishing). Remember that The Sovereign Lord opened this door of homeschooling to you in the first place. You can trust Him with your tale of bricks.
Timothy Palla pastors Fairview Baptist Church in southern Ohio. He and his lovely wife Jennifer have five children; Drew, Dane, Aidan, Ethan, and Meghan. They have been homeschooling for twelve years.