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Exodus 34:8-9; True Worship

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120930_exodus34_8-9.mp3

09/30 Exodus 34:8-9 Asking as Worship

Exodus 34:8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. 9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

Today we learn about true worship. The sequence of this passage is amazing, humbling, encouraging, and instructive. Let’s put this in context. God had entered in to a covenant relationship with his people. He was taking Israel, above every other people on the face of the earth, to be his treasured possession, not because of some inherent worth in them, but because of his mercy and love. He saw their misery in Egypt and rescued them. He put up with their grumbling and brought them to the mountain where he would reveal himself to them. He outlined for them what it would mean to be in relationship with the holy God. They said ‘all that the Lord has said we will do and we will be obedient’ (24:7). But while the covenant mediator was up on the mountain receiving the written terms and details of the relationship, they violated their covenant commitment, forfeited their privileged position as God’s chosen people, and committed spiritual adultery. They made their own god and gave it their worship and held a feast to it at the same time that the true God was giving his instructions to their covenant mediator. God was justly angry and threatened to divorce them, destroy them, and start over with Moses.

We have been following Moses’ prayer to God, as he gradually, little by little, asks God to fully restore his relationship with his disobedient people. Moses begged God to extend mercy instead of justice. God agreed not to destroy all of them as they deserved. Moses came down from the mountain and publicly shattered the tablets of the covenant, displaying what the people had done. Moses purged the camp of the idol and those unrepentant and persistent in their idolatry. Moses attempted to make atonement for the people and asked God to forgive, even offering himself, but God insisted that the ones who sinned will suffer the consequences. The Lord said he would send them away, promising that they would make it safely to the promised land, but without his accompanying presence. Because of their persistent sinfulness and his holy character, his presence with them would require that he destroy them. Moses held up to God his promises and the fact that he had already shown undeserved grace to them. He begged God that he go with them, because it was his very presence with them that made them different from every other people on the face of the earth. God responded to this request, promising that his presence would go with them, because they had found grace in his sight. Moses asked for confirmation of God’s promise, that he would set his seal to his promise by revealing to him his glory, the beauty of his character and nature. So God communicated to Moses in words what he had already communicated through his actions up to this point, that he is YHWH, the self-existent one, a God freely merciful and gracious, slow to anger and overflowing in steadfast love and faithfulness, extending his covenant love to thousands of generations, a God inclined to forgive all types of his people’s sin against him, yet at the same time maintaining his justice, by no means clearing the guilty.

True Worship

Moses’ response to God’s revelation is appropriate.

8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

Moses gets low in the presence of God. God is the only being in existence who is worthy to be exalted. Genuine worship does not draw attention to the worshiper, but deflects all attention to the all-glorious God. True worship is getting out of the way so that everyone can see God for who he is. Here we also see where true worship comes from. Worship is a response to the revealed character of God. I’ve heard people say things like ‘I just can’t seem to get into worship today’ or ‘I can’t worship with this kind of music’. These kind of statements betray a total misunderstanding of what worship is. Worship is not a style of music, and worship is not a feeling or emotion. Worship is a response of the will to the revealed character of God. Worship is getting low in the presence of God so he can be seen for who he is in all his awesome majesty. So if you’re not feeling particularly worshipful, then you need to reflect for a moment on the character of God as revealed in his word, and respond with attitudes and emotions and actions that are appropriate to his greatness; responses that make much of him and show off his glory. Moses quickly bowed his head and worshiped. And then Moses asked.

Asking as Worship

9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

Do you see how this asking is worship? The text says that Moses bowed and worshiped and said. And then he utters this prayer of asking. We might think that worship is what we give back to God in response to what he has given us, so asking would be inappropriate in worship. Worship is giving praise, not taking from God. But this again betrays a misunderstanding of worship. If God is rich and I am a poor beggar, it does not glorify the one who is rich to pretend like I am not needy. It does not magnify the one who is gracious and merciful to pretend that I am deserving or just fine on my own. To glorify the ultimate giver, we must be willing to humbly receive the gifts that he offers. The only way the asking of a beggar would dishonor a benefactor is if the asking reveals the limits of his generosity. If the generous person has no more desire to give or no more resources to give, then that would reveal the limits of his wealth or his willingness. But our God is a God who is merciful and gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is eager to forgive. His wealth is inexhaustible and there is no limit to his grace and mercy toward repentant sinners. He has invited us to ask. We worship God, we glorify God, we show off the character of God when we come to him as needy sinners and ask for him to show himself gracious and merciful. We bow ourselves low as beggars and give him the opportunity to show off his abundant forgiveness in the face of our need.

Grace Based Asking

Let’s look at how Moses magnifies God’s revealed character by asking.

9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

First of all, Moses’ asking is based on God’s promise of grace. God had said ‘I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious’. God is free to show his grace to whomever he pleases. But Moses had already experienced evidence of God’s grace. In 33:12, Moses quotes God as saying ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor (or grace) in my sight.’ In 33:13 he bases his request to to know God better on the fact that he had found favor or grace in God’s sight. The goal of his prayer to know God better is so that he would continue to experience his grace. In 33:16 he asks for God’s presence as a demonstration of his grace, and again here in this verse, he asks for God’s presence as evidence of God’s grace. Grace is favor that is not earned or deserved. If we come to God with our rights, demanding that we get what we deserve, we will not like the outcome. Our only basis for asking God for anything is his gracious character. This is so rich, so freeing, but it is so hard for us humans to grasp! Anything good we receive from God has nothing to do with us! We are not more likely to receive good things from God if we have performed well, and we are not less likely to receive good gifts from God if we have performed poorly. We are more likely to receive if we ask him for good things, because HE is gracious! All our asking must be based on God’s gracious character, his delight in giving good gifts to sinners who don’t deserve it.

Persistent Request for God’s Presence

The content of Moses’ request, as we have seen before, is God’s presence with his people. This is the persistent request of Moses. He doesn’t move on to other things, other requests, other needs. He is stuck on this one thing – that God go with his people. He is determined to secure the promise of God’s presence with them. This is the only thing that seems to matter to him; indeed it is the only thing that does matter. If God is not with his people, they will not experience his favor, and they cannot enjoy his presence. This is what we were created for, and nothing else will satisfy. We must have the promise of God’s presence, we must experience peace with God, we must be reconciled to him or all is lost. Nothing else matters. ‘O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us’

Stiff-necked

The next phrase is puzzling: ‘for it is a stiff-necked people’. This is the reason God wanted to unleash his wrath and destroy the people in chapter 32

Exodus 32:9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

This is the exact reason God gave for not going with his people.

Exodus 33:3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

Exodus 33:5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. …

Now Moses turns this around and uses it as the very reason for his request that God go with his people.

9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people…

How can this be? God’s reason for not going with his people is the very thing Moses seizes upon and turns into the reason for his request for God to go with his people. This is a bold way to pray. God says ‘I will not go with you because you are stiff-necked and I would consume you’; Moses prays ‘you must go with us precisely because we are stiff-necked’. What makes the difference? I am convinced that it is God’s promise of grace that makes all the difference. If God were to act strictly in holiness, justice and righteousness, his wrath would burn hot and he would consume this stiff-necked people in a single moment. But if God turns his favor toward them, as he is free to do, then he will turn away his wrath and extend to them his forgiveness, mercy and grace. But how can God turn away his wrath from sinners? Where does he turn it to?

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief;

The Father turned his wrath toward the perfect substitute, his Son Jesus.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,…

You see, the cross of our Lord Jesus is central even to the Old Testament. It answers the question ‘How can God be both just and justify the ungodly?’ (Rom.3:25-26; 4:5). How can God remain holy and righteous and show mercy and grace to sinners? This question finds its resolution only at the cross of Jesus, where the just wrath of a holy God against sin is poured out and satisfied, so that he is free to show mercy to those whose sins have been paid for.

But why would Moses remind God that the people are stiff-necked? Why bring this up, and even make it the reason for the request of his presence? I think it goes something like this: Lord, we are a stiff-necked people, daily in need of your transforming presence; do not leave us to ourselves. If we are this bad while you are so near to us, I fear to imagine what we would become if you withdrew your sanctifying presence from us. We are utterly dependent on you; our only hope of becoming holy is your purifying presence with us. The only value we have is that which your grace creates in us.

9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

Pardon our iniquity and our sin. Our only hope is in you, because you are a God who forgives iniquity and transgression and sin. You must go with us, because there is no other God like you whose forgiveness, mercy and grace is a match for a stiff-necked people like us. As the prophet Micah would say:

Micah 7:18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. 19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

God’s Inheritance

Go in the midst of us, because we are a stiff necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin. But Moses’ final request tops even this. ‘And take us for your inheritance.’ Take a moment and let this sink in. Take us for your inheritance. An inheritance is a prize possession, a special treasure, something of great value that you look forward to. Take us for your inheritance. Take us, an iniquitous sinful stiff-necked people. You, the holy, sin hating, awesome, self-existent needing nothing God, you take us for your inheritance!? This is beyond belief! God had said back in chapter 19:

Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;

If you will obey. But they had not obeyed. They had quickly turned aside. They had violated his covenant. They had committed idolatry, adultery. They had forfeited any claim to be his treasured possession. And now, after the golden calf, Moses has the audacity to ask God to take the people back, not as a pet project or an interesting experiment, but as his inheritance. Treat us as if we had obeyed your voice and kept your covenant perfectly. Take us, a stiff-necked people as your prized possession. How can this be? Moses is boldly asking, calling on the character of God, testing, pushing to the extreme. God you say you are gracious – giving good gifts to those who don’t deserve it. There is nothing we deserve but your wrath; will you show us your favor? We are pitiful, hopeless, helpless; will you extend mercy to us? You say you abound in covenant love and faithfulness; will you be faithful to us even though we have broken faith with you? We have sinned a great sin. Will your forgiveness cover even this? Take us, not because we have any inherent worth and value in your sight, but take us in order by your grace to make us into something valuable. Take us as your treasure.

We find the ultimate fulfillment of this in Jesus;

Titus 2:13 …our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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September 30, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 34:5-7; God Preaching God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120923_exodus34_5-7.mp3

09/23 Exodus 34:5-7 God Preaching God

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

This is one of the most amazing passages in the whole bible. It’s awesome to hear good solid biblical Spirit filled preachers preach on the nature of God. It will feed your soul to read the writings of the saints of the past who have had pursued the face of God and mined the depths of the truth of scripture about who God is and written it down for our learning. But in this passage God himself preaches on God. God self-discloses his own character and nature. God tells us in first person what he himself is like.

This morning, I want to zoom into the details of this passage to see what the words mean, to see what God wants to communicate to us about himself, and then we will step back and take in the panorama of riches of God’s character in the context of where this falls here in chapter 34 of the book of Exodus.

Hunger for God

First, I want to note that Moses was seeking this revelation of God. Moses was asking God for confirmation that his presence would be with them. Moses asked God ‘please show me your glory’. Moses longed to know God better. Moses, who had already spent 40 days in the glory cloud in the presence of the Lord, Moses, to whom God spoke as it were ‘face to face, as a man speaks with his friend,’ was hungry for more of God. He had tasted of the goodness of the Lord, and he wanted more. Listen to how the Psalmist speaks of this hunger for God.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 21:6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

Psalm 34:10 … those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Psalm 42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

Psalm 51:11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 84:10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Psalm 105:4 Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!

Psalm 107:9 For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Psalm 143:6 I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

This is the promise and hope of every believer

2 Corinthians 4:14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

Jude 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

We look forward to being in his presence with joy. Jesus said

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

And missing out on the presence of God is the definition of hell.

2 Thessalonians 1:9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

Do you have this hunger for the presence of God, for a deeper intimacy with God, for a greater understanding and love of his character and nature? Many people want to go to heaven, the place with the perks and privileges, but few are in love with the person. So many would be content to go to the place without the presence. What if we find ourselves in that situation? What if we we know we ought to have a greater hunger for God, but we just don’t see it in our lives? What if we want to want God more, but it’s just not there? What can we do? I think this passage has the solution. If a person is worthy of affection, our affections will naturally grow as we get to know them better. So as we look to God’s word and take time to admire his character and nature, we will naturally grow in our affections for him, because he is the most worthy of all our affections; even our worship. This proved true for Moses, the more time he spent in the presence of God, the more his appetite for God increased. May God increase our appetite for him today as we spend time getting to know him.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. 9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

The LORD descended. For God to reveal himself to a human being by definition requires him to stoop down. God is beyond what we finite beings could ever comprehend. Even to use human language to attempt to describe him is him coming down to communicate on our level.

Here we see the content of the revelation, and it is not visual but verbal. Moses asked to see God’s glory, and God descended in the glory cloud, obscuring any sight. He spoke. He proclaimed the name of YHWH. To share your name is to share a personal part of you. Your name conveys your reputation, your character, what you are like. When we were contemplating names for our children, there were certain names that we eliminated right away, because we had known someone by that name. A name would trigger a whole recollection of what that person was like. That is why God can show Moses his glory by telling him his name or his character. God is proclaiming or preaching, calling out, declaring who he is.

YHWH YHWH (יְהוֹוָה)

He starts by proclaiming his name YHWH or the LORD. Twice. In the Hebrew culture, repetition can communicate emphasis or endearment. To call someone’s name twice ‘Martha, Martha’ (Lk.10:41) was a way of saying ‘oh, sweet Martha’. If that is the meaning here, then this is the only place where a person describes himself with an endearing term. But it would be fully appropriate for God to say that he loves himself. He must think more highly of himself than anyone else, because it would be idolatry for him to think of anyone else more highly than himself. This could also be a duplication for emphasis. When Jesus taught and said ‘truly, truly, I say to you’, he was saying ‘this is not just truth, this is the truest truth you’ve ever heard’. In that culture and language it was a way of adding emphasis. If we like something a lot we might say it is ‘awesome’. But if we really really like it, we might say it is ‘so totally awesome!’ God revealed his name YHWH to Moses back in chapter 3, where he said ‘I AM WHO I AM …tell them I AM has sent you’ (Ex.3:14). God is the self-existent one, the one who is independent of anything outside of himself. He simply IS. He is saying ‘I am the self-existent one; I am so totally self-existent. I am free, I am sovereign. I do not depend on anyone or anything outside of myself. I exist. I AM!

God (אֵל‘el )

The word translated ‘God’ here is the Hebrew word ‘El’. This is the generic word for God. It serves as the prefix of many of the names of God. It speaks of strength or might. He is the Mighty One. The rest of the words in these verses describe what kind of God we are talking about, characteristics that set the one true God apart from every false god.

Merciful (רַחוּםrachuwm)

The first characteristic God uses to describe himself is ‘merciful’. This word describes one who shows compassion or pity. In a wartime setting, mercy is something that is shown to those who are helpless, like infants, orphans, or widows (Is.9:17; 13:18). From God’s perspective, mercy is what sinners need. Justice demands that sins be punished, but in mercy, God’s heart goes out to our desperate helpless condition and extends his help. This means that for us to experience God’s mercy, we need to acknowledge that we are desperate, helpless, and pitiful. Nowhere in the bible do we find it taught that ‘God helps those who help themselves’. Instead, the bible says that ‘while we were still weak, …while we were still sinners, …while we were enemies, …Christ died for the ungodly (Rom.5:6-10). Jesus, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt.9:36). Mercy is extended to those who are pitiful and helpless.

God said just a few verses ago (33:19) that he is free to show mercy to whomever he will show mercy to. He is not obligated to show mercy. We are not entitled to his mercy. But we can ask for his mercy. We can cry out for his mercy. We can wait for his mercy, and we can have confidence, because he is a merciful God. According to Jesus, God responds to those who cry out ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Lk.18:13)

Gracious (חַנּוּןchannuwn )

The second characteristic God uses to describe himself is ‘gracious’. This word has much overlap in meaning with the previous word ‘merciful’. ‘Gracious’ describes one who grants a favor, and it is a favor that is not earned or deserved. God is free to extend his favor to whomever he chooses, as he made clear in the previous verses. God has a heart of generosity to those in need. He gives beyond what could be expected. This is the good news, the gospel of the grace of God (Ac.20:24)

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

God freely gives his favor to the needy.

Slow To Anger (אָרֵך ‘arek; אַף‘aph; lit. long of nose)

The next phrase is a very interesting one. The words translated ‘slow to anger’ are two words that translated literally mean ‘long of nose’. This is an idiom that pictures the nostrils flaring or snorting in anger. To be long of nose means that it takes a long time before he shows any signs of anger. We may speak of someone who has a long fuse – when the fuse is ignited, it takes a long time before they blow up on you. God here claims to be slow to anger. This assumes that there is a legitimate reason for him to be angry. He has been provoked. But he is not quick to wrath. This also assumes that when he is justly angered with sin, in time he will let loose his wrath. But his tendency is to postpone judgment for as long as possible, giving room for us to repent and experience his grace and mercy.

Abounding in Steadfast Love (רַב rab) (חֵסֵד checed)

The next phrase God uses to describe himself is ‘abounding in steadfast love’. Steadfast love carries the idea of covenant love and loyalty. God has entered into a covenant relationship with his people. God is true to his word. He has promised to show love toward his people, or to act for their good. He will be relentlessly loyal to that covenant. This is in contrast to our fickleness and unfaithfulness. God does not merely claim to be loving; he says that he abounds in steadfast love. This quantifies his love; it is limitless. He will never run out. There is abundant supply. He is overflowing in his committed love toward his people.

(Abounding in) Faithfulness (אֶמֶת’emeth)

God is abounding in steadfast love and he is abounding in faithfulness. This word means firmness, certainty, stability, trustworthiness, dependability, or truth. What God says is always true but this runs even deeper. Who God is is truth, his character is truth. He is trustworthy. He can be depended on. He is stable and sure. He overflows with truth.

Keeping (נָצַרnatsar) Steadfast Love for Thousands

God declares that he keeps steadfast love to thousands. God guards, protects and maintains his covenant loyalty, and this steadfast love will extend to thousands of generations. This is the greatest numerical contrast in the bible, contrasting the thousands of generations to whom he maintains steadfast love with the third and fourth generation on whom he will visit iniquity. God is faithful to love, and he is faithful to maintain his love.

Forgiving Iniquity and Transgression and Sin

God is a God who forgives. To forgive means to bear, to carry off or take away. This is a comprehensive categorical list to make it clear that nothing is left out or overlooked. Iniquity is perversity or moral wickedness. Transgression is revolt or rebellion against God’s standards. Sin, broadly is any offense against God. Because God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, and because we are wicked rebellious sinners, he is a God who carries away our sin. Remember, this is not a list of things God does; this is a description of who he is. It is in his very nature to forgive.

but who will by no means clear the guilty…

Yet, in the same breath, this forgiving God declares that he is just. He will my no means clear the guilty. He will punish evildoers. And when children follow in their father’s sinful footsteps, he will punish them too. This forgiving gracious merciful patient God takes sin seriously, and takes justice seriously. No one can say ‘well, because God is gracious and merciful and forgiving, then I will continue in sin so that his grace may abound (Rom.6). May it never be! God is slow to anger to give opportunity to repent and cry out to find his mercy and grace. How God can be both forgiving and just, not clearing the guilty, is a dilemma that is only resolved at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, where he became sin for us, and imputes to us his righteousness (2Cor.5:21).

The Big Picture

Now let’s step back as we conclude and look at God’s declaration of who he is in the context of the book of Exodus. God’s people had been slaves for 400 years. They cried out for help and he listened. He saved them. He demonstrated his superiority over every false god. He conquered their enemies and set them free. He supernaturally sustained them in the wilderness. He patiently put up with their rotten attitudes. He fulfilled his promises and brought them to a place where he would enter into covenant relationship with them, to take them as his people and to be their God. He outlined the terms of this relationship, and they agreed. He etched the terms of this agreement in stone so they would be remembered. But while he was writing, they forsook their covenant commitment to be faithful only to him and prostituted themselves with other gods. They made and worshiped an idol and provoked him to jealousy. God threatened to divorce and abandon his people because of their sin. But Moses interceded for them. He begged God to take them back as his people and be with them. This is God’s answer to Moses’ prayer. ‘You have found grace in my sight. I will go with you. I know you by name. I am in no way obligated to you; I am free to extend my grace and mercy to whomever I please. This is my nature; I am YHWH, the Self-Existent One, a God who shows pity to helpless sinners, a God who generously pours out favor on those who don’t deserve it, a God who does not unleash his wrath against sin quickly, but leaves room for repentance, a God overflowing in faithful covenant keeping love, even when you have violated the covenant, a God overflowing in trustworthiness, even when you are fickle and faithless, a God who maintains his covenant keeping love for thousands of generations, a God who carries away all kinds of sin, a God who is just and holds unrepentant sinners accountable. This is who I AM. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

September 23, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 33:7-17; The Undeserved Grace of God’s Presence

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120902_exodus33_7-17.mp3

09/02 Exodus 33:7-17 The Undeserved Grace of God’s Presence

God had rescued out of slavery a people for himself. He had demonstrated his mighty power over their enemies. He demonstrated his provision and care for them in the wilderness. He entered into a covenant relationship with them, to be their God and take them to be his people. He promised to give them the greatest blessing imaginable; he promised he would be with them. But they had been unfaithful even before they had received the written terms of the agreement. They abandoned their promise to ‘have no other gods before’ him and to ‘not make for yourself a carved image …[to] not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God’ (Ex.20:3-5) Now, he said “I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” (33:3). He said “You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you.” (33:5). He would fulfill all of his promises, but he would not be with them. The people perceived this, not as a blessing, but as a disastrous word. There can be nothing more fulfilling, nothing more satisfying, nothing that nourishes the soul, there is no greater blessing than the presence of God. God promises that he will fulfill all his promises but he will remove his presence from his people. This is rightly seen as disastrous, for there can be no greater emptiness than the absence of God, so the people

strip themselves of their ornaments and go into mourning. But there is a glimmer of hope. God says ‘So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you’. This is the parent telling the rebellious child to sit in the corner and wait while I cool down and decide what the punishment will be. Will it be justice, swift and severe, or will he again show mercy? God had already proposed that he consume the people and start over with Moses (32:10). Moses pleaded with God that he not totally destroy them, and ‘the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people’ (32:14). Now, the Lord says he will send his angel with them, but he will not personally accompany them, in order to protect them from the absolute holiness of his presence.

Verses 7-11 describe the interim situation, building suspense and leaving us hanging as to what the answer will be to what God will do with his disobedient people.

Exodus 33:7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 11 Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

Contrast in Tents

Remember, back in chapter 25, God had said “let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (25:8). And he proceeded to give seven chapters worth of elaborate detailed instruction about this tabernacle, or tent of meeting, that would provide a central worship location for the whole camp of Israel. This was to be an ornate and highly decorated tent, made of the finest richly colored materials, embroidered with gold, fitted with furniture of gold and silver and bronze, with a whole order of priests, also adorned in elaborate outfits, set apart to make offerings for the people and bring them into the courtyards of God’s palace to enjoy meals in his presence. But now nothing of this has been made. The people by their sinful actions have forfeited the presence of God. Now, instead of an elaborate tent fit for a king, we are simply told that Moses pitched the tent outside the camp, far off from the camp, and called it the tent of meeting. No details, no decoration, no furniture. Just a simple tent. Not in the middle of the camp of Israel, but outside the camp, far off from the camp. No Levites and priests to guard and serve in God’s palace; just Joshua, from the tribe of Ephraim (Num.13:8,16), to stand guard over this simple tent. No sacrifices where they could find forgiveness, but only a fearful expectation of judgment. No entering into his courts with singing, instead each would stand at his own tent door and watch and worship from afar.

Consequence of Sin

This was a dramatic illustration of the consequences of sin. God would not dwell with this people. He could not stand to be among them. He would distance himself from this people. His tent would be far off from the camp. The people of Israel would not have God as their center. Instead any one of them who would seek the LORD must leave Israel behind and go out to the wilderness to find him. Israel was intended to be a light to the nations, God’s own people, so that any outsiders who would seek God must come in to Israel to approach this God. Now God is outside, and Israel must go out if they will have any dealings with him.

Respect for Leadership

We see here the attitudes of the people toward their leader changing. Remember when the people assembled against Aaron with their demand that he make them a calf? They said ‘as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him’ (32:1). There was no respect, no recognition that this was God’s chosen leader, no acknowledgment that God had called him and was using him as their mediator; they were ready to set him aside and choose their own leader. Now they were beginning to recognize and respect his position of authority. Whenever Moses would go out to the tent they would rise out of reverence. When they saw that God was meeting with Moses, they would rise up to worship God.

The Word of God

Moses’ authority was not because he was in some way better than them. He himself felt inadequate for the task, and when God called him said ‘who am I that I should …bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ (3:11); he even said ‘Oh, my Lord, please send someone else’ (4:13). Moses’ authority did not come from his natural abilities or from who he was at all; God said ‘I will be with you’ (3:12). Moses’ authority was recognized because God would speak to him. In fact, we are told ‘the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.’ We cannot take this to mean that Moses saw the face of God, for later in this very chapter Moses records God as saying ‘you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live’ (33:20). Being face to face with the invisible God (Col.1:15; 1Tim.1:17; Heb.11:27) is a way to express that this conversation was up close and personal, that Moses had lost nothing of the privileged intimacy he had experienced in the glory cloud on Mount Sinai. Notice the text does not say that Moses looked at God or that the LORD looked at Moses face to face, but that he spoke to Moses face to face. God’s word is always of utmost importance. It is what God says that takes priority. And this is what gave Moses authority with the people. They recognized that God spoke to him, that God gave him his word. What an awesome treasure we hold in our hands today! The very word of God written; his communication with us.

Friendship with God

What an awesome privilege! To be in the presence of the invisible God. To hear his voice. For the God of the universe to call me ‘friend’!

Psalm 25:14 The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.

This friendship was denied to the Israelites, who had no reverence for God and broke his covenant. They were kept at a distance. Jesus invites us back into friendship with him. He says:

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

‘You are my friends if you do what I command you.’ Friendship with God means obeying his commands. Our problem is we are disobedient. We are rebellious. We do not have a proper fear of God. We, like the Israelites, are quick to run after other gods, to worship other things, our hearts are inclined to love other things more than God. That is why Jesus laid down his life for us. We needed someone to pay the debt we owe for dishonoring God. He died for us even when we didn’t deserve it. He died for us while we were still hostile toward him. He loved those who hated him. This is the kind of love Jesus demands from his followers. To understand this is transformational. None of us deserve to be loved. So when Jesus tells us to love one another as I have loved you, he is saying that we must love those who have done nothing to earn our love. We must love in a way that costs us something. We must love even those who are hostile toward us. We must actively pursue the good of the other. We show ourselves to be his friends when we understand how he loves and seek to love others like we have been loved by him. This comes not from extra human effort, but as a result of experiencing what it is to be loved by God when we deserve just the opposite. What a privilege to be invited into friendship with Jesus!

Moses’ Dependence on Grace

God is speaking to Moses as a friend, but has distanced himself from the rest of the people. He invites the people to demonstrate their repentance ‘that I may know what to do with you.’ Here we get in on one of these conversations in the tent.

12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

God had told Moses that he would send an angel but would not go personally with the people. Moses argues that God must go with the people or nothing else matters. Moses is acknowledging his utter dependence on God and his own inability to lead without God. Moses is calling on God to make good on his word. You have said ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ God has shown Moses favor or grace. Moses didn’t deserve this. Moses makes his plea based on the fact that God had given him grace. The request? ‘Please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.’ Because you know me and have extended undeserved grace to me, I want to know you, I want to know your character, your ways, so that I can continue to receive undeserved grace. Moses is saying ‘I didn’t deserve it, I don’t now deserve it, and I won’t ever deserve your favor. I want to grow in relationship with you so that I continue to experience your undeserved grace, because that’s what you’re like.’ And he adds ‘consider too that this nation is your people.’ They have been recipients of your undeserved grace. They don’t deserve it now, but will you still grant them your favor?

God responds ‘My presence will go with you and I will give you rest’, but it seems the ‘you’ here is singular. My face will go with you Moses, and I will give you individually rest. This is not good enough for Moses. He is not content to have God’s promise for himself individually, he wants God’s presence with the whole people. This is almost an ultimatum. You have told us to go, but we are not going anywhere without the promise of your presence with us. See how Moses inextricably connects himself with the people: me, us; I, I and your people; us, we, I and your people.

Evidence of Grace

Moses asks the question: what is the evidence of your grace in my life? You say you have shown us undeserved favor. What is it that shows that we are different from every other people on the face of the earth? The evidence of grace, this favor that is not deserved, is God’s presence. Moses is beginning to understand the heart of God and he is learning what it means to pray according to the will of God. The exodus event was intended as a way for God to get glory (14:4, 17) for his great name. It was a way to preach the greatness of God so that many would acknowledge him as the only true God and come to him. God’s promise to Abraham was ‘I will bless you …so that you will be a blessing. …and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’ (Gen.12:2-3) and ‘in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed’ (Gen.22:18). Moses had already leveraged this in his prayer in chapter 32; he asked ‘why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’ (32:12)? God’s reputation among the nations is at stake. His question here is ‘how shall it be known,’ because the point of God’s taking a nation to be his own treasured possession is to put the riches of his grace on display for the nations to see. God’s people enjoying God’s presence with them as a result of his undeserved grace proclaims the glory of God like nothing else. What awesome encouragement to the worst of sinners that they too can find forgiveness when they turn to God if this hard-hearted rebellious people, so quick to turn away, were extended his grace when they repented. See God’s response to this prayer:

17 And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment