PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 34:5-7; God Preaching God

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 ~

September 23, 2012 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , ,

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