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Exodus 39:32-40:38; The Finished Work, The Restored Presence

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20121021_exodus39_32-40_38.mp3

10/21 Exodus 39:32 – 40:38 The Finished Work; The Restored Presence

We are at the close of the book of Exodus. Here’s a broad outline of the entire book:

(chapters 1-14) God’s Redemption of His People

(chapters 15-18) God’s Care for His People

(chapters 19-24) God’s Covenant with His People

(chapters 25-40) God’s Presence with His People

The focus of the entire book of Exodus is God’s presence with his people. God saved his people from slavery, cared for his people in the wilderness, entered into covenant relationship with his people, so that he could dwell in the midst of his people. This last section, chapters 25-40, culminating God’s presence with his people, is broken in half with chapters 32-34, which recount the covenant treason of the people with the golden bull idol and Moses’ intercession for the people. The first half, chapters 25-31, detail God’s instructions for the construction of his tent in the midst of the camp, the tabernacle. The second half, chapters 35-39, recount the faithful, precise obedience of the people following the commands of the Lord down to every detail. This structure demonstrates the total, complete forgiveness and restoration that God graciously extended to his broken, repentant people. Chapters 35-39 read as if nothing had ever happened. In our study through Exodus, we covered the corresponding fulfillment sections as we went through the command sections. Now we jump to the end of chapter 39.

Exodus 39:32 Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished, and the people of Israel did according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses; so they did. 33 Then they brought the tabernacle to Moses, the tent and all its utensils, its hooks, its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; 34 the covering of tanned rams’ skins and goatskins, and the veil of the screen; 35 the ark of the testimony with its poles and the mercy seat; 36 the table with all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; 37 the lampstand of pure gold and its lamps with the lamps set and all its utensils, and the oil for the light; 38 the golden altar, the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the entrance of the tent; 39 the bronze altar, and its grating of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils; the basin and its stand; 40 the hangings of the court, its pillars, and its bases, and the screen for the gate of the court, its cords, and its pegs; and all the utensils for the service of the tabernacle, for the tent of meeting; 41 the finely worked garments for ministering in the Holy Place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons for their service as priests. 42 According to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work. 43 And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them.

Exodus 40:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. 3 And you shall put in it the ark of the testimony, and you shall screen the ark with the veil. 4 And you shall bring in the table and arrange it, and you shall bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. 5 And you shall put the golden altar for incense before the ark of the testimony, and set up the screen for the door of the tabernacle. 6 You shall set the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, 7 and place the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. 8 And you shall set up the court all around, and hang up the screen for the gate of the court. 9 “Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy. 10 You shall also anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar, so that the altar may become most holy. 11 You shall also anoint the basin and its stand, and consecrate it. 12 Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water 13 and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest. 14 You shall bring his sons also and put coats on them, 15 and anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may serve me as priests. And their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations.”

16 This Moses did; according to all that the LORD commanded him, so he did. 17 In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected. 18 Moses erected the tabernacle. He laid its bases, and set up its frames, and put in its poles, and raised up its pillars. 19 And he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent over it, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 20 He took the testimony and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark and set the mercy seat above on the ark. 21 And he brought the ark into the tabernacle and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the testimony, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 22 He put the table in the tent of meeting, on the north side of the tabernacle, outside the veil, 23 and arranged the bread on it before the LORD, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 24 He put the lampstand in the tent of meeting, opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle, 25 and set up the lamps before the LORD, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 26 He put the golden altar in the tent of meeting before the veil, 27 and burned fragrant incense on it, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 28 He put in place the screen for the door of the tabernacle. 29 And he set the altar of burnt offering at the entrance of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered on it the burnt offering and the grain offering, as the LORD had commanded Moses. 30 He set the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it for washing, 31 with which Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. 32 When they went into the tent of meeting, and when they approached the altar, they washed, as the LORD commanded Moses. 33 And he erected the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the screen of the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work.

Moses was the only one that saw the heavenly original of which the earthly tabernacle was to be a copy. So he was the only one able to inspect all the craftsmanship to make sure it matched what he had seen on the mountain. Remember, the tabernacle was designed to be a portable worship center for a people on the move, so the people could easily bring all the pieces to Moses for inspection. Amazingly, there is no record of anything failing to meet his approval. There was no instance where he said ‘I’m sorry, but that’s just not good enough. You’ll have to try again.’ It says:

42 According to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work. 43 And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them.

Re-Creation

Much of this language echoes the language of the creation narrative in the beginning of Genesis. The tabernacle, like the garden, was to be the place where God would dwell with his people. In the creation narrative, God said… and it was so. Here, as LORD commanded, so they had done it.

Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.

Exodus 39:32 Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished, and the people of Israel did according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses; so they did.

Exodus 40:33 … So Moses finished the work.

At the beginning of the creation narrative, the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Gen.1:2); for the building of this sanctuary,

Exodus 35:31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, …34 And he has inspired him to teach… 35 He has filled them with skill… (cf. Exodus 31:3)

The amazing thing about these echoes of creation in this narrative is that in the original creation, there is no ‘God said, and they did just the opposite and screwed everything up and brought the anger of the LORD, but then they repented and God forgave them, and it was so.’ It was simply ‘God spoke and it happened’. Perfect obedience. Here, after violating their covenant commitment with a false god, the final verdict is:

Exodus 39:43 And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them.

This, too, is an echo of the creation narrative.

Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill …and subdue …and have dominion …

Good News

This is the great news of the gospel.

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Psalm 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Micah 7:19 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.

Jeremiah 31:34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

The good news is that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. Because he paid our price in full, we can be treated as if we had never sinned. Our relationship with a holy God can be restored to the intimacy it was designed for. We can be accepted as if we had kept the whole law perfectly, not because of our own efforts, but because of the perfect obedience of Jesus credited to our account.

Jesus

Remember, the whole tabernacle points to Jesus. Jesus, the covering of mercy that appeases God’s wrath over the broken law; Jesus the bread of life, Jesus the light of the world, Jesus who offers himself as the once-for-all sacrifice, Jesus our great high priest, Jesus whose prayers continually ascend to the Father for us, Jesus, in whose blood we are washed clean, Jesus, who clothes us with his righteousness and anoints us with his Holy Spirit, Jesus, who is our sabbath rest, Jesus who is the meeting place between God and men, Jesus, who is God pitching his tent in our midst, Jesus the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb.1:3).

The Glory

The work was finished exactly according to plan. The dwelling place of God was complete. We finally reach the climax of the Exodus:

Exodus 40:34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 36 Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.

Will God go with us? God gave evidence that he had taken up residence with his people. They had built a tent for him to dwell with them, and immediately upon completion, God takes up residence with them. The intensity of the glory of God is emphasized here. Moses, who spent two periods of 40 days each with God in the glory cloud, Moses, whom God placed in a cleft of the rock and caused all his goodness to pass by, Moses whom God talked with face to face, as a man talks with his friend, Moses, whose face radiated the glory of God with such intensity that he covered it with a veil, this Moses ‘was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.’ Moses, who had experienced so much of God’s glory, was not able to enter. At this point Moses, who served as mediator between God and the people, is now shown to be one of the people. If you hire a general contractor to build your house, he oversees the construction and has access to the house while it is being built. He oversees the craftsmen and ensures that it is built according to the plans, and he has authority to inspect the work and can even require that things be re-done. He has access to the house until it is completed, and then he hands the keys over to the owner. He does not keep a set of keys for himself so he can come and go as he pleases. Once the owner moves in, he looses all rights to access the house. This is the situation with Moses, and the author of Hebrews highlights this contrast between Moses and Jesus in Hebrews 3.

Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses–as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

God is the builder, Moses is a servant, Jesus is the Son. We believers are the house that God lives in. Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses. The glory of God had now come to dwell in the tent, and Moses was unable to enter.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled, pitched his tent] among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Moses was unable to enter because of the glory; Jesus is the one who is glorious, the only Son from the Father.

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Moses had limited access into the tabernacle. He served as priest when the tabernacle was first set up, arranging the bread and burning the incense, offering the burnt offering and the grain offering; he anointed Aaron and his sons as priests to serve in the newly constructed tabernacle. And then he was unable to enter. But Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and when he entered the holiest place after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of his Father. He has a right to live in the house, because he is the Son.

Presence of God

This is what Exodus is about; the presence of God dwelling with his people.

Exodus 25:8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.

Exodus 29:45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

Exodus is about Jesus.

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).

Jesus said:

John 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

We, believers in Jesus, have become the dwelling place of God, the temple of God. This is the focal point of all of history, as the final book of Revelation sums it up.

Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

We, believers in Jesus, can now enjoy the presence of God, we can walk with God, we can experience his guidance, we can reflect his glory, we can know his indwelling presence.

The message of Exodus is the message of Immanuel – God with us.

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

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October 21, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 34:28-35; The Fading Glory of the Old Covenant

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20121014_exodus34_28-35.mp3

10/14 Exodus 34:28-35 The Fading Glory of the Old Covenant

28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. 29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Let’s find our place in the story. The people had sinned. They had broken God’s covenant while Moses was up on the mountain receiving the written terms of the covenant. God was ready to destroy them, but Moses interceded, asking God to show mercy to his people. God relented from his intention to consume them all, but when Moses came down the mountain and saw with his own eyes what had happened, he did what he could to clean up the mess and purge the evil from the camp. About 3,000 men of the people were killed. The LORD announced a disastrous word, that he would no longer go with the people. They would enter the promised land, but without his presence. God is holy and he would be provoked to destroy this persistently rebellious people. The people mourned and took off their ornaments and waited to see what God would do with them. Moses went outside the camp to a temporary tent of meeting, where God met with him. Moses begged that God restore the people to their privileged position and restore his presence to the people. God agreed, and invited Moses up on the mountain to remake the covenant and reveal himself to Moses. According to our text, Moses has now been on the mountain another 40 days, a repeat of the first time, when Israel under Aaron’s leadership made a golden bull idol and held a feast to it and gave their worship to it. But this time, the people are not celebrating the works of their hands; they are mourning, repentant, waiting to hear what God would do with them. We have been in on what has gone on at the top of the mountain, that God revealed his character as a God gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness and covenant faithfulness, eager to forgive all kinds of sin. But the people have not heard this yet. They await Moses’ return.

Horns of Moses

Last time Moses returned, his authority was undermined, there was a coup in the camp; the people had broken loose. He brought down two stone tablets, publicly shattered them, ordered the cleansing of the camp, pulverized their idol and made them drink it. This time he is coming down the mountain carrying new tablets, but this time something bizarre is happening. Everyone is terrified and all keep their distance. Something is happening with the skin of Moses’ face. Most of our English translations use words like ‘shining’ or ‘radiant’ to describe what the Israelites saw. The word translated ‘shone’ in verses 29, 30 and 35 is a word that only shows up one other time in the Old Testament; in Psalm 69 it is a verbal noun that means ‘horns’.

Psalm 69:31 This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.

Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (completed around AD 400) translated this as ‘his face was horned’. Because of this, much of the Medieval and Renaissance artwork portrayed Moses with horns.

This word seems to be the root of the word commonly translated as ‘horns’. Horns in biblical times represented strength, power or authority. So whatever the actual physical or visual phenomena, the word used to describe it carried the idea of authority, God restoring his authority to his mediator Moses. Habakkuk uses the related word for horns in what seems to be a very figurative way.

Habakkuk 3:3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. Selah 4 His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power.

(AV Habakkuk 3:4 And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power)

Whatever this looked like, it was God’s way of displaying ‘this is my servant Moses – listen to him. He is my chosen mediator. He carries my authority’. They were terrified.

True Humility

A very interesting note is that Moses had no idea what was going on. Everyone is freaking out because of what’s going on with Moses’ face, and he is totally unaware that his appearance is altered.

29 …Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.

Moses had spent 40 days in the presence of God. He was changed. He didn’t eat or drink in 40 days. But he didn’t come down the mountain saying ‘look at me! Isn’t this cool? Do you notice something different about me? I’ve been in the presence of God!’ Moses is so fixated on the glory of God, on seeing and knowing God for who he is, that he’s lost sight of himself. This is true greatness. This is true humility. Not drawing attention to the evidence of God’s work in my life, and not drawing negative attention to how low and miserable and humble I am. True humility is simply not putting self on display at all. Self-awareness is lost as God takes center stage. This is the freedom that comes from focusing on God, enjoying God, being in awe of God so much that although I am being changed in the process, I am blissfully unaware of myself at all.

Good News

The people are mourning and afraid, waiting to find out what God will do with them, and their mediator comes down the mountain with a terrifying appearance. Moses has to call Aaron and the leaders of Israel to come back to him so he can talk with them, and they have to convince the people that it is safe to come near Moses. Once they are finally gathered, he can communicate what God had told him on the mountain

30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.

This would include the re-iteration of God’s ten words. This would include God’s self revelation:

Exodus 34:6 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.”

This would include God’s promise:

Exodus 34:10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

Finally, the people hear God’s answer to their question. Could they be forgiven? Would God abandon them? This was a repeat in miniature of the terror they had experienced when the mountain was on fire and God thundered out his expectations to them. Now Moses’ face was on fire and they were terrified with overflowing joy as he repeated the words of God’s covenant with them.

Transfigured

It is interesting that Moses shows up again centuries later on another mountain with another mediator whose appearance was altered after spending time with God. Jesus, who

Isaiah 53:2 …he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

This Jesus

Luke 9:28 … took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure [exodus], which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”––not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. (cf. Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:1-9)

The skin of Moses’ face shone because he had been talking with God. But John said of Jesus:

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Moses reflected the glory of God. Jesus revealed the glory of God, because Jesus is God. When Peter suggested that they make three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, He was silenced by the voice “this is my beloved Son, listen to him.” Moses and Elijah and James and John and Peter were all there to see Jesus, to testify to Jesus. Jesus is the one who Moses and all the prophets were pointing to. Jesus said:

Luke 24:44 … that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Moses, Elijah, the entire Old Testament was written about Jesus. Jesus said:

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The author of Hebrews points how Jesus is superior in every way to angels, to Moses, to the law, the temple, the priests, the sacrifices, Jesus is the reality of which everything else was foreshadow and type.

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Moses reflected the glory of God. This was only a dim foretaste of what would be seen in Jesus. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of his nature.

The Glory Fades

33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

According to the text, Moses would veil his face after he spoke to the people. He would remove the veil when he went into the presence of the LORD. He would deliver the message to the people so that they could see the skin of his face shining. Then he would cover himself with the veil until he went again into the presence of the LORD. Paul in 2 Corinthians points to the veiling of Moses’ shining face, and draws a contrast between the Old Covenant and the New. Paul says

2 Corinthians 3:5 …our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. 12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Paul points out that Moses veiled his face because the glory of the Old Covenant, as brilliant as that was, was a fading glory. It did not last. He draws a number of contrasts between the Old Covenant and the New:

Old Covenant / New Covenant

Of The Letter / Of The Spirit

Kills / Gives Life

Ministry of Death Ministry of Spirit

Carved in Stone / Written in Hearts

Fading Glory / Surpassing Glory

Hidden / Revealed

Ministry of Condemnation / Ministry of Righteousness

Ending / Permanent

Minds Hardened / Veil Removed Through Christ

We look at what happened to Moses and are intrigued. Wouldn’t that be cool if we all left church each Sunday with radiating faces? But Paul’s point is that what Moses experienced under the Old Covenant was as nothing compared to what what we now have in the New Covenant. Moses, a man, was their mediator. Jesus, the God-man is our one mediator. Moses was the only one invited in to God’s presence. We all have the opportunity to behold the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. We get to look, not at Moses, but at Jesus, God the Son, and we get to look with unveiled faces. We are not hid in a cleft of the rock and covered with his hand, able to see only his back side. We experience the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Transformed by Beholding

We, like Moses are altered from the experience. But for Moses it faded away. For us it is permanent. Are you hungry for lasting transformation in you life? In your character? In your relationships? In your attitudes? In your thoughts and desires? Here is the answer for permanent transformation. It is not something we do; transformation is something that is done to us; we are ‘being transformed’. What is the mechanism of transformation? How does it happen? ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord’, we look, we gaze, we see, and we are being transformed. We turn to the Lord, the veil is removed, and we take in who Jesus is. We enjoy him in all his glory, full of grace and truth. As we look God transforms us. We may not be aware that anything is happening. We can lose ourselves in the glory of his majesty. But those around us will know. They will see it in our lives.

Exodus 34:10 …And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

They will recognize that we have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

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

October 14, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 34:10-27; The Covenant Re-Made

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20121007_exodus34_10-27.mp3

10/7 Exodus 34:10-27 The Covenant Re-made

Moses has asked God to show him his glory. Moses was asking that God take sinful rebellious disobedient Israel back as his own people. He was asking that he forgive their sins and take them to be his treasured possession. That is a huge request, a bold request, an unlikely request, but it was based on God’s revelation of his own character. God said that he is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, not letting the guilty go unpunished. Moses is boldly asking God to extend his grace and forgiveness to wayward Israel, and to give him proof of his promised presence, and to restore the sinful people to their previous privileged position. In this passage, God is answering ‘yes’. We are going to look at how he answers.

Remember, when Moses asked God to show him his glory, God explained how he would show him his glory, but before he did, he instructed Moses:

Exodus 34:1 The LORD said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. 3 No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” 4 So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone.

This takes us right back to chapter 19, where God was first inviting the people into covenant with him. The covenant documentation must be remade. There is no experience of the glory of God, no enjoying of the presence of God outside of a covenant relationship with him. They broke the covenant. The covenant relationship must be renewed in order for God to take them to be his inheritance. This is what we see in this chapter. God is agreeing to take Israel back as his people, but only on his terms. This is like those software installation programs that require you to accept the terms and conditions or they don’t let you install the program. Either you accept the terms or you don’t go any further. But God’s terms are not endless pages of legal mumbo-jumbo. God is very clear and concise in laying out his expectations of his people. But the first thing he communicates is what he will do for his people.

I Will Do Marvels

Exodus 34:10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. 11 “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

This is amazing in light of where we are in Exodus. God had delivered the people from slavery in Egypt by 10 mighty acts of judgment. He had decimated the world superpower, bringing Egypt to its knees. Even the wise men of the Egyptian court said:

Exodus 10:7 Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?”

Now God is saying ‘I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation… It is an awesome thing that I will do with you.’ As if the deliverance from Egypt, the ten plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, was not an awesome thing! God is promising to do even greater things than these! Hold this thought, because I’d like to come back to these verses again before we end today.

An Exclusive Covenant

God says he is making the covenant. He is the one who establishes the terms of the agreement. He is King. He determines what must be. He says ‘Observe what I command you this day.’ These are the boundaries that define the relationship. Without these requirements there is no relationship. There is only broken covenant.

12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods. 17 “You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.

Here God is restating his first two commandments.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God…

God is bringing his commandment home to the people who have so recently embraced idolatry, made a golden bull and worshiped the works of their hands. He reiterates that he is a jealous God (20:5); not the petty jealousy of wounded pride, but holy jealousy out of love for the people he is taking to be his own. Not only does he say that he is a jealous God, but he claims that his name is Jealous. Jealousy is one of his defining characteristics. This is exclusive jealousy, righteous jealousy, because there is no blessing outside of a relationship YHWH whose name is Jealous. This covenant relationship is an exclusive covenant. When you enter into the covenant of marriage, you vow to forsake all others and to be faithful only, exclusively to your marriage partner. You can’t take that vow before God and then turn around and enter into another marriage covenant with someone else. It is exclusive. The same is true for this covenant with God. God is saying that a covenant with him is incompatible with entering into covenant relationships with any of the idolatrous people of the land. God was alerting the people to the danger of becoming unequally yoked with unbelievers (2Cor.6:14). It may seem innocent at first, but it leads to idolatry and God views idolatry as adultery. From God’s perspective, idolatry is equivalent to your wife sneaking out on your honeymoon and prostituting herself with other men. This is valid cause for white-hot holy jealousy, pursuing purifying jealousy. This is the passionate jealousy that says ‘I love you, and I want better for you than that.’ Understand, God’s requirements are not oppressive burdens that prohibit pleasure, but rather are for our protection so that we can experience and enjoy his blessing.

The Feasts and Rest

Next, God reminds his people of his appointed feasts and rest.

18 “You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib, for in the month Abib you came out from Egypt. 19 All that open the womb are mine, all your male livestock, the firstborn of cow and sheep. 20 The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty-handed. 21 “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. 22 You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end. 23 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel. 24 For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land, when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.

Here God reminds the people of his requirement that they feast. This is his mandatory demand that they celebrate. Remember what the people did with the golden calf? ‘they sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play’. They wanted a party. God is reminding them, ‘I want you to celebrate, I designed you to enjoy my presence, I require that you to rest and be refreshed and enjoy the relationship we have. I am providing, no, demanding that you take time to enjoy your relationship with me. What I offer is so much better than the cheap counterfeits you try to find satisfaction in.’

The Feast of Unleavened Bread was connected to Passover. It was a memorial feast, a feast to remember God’s past faithfulness to them. This is a feast commemorating what the Lord did for you in bringing you out of Egypt. In this, God exerts his ownership over all his people. God redeemed the people from Egypt. He bought them. They belong to him. He owns them. The redemption of the firstborn is a reminder that God has rights over his people. We are his possession. We are his.

The Sabbath was one day out of seven to rest and remember and worship and enjoy. Even at the busiest times of the year, the most demanding times, he requires that his people rest and celebrate him.

The Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Ingathering were two celebrations related to God’s provision for his people; the firstfruits, or Pentecost; and then the final harvest at the end of the season. Attendance at these feasts is not optional; it is mandatory.

And with this is the promise of God’s sovereign protection. You don’t have to worry that while everyone is away worshiping me that someone is going to sneak in and steal your stuff. ‘I will drive out your enemies. I will enlarge your borders. I will protect and care for my people.’

25 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover remain until the morning. 26 The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

God demands purity and perfect obedience to his laws. God asks for the first and the best, because we reserve the first and best for the one we love the most. I will save the first and best for the love of my life. If I always keep the first and best for myself, I am showing that I love myself more than anyone else. God requires that we demonstrate with our possessions that he has first place in our hearts, that we love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength; not with our words only, but with our lives, with our possessions. This is not because God is needy and hungry and broke, looking to us to provide his needs. This is evidence of our affections for him. This is evidence that in our hearts we are keeping the covenant we have made. This would provide a regular opportunity to check my heart and my motives. If I am grudging and grumpy and stingy toward God, then that shows me that my heart is not in the right place; that my heart has abandoned the covenant. If I am joyful and eager and generous toward God, that is evidence that my affections are in line with the covenant relationship.

Words Written

27 And the LORD said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”

God tells Moses to ‘write these words’. God has a strange fixation with words and writing. God invented words. In the beginning God spoke. God gave us the gift of communication. God speaks to us and God speaks with us. And God is not satisfied with oral tradition, that is open to the interpretation of the storyteller, open to distortion and manipulation and change. God demands that his words be put in writing. God uses words to communicate clearly with his people, and he gives us his words in writing, so that is not dependent on our memory or the memory of the storyteller. We can look at the word written and know. We are not left to guess or to wonder. We can read the written words and know where we stand. It is black and white. This covenant between God and his people was not a vague fuzzy sort of relationship. He puts it in writing. He will hold us to it. We agreed and he will call us to account. And he expects us to hold him to it. He made a covenant with us and put it in writing, and we should know it and love it and call him on it to be faithful to his covenant.

God is fanatical about words. God thinks his words are important.

Psalm 138:2 …for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

God’s word is powerful.

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

God thinks his words are true.

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (cf. 2Sam.22:31; Ps.18:30)

God’s word will endure.

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

Jesus said:

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

God’s word is penetrating

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God’s word written is able to save.

2 Timothy 3:15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Jesus says that God’s word gives and sustains life

Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

God is so fanatical about his words that he named his only Son ‘The Word’.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Hebrews tells us how God spoke.

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

At the end of Revelation we see Jesus show up again.

Revelation 19:13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.

The New Covenant

God takes his word very seriously. We should too. That’s why I want to look one more time at verse 10 of Exodus 34 before we close.

Exodus 34:10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. 11 “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

We see these words being fulfilled in the book of Joshua, as the people enter the promised land and conquer their enemies. But I think it is bigger than that. I think it points ahead to the New Covenant that God makes with us. “I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation.” What is more marvelous than God becoming flesh, being born of a virgin, living a perfect human life, taking upon himself the sins of the world, dying in our place, and getting back up from the dead! “And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. Whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life. Jesus comes to make his home in you. This is an awesome thing that he is doing with you! Are the people around you seeing the relationship you have with Jesus? Are the people among whom you are seeing the work of the LORD? That it is not you working but him at work in you? God promised to drive out the enemies. Our enemies are not Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perrizites, Hivites and Jebusites. Our enemies are things like lust, anger, pride, idolatry, unbelief, self-centeredness, self-sufficiency, evil desires, envy, lies, greed, discontent, bitterness, unforgiveness. Do you see God driving these enemies of your soul out of your life? Are those around you seeing the work of the LORD? Is it an awesome thing that he is doing with you?

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

October 7, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Exodus 33:1-6; The Disastrous Word

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120826_exodus33_1-6.mp3

08/26 Exodus 33:1-6 The Disastrous Word

We are at a pivotal place in the book of Exodus. God has threatened to wipe out his people whom he rescued from slavery because of their unfaithfulness to him. They eagerly entered into a covenant with him, and before they even received the written terms of the agreement, they had violated their core commitments. Moses interceded for the people, and God relented from the disaster he had threatened. Moses had cleaned up the mess, as much as humanly possible, desecrating the idol and executing those persistent in their rebellion, and then he attempted to make atonement for the people by offering himself as a substitute. God rejected this offer:

Exodus 32:33 But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.” 35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.

We are not told what this plague was. It may have been disease or famine or death or pestilence. The chapter ends and leaves us hanging. But remember, chapter divisions were added in the early 13th century, and verse divisions were added in the mid 16th century (wikipedia). The chapter and verse divisions were not original to the text. They help us find our way around the bible, but sometimes they disrupt the flow of a passage and cause us to miss the connection. That may be the case here. It could be that the Lord sending a plague is referring back to the 3,000 that were executed in 32:27-28. It is also possible that the plague that the Lord sent on the people is what he describes in the next section.

35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.

Exodus 33:1 The LORD said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ 2 I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 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.”

Could it be that the plague is that God is sending the people away without his presence among them?

Covenant Ceremony Aborted

Let’s try to understand what is happening here in the context of the exodus narrative. God heard the cries of his people and came to their rescue. He said to Pharaoh “Let my people go that they may serve me” (5:1; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3). God promised:

Exodus 6:6 …‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.’”

God has brought the people out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. He has delivered them from slavery. He redeemed them with an outstretched hand and great acts of judgment. Now, at Mount Sinai, he is entering into a covenant relationship with the people, he is taking them to be his own people, and he will be their God. They are in the middle of the wedding ceremony, the vows have been said, and before the ceremony is over, she is caught in the act, publicly committing adultery. God had said:

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;

But they have not listened to his voice. They have violated the covenant. They have made false gods and worshiped the works of their hands. They have forfeited their privileged position as his treasured possession. God is justly furious. He wants to destroy them. But even at this point, he shows mercy. He will not crush them; he will send them away. Look at our text again:

Exodus 33:1 The LORD said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ 2 I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 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.”

God says ‘depart’. He is sending them away. He distances himself from this people; no longer are they ‘my people’ (he has referred to them 18 times this way in Exodus); they are ‘the people’; ‘the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt’. God is disowning his people and sending them away. He tells them to go to the place he has prepared for them to live together, but now they must go alone. God has made promises, and those promises he will keep. He had promised to give to this people – who are the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – he had promised to give them the land. He will make good on that promise. This is not a question of their worthiness; it is a question of his character. God is a God who keeps his promises. He will send an angel. He will drive out the inhabitants of the land. He will fulfill his promise, because God always keeps his promises. But he tells them to go. He will not go with them, but he indicates that this is for their protection, because he is a holy God who must punish sin, and if he were to go with them, his character would demand that he punish them, because of their persistent sinfulness.

Honeymoon Without the Groom?

This is an interesting offer. God is saying that he will make good on his promises. He will give them the blessing of the land, a good land, flowing with milk and honey. He will give them peace, driving out their enemies before them. He will give them protection from his own holy wrath in the form of distance. They cannot keep his covenant, so he will keep his distance.

For many today, this is just what they are looking for. The blessings of the promised land, all the good things that God has to offer, without the moral demands and accountability of his presence. God will give me what I want, but he will keep his distance and not meddle with my life. He will stay out of my personal affairs. The law has been shattered. There is no longer any standard to which I will be held. I get to enjoy the promised land without the rules hanging over my head. This sounds like good news!

And for many who claim to preach the good news today, this is their message. Jesus is a fire-escape from hell. If you say the prayer, if you believe in Jesus, then you have your get-out-of-hell-free card in your pocket, and you can live any way you like. Anything you have ever done or will ever do is forgiven, so you are free to do anything you like. This sounds like the gospel, this seems like good news, it even uses some of the same language we might use in presenting the gospel, but this is not the gospel. Let’s look at the response of the people and see if they thought this was good news.

The Disastrous Word

Exodus 33:4 When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. 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. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’” 6 Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

This was not good news; this was a disastrous word! This was an occasion, not for rejoicing and celebration, but for mourning. Their jewelry, which they had used in their sin, they never again wore. A disastrous word. Why did they perceive it this way? These are the people who, shortly before, worshiped a gold calf, sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. We would think that these people would be eager for this kind of moral freedom. ‘We still get the promised land, but without the burden of the law! We still get what we want, but without the moral accountability. We can have it our way!’ No, when Moses publicly broke the tablets of the law, the people did not cheer, they mourned. What did they understand that we don’t?

The good news of Exodus is the presence of God with his people. The good news of Exodus was “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God” (Ex.6:7). The good news of Exodus was “you shall be my treasured possession” (Ex.19:5). The good news of Exodus was “I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God” (Ex.29:45-46). The good news of Exodus was “let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Ex.25:8). The good news is reconciled relationship, fellowship, intimacy with God, closeness to God, access to God. The good news was not the promised land. That was merely the backdrop for the relationship. The bride is not content to go to the honeymoon destination without the groom. The whole point is relationship.

Now all this is forfeit. God will not take them as his people. They will not be his treasured possession. He will not dwell among them. He will not be their God and they will not be in relationship with him. He is sending them away. This is indeed a disastrous word.

Love the Gift More Than The Giver?

Do we perceive it that way? What if God offered this to us? What if God said ‘because you are sinful and hard-hearted, I will withdraw from you so that I don’t destroy you. You can still go to heaven when you die, you will be with your family and friends and loved ones, there will be no sickness or sorrow or pain, you will walk on streets of gold, there will be pleasures forevermore, good things beyond your wildest imagination, but I will not be there.’ Would that be a disastrous word, or is that exactly what we want? Do we love the gift more than the giver? We don’t bow down to golden images, so we don’t think we have a problem with idolatry, but this exposes the idolatry of our hearts. Are we in persistent violation of the first and greatest commandment? Do we love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength (Deut.6:5; Mt.22:37; Mk.12:30; Lk.10:27)? Or are we like the adulterous wife, who takes the good gifts her husband gives and uses them to pay for her love affairs? Are we more in love with God’s gifts than with God himself?

God has made us for relationship. We will never find true satisfaction until our relationship with God is in its proper place. Heaven becomes hell without the presence of God. Jesus defined eternal life this way:

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

Eternal life is life in intimate relationship with God. Other relationships and pleasures lose their fulfillment without God at the center.

Psalms 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. …28 But for me it is good to be near God…

This is helpful for diagnosing our true problem; in your life, in your relationships, in your marriage, in your family, in your work, do you feel unfulfilled, dissatisfied, frustrated, empty? The problem is not with your possessions or your friends or your spouse or your children or your boss. The problem may be that you are looking to those people or things to give you the satisfaction that God alone can give. Allow God to be the center. Enjoy your relationship with him first, find your satisfaction in him, be filled to overflowing with him, and then take that overflow into all the other areas of your life and be a blessing to those around you.

Moral Demands of Relationship

But what does it mean to be in relationship with God? As sinners, the first thing it means is that we need to have our sins covered. In the last several chapters of Exodus, God had given detailed instructions for building the tabernacle, the place of atonement, the sacrificial altar, and outfits for the priests. Now he is sending them away without any of these things. There is no place to make sacrifices, no priests to offer sacrifices and so there can be no forgiveness. The wages of sin is death, and without any way to find forgiveness, ‘each one shall be put to death for his own sins’ (Deut.24:16). But thank God, we are not left in that situation. The one to whom the whole sacrificial system pointed has come. His name is Jesus. He has satisfied the just wrath of God against sin. He is our great High Priest who offered himself in our place and purchased our forgiveness. He has reconciled us to God, so now we can enjoy the relationship with our Creator that we were designed for. We who are trusting in Jesus will never hear this disastrous word.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

We have been invited in to this all-satisfying relationship with the God of the universe. What does this relationship look like? A relationship is a connection, association or involvement with another person. Our relation to God is that of created thing to Creator, of subject to King, of redeemed to Redeemer. Ours is not a relationship between equals; yes, it is a relationship of friends, but it is a relation of servant to Master, of child to Father. We do not have liberty to choose the parameters of the relationship; God does. To be in relationship with the one true God by definition has moral implications. Friendship with a person means there is a level of admiration, even imitation. To be in relationship with God means we will be shaped by God’s character. We will begin to love the things he loves and hate the things he hates. But our relationship with God is deeper than admiration and imitation.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

As we get to know God, as we admire him for who he is, we will begin to be like him. This is not mere imitation; it is inward transformation. We do not simply start to act like him; our thoughts and desires and affections begin to be shaped by who God is. This is supernatural transformation. God, who intended to dwell in the tabernacle with the children of Israel, now lives inside of us by his Spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Our relationship with God has extensive implications. As we get to know him, we will begin to desire him more; even more than the good things that he offers. We will begin to recognize that there is no greater gift than the gift of his presence. There is nothing more disastrous than the thought of separation from this awesome all-glorious all-satisfying God.

Psalms 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.

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

August 26, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 32:30-35; Our Desperate Need for a Substitute

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120729_exodus32_30-35.mp3

07/29 Exodus 32:30-35 Our Desperate Need for a Substitute

We are looking at Exodus 32, where Moses seeks to make atonement with God for the sin of the people. As we study this out, I believe it will give us greater insight into the substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross for sinners like us.

The people have sinned a great sin. While Moses, the covenant mediator is on the mountain in the presence of God receiving the terms of this covenant relationship, the people, who had vowed their faithfulness to YHWH alone, have now corrupted themselves. They have quickly abandoned the commands that God had given them to have no God beside him, to worship no created thing but the unseen Creator only. They have abandoned strict monotheism (the belief that only one supreme God exists) and embraced polytheism (the belief that there are many gods). They have turned their worship toward the work of their own hands, rather than the God who created all things, and for whom all things exist. They have committed spiritual adultery, violating their exclusive covenant commitment to the one true God by giving themselves in worship to a false fabricated god. Moses interceded for the people, pleading with God that for the sake of his own reputation he not wipe them out completely.

When Moses returned to the camp, he shattered the tablets containing the terms of the covenant, demonstrating what the people by their actions had done to their relationship with God. He destroyed and desecrated their idol, making it unfit to ever be worshiped again. He confronted the leader who failed in his responsibility to care for the people, and he began to clean up the mess. He called for those who would repent from their sins and align themselves with the Lord to purify the camp and put to death those who refused to confess their sin and turn from their idolatry. 3,000 men died that day, a small fraction of the total population, demonstrating the great mercy of God. This is where we pick up the story.

Atonement

Exodus 32:30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

Moses as leader had done what was in his power to set the people back on the right path. Now, he tells the people that he, as mediator, will attempt to make atonement for their sin. Aaron had downplayed the sin, passing the blame to others, implying it was really no big deal, excusable because of the sinful inclination of the people. Moses takes the sin very seriously. He calls it a great sin – language often used for adultery. He says ‘perhaps I can make atonement for your sin’. He does not say ‘now I have to go make atonement for your sin’; he says ‘perhaps’. God is free to forgive or not forgive as he freely chooses. Moses can give no guarantee of the success of his intercession. Perhaps he can make atonement, but perhaps not. There is no presuming here on the mercy of God, as we so often do. We often take the attitude of Aaron – that our sin is no big deal, and that it is God’s job to forgive. Moses takes sin seriously. He sees that atonement needs to be made.

This word ‘atonement’ is interesting, because we have seen this word before. In the instructions for the tabernacle that Moses received from the LORD, he was told to build a box that would contain the tablets of the covenant agreement. The lid of this box was called the mercy seat, or atonement cover, or propitiatory. This was the place where God would meet with his people, and where their sins would be covered through the blood of a sacrifice. Now the tablets are broken, the covenant has been broken, the tabernacle is not built, there is no atonement cover, there is no sacrificial system in place by which atonement can be made. But remember, the tabernacle, as we have seen in the New Testament book of Hebrews (8:5), was a shadow of the heavenly reality. Moses says that he will go up to the LORD and attempt to make atonement.

Confession

Exodus 32:31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people have sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin–but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.”

This is a great example of what true confession should look like. Remember Aaron, when confronted with his sin tried to downplay the sin, asking Moses not to be angry, he tried to deflect blame, he tried to excuse himself and the people based on their natural propensity toward evil. We find none of that here. Moses starts his prayer with the word ‘Alas’. He is pleading, crying out to the Lord, begging. He acknowledges that it is a serious offense; ‘they have sinned a great sin’. This is no light matter, and he takes it seriously. He openly confesses the truth that God already knew – ‘they have made for themselves gods of gold’, unlike Aaron who said ‘I threw it into the fire and out came this calf’. He gets to the heart of the issue. They have violated the core of the covenant relationship, to have no other gods but the one true God, to not represent even the one true God with images. ‘They have made for themselves gods of gold’. He does not try to sugar coat their sin. He tells it like it is. And then he pleads for forgiveness. This is a broken sentence, difficult to translate because it is incomplete, expressing deep emotion, inability to put into words even the request. ‘if you will forgive their sins…’ If you will carry off, bear, take away their sins… He can’t complete the sentence.

Substitution Offered

‘But if not, please blot me out of the book that you have written.’ What a difference between Aaron and Moses! Aaron tries to save his own skin – you know what these people are like. Blame, excuse, blame, excuse, not my fault. Moses, who not too long ago felt inadequate to the task, Moses, who said ‘who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? (Ex.3:11), Moses who was reluctant to take on the responsibilities of leadership, has now grown into this role that God placed him in, and he pleads with God ‘if you will, forgiven their sin – but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written’. God had suggested that he wipe out Israel and start over with Moses. Moses so identifies himself with the people that he offers up himself. He is attempting to make atonement for the people, and he is offering his own life; ‘please blot me out of the book that you have written’. Moses has truly matured as a leader who sacrificially loves the people who have been entrusted to his care

Substitute Rejected

But notice God’s response.

Exodus 32:33 But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.” 35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.

Moses says ‘take me as a substitute – blot me out of your book’. God says ‘no, whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book… I will visit their sin upon them’. Moses attempts to atone for the people, attempts to cover their sin, even offering himself, and God says no, the people will die for their own sin. God is passionate about justice. This is a principle we find in the Proverbs.

Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

The Soul Who Sins Shall Die

God’s love for justice demands that only the righteous be justified, and only the wicked be condemned. People are judged for their own sins. You won’t be judged for another person’s sins, and you cannot pass your righteousness on to someone else. You are directly accountable to God for what you do. You cannot blame someone else for your sins, and you cannot say you are being punished for someone else’s sins. Many misunderstand what God says in the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:5 …for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

This is sometimes misconstrued to mean that God punishes the innocent children of wicked parents or that we might be under some kind of generational curse. That is not what it says. The point is that parents do train their children by their actions; often by their own sinful behavior. And when those children follow in their parent’s sinful footsteps, God does not give them a free pass to sin and say, ‘it’s okay, they are just repeating what they have been taught at home’. No, God ‘will by no means clear the guilty’ (Ex.34:7; Num.14:18). The flip side of this is that God loves to extend forgiveness, and godly parents can set the example for thousands of generations to love God and keep his commandments. This is made explicitly clear in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 24:16 “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.

And Ezekiel chapter 18 lays out several scenarios to demonstrate the principle that:

Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

So Moses’ attempt to make atonement and be blotted out of God’s book must be rejected. ‘Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book’.

Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

Our Problem

The problem, our problem is that ‘all have sinned and fall short’ (Rom.3:23), and ‘no one living is righteous before you’ (Ps.143:2), and ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom.6:23).

Romans 5:12 …sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–

This is our problem – we all have sinned, and so we all deserve to die. This is one of the problems with Moses’ offer. He could not die for the sins of Israel, because he himself was a sinner and worthy of death.

A Prophet Like Me

We have drawn a contrast between Aaron and Moses; now I’d like to draw a contrast between Moses and Jesus. Moses himself knew he was pointing ahead to someone greater. He said:

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers–it is to him you shall listen–

…18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

The New Testament authors confirm that the ‘prophet like Moses’ that this pointed forward to is Jesus (Acts3:22; 7:27), so let’s look from Moses to Jesus.

Moses and Jesus

Moses went up to God to receive instructions from him for the people; Jesus is the only God who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (Jn.1:18). Moses came down to see the extent of the people’s sin; Jesus had perfect knowledge of the desperate condition of the people he came to save (Jn.2:25; Lk.19:10). The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (Jn.1:17). Moses came down the mountain with tablets of stone that were broken before they were received; Jesus writes the law on our hearts (Jer.31:33). Moses’ ministry was a ministry of death that brought condemnation; Jesus’ ministry is a ministry of new life in the Spirit (2Cor.3). Moses destroyed the tablets of the law and executed judgment on the people; Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Mt. 5:17). Jesus did not come to judge the world but to save us (Jn.3:17; 12:47). Moses was a sinner like us; Jesus had no sin of his own (1Pet.2:22; 1Jo.3:5). Moses offered himself to make atonement and he was rejected; Jesus offered himself as a substitute for our sins and he was accepted by his Father (2Pet.1:17; Acts 17:31). Moses could not be punished for sins that he did not commit; Jesus became sin for us, took on himself our guilt, and bore in his own body our sins, so he could be justly punished in our place.

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.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; …

Isaiah 53:6 …and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Moses went up to the Lord to see if perhaps he could make atonement for their sin;

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, …12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. …24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. …26 … he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus, our great Prophet, Priest and King, did what Moses could not do. Jesus, God in human flesh, bore our guilt and paid our price in full and cried out ‘it is finished!’ (Jn.19:30)

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

July 29, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 32:15-29; Wages of Sin and the Mercy of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120722_exodus32_15-29.mp3

07/22 Exodus 32:15-29 The Wages of Sin

We pick up the narrative of the covenant treason of God’s people in Exodus 32:15. God had spoken to the people, and they had vowed ‘all that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (19:8; 24:3, 7). The leadership of Israel ate a covenant meal in the presence of God, and then Moses was called up to receive God’s instruction.

Exodus 24:12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” 13 So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14 And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you. Whoever has a dispute, let him go to them.”

Moses has been up on mount Sinai for 40 days, receiving God’s instructions for life in his community, and instructions for building a tent where God would dwell with his people, chapters 25-31 of Exodus.

The Greatest Treasure

Exodus 32:15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

These were two duplicate copies, permanent reminders of the terms of this covenant agreement. When a covenant was made between a conquering king and his subjects, two duplicate copies of the covenant would be made. The king would be given a copy of the agreement, and a copy would be given to his subjects. Because God is going to pitch his tent with his people, both copies would be kept in his tent. These were the most precious artifacts in existence; that the God of the universe would bind himself in covenant agreement with a people, and that he would personally etch the terms of the agreement into stone is an unspeakable treasure. These tablets of stone were the embodiment of the relationship between God and his people. This sets the stage for what is about to happen.

Joshua’s Misunderstanding

17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.”

Remember, Joshua had accompanied Moses partway up the mountain after the covenant meal in chapter 24; Joshua was the military commander in the battle with Amalek and his people from chapter 17. Joshua, familiar with battle, hears the sound of war – adrenalin filled shouts of warriors in triumph; horrified screams of women and children; desperate cries of panic and pain; clash of sword and shield. Joshua fears that the Israelites are under attack, and they are, but the enemy is not a physical foe.

Moses had been told by God what is going on in the camp.

Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”

Moses, having been told by God what is happening, responds to Joshua; this is not the joyous singing of victory; nor is it the lamentable singing of defeat, but the sound of singing. This reminds us of the song Moses in chapter 15 after the display of God’s power at the Red Sea. There they sang the triumph of YHWH who had conquered his enemies. There is nothing inherently wrong with singing – it was an expression of worship to God, but now their singing is directed toward the wrong object; a false god, an idol that did not save them. They turned from worshiping God to worshiping the works of their own hands.

His Anger Burned Hot

19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.

We are told that ‘Moses’ anger burned hot’. We think of anger as sin, and it often is that. We might read this episode as a temper tantrum where Moses lost control and acted irrationally. But anger is not always sin.

Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

This verse tells us that it can be right to be angry. But we must be on guard that our anger not lead to sinful attitudes or actions. Jesus was angry. Passionate zeal for the house of the Lord consumed Jesus (Jn.2:14-17) and he drove people out of the temple courts with a whip. That was not a sinful act that Jesus did. This exact phrase ‘anger burned hot’ is found over 50 times in the Old Testament, and in the majority of them, God is the one who is angry. This is not a lost temper but the righteous response to sin. Moses is reflecting God’s own character here. His action was not a spontaneous outburst of misdirected emotion, but a passionate acting out of what had already happened. God had entered into a covenant relationship with his people, given the gift of himself to his people. This – a relationship with the living God – is the greatest treasure a person could possess. This greatest treasure had been trampled and treated as worthless. It had been shattered, and now the formal documentation of the relationship was destroyed as a demonstration that the relationship had been destroyed. We are at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, the vows have been taken, the groom has turned with the minister to sign the wedding certificate, and behind them they hear the sounds of the bride giving herself to one of the guests. No wonder the minister turns and rips the wedding certificate to shreds.

Now that the covenant document is destroyed, a graphic illustration of what the people have done by their actions, Moses as God’s representative begins to clean up the mess. He deals with the idol, he deals with the leader he left in charge, and he deals with the people who have brought dishonor on God’s reputation.

Desecrating the Idol

What Moses does with their idol is to permanently and completely desecrate it so that it can never again become an object of worship. He is demonstrating in an unforgettable way that this so-called god is no god at all. The people directed their worship toward this image saying ‘these are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt’ (32:8). Moses is showing that this so-called god cannot even save itself. He burns it with fire, he pulverizes it to powder, and he scatters it in the water supply of the camp of Israel, so that anything that is left of this false god is ingested, digested and passed out in a pile of excrement. There will be no recovery of this idol. The people had worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and in this way Moses demonstrates just how unworthy this inanimate idol was of their worship.

A Leader Rebuked

Moses now addresses his older brother Aaron. Back in chapter 24, before Moses and Joshua ascended the mountain to receive the tablets of stone with the law and the commandment, Moses charged the leaders of Israel to wait for his return and he appointed Aaron and Hur to settle any disputes while he was away. Now he is calling Aaron to give an account of himself.

21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?”

The language Moses employs here is strong. The words translated ‘great sin’ can be used to describe the sin of adultery or marital unfaithfulness (Gen.20:9). The people have broken their covenant relationship with God. They have been unfaithful. They have turned from their vows and committed spiritual adultery with an idol. And Moses is holding the leader he left in charge responsible for bringing this great sin upon them.

Excuses

22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. 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.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

The excuses of Aaron remind us of the garden of Eden. This is a great example of how not to confess your sin. Fingers are pointing in every direction. There is no honest taking of responsibility or open confession of wrong done. Aaron first asks Moses not to be angry. Ultimately, he is asking Moses not to be righteous. He is asking that Moses let this sin slide and not be zealous for the reputation of the LORD. This is something a true leader cannot do. Then he shifts blame to the people and appeals to Moses’ prior experience with the people. ‘You know the people, that they are set on evil.’ For a leader to know this should stir him to be all the more vigilant and stand for truth and intercede for them, not cave in and give them what they want and then shift the blame on them. Aaron then repeats to Moses what the people said to him at the beginning of chapter 32, implying that it was Moses’ own fault for not coming back sooner. But his description of how the calf came to be; ‘I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf’ is a less than truthful account of his ‘receiving the gold from their hand, fashioning it with a graving tool, and making a golden calf’ (32:4). Moses doesn’t even honor these excuses with a response.

Consequences of Sin

Moses takes decisive action to put a stop to the situation.

25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”

This is a grisly, bloody scene. When we read this, we tend to be more shocked at the cure than the disease. If so, we fail to see the seriousness of sin. The people had broken loose. They were out of control. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. God is a God of order and design. This chaos in the camp of God’s people opened them up to the whispers of their enemies. ‘So this is how God’s chosen people act?!’ Israel was to be a blessing to all the nations by pointing them to the truth about God. They were to be an example to everyone of what life lived in relationship with God should look like, and they were to invite others in to that relationship. The exodus of Israel from Egypt was designed to put the glory of God on display for the world to see (14:17-18). Here, they are failing miserably at their calling, and opening God’s name to reproach and dishonor among the nations. They sinned by falling short of giving to God the glory that is his due, and the wages of sin is death.

Evidence of Mercy

This passage, seen in its proper perspective, is a loud testimony to the far reaching mercy of God. Remember, God told Moses to stand aside so that he could wipe out every last one of the Israelites and start fresh with Moses. That would have been righteous. They deserved it. But Moses interceded, and now only 3,000 died. That sounds like a lot, but let’s put it in perspective. In Numbers 1:46 we are told the able bodied males 20 years old and up were numbered at 603,550 men, and that does not include the tribe of Levi. The 3,000 who died was less than half of one percent of the able bodied males from the other 11 tribes; only one out of every 200 men, and they all deserved to die. This is astounding mercy of God. To put this in perspective for us today, in the overall U.S. population, one out of every 2 males risk developing some form of cancer in their lifetime. 1 in 4 males risk dying from cancer. Here in Exodus, one out of 200 die. We are not told how the Levites knew who deserved to die, but in a similar event in Numbers 25, it was those that were blatantly unrepentant and persistent in their idolatry and immorality. They were to show no favoritism, not to brother, son, friend or neighbor. They were to show a passion for the glory of God that ran deeper than the closest human bonds. Jesus requires this kind of allegiance from his followers too. He said

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Jesus demands that our love for him take priority over every other relationship. We must be zealous for the glory of Jesus, not by taking up the sword to kill, but by a willingness to even lay down our own lives for the glory of God.

More Evidence of Mercy

One thing to note that the text does not say; the text does not say that the Levites were more righteous than the rest. It does not say that they had not been involved in the idolatry. We are told that all the people, including the Levites were involved to one degree or another in the sin and were guilty. But there was an opportunity to repent. Moses asked ‘who is on the LORD’s side?’ The Levites turned from their wicked ways and responded to the invitation. And they were blessed by the Lord. This is the good news, that sinners who deserve to die are spared by the mercy of God and invited to turn back to God and actually be used in his service. Aaron himself, who was left in charge, the one whose idea it was to collect earrings and make an idol, the one who actually formed the idol, the one who shifted blame and made excuses, this Aaron, in chapter 39 is clothed in the garments of the high priest, and wears on his head the inscription ‘holy to the LORD’. That is amazing grace and undeserved kindness!

Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

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

July 22, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 32:11-17; Bold Intercession

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120715_exodus32_11-14.mp3

07/15 Exodus 32:11-14 Bold Intercession

Today we come to the subject of prayer. God has saved a people to be his own special possession, a people who would worship him, be in relationship with him, and he would come and live with them and be their God. God has instructed them in what it means to be in relationship with the holy God. But now all that is in jeopardy. These rescued people have quickly turned aside from God’s instructions. They have abandoned the one true God and made an image and worshiped the works of their own hands. In the language of Romans 1, ‘although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him …they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling …animals …they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator …they did not see fit to acknowledge God …by their unrighteousness [they] suppress the truth. [So] God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity …God gave them up to dishonorable passions …God gave them up to a debased mind …the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against [their] ungodliness and unrighteousness.’ Let’s look together at the text of Exodus 32.

Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 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 desperate place we left off last time. God is disowning his people. No longer are they ‘my people’; they are ‘your people’. The mighty power of God displayed in the exodus event has accomplished nothing. The audible revelation of God to his people was wasted breath. God’s plan is to let his wrath burn hot against this hard hearted people and consume them and start over by making a great nation of Moses. They deserve it. God’s justice would be vindicated. It would display his righteous character. And God could still keep his promises. He would start over with Moses. No longer would God’s people be called the children of Abraham, or the children of Israel, but the children of Moses. I can’t think of one place in the whole bible where God’s people are called the children of Moses. This would be an appealing offer to Moses. To be free of the difficult task of leading this unruly people, and to have God’s promise personally – ‘I will make a great nation of you’!

Moses could have responded with a passion for the glory of God and said ‘yes, Lord, you are right to destroy this people. They have rebelled grievously and are undeserving of your affection. Rise up to defend the honor of your great name. Let your wrath burn hot. Display your righteousness in all the earth and blot them out of your sight. Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word’ (Lk.1:38). But we’ve read ahead. We know it doesn’t go down that way. This horrific rebellion is followed by five chapters of the people’s meticulous obedience, and then the glory of the unseen God comes to dwell in the midst of this people. What happened? What made the difference? Look with me the text and learn the awesome power of prayer.

11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 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’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

‘Moses implored the Lord his God …Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people …And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.’ What awesome power of prayer! God told Moses what he planned to do; Moses pleaded with God, and changed the mind of God. Moses persuaded God to change his course of action. The outcome of events was different because of Moses’ prayer. We could speculate – had Moses not made intercession for the people, the rest of the Old Testament would read quite differently from this point forward. We have much to learn from Moses’ prayer. Our access to God through prayer is an effective weapon. The enemy of souls would like us to lay down this weapon and leave it unused.

Invitation to Prayer

Before we examine the anatomy of this prayer to see what we can implement in our own intercession, I’d like to look at some other examples of prayer and the character of God.

Think of Abraham. (Gen.18) God visited him and told him what he planned to do to Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness. Abraham bartered with God, calling on the justice of God not to destroy the righteous with the wicked. Abraham persuaded God to spare the city for the sake of 50 righteous people, then he talked him down to 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, then 10. God did destroy those cities, but not before he rescued Abraham’s nephew Lot.

Consider the prophet Jonah. Jonah is a very different sort of example. God called Jonah to go to the wicked metropolis of Nineveh and proclaim that his judgment was coming. Jonah did not pray for Nineveh. Jonah ran in the other direction. After God delivered Jonah to the city, he still did not pray for them, he preached their coming destruction. But the people of Nineveh believed God and turned from their evil and cried out mightily to God.

Jonah 3:10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

What was Jonah’s response?

Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Jonah knew the character of God. Jonah suspected what God was up to. He knew that God was gracious and merciful, and that God was using Jonah as the instrument through which to administer his grace to this undeserving city.

In Ezekiel, God speaks judgment against Israel. He goes down the list from priests to princes to prophets to people, and says that they have all turned away from him. God says:

Ezekiel 22:30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.

God was seeking for someone who would intercede, God was looking for someone to stand in the breach before him to persuade him not to destroy, but he found none. Psalm 106 recounts the history of Israel, and uses Ezekiel’s language to describe what Moses did.

Psalm 106:19 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. 20 They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, 22 wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. 23 Therefore he said he would destroy them– had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

It is essential for our prayer to understand the character of God, the character of God that Jonah knew, the character of God that Ezekiel points to, the character of God that Moses boldly called on. This puts into perspective God’s statement to Moses in verse 10.

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.”

God could have unleashed the fury of his hot wrath against Israel and consumed them before he said anything to Moses. God is informing Moses of what is going on at the foot of the mountain and inviting Moses to stand in the breach and turn away his wrath from them.

Now let’s look at the attitude and the arguments of Moses’ intercession and see what we can learn. We will see that this prayer is humble, it is founded on the past acts of God with his people, it demonstrates a passion for God’s glory, and it calls for God to make good on his promises.

Attitude of Prayer

First, we see the attitude of Moses’ prayer in the narration of verse 11. It says ‘Moses implored the LORD’. Other versions translate ‘sought’ or ‘besought’ or ‘entreated’. This word can be translated ‘to beg’. It carries the idea of weakness or sickness. Moses is bold in arguing his case, but his attitude toward God is that of a beggar approaching the King. He is not ordering God around; he is imploring or pleading. He is seeking the favor of God; he is seeking God’s face; he is asking.

Humility

Moses shows great humility in this prayer. Moses doesn’t even acknowledge God’s suggestion that the nation start over with him. Often we confuse humility with self-deprecation. Moses doesn’t spend the first five minutes of his prayer lamenting how inadequate and miserable and worthless he is. That would be a false humility that betrays a self-focus. True humility is a self-forgetfulness, being so caught up in the bigger picture of who God is that self is not even on the mind. God referred to Israel as ‘your people whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt’; Moses doesn’t take any credit for the exodus. He doesn’t even concede that it was a joint effort and say ‘we‘; the people we brought up out of Egypt’. Moses corrects God; ‘your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand’. Moses shows bold self-forgetful humility in his prayer.

The Past Acts of God

Moses is also reminding God of God’s relationship with this people. He points back to the saving acts of God in the past. This is your people. God, you are the one who in chapter 6 said:

Exodus 6:7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

God, you said in chapter 19:

Exodus 19:4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 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;

Moses is basing his prayer on God’s relationship with his people. He has taken them to be his own people. He has initiated the relationship. He has saved them. This is a God who finishes what he starts.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Moses is recalling God’s affection for his people, his relationship with his people, and his past savings acts for his people. Surely, after all you have done for your people, you will not destroy them all and start over?

The Glory of God

The second argument Moses makes in this prayer flows out of a passion to see God glorified in all the earth. Moses says:

12 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’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.

There is no question here that God’s wrath would not be just. God has every right to punish sinful people. And we will see as the chapter progresses, that God does indeed punish sin. The question Moses raises is about how God’s character will be perceived among the nations. To punish sin demonstrates God’s holiness. To completely annihilate the people he had rescued from Egypt may send the message that he is incapable of finishing what he started; he was able to get his people out of Egypt, but he was not able to get Egypt out of his people. Can this God be trusted? It may send the message that the people were right in their grumbling and complaining; God did indeed bring them out of slavery to kill them in the wilderness. It would place a question mark on God’s goodness – what kind of salvation does this God offer? It would have been better to remain slaves in Egypt. Moses’ argument here is ‘for the sake of your great name, for the glory of your reputation among all the nations, turn back and repent of this evil. The primary driving passion for Moses was not his own reputation or even the good of the people but a passion for the glory of God.

The Promises of God

The final plea Moses makes is to hold God to his promises. He says:

13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

You made promises to your people. Here again is the aspect of relationship – with Abraham, Isaac and Israel, your servants. You swore by your own self. Here again is a concern for the glory of God. You took an oath and confirmed it with your own character and nature. Here Moses is reading God’s words back to him. God, here is what you said. I am holding you to your own words. This is the definition of faith. Faith is believing and expecting and depending on God to do what he said he would do. This is a prayer of faith. This is a prayer based on the promises of God, a prayer recalling the past acts of God, flowing out of an overarching passion for the glory of God. This is a prayer that God answered.

14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

Our Place in the Story

We can learn much about prayer from the prayer of Moses and we should be encouraged to pray boldly for others. But if we place ourselves in this story, ours is not the place of Moses at the top of the mountain, interceding with God. Our place is with the people at the foot of the mountain, those who have heard God’s instructions and grown impatient and dissatisfied, those who have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and chosen to worship the works of our own hands. We are the ones who are deserving of God’s wrath and need someone to stand in the breach before God to turn his wrath away from us. And, praise God, if we will see ourselves there, then we will see that God has raised up for us a prophet like Moses (Deut.18:15; Acts 3:22; 7:37), God sent his own Son Jesus, who has stood in the breach to take the full force of God’s wrath toward us, Jesus, who bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24), Jesus, who died, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Rom.8:34; cf. Heb.7:25).

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

July 15, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment