Thinking About God (2)

Sermon for Sunday, August 20, 2017

Thinking About God (2)

It is important how we think about God.  To think about God is to think correctly about what God is like.

Sometimes the Bible speaks of God in accommodative language for us humans.  The Bible talks about God’s hand, finger, back, or eyes.  But God is not like us in those physical ways.

In this story in the book of Exodus, Moses wants to know something about God’s person and nature.  So God shows Moses a part of his nonphysical being:

Exodus 33:

[12] Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me.  You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’  [13] If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

[14] The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

[15] Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.  [16] How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us?  What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

[17] And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

[18] Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

[19] And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence.  I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  [20] But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

[21] Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.  [22] When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.  [23] Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

Summary of last Sunday’s lesson:

To think about God correctly, we must consider the important attributes we have discussed in this lesson.  Understanding the nature of God will increase our faith and help us avoid mistakes in our understanding of God.  There are many characteristics of God we did not cover, such as God is love or God is holy.  In my experience, these attributes of God are more understood than the five we discussed last Sunday.

The ones we covered, however, are often misunderstood and difficult to grasp for many but are foundational to our understanding of the nature of God:

1) God is omnipresent.

2) God is omniscient.

3) God is omnipotent.

4) God is timeless.

5) God is spiritual.

In today’s lesson, Moses wants to know more about God’s person and being so his faith can be strengthened.  He also wants Israel to know these things as well.  He wants God to go with them in a visible way as they journey to the promised land.

Today’s text: The Essence of God’s Being.

[14] The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

The Lord will not hide his presence from the people.  This should increase their faith and confidence in God’s leading.  A benefit of this lesson today is that more knowledge of God’s being will increase our faith as well.

God’s visible presence would go with the nation and they would see it.  So would people of other nations.

Exodus 23:

[20] See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.

[21] Pay attention to him and listen to what he says.  Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.

This is no ordinary angel.  They must listen to him and not rebel.  He will not forgive them if they do not listen and obey.  This is not said of ordinary angels.  The angle is the messenger of the covenant and second person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ.

God says “my Name is in him.”  The angel is to be an extension of God himself.  He is what Malachi predicted would come:

Malachi 3:

[1] “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.

The first messenger is John the Baptist.  The “Lord” and “messenger of the covenant” is Jesus Christ.  This is the Lord Peter refers to in Acts 2:36.

The Lord Jesus will come to God’s temple as he did before his crucifixion.

He is described as “the angel of his presence” in Isaiah 63:9.

The point: God was going to go with the Israelites in the presence of his Son.

[15] Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.  [16] How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us?  What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

Notice in verse three of our text God had threatened not to go with them to the land of promise.  He promises to go with them in verse 14.  This is why Moses pleads for God’s continued presence in verse 15.

The presence of God will make Israel different from other nations.  In the church we are also to be different:

1 Peter 2:

[9] But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

The presence of God is dependent on their obedience to God’s word (Exodus 23:21).

[18] Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

Moses’ close relationship with God has made him bold.  He asks to see the glory of God which he cannot do and live.

To understand the boldness of Moses now, consider what happened at his first encounter with God:

Exodus 3:

[4] When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”  And Moses said, “Here I am.”  [5] “Do not come any closer,” God said.  “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

[6] Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”  At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Moses will not be allowed to see God fully as he desires but must be shielded as God’s glory passes by.

He must be content with the full proclamation of God’s name:

[19] And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence.  I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 

1) “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you.”

God is more than goodness.  His whole person is good and glorious.  The goodness and glory of God may be shorthand ways of talking about the being of God.

The goodness of God has to do with his essential nature.  This is likely  a way to express the essence of his being.

2) “I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence.”

The point:  The revelation of God’s goodness and glory should result in the proclamation of his name.

There is something in a name.  The sentiment found in the saying “A rose by any other name will smell the same” is false.

Moses asks to see God’s glory but God says, “I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence.”

Note:  There is a connection between God’s glory and his name!

The name of God reveals something about his glory.  God had revealed something about his name earlier in this book:

Exodus 3:

[13] Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’  Then what shall I tell them?”

[14] God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

[15] God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’  This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”

1) “What is his name?”

God’s name was known before this time.  Abram “built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord” (Genesis 12:8).  This was about 400 years before Moses and the events in Exodus 3.

It is not likely everyone had forgotten God’s name.  It seems they wanted to know something about his name and person that would help them at this time.

What does the name of God mean for us in our situation right now?

God says his name is “The Lord” in verse 15.  The significance of that name for Israel and for us is stated in verse 14: “I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

God is the great “I AM” as we sometimes sing.

So what does his name mean?  It refers to his being and existence.  Think of those crucial attributes of God we have discussed: 1) God is omnipresent; 2) God is omniscient; 3) God is omnipotent; 4) God is timeless; 5) God is spiritual.

What is the significance of God’s name to Israel at this time?  Look at God’s promise in verse 12: “I will be with you.”

Psalm 20:

[1] May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

3) There is also significance in the name of Jesus:

Jesus said, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58)

At the end of his gospel, Luke tells us that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).

Paul said “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Philippians 2:10).

See also John 1:11-12.

Glory to His Name,
Glory to His Name:
There to my heart was the blood applied;
Glory to His Name!

Down at the cross where my Savior died,
Down where for cleansing from sin I cried,
There to my heart was the blood applied;
Glory to His Name!

4) “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

This phrase shows God’s willingness to save is his choice.  At this time, God has chosen to deliver Israel out of Egypt.  This should give Moses and Israel confidence in God’s presence.

In Romans 9:15, Paul uses this text to defend God’s choice of salvation today.

Are you content with God’s plan of salvation for us today?  God will save as he sees fit.

[20] But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

John 1:

[18]  No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Although Moses was not allowed to see the full measure of his glory, he was allowed to see more than ever before.

J B Myers
jbmyers1@gmail.com

Books:
Faith and Addiction
Elders and Deacons
Life Choices