I AM ALWAYS WITH YOU
Over the past few weeks we have been speaking about the power of the gospel. This relates to the now and not yet of the kingdom of God. I gave us the Victoria St., Bridge as a word picture, and how we are all under construction as followers of Christ; no one has fully arrived and we are all still on the journey. One of the examples of the Lord lead me to, was that of the Israelites being delivered out of Egypt and their journey to the promised land. The Israelites were challenged to have a new attitude as God set them free from their bondage in Egypt. They were to walk with the new generosity in their hearts, as God had provided water, quail and manna for their journey. They were challenged not to be ungrateful and grumbling in their hearts against God but to be thankful people. The Israelites were in between, Egypt was behind them and the Promised Land was before them and now they journey through the wilderness. My desire this morning is the help us understand that during our walk with God, he is always with us. We will see this as we look at the Scriptures found in Exodus and how God walked with the Israelites through the wilderness.
My Treasured Possession
Turn with me to Exodus19. Three months into their journey towards the promised land, the Israelites come to Mount Sinai. Their journey through the wilderness wouldn't now becoming quite routine now. I am sure that most of the excitement of being delivered from Egypt would've worn off now in the hot and dusty wilderness. It is at Mount Sinai where God gives instructions regarding the priesthood, sacrifices, offerings and the Tabernacle. Before Israel leaves Sinai, they will have everything needed to function as a nation except the Promised Land itself; they are truly living in-between the past and the future.
It is at this point that God speaks to Moses and the people of Israel as to how important they are to him. Exodus 19:3-6 - When Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” These words would've brought great encouragement to the people of God as they journey through the wilderness. Remember the little phrase," are we there yet?" In their moments of wondering, doubts, or even confusion, God uses very personal words to bring hope to their hearts.
The Ten Commandments
Exodus chapter 20 reveals the interaction between God and Moses and the giving of the 10 Commandments; the first five focus on the relationship between a person and God and the second five focus on person-to-person relationships. The giving of the 10 Commandments helped Israel become a distinct country, in contrast to the pagan nations they were surrounded by. Some have seen this as God marking his people, in the same way that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the early church. From a New Testament perspective we understand that the law does not make a person righteous but only faith in Jesus Christ. However, the law given in the Old Testament was God's way of confirming his people as treasured and holy. Moses received much more than just the 10 Commands, but also instructions about slavery, personal injuries, protection of property and social responsibility; all of these directions involved a living interaction between God and his people with Justice and Mercy. There were also Laws given in regards to the Sabbath and the annual feasts. In addition Moses received directions regarding the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant and the consecration of the Priests… These Exodus chapters (21-32) show us the personal interest and details that God has for his people. In other words, God was interested in their personal journey with him.
However, Exodus 32:1 tells us that “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron proceeds to make a golden calf like on of the gods of Egypt and it turns into an all out pagan party. God’s anger burns against his people and he is ready to destroy them all; Ex 32:9-10 - “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” We are told that Moses sought the favour of the Lord on behalf of the Israelites so that the Lord relented and did not bring on the holy disaster (Ex 32:11, 14). However, when Moses and Joshua to return to the camp with the two stone tablets only to find God’s people dancing around a pagan idol, Moses loses his cool and breaks them to pieces (Ex 32:19). In the end about 3000 people died by the sword as a result of their foolish ways as well as those who died by a plague from God.
God was willing to destroy his people because of their sinful ways but Moses intercedes.
God was willing to make Moses into a great nation but Moses reminds God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These were bigs tests for Moses to overcome. It revealed his character during the journey. In-between times can bring the worst out in people or the best.
The Glory of God
As a result of the people’s sin, God decides to send an angel with them on the rest of their journey. Exodus 33:1-3 - Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” Moses seeks the Lord in the Tent of Meeting desperate for God to remain with them on their journey towards the Promised Land; “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here… (Ex 33:15). God responds favourably to Moses and causes all his goodness to pass before him (Ex 33:19). God’s goodness and glory are so empowering on our journey in life. This was God’s way of saying “I am always with you”. His goodness was to go with them on their journey, however, they must learn how to receive it from God. Their obedience was foundational. Glory and goodness are used so many ways in the Old Testament; his benefits and prosperity, and how to see his beauty, his goodness brings us to well-being, happiness, success. HIs goodness experienced in the Old Testament is like salvation in the New Testament. It is wonderful but not to be taken lightly. Moses did not want to take another step forward towards the Promised Land without God…
This part of the journey for the people of God involves Old Testament grace. God allows Moses to chisel out two new stone tablets. Once again God’s character is revealed, both his love and holiness. Ex 34:6-7 - “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
God does not want his people “alone” on their journey with him, whether Old or New Testament. God knows that we are living in-between the ages, just like the Jewish people in their wilderness days. We can be encouraged several ways this morning by looking at these Scriptures.
- We must remember that we are God’s people, treasured and loved by him. Even though their are times of wilderness experience let’s remember that Jesus promised to never leave or forsake us. 1 Peter 1:9 reminds us that God’s people are precious - “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
- We must remember that the Lord desires to give us life and freedom along the journey of life. In the Old Testament God gave the Law, however, in the New Testament God gave Jesus and the Spirit. Rom 8:1 - Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
The first two points come from a position of revelation by God’s Word and the illumination of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We must accept God’s Word and seek him for the enlightening of our inner man. Change begins on the inside. However, change must also be transformative so that we outwardly and practically live loving and holy lives.
There are no shortcuts as we journey in this age of tension, the in-between times. The lessons from Moses and the Israelites or from the disciples in Jesus’ day are very similar.
How do we do this:
We walk in obedience.
We abide in God’s Presence (and God’s Word).
We hang out with true followers of Jesus, not those who dance around golden cows…