The Third Sunday in Lent February 24, 2008
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
149, 323, 360, 410(1-2)
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father‑in‑law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father; the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. And the Lord said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ’I AM has sent me to you.’” Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord 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, and this is My memorial to all generations.’
Dear fellow-redeemed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
Think of the person whom you know the best. You may be able to finish that person’s sentences. You know how he is going to react in certain situations. By looking at her face you can tell what she’s thinking. Those relationships are nice and they are predictable to a certain degree. We feel comfortable in such familiarity.
Today we have the reminder to know our God in that way. There are blessings in knowing what His thoughts would be in a certain situation, or what His input would be in a certain decision that we face. Unfortunately, we don’t always know God as well as we should. We make assumptions that are not correct. We put words in His mouth that He would never utter. Yet God doesn’t make it that difficult to get to know Him. His attributes are clear in the Scriptures. We have three of them before us today: I. He is holy, II. He is merciful, and III. He is gracious. May the Holy Spirit lead us to know our God better.
Holiness is a concept that we have a hard time wrapping our minds around. Just as we cannot figure out eternity, so also how can we as sinners completely grasp the idea of holiness? Every person is flawed in one way or the other. Each one of us has certain spiritual weaknesses that will be exposed. It is a grave mistake if we drag God down to that level and assume that He is flawed in some way.
As Moses approached the burning bush, the Lord told him, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” [v.5] Moses had to acknowledge the holiness of the Lord, a holiness which Moses did not have himself. What nerve we have if we think that we can gain an audience with the holy Lord of all. The very idea ought to scare us to death. In the Old Testament ceremonies God made that dividing line quite clear. For instance, the priests had to wash themselves before entering the temple and they could not approach the Most Holy Place without the offering of blood.
We live in a society in which we are becoming more and more casual. When I was young—and most of you remember this too—a child would not dare to address an adult by his first name. It was always Mr. Smith or Mrs. Jones. Our society has become much more casual about the idea of approaching the Lord as well. There doesn’t seem to be much specialness equated with the fact that we are allowed in the presence of God. Either we forget how sinful we are or how holy God is, but the truth is that holiness and sinfulness do not mix.
The Lord so much desired a relationship with us who are sinners that He made changes in us so that we could approach Him. He’s not going to become less holy. Rather, He declares sinners holy and allowed to be in His presence. He changes fear in the sense of being afraid to fear in the sense of loving respect and awe We are told in verse 6 that “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” and rightly so. Any one of us should have the same sort of reaction when we are confronted with holiness.
God also showed Moses His love and His plan of salvation, and brought Moses near to Him. He does the very same thing with you and I. Yes, when we consider our sin against God and look at what we have done, we are afraid. But when we know that God has declared us to be holy in Christ that takes away our fright and replaces it with respect. We recognize Him as our loving Father.
Another attribute of our God is that He is merciful. He shows compassion. The Lord told Moses: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.” [v.7] The Lord was aware of what was happening to His people in Egypt. Moses some forty years earlier might have had his doubts about that. Moses tried to take matters into his own hands as far as the liberation of the Israelites went. Many others could have doubted what God knew. They were under the whip of taskmasters. Their children were being drowned. Surely God must have been ignoring them!
This Lord knows your needs as well, even when you have doubts. He doesn’t turn a blind eye or look the other way when you are oppressed. He hears your cries and your pleas to Him. Think of that person whom you know best, or who knows you the best. Is there ever a time that you know exactly how much that person is hurting? Can anyone truly know how much you are hurting? It’s an impossible task because we can’t get into each other’s heads. Yet God knows what you’re going through. He’s not too busy in the hotspots of the world such as Iraq or Iran. His attention is not diverted. Know this about your God: He sees, He hears, and He knows. That is always going to be true.
The Lord alerted Moses to the fact that He was going to act on what He saw, heard, and knew. He declared: “So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey.” [v.8]
Being merciful means that you act on your compassion. To know of a person’s difficulties and not want to do anything about it is not mercy. There are also times that we have a great desire to help but aren’t able. God always acts accordingly. We might have our doubts because God brings relief on His timetable and not our own, but know your God and have confidence that He is merciful.
How merciful is God? Look at what He did for our greatest need—our lack of righteousness. He knew us for what we were and had compassion on us. It wasn’t like we appeared all cute and cuddly to God. We were by no means people that would be worthy to be around God. Without Christ we are rank and disgusting sinners. Yet because He is a God of mercy, He chose to set us free. He didn’t look the other way and ignore us like the first two men in Jesus’ parable, The Good Samaritan. He didn’t pretend that He didn’t see us. He knew what our problem was and acted on it. If He did such great work regarding your soul and regarding where you are going to spend eternity, how much more will He be there to solve the comparatively little everyday problems that we go through? Know that your God is merciful.
The Lord chose to end the enslavement of the Israelites by sending Moses to them. Moses either didn’t know God that well at this point or had some lapse in spiritual thinking. When God told him that he was chosen to do the job, he had doubts about the legitimacy of this idea. He looked inward and saw an ordinary shepherd, which he was. He looked inward and saw someone with no military skills, which was true. He looked inward and saw a sinner, again true. He said to God, “Who am I?” [v.11]
The Lord basically told Moses that it didn’t matter who he was. That was insignificant. What mattered was that God promised to be with him. He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this holy mountain. [v.12] God shows His graciousness in such promises. He does not leave us as orphans in this world. Rather He promises to guide and protect us.
Moses had to face the Pharaoh and he did so knowing that God would be with Him. Whom will you have to face this week? An unruly child? A co-worker who is caught up in a sin? A family member who has been misbehaving? These can all be difficult situations and we certainly do not feel up to the task. We look inward and say Who am I to do this work of God? The Lord gives us the same gracious answer: “I will certainly be with you. You don’t have to go it alone.”
God’s graciousness is also found in the fact that He does not change. He identified Himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM.” [v.14] That is His name. He was the same God who was around in the days of Abraham. He is the eternal God who makes certain promises because past, present, and future are all alike to Him. He was able to promise release from Egypt and it occurred. He predicted the coming Savior and the forgiveness to be found in Him. That also has happened.
In the same way God has your steps laid out for you. From His point of view your future has already happened. So when He promises you everlasting life that’s a guarantee in Christ. When He promises to come back that’s as good as done. His grace enables us to know and have confidence that He has everything laid out for us.
This relationship with God is not one in which the more we know the more scared off we’ll be and the less we’ll want to be involved. The more you know God the more you will see His greatness and want to be around Him.
You will not be disappointed when you take the time and make the effort to get to know your God. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.