The Glory of the Lord and hope for sinners

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, 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.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.” (Ex 34:6–8)

We are all seeking hope. We want to believe something good will come of our lives, the world in which we live, and the world we leave to our children and grandchildren. We hope the future holds the answer to our questions, and the fulfillment of promises we believe to be true about the world in which we live. However, the hope the world holds onto is unknown hope. In other words, we don’t know if it will happen, but we hope it will. 

In contrast to worldly hope, there is a hope that is known, that is sure and present. It is the hope the Lord provides. On the heels of the golden calf episode in Exodus, Moses asks the Lord to show him His glory. The Lord agrees. He tells Moses He will pass by him while proclaiming His name. As well as He agrees to show Moses His back but not His face, because no man can see the face of God and live. 

The name God uses in His discourse is LORD – Yahweh. He proclaims Himself to be a God of mercy, patience, steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiveness and justice. 

These attributes about God represent God’s glory. They show the greatness and weightiness of God. 

His attributes, His glory, comforts the sinner because forgiveness is possible, due His mercy, grace, slowness to anger, steadfast love and faithful. While God is a God of justice, He is also willing to forgive those who repent of their sin. We have time to repent because God is long suffering with us. The moment we transgress His commands, we deserve to be destroyed, but we are not. Instead we are allowed to continue living. God’s long suffering doesn’t mean God is a pushover. He will punish sin. He will continue to visit His wrath on mankind until they repent. Our God is a God of justice. But His justice is tempered by His love, grace, mercy, and long-suffering. God is not out to get you. He is not waiting for you to mess up so He can fire His wrath in your direction. He is a gracious and merciful God. A God in which we can place our hope. Hope because we know He will not change. What He promises will happen. 

If you are searching for hope, quit searching in the world. Turn to the God of the Bible, the Lord, Yahweh. In Him we find hope because in Him we find life. We find a relationship and provision. 

Leader, don’t try to do everything

Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.” (Ex 18:21–22)

After the people left Egypt, Moses visits his father in law, Jethro. He recounts the previous episode, how the Lord delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. Jethro praises the Lord for the work God has done for Israel. 

While Jethro praises the Lord for the work He did for the Israelites, he observes Moses’ interactions with the people, which concern him. He sees Moses judging disputes before the people day and night. All the people come to Moses with questions both big and small. He spends all day communicating the law to the people case by case. 

Jethro is concerned Moses and the people will burn out. No one man can judge between a nation of 600,000+ people. Jethro offers Moses advice that we should all heed. He tells him to delegate the load. Gather other men who are trustworthy. Teach them the law and give them responsibility to communicate with the people. Those cases that are hard and difficult, the ones that are weighty should come to Moses, but not before those Moses appoints hears them first. 

Jethro’s advice is golden and should be heeded by every leader. You cannot do everything. If you try, you will not only burn out, but you will cripple the organization you are appointed to lead. 

Leader, ask yourself: What is it that only I can do? If at all possible, that is what you should be doing.  Everything else you should pass off to others, if at all possible. Of course, there will be times when you have to do things others could do. But when the opportunity arises to pass those things off to others, take the opportunity. You and your organization will be all the better for it. 

Do not harden yourself against the Lord, He is God almighty. Instead submit your life and purposes to Him and Him alone.

The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” (Exodus 7:5)

The Exodus event is a rich biblical motif of God’s power over all. Through the plagues God shows both Egypt and the world He is Lord of all. There are no other gods greater, stronger, and mightier. The God of Israel, YAHWEH, is the one true God who rules the world. 

To be sure there are a host of counterfeit gods. God’s that are not real but seem to be so for they operate under the control and power of dark forces. They are a part of the Satan’s deception. They lure man in through copy cat practices but are no match for the Lord. In several instances through the plague narrative, Pharaoh’s magicians are able to work the same miracles as Moses and Aaron, but in the end their power is shown to be no match for the Lord as they are not able to continue to go toe to toe with Moses and Aaron. 

In their first encounter with Pharaoh, Aaron throws down his staff and it becomes a serpent (Exodus 7:10). The wise men and sorcerers of Pharaoh’s kingdom where able to do the same (Exodus 7:11-12). However, God shows Himself dominate when Aaron’s staff swallows up the other staffs (Exodus 7:12b). Throughout the narrative, similar instances occur. The wise men’s and sorcerers are able to produce the same miracles. Eventually, however, their power runs dry. Man can only compete with God’s power for so long until He triumphs over them. Our power is no match for the Lord. He is the all-sovereign Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of the universe.

Pharaoh is not able to see God’s position. Pharaoh’s servants do. They see they are no match for the Lord. But Pharaoh doesn’t. He allows his pride to get the best of him. Even at the counsel of his people, pharaoh does not give in and let the Israelites go (Exodus 10:7). He continues in steadfast opposition to the Lord, even though those around him are telling him otherwise (see also Exodus 8:19).

You would think Pharaoh would eventually relent. He would recognize his place in God’s creation and turn from his sinful rebellion to obey the Lord, but Pharaoh doesn’t. He doesn’t because Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. While there is dispute as to who hardened whom’s heart first — did Pharaoh harden his own heart and then God seeing Pharaoh would not relent harden it so he could not relent, or had God hardened Pharaoh’s heart from the first. I believe the narrative makes it clear the latter is true. Whichever way you lean, it is evident the Lord is using Pharaoh to prove a point — He is the all-sovereign Lord of the universe. No man is more powerful than He. It is our duty to submit our lives to the Lord, allowing Him to call the shots. Shot caller, like Pharaoh, do not win in the end. Instead they pay a hefty price. Pharaoh not only lost his nation but, as we will see next time, he also lost his life. 

Do not harden yourself against the Lord, He is God almighty. Instead submit your life and purposes to Him and Him alone. 

Continue to trust in the Lord even if it doesn’t seem like He is present.

“But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.” (Exodus 3:19)

In this morning’s reading, Moses has an encounter with God. He finds a bush burning in the wilderness but is not being burned up. Like many of us, he turns aside to see how a bush on fire could remain whole, unburned by the fire that should consume it. Upon approaching the bush, a voice, the voice of God, emanates from the bush warning Moses that he has entered a holy space.

Afterwards, God proceeds to tell Moses He has heard the cries of His people in Egypt who are being brutally afflicted by the Egyptians. Not only has He heard their cries but He has seen their affliction. He has come to provide them with relief. But God is not going to smite the Egyptians right away. Instead, His plan is to send Moses to bring the people out of Egypt. Moses is tasked with approaching Pharaoh and asking him to let God’s people go three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to God (Exodus 3:18).

What is interesting about God’s plan for Moses is that He already knows the outcome. He tells Moses that He knows the King of Egypt will not let them go unless compelled by a mighty hand. He doesn’t tell Moses the mighty wonders He will do just that He will do them. Not only will He do mighty wonders that will result in the Israelites escape, but He will also provide the Israelites favor with the Egyptians. Favor that will result in them plundering the Egyptians of their silver and gold jewelry, as well as clothing. The Israelites will not leave Egypt empty handed.

Again, we see the providential nature of God. He is in control. Life does not happen by chance. It is a part of God’s plan. We see the Lord provides, He protects His people. Continue to trust in the Lord even if it doesn’t seem like He is present. He is present. He has not abandoned you. He remains faithful. Watch and see what the Lord will do in your life!

Our providential God is at work

In Genesis 45:4-5, we read:

So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:4-5)

Many years before their shocking encounter, Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery. They were jealous of him. They wanted him gone. Instead of killing him, they sold him to a passing caravan. They told their father Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. 

Joseph, however, had not been killed. He was enslaved and brought to the land of Egypt. Through events that only God could orchestrate, a Jewish slave rises to power in Egypt. Joseph is more powerful than anyone in the land except the Pharaoh.

Joseph’s meteorite rise did not happen by chance. Rather it was orchestrated by God. What Joseph’s brothers meant for evil God used to preserve the life of the nation of Israel. The family from whom He had chose to save the whole world. The Messiah would come through their family line. In the Messiah, they would be a blessing to the whole world. 

Our God has a plan. He is in control. Life does not happen by chance. It falls under the providential care of the Lord. That doesn’t mean life will always be easy. We are refined through trial (see James 1). It does mean life has meaning and purpose. We are not knocked through life like a pinball, rather we are guided by the loving and caring hand of God. You might not see it but God is there. He is working. He is guiding and accomplishing His purpose with your life. 

Trust in the Lord. Rely on Him in the good time and the bad. Our providential God is at work.

Continue to trust in the Lord even in the midst of the wait.

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” (Genesis 17:17)

What strikes me most this morning as I read the Abraham narrative, the covenants God makes with him, is the length of time that passes between the promise and its fulfillment. Abraham first encounters God when he is in his 70’s. God not only promises him land but also offspring. Again, in chapter 15, Abraham receives a promise from God regarding offspring. Abraham is in his mid 80’s at this point. Still Abraham and Sarah remain childless. God’s promise doesn’t come to fruition and Abraham has a child through Sarah’s servant, Hagar. But Hagar’s son is not the son of promise. God makes that clear when He visits them again. Once again He promises to provide them with child. Both Abraham and Sarah are in their late nineties at this point. Abraham is pushing one hundred and Sarah is just a year behind. It is amazing but God’s promise comes to fruition. Abraham and Sarah have a child together. Isaac is born! 

God held true to His promise, but it didn’t happen over night. It took thirty some odd years for Abraham to finally have a child and get his family started with Sarah. The family God promised would be a blessing to the nations. 

The time between God’s initial promise and His fulfillment took decades. Decades that I am sure seemed like an eternity. Decades that led them to disbelieve God, so much so Sarah offered Hagar to Abraham so that he might have a child. Decades that made Sarah laugh when God visited them at the oaks of Mamre as they looked out over Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18). Decades that eventually came to culmination with the birth of Isaac. 

God’s timing is not our timing. Days, months, years and even decades can go by without an answer to prayer. What appears to never happen is right on time according to the Lord. His plan is perfect. He perfects us through His plan. We must trust the Lord knows best and His timing is right.

Continue to trust in the Lord even in the midst of the wait. It can be difficult, but the Lord has a plan!