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Mar 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 23, 2014 – Exodus 34:5-7

Moving Beyond A Conceptual Knowledge of God

Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34:5-7 [read Ex. 3:13-15]

Intro: Thursday, a couple mentioned to me that they would miss today’s meeting

“Our only regret,” they said, “is that we won’t be there for the beginning of Exodus”
– at first, I didn’t know what they meant
• then I realized, they must have assumed we were going on from Genesis to Exodus
○ perhaps they thought I planned to continue through the whole Bible
– but we spent almost an entire year in Genesis and there are still sixty-five more books in the Bible!
• at that pace, we would not get through the Old in my lifetime

Where my heart has been leading me, however, is for us to return to the life of Jesus Christ
– and spend time deepening our relationship with him, getting to know him better
– so we’re going to look closely at the stories of people who met Jesus
• my hope is that as we absorb their stories, they will shape the development of our own story
• and that this will affect our perception and experience of Jesus

When we set out to know God, we typically take an intellectual approach
– and this is also the sort of help we usually get from Christians
• for example, J. I. Packer’s book, Knowing God takes us in the right direction for a couple chapters, but then slips into “knowing theology”
– what we end up with is a biography or list of attributes and we do not actually meet God
• in scripture, the people who knew God were those who encountered him
• they did not get to know him through logical proofs or propositions, but through living experience

So we are not going to begin a study in Exodus this morning
• however, we can use it to make the transition to knowing God through Jesus

God first revealed himself to Moses in the desert

After murdering an Egyptian and escaping to Midian, where he married and became a shepherd
– one day a strange phenomenon caught his eye–a flame appeared in a bush without consuming it
• when Moses approached the flame God spoke to him
• that was when God commissioned Moses to liberate Israel (Ex. 3:1-10)
– we should note that Moses resisted this revelation
• Moses did not want the assignment and created excuses until “the anger of the LORD burned against [him]” (Ex. 4:14)
• so Moses encountered God while trying to dodge him
– one problem Moses raised was that the people would want to know what God sent him and would ask, “What is His name?”
• God’s answer is important, because it is linked to his identity: Yahweh – “I Am who I am”
○ God is not just saying that he exists, but that he is present everywhere and at all times
• wherever his people are, whatever their situation, in every moment this is the one great fact: God is
○ apart from this, we cannot make any progress in God or in knowing him (He. 11:6)
○ in every “here and now” God is “I am”

In revealing his name to Israel, God reveals himself

Walther Eichrodt, “. . . this proclamation of the divine Name was treasured as an act whereby God himself came forth from his secret place and offered himself in fellowship . . .”

God reveals himself so that we can know him
– think of it! God wants to be known
• this is why we have a Bible
○ the prophets’ complained:

My people are foolish,
They do not know Me (Jer. 4:22)
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6)

○ their advice to those who heard them was, So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD (Hos.6:3)
○ and the promise of the new covenant was:

They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them” (Jer. 31:34)

– God’s ultimate self-revelation came to humankind in the person of Jesus Christ

. . . the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us . . . No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.–(Jn. 1:1, 14, 18)
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of his nature . . . (He. 1:1-3; see also Col. 1:15)

God revealed himself again to Moses at Mt Sinai (Exodus chapters 33-34)

This time it was different – now Moses wanted to know God
– Moses requested God to reveal himself in two ways:

  1. “let me know Your ways that I may know You” 33:13
    – the “ways” of God is a frequent theme in the Hebrew Scriptures
    • his ways are the internal determinants of his external acts
    For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
    Nor are your ways My ways (Isa. 55:8)
    • God’s ways have to do with what he values, intends, enjoys (e.g., Jer. 9:23-24)
    – to really know a person is to know his or her soul
    • knowing God through his ways is discovering him from what lies within
  2. “show me Your glory” (33:18)
    • Moses knew there was more and he wanted to exp. it
    ○ God answered, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you”
    • but he added, in effect, “This will be tricky, because no one can see Me and live!”
    ○ so he made special arrangements for Moses, “Behold, there is a place with Me, and you shall stand there on the rock . . . and I will cover you with My hand until I have passed by”
    ○ God protected Moses even as he gave him what he asked
    • God provides a safe place near him where he reveals himself

This was probably highlight of all Moses’ encounters with God

Preliminaries to the revelation:

  1. Exodus 34:1, “Cut out for yourself two stone tablets” – blank slates
    – we don’t usually approach God this way
    • we come with two sheets written all over on both sides
    ○ we leave no room for God to write new information or insights into us
    • at times we must surrender what we think we know about God to learn the truth
    – the purpose for tablets was for God to rewrite the ten commandments
    • but no one was going to meet God in the commandments or come to know him through them
    • the commandments were given to hold the relationship together
    ○ but the (covenant) relationship existed prior to the commandments (Ex. 34:10)
  2. Exodus 34:4-5, “Moses rose up . . . and went up” — “The LORD descended”
    – both parties move toward each other (cf. Jas. 4:8)

The encounter and the way God designed it

In some way, Moses experienced God’s movement as he passed in front of him
– notice, God then announced his name, “Yahweh, Yahweh God”
• God is so identified with his name, so present in it, that pronouncing it is an invocation of his presence
– in what follows, God built a bridge between himself and his people
• if we ask, “How is it possible to know God?” the answer lies in what comes next
• he makes it possible, because he is:

Compassionate–this is something I always feel this for my children, simply because they are my children
– I could not feel otherwise
• and my compassion for them is independent of their choices, attitude, or behavior

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust. (Ps. 103:13-14)

Gracious–this is always “gift,” to give someone something extra, something undeserved
– God makes a way where there is no way

Karl Rahner, assuming the persona of Ignatius addressing priests today, said, “. . . humanity can experience God’s own self. …I also need to make it clearer that the awakening of such divine experience is not an indoctrination with something previously not present in the human person, but rather … the free acceptance of a reality of the human constitution that is always there, normally buried and repressed . . . .It’s name is grace, and God’s own self is there immediately.”

• this may sound trivial, but every time a butterfly flits through our backyard I am reminded of God’s grace
○ a couple days ago, walking Kona we saw a road runner, and this too was a moment of grace
• of course, God’s grace includes much greater experiences, but what matters is that we notice and are grateful

Slow to anger–God gives us lots of second chances
– we can be certain that when we mess up or sin, he’s not going to immediately reach across the table and smack us to the ground

Abounding in lovingkindness–the Hebrew word is also translated mercy, goodness
– “abounding” means we will never exhaust God’s supply of kindness and love

and truth–these two words (lovingkindness and truth) are often coupled in the Old Testament
– truth, for the Hebrews was not an abstraction as in Greek philosophy
• it meant something more like faithfulness
• God is always reliable because he is true to himself (2 Tim. 2:11-13)

keeps lovingkindness–to “keep” is to guard
– relationships require maintenance — someone must keep the fire burning or it will go out

forgives–our humanness is not a problem for God
– even our sin is not an unsolvable problem

Conc: I am going to ask you to do some things as we proceed over the next couple of months

First, at some time, every day, pray, “Show me Your glory”
– regarding Jesus, John said:

. . . and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father,  full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14)

and Paul said:

For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6)

Second, pray for that connection with God that allows you to see his grace everywhere

Third, spend moments in which you hold the name of God in reverence
– perhaps, in silence slowly, quietly repeat the name of Jesus until you sense his nearness
– so that knowing him we may see him, and seeing him we will be transformed int his same image “from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18)

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