A Defining Moment
This morning in the story of Exodus, we’re going to be looking at what I would say is a defining moment, not just in the history of Israel and what is entailed through the story of Exodus, but really how the picture of this exodus shapes and filters a lot of the way that the Old and New Testament expresses itself to us. This is the story that most of you guys are familiar with, with the 10 plagues in Egypt, and Moses comes before Pharaoh, says, “Let my people go.” And Pharaoh says no, and it ends up in this disaster for the Egyptian army being swallowed up in the Red Sea.
I know a lot of us are familiar with that story. I’m going to hit some highlights to it, to how it peppers the theology of the New Testament, because remember in this series together, one of the things that we’re after is seeing the big picture of God’s hand of redemption, his Kingdom coming for us. What’s expressed in this story really becomes a larger picture of our story as it relates to God. This is a defining moment for Israel, and this is a defining illustration of our lives as it relates to God. And when God gives us these defining moments in our lives, what helps us is he tends to reveal himself through two lenses. I’m going to talk about that in just a little bit, but those defining moments, we all go through them in life. We meet them in different ways. Sometimes we see the hand of God in it, sometimes not.
One of my favorite stories I’ve enjoyed over the years has been this story of this captain at sea in the dark of nights… and this was some years ago… but he was in the dark of night, out in the sea, this ship moving with their light on. He looks out into the darkness, and he sees another light coming towards them. He looks to his signalman… This is Morse code days, right? He tells his signalman, “Tell them they need to turn course 10 degrees to the south.” And so he signalman flashes his light and says, “Turn 10 degrees to the south,” or, “Alter your course 10 degrees to the south.” Of which the light responds back, “Alter your course 10 degrees to the north.”
Then the captain is furious; he says, “Tell them alter your course 10 degrees to the south; I am a captain.” The signalman does and which another message comes back and says, “Alter your course 10 degrees to the north; I’m seaman third class Jones.” Now the captain is just furious: “I can’t believe this guy would say this to me, I’m a captain.” He says, “Tell them this: alter your course 10 degrees to the south. I am a battleship.” Of which the light responds back, “Alter your course 10 degrees to the north. I am a lighthouse.”
Sometimes we need those defining moments, right? We don’t even know what is awaiting us. You know, I think for many of us, sometimes we happen to come around those moments that define us, and they’re great circumstances, but most of the time I think we encounter those situations, they’re in the midst of adversity. You need God to show up. I’m going to talk about where we find that defining moment in our lives and how God shapes that for us, but I want us to see it through the lens of Israel. And no doubt; when you get to the exodus, there is a need for the Lord, which I don’t have control to show you those things, so… Oh, it’s on this screen, but not there.
Okay. Exodus 3:9 says, “As the cry of the Israelites has reached me,” God is saying, “and I see the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.” We’re going to look in chapter three in just a moment, but this gives the precedent for how God is seeing the situation that Israel is in, that their cries are coming up before the Lord, and God wants to help them in this moment.
If you know this story, we ended in Genesis chapter 50, where Joseph helps Israel in their situation where there is a famine happening in Israel and Joseph is in Egypt. I don’t have time to go through all that again, but Joseph is in Egypt by some divine circumstances, and Israel is experiencing, with his family, is experiencing a famine. He sends his children down to Egypt, of which Joseph is one of his children, to help them in this famine, ends up with the whole family moving down to Egypt. Israel, who is Jacob, his whole family, all the tribes, the 12 Tribes of Israel; at the time, they’re just 12 brothers, end up in Egypt for this famine, and they live in Egypt.
And the bible tells us that in the beginning of Exodus, there are rows of Pharaoh then at one point that knew nothing about the history of Israel, except now he saw now the Jewish people as a threat to Egypt. And so he gives out this order in the first couple chapters of Exodus. He says, “Look, we’re going to kill all males in the house of Israel that’s two years old and younger.” And he gives that order, and they start to kill the children. Well, Moses, one child that’s born during this time, his mother doesn’t want to kill him; she places him in a basket, and by divine circumstances, that basket ends up being met from Pharaoh’s household.
Moses gets brought into Pharaoh’s household. He’s not killed, but he’s spared he’s raised in Pharaoh’s household for 40 years, but he still identifies with his Israel family. So he sees one day, and in 40 years he finally gets sick of the oppression that Egypt is putting on his people, and he actually kills an Egyptian soldier who is coming against his greater family, or the Israel people. And he finds out a little later that he’d thought he’d killed this Egyptian and no one saw it, but he finds out later people actually heard about the story. And he knows that Pharaoh is going to do something to him about it, so Moses flees before Pharaoh can capture him.
And so for the first 40 years, he’s in Egypt under Pharaoh’s household; the next 40 years, he’s in Midian as a nobody in the middle of nowhere, and at 80 years old, God calls him to go back to Egypt. And he does it on the backdrop of this statement, that part of the reason God sends Moses back is, he’s going to deliver his people through Moses because of their tears.
On the other side of that, there’s also this sovereign plan of God that’s at work. But in the middle of this moment, this is going to become a defining moment for Israel, and what Moses acknowledges in this story is while God calls him, Moses tries to avoid the situation by acknowledging he’s a murderer; he doesn’t have the best of speech; he feels inadequate. And Moses is focusing on his past and his mistakes and all his shortcomings, and God is more interested in his promises and his fulfillment. And so God calls Moses back to Egypt.
Exodus chapter five, these first few verses is this encounter where Moses comes before Pharaoh, and look what it says: it says afterward, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the lord, the God of Israel says: Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.” And Pharaoh said, “Who is the lord that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the lord, and I will not let Israel go.” Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with a sword.”
Now it’s interesting; when God calls us to freedom, I think it’s important once you look at this story to recognize that when God calls us to freedom, this is how God works: he’s not just calling you from something. But when God calls you to freedom, he’s also calling you for something. As we said in the song, he’s making all things new. There’s a purpose. We recognize there’s a problem in our lives; it’s not just about escaping the problem.
When you need that defining moment for God to be there in the circumstance, it’s not just about erasing the past or getting rid of the problem, but it’s about living out what God now places you in in that nature with him, that new nature, that making of all things new. And so when the people come before Pharaoh, when Moses and Aaron in particular come before Pharaoh for their freedom, it’s not just about getting away from something. But it’s to recognize that God calls you to a whole nother thing in him. Maybe in a spiritual sense, we would say…
In Christianity today, we sort of treat God as if when we have problems we want to come to him, and then when God answers those problems, we go back to whatever we want. Right? Even in terms of salvation, when you learn about eternity, the thought that, “I don’t want to go to hell, so I’m choosing not hell. I guess I’ll take Jesus.” And then when you get your “Get out of jail free” card, you then just leave Jesus. But the point for which God has created you is not about what you’re avoiding. Like here as a church, what we’re interested in is not about what you leave behind; it’s about where you’re going. What God calls you to into him. Because we know what God calls you to in him is far better than anything you leave behind. It’s not about your past; it’s about your present and your future with him. And so you’re acknowledging this in Exodus chapter five, that they’re not just leaving Egypt, but this idea of encountering God and this worship to him… and it’s not just simply about what God calls you to, but also about what we have to give.
It’s not, we just stand around and talk about our new identity, but now God has just a way of living out that identity, and they express it through this thought of worship here in this verse, that God wants us to go in that relationship with him and to meet with him, and we would offer ourselves back to him and rejoicing for what God has done, and there was what Pharaoh says in verse two. “Who is this God? I don’t know him. Who is this God?” We want to come back to that question in just a moment, but when they start to give this statement to Pharaoh about what God desires, chapter six starts to give us the reason for why they’re able to do this.
So chapter six, verse six. Look at this statement. Pharaoh doesn’t know who this God is; well, God gives now this declaration. Verse six: “Therefore, say to the Israelites…” and if you follow along in the story, you’ll see that when Moses and Aaron go before Pharaoh, Pharaoh doesn’t know who this God is, doesn’t really care who this God is. In fact, during Pharaoh’s day, Pharaoh would see himself as God. If you look at the pyramids in Giza, the pyramids are built as a memorial to acknowledge the deity of which they thought Pharaoh was. It was a tomb for Pharaoh, who they called God.
So Pharaoh doesn’t care. Pharaoh is deity himself, in his eyes. And so Pharaoh gets mad at Moses, Aaron, the Israelites for thinking they could even ask this question, and he oppresses them more. And so God says, “Look, in the midst of their obstacle, in the midst of the challenge and the difficulty where they need me to show up for that defining moment, let’s give them this.” And God gives his promises.
Here’s what it says: “Therefore, say to the Israelites, ‘I am the lord, and I will bring you out from under the yolk of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your guide. Then you will know that I am the lord your God who brought you out from under the yolk of the Egyptians, and I will bring to you the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession; I am the lord.'”
Before you go anywhere with God, two things you have to trust: you have to trust in his person and in his promises. And that’s what God is identifying here, right? His person and his promises. “I am.” Person. And “I will.” His promises. You know, what’s interesting about this passage loaded with God’s presence and God’s promises, the very next verse. The very next verse in Exodus chapter six, verse nine says this: “And Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him, because of their despondency and harsh labor.”
Now, the New American Standard Bible translates this despondency… I love the New American Standard for the most part because I think it does the best translation from Hebrew to Greek out of any translation of the scripture, but I will say in this passage of scripture, I do not love that translation, because I think it misses the idea of what despondency is saying, that it’s saying about the nation of Israel, the translation is better… they have a broken or anguishing spirit. They can’t hear God’s presence and promises, because their spirit aches so deeply within them. You ever been there? Where you know you need a miracle? You know you need something to redefine the moment you’re in, but you just feel so empty? I think God knows Israel is in this place, and that’s exactly why God is about to send something to awaken everyone.
One of my favorite psalms, Psalm 51, verse 17, David’s psalm, Psalm 51, in verse 17 he just says this: “A broken and contrite spirit, the lord will not despise.” When we are at the end of ourselves, God’s there. You know, there are times when we want to treat God’s promises like junk mail, but I just want to say to us this morning, God doesn’t address your name to his promises knowing that he can’t keep them. Everything to do with his promises is built on his identity, which is why his presence is so important. And so that’s why God, as he delivers this statement to Israel, he recognizes his promise on a backdrop of his identity.
I love in verse eight what he says to us, just in the recognition in the power of these statements. Like he says, “I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob.” Look, when you swear, that’s not a good thing, right? But when God swears, it’s built on his entire identity to you. And so when we get to those moments of anguish where the depth of our soul has nothing left in it, what God is saying in this passage is that his strength is what carries us through anyway.
There’s two ways to respond to these defining moments, and I think this is exactly what’s charactered for us in this story of Exodus. You see these two primary characters carried forth through these promises of God as he has made his identity known. And those two characters are Pharaoh and Moses. You saw Pharaoh’s question, right? Exodus chapter five, verse two. “Who is this God? Who is this God?” I feel like if we could see any more to that in the backdrop of heaven, God would say to Pharaoh in those moments, “Well, let me show you. Let me show you exactly who I am.” Because if you look at the story of the exodus… I’m not going to go through this in detail, but Exodus chapter seven to chapter 12 into 13, you have the 10 plagues that’s brought upon Egypt.
You ever just pause and wonder why those plagues… I mean, is God just randomly like, “I’m going to just show myself as cool. Let’s do this. Nile, blood. Throw some gnats and frogs out,” right? You think God is just randomly picking those things? Even to the point when God first calls Moses and Moses was worried about coming before Pharaoh he says, “See that stick? Throw it on the ground. When Pharaoh asks, throw this on the ground, and it will turn into a snake.” Right? God’s just not seeing the moment where Moses is doubting and saying “God, how am I going to do this? How am I going to go before Pharaoh?” And God is like, “I don’t know. Let’s look around for an idea. There’s a stick! Hey, pick up the stick and throw the stick down!” That’s not how God figures this out.
What God is actually doing in answering Pharaoh’s question, he’s also saying to Israel his identity and promise as well. God is not just randomly doing these plagues; he’s not randomly telling Moses to throw down the stick. What God is actually doing is, he is identifying himself from the worldview that the Egyptians and Israelites are familiar with. Meaning, when God wants us to understand who he is, he doesn’t just arbitrarily come up with these ideas for which we can’t conceptually understand him; what God does is, he borrows from our worldview to help shape our identity and a correct picture of who he is.
And in Israel’s day, in the bondage of Egypt, they have learned all about these Egyptian gods. These Egyptians praise them. They built these pyramids to them; they worshiped them. Egypt has their own priests. And so when Moses takes the stick and he throws the stick down and it turns into a snake, one of the Egyptian gods is identified as a snake. In fact, if you look up Pharaoh’s headdresses, if you ever Google that, one of the things you’ll often see on a Pharaoh’s headdress is this snake that comes down in the middle of it, identifying an Egyptian God. And when Moses first comes before Pharaoh and he throws the stick down, Pharaoh also has his priests throw their sticks down, and what happens to everyone’s sticks? They all turn into snakes. But Moses’ snake devours the snakes of the priests of Pharaoh. Saying what? Their God is dead.
Now, when Moses is called by God to deliver to Pharaoh the message of the plagues and God brings those plagues, those plagues aren’t just random plagues; they’re a plague that confronts every God of Egypt. To say what? Your gods are dead. Behold, I am the lord, God almighty. God’s response in Exodus to Pharaoh’s question is to use the plagues to teach the Egyptians who this God is. And also demonstrate to Israel, who is broken in spirit, the power of God’s promises.
I know if you look at those plagues, you can dive further into those, so I want to tell you this, because I knew I wasn’t going to go through all of them with you this morning: if you want to know more about them, if you click on the Alpine Bible Church app, click on Sermon Notes, and you’ll see today’s sermon. There’s a series of questions there, and the fourth question gives you a link to read more about those plagues, if you want to know about those Egyptian gods.
But God is borrowing from the worldview of the Egyptians’ system of worship to demonstrate the greater goodness of who he is, so that when God calls them in to worship, they understand exactly this God for which they belong to. He is mighty, right? But the bible tells us what Pharaoh’s response is in Exodus chapter eight. As Pharaoh asked that question, we find out that Pharaoh is really not interested in the question because Pharaoh is more interested in himself. And so chapter eight, verse 32: “But this time also, Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.”
So the story goes like this: Moses and Aaron come before Pharaoh, they say “Let my people go,” Pharaoh says no, and a plague comes. And Pharaoh says no, and a plague comes. And Pharaoh says no, and a plague comes. And so it’s telling us, in the middle of all the stories at it transpires between chapter five all the way to chapter 13, as Pharaoh says no, that every time the reason that this is happening is because Pharaoh hardened his heart. Pharaoh hardened his heart.
Finally in chapter nine, it says something interesting. Pharaoh’s heart becomes indifferent toward the way God wants to move, and then in chapter nine, verse 12, finally the lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the lord had said to Moses. So I can wrestle with the idea that Pharaoh hardens his heart, but what do you do with the thought now that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. Because if you know the 10 plagues that hit Egypt, you know the last plague is the death of the firstborn. And that’s a pretty serious plague, to see your own child perish. Why would God harden Pharaoh’s heart if he knew that death was going to happen because of it?
Well, in the Hebrew text, this idea of hardening heart, when we read it in English translations today, we sort of get this idea that God shows up and he just hardens Pharaoh’s heart, right? The Hebrew text, the picture’s a little different than that. What it actually says to us isn’t… God isn’t just coming in and hardening Pharaoh’s heart like we might read it English; but rather, what God is doing is he’s just backing away from Pharaoh’s heart. He’s letting go of Pharaoh’s heart, and he’s allowing Pharaoh’s heart to continue down the direction of darkness for which it was already going. What it’s saying to us is, God let go. And he allowed Pharaoh to do what Pharaoh wanted to do.
Today, we would maybe say it like this, in a secular mindset, we would say it like this: They’ve got to hit rock bottom before they want to change. You ever had that friend in life where you can see them compelled toward a certain direction that’s only going to reach to destruction, and you want to intervene, and you try to show up and help out, but you realize at one point or another that you weren’t really helping anymore? That rather, you were enabling? And so rather than do something, you recognize that probably the most loving thing that you could do was nothing? And so you just moved away and just prayed for them?
I think, for Pharaoh, that’s exactly where his heart is. It’s become so callous that even the callousness… The beauty of God is that God can still move to work out his will, but he just takes his hands off of Pharaoh to allow him to continue down the heart of destruction, that Pharaoh might meet rock bottom. And to be honest, for many of us, rock bottom is different. It depends on the situation and our stubbornness toward that attitude. How passionate are we to have control for ourselves or to let God have control?
With Pharaoh, we know he thinks he’s really in control, because he sees himself as deity. And so God allows him to move towards that direction of rock bottom, and he lets his hands go to allow things to take its course on Pharaoh’s heart. God graciously has shown up; God has graciously revealed himself as greater than all the false gods of Egypt, and Pharaoh’s heart continued to be hard. And so he lets him hit rock bottom. For some of us, there’s not even an act of grace in our lives until we get to that place. We’re so fixated the self that it takes a large movement like that to awaken us to the need, where we need God to show up. We need those defining moments, not where our hearts are hardened; but rather, where we’re awakened to the need for God in our lives.
And so while you see the way Pharaoh moves in contrary to God, then the opposite character within the context of the story becomes Moses. In Exodus chapter three, we see his story. Chapter three, verse is three. It says this: Moses said… Moses sees a burning bush in this chapter, and he said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight. Why the bush is not burned up.” And when the lord saw that Moses had turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses.” And he said, “Here I am.” And then he said, “Do not come near here. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
So you see how Pharaoh responds in this defining moment at which God wants to reveal himself is, he’s hardened his heart. And now you see the way that Moses responds. God calls him near, right? I would say it like this for us… Two lenses God gives to us when we need defining moments, and Moses is about to encounter. We need the eminence of God, his nearness; only because of his grace is it possible. And we need the transcendence of God, his power. To be captivated by the glory for which he possesses. Not only do we need this God to be good, but we need this God to be capable of the promises for which he delivers. Both his eminence and his grace, and his transcendence and his power. That’s what we need for hope in our lives, right? And this is exactly what Moses discovers.
God calls Moses near, right? And at the same time, in the beauty of this burning bush that doesn’t actually consume the bush, it’s a picture of the Holy Spirit? God’s presence? God also recognizes his holiness. Sometimes when we see this idea of holiness, we think that it means sinlessness, right? God is perfect. But the picture of holiness in scripture is much, much bigger than just, God’s not sinful. It’s this transcendent power of his glory, which is also represented in his perfection of sinlessness. And a lot of what he does here to help Moses recognize the perfection of who he is in his holiness, he says to Moses this weird thought… I don’t know that you would ever think to say this, right? When someone stands in the glory your presence. But… “Take off your shoes, boy.” My mama would say that sometimes to me as a kid when I’d walk in the house, but… But this is what God says to Moses.
Why in the world would God say this to Moses? Because sometimes, in being invited to the presence of God and his grace, we forget to be captivated by his glory. Just what a gift it is that God would call us near, right? Not because we’re great, but because he’s great. Not because of our power, but because of his power. Not because of our grace, but because of his grace. And when Moses is called to take off his shoes, what God wants Moses to recognize is that, while he’s being invited into his presence, he is not creator; he is created. And so he wants Moses’ feet to touch the very dirt from which he was formed from. “You’re creature, I am creator. Stand in awe of my presence.”
And it tells us this is exactly what Moses does, right? Moses hides his face from God while also being in his presence. And in verse 11, God tells Moses, “Go before Pharaoh and deliver this message that I am telling you,” and Moses is skeptical in this moment. And I think, for all of us, that’s where we are. As we step into who the lord is and we start to learn about him and see his promises, we don’t take that step of faith just jumping off the edge of the cliff… We just look at a promise like… “Okay, God,” and we just want to find, as we put our faith in that, that there’s certain people beneath us.
And so Moses and his timid relationship with God, as its getting ready to grow from this point, verse 11: Moses said to God, “When I get there, who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said this: “I will be with you. And this will be a sign to you, it is I who have sent you. When you’ve brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” Moses thinks about what God’s saying to him. He’s worried, right? He’s worried about who he is and his ability, but God builds what he desires for Moses to do not based on who Moses is, but based on who he is.
Verse 12, he says this: “Look. Here’s the reason anyone can ever do anything for me. It has nothing to do with you. But everything to do with me.” And God’s reminder to Moses is his presence. “I will be with you.” One of the ways that God identifies this for Moses, you read on verse 13. Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and I say this to them: ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What am I supposed to tell them?” 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.'” And here we find in the scripture, the name of God given.
This name, I am, translates in scripture to Yhwh. God’s name is Yhwh. In Hebrew, it was a Tetragrammaton, which means it’s a name of consonants: Y-H-W-H. Yhwh. I think it’s important to know when you read your bible, the Hebrews did not want to take this name in vain; they very rarely used it. Even to the point today that they very rarely spoke it, that they will confess, or it is confessed the name Yhwh, that no one really knows that’s how it’s pronounced. There were no vowels in between the letters; it was just consonants. The Hebrew language, at first, had no vowels. And so the only way that you knew how the vowel sound transposed between the consonants was if someone spoke it, but because they never spoke the name Yhwh because they didn’t want to take God’s name in vain, we just have an educated guess as to how it’s pronounced, as Yah-weh. Y-H-W-H. And what does it mean? I am.
So interesting, in some languages as they translated the Hebrew word for Yhwh don’t have a Y or a W in their language, and so the Y becomes a J and the W became a V. You might be familiar with that word, right? Jehovah. Jehovah and Yhwh are the same word. Same word. And when you read in your English bible, the way that you know the word “Yhwh” is being expressed in scripture is that L-O-R-D is the name that we translate it in English, “Lord.” If it’s in all caps, L-O-R-D, every letter is in caps, it’s the sacred name of God. It’s Yhwh.
So God, Yhwh, Jehovah, identifying himself in this specific name, and the way he chooses to define himself as the “I am,” and this is brilliant… If you think about the thought that God could use to express his identity… Not “I was,” not “I will be,” not “Here I sit.” It’s the “I am,” and so what is God saying about his nature to Moses in this moment? Nothing defines him. He defines everything. And if someone says to you, “Define God,” lord have mercy, where do you even start with that? How could I even encapsulate in a sentence the identity of who God is? And the best way to express it is exactly what God says to Moses: “I am.” The self exists… What God is saying is, “Everything that’s been created finds its purpose for its existence in me.” Or outside of itself, is another way of saying it. And God is the only being who has the purpose for his existence within himself, because there is nothing that defines him; he defines everything.
And so when Moses thinks about the glory of this God, the way that God recognizes himself is the great “I am.” So when you think about these defining moments with God, two lenses. Two lenses become important for us: his eminence and his transcendence. His nearness and his grace and his power to fulfill his promises, right? When you read scripture, can I tell you guys… Our souls, you’ll find in the book of Exodus this story. This picture of the exodus of Israel becomes a continued theme that is borrowed throughout the rest of scripture. Because just like the Hebrew Israelites in the time of slavery, we all need God. And we all need our souls to be defined by his goodness, because this world is broken. And apart from the hope that he provides, there is no ultimate hope. And so this story of exodus for these slaves become an illustration for every soul in this world. We all need an exodus. We all need God to rescue us. We all need to experience his eminence and his transcendence.
In fact, one of my favorite passages of scripture… I think I quote it fairly often… Romans 12. Paul says, “I beg you, brothers, by the mercy of God, you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, wholly acceptable to God,” which is a reasonable act of worship, right? This phrase that Paul gives, it’s all about this worship with God in his eminence, in his closeness to us, right? You ever think, “What led Paul to say that?”
Now, when you look in scripture at the preceding verses, at the end of chapter 11, look at this. What leads Paul to talk about worship in such an intimate way? The end of Romans chapter 11, he says this: “Oh, the depth of the riches of both the wisdom and the knowledge of God. How unsearchable are his judgements and unfathomable his ways, for who has known the mind of the lord, or who became his counselor? Who has first given to him that it might be paid back to him again? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
It’s the glory of God and the holiness of God made known in the life of Paul as he expresses it to us that it captivates his soul in an expression while God is both transcendent in his life, he recognizes that God is also eminent. That that same God who spoke everything into existence draws my soul near. And I need that defining moment for which I can let go of the things that have tried to define me in my past. And let God define me with his presence. And it’s possible because of his power and his promises.
When you read the book of Revelation, I want to end with a couple sections from here, but… When you read the book of Revelation, I would encourage you to approach the book this way: as a worship book. It’s a worship book to a church that’s about to endure persecution, or is enduring persecution for their faith, and the hope that they have in the lord, right? It’s a worship book. People have butchered it throughout the centuries. Revelation is a worship book. And when you read the book of Revelation and you see the worship…
Here’s the beautiful thing: in Revelation chapter seven, you see these songs echoed constantly throughout the presence of God in the book of Revelation. And I just highlighted one of these songs, because they all have this general theme to them. And I would say this: in Revelation, when man sings songs to God, it’s a song of salvation, right? A song of salvation, because God has come near, and God has rescued us. That defining moment of worship. My identity now belongs to him; it’s about where I’m going, this song of salvation. And it says in chapter seven, verse 10, “The crowd, with a loud voice sang, ‘Salvation to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the lamb.'” Salvation. God is near. Praise God.
You know what’s also interesting in Revelation? There’s also the song of the angels. And what’s the song of the angels? It’s the song of God’s holiness. Bible tells us in Peter that the angels long to look in to what God is doing in creation by saving us; that it just befuddles them that God would come down to this earth and subject himself as a servant and a slave, to sin, to die for us on the cross. And so for the angels, it’s not the song of salvation, because they don’t experience that salvation. God wants salvation for us; for the angels, it’s the song of holiness, because of his glory. Right?
And so it tells us in Revelation, when you read chapter four, verse eight: “And the four living creatures, each of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and with them. And day and night, they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the lord God almighty who was, who is, and who is to come.” You know, I think sometimes I hear people make fun of worship songs because they say it says the same thing over and over, or worship songs that repeat themselves a lot. But I just want you to know, when you get to heaven and you see angels, they’re just going to say “Holy holy holy” all the time, so they’re going to drive you nuts if you don’t like the way worship…
But think about this: what are they recognizing? Here’s man, eminence of God. Here’s angels, transcendence of God, and all of it encapsulates the glory of who he is. As you look at the story of Moses and and say, “I need that God… I need to be able to lay down and just rest on some promises that precede my power, because I am not capable of fighting this fight. There are times where I just need that defining moment of rescue. And in that power, I need to know God is near.”
And you know, just as Moses had that miracle, you have that same miracle today. Do you know where we find it? It’s the cross. It’s the cross of Christ. And what makes it personal is because it was for you. God draws near, and the power of who he is pays for the depth of your sin. Victoriously to the point he overcomes the grave, to show you just as Moses doubted the bush… “God, who am I? What am I going to say?” And he says, “I say. I say.” God, you don’t know what I’ve done or how bad I’ve been or what other people think or the lack of talent that I have. It’s not about what you say. It’s about what he says. And he’s enough. At the cross, the eminence of go and the transcendence of God making himself known in your life, that you can rest in that defining moment, so that at every encounter that you have in this world, you get to look at it all through the lens of the cross, because in that cross, you have victory no matter what.
In scripture, what this became known as, I think is really the song of Moses, Revelation 15. The wrath of God has finished, and look what it says about God’s people: “And they sang the song of Moses, the bond servant of God and the soul of the lamb, saying ‘Great and marvelous are your works, oh lord God the almighty. Righteous and true are your ways, king of the nations. Who will not fear, oh lord, and glorify your name, for you alone are holy, for all the nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.'” This is what it’s saying, is the song of Moses is about that, the idea of salvation and this powerful, transcendent God. This God who rescues powerful… powerful in his nature that is holy and good. It’s the song of Moses.
Now, usually I like to end these things by giving you a little snippet of church history, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do this morning… only I’m going to give you a little bit of Utah church history. Some of you guys may not know these characters, but to me they mean a lot. 2004, I came to Utah to visit. And I did not care much about Utah at the time, because I didn’t know anything about Utah. But I had never seen the Rocky Mountains, and so here I was. And I met a couple from Lehi who had been praying for this area for as long as they had known the lord. And while I was here, God started working on my heart for the possibility of planting a church here. And I met these guys: Pat and Larry Thomas. And they said to me, “If you move to Lehi and you plant a church, we’re in.” To which I said, “Sweet, we’ve got a church of two families. I will see you in a couple years when we move back out here.”
They had been a joy to me because their relationship with God has been constant, and their encouragement to me has been constant throughout their lives. But recently, as some of you know if you know Pat, you know she’s been battling with some things that have just worn her out. And I was at the hospital visiting with her this past week, and she sat there, and she… Every day, even though she was at the hospital, she had still picked up her bible that morning, and she had still met with the lord. And she told me about the story that she had read about the lord; it was about King David and the war that happened with him and Absalom, his son, as Absalom tried to rip the kingdom away from him. And she said, “You know what King David did?” She said, “Finally, in the middle of all that and all the turmoil, he just turned it over to the lord and said, ‘God, your will be done.'”
And then she looked at me in the moments of her life, recognizing she’s not got 50 years to plan for. As her body is failing in different times throughout these last couple years, she said, “You know, just like King David…” She was looking at her own situation. She said, “Trusting in God, it’s a scary thing to do. Because it’s about letting go of you. But trusting in God is such an incredible thing to do, because he has more power than I could ever imagine.” And as I sat there listening to her, I kept thinking to myself, knowing that this week I would be sharing this message, I recognized that her song, the song that she’s singing from her soul in this moment, it’s the song of Moses. Her soul is crying out in the song of Moses. That the eminence of God and the transcendence of God, just as Moses was at that bush doubting everything that was within him, to let go of that and just say to God, “You are so good. You are good. And as you’ve made yourself known, so my soul will trust.”
Because God’s going to tell you, for all of us, just like Moses, that’s the story we get to live in every day. That right now, my soul can worship because God is near. And at the same time, in everything that he says, I can continue to hope, because he is good and he is holy and he is big and he is capable.