Here's what your week looks like!
"Show me Your glory!"
This week we will journey out of Egypt to Mount Sinai with the young nation of Israel. And these might be difficult chapters at times, because they show us a piece of God's character that is not very socially palatable or politically correct - maybe not even Christlike, from our limited point of view.
Yet if we take this characteristic out of I AM, we are left with our own watered down human version of what we think God should be - an idol, a god of our own choosing.
At this point in the Bible, Israel has been enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years. The Egyptian nation, its economy, its power, its very infrastructure is completely dependent on the labor of the Israelites; there's no doubt that it will take an act of God to release the people from this bondage.
But I can't think of any modern-day believers who would be happy with the way He does it.
Plagues. The water - the Nile - the very life of Egypt is made useless and putrid. Then the land is fouled with dead frogs. The people and the animals are swarmed with insects and then a pestilence wipes out all of the livestock of Egypt - a major source of their food and wealth. Another ravaging illness, boils this time; then hail wipes out a whole season's worth of crops and any herds that may have been reestablished. The crops that weren't destroyed by hail are consumed by locusts, leaving Egypt utterly desolate and hungry in the three long days of darkness. Still one more catastrophe is required: the tragic death of every firstborn child and every firstborn animal in the nation, except those of Israel whose homes were passed over.
God rained utter destruction down on the land of Egypt, inflicting incredible pain and suffering on a whole nation, an entire race of human beings - why?
But I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.
For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. . . . But indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.
Exodus 9:14, 16
Why? Evidently so that His Name will be proclaimed and revered throughout Egypt and the rest of the earth.
Yikes. God, is that really the reputation You want to have?
We do not often think that God's terrifying nature will make a good evangelism tool. In fact, many, MANY people have built an entire religion on trying to make God seem as "nice" as possible. Even when we invite others into Christianity we might not quite share the true salvation Gospel, which would condemn those who reject it; we share instead, maybe without even meaning to, about how God can make life better, happier, freer, or in some other way more appealing. We are very afraid of "scaring people away."
And much of that fear is rooted, I think, in our own deeper fear of actually fearing God.
We do not want a fearsome God; fear makes us feel uncomfortable. We do not want a God who is unlike us, or whose actions we can't always predict. We would rather replace the word "fear" with the word "reverence" and go on, comfortable.
But what reverence can we have for a god who is no more than an invisible version of ourselves - even our best selves? Such a god is small, impotent, someone we could run from if we wanted to and live to tell about it. Such a god is just a man with a different name, an idol we create for our own benefit - a graven image much too small to save us.
But our God, Yahweh, is far above the imaginations of man - He is "I AM," the all-existing One, the King of kings, the great Lion.
And if you meet a lion in your path, you do not run - he is faster. You do not try to threaten him with your size - he is bigger. You do not defend yourself with a weapon - he is stronger. There is absolutely nothing you can do to protect yourself; you can only hope he is merciful.
True fear doesn't run.
To see God as He is, to know that He is the Lord, is to understand that you cannot run - that the safest place to be is in submission to Him.
Pharaoh tried to run, and was destroyed.
But Israel, by contrast, drew TOWARD Him.
When Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses.
Israel feared the LORD with the fear that knows the only safe place to be is on the Lion's side. That is true belief. That is what makes any dilution of the Gospel utterly tragic.
We cannot be afraid of scaring people away with the character of God, for the character of God alone has the power to save. Jesus said that eternal life is to KNOW the only true God (John 17:3). Knowing who He is is what changes who we are; it's what allows Christ to pay our debt and transform us into His children, for without His wrath there would be no debt, and without His power there could be no transformation.
In short, without the ferocious power and perfect wrath of God, His ferocious grace and perfect love would be meaningless.
Moses himself had seen firsthand the terror God could inflict through the plagues on Egypt, and yet next week we will read his amazing prayer: "If I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You. . . . I pray You, show me Your glory!" (Exodus 33:13, 18b)
This is the cry of a redeemed heart - one who has seen and bowed to the lordship of the Lion, drawing near even to the One that he fears because it is the only place of safety; one who knows God's wrath, power, and mercy in a life-transforming way. And in response, the mighty Lion invites him into the incredible space of His glory: "Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there" (Exodus 33:21).
There is a place next to the Almighty God, the LORD, for the one who knows Him.
"Behold, there is a place by Me."
How amazing, how life-altering that sentence is.
Let's pray that God shows us His glory in what we read this week.
Exodus: God of power
Genre: Narrative (ch. 20-23 are Law - Civil Code)
Total read time for the book of Exodus: 3 hours