Exodus: The God who sets us free
Several years ago, Tami and I took the boys on a cruise to Mexico. One of the stops we made along the way was in Cabo San Lucas. I had been doing research online of what to do when we get there and everything seemed so overpriced. So I told Tami that we’d wait until we got there, find someone at the docks and take a glass bottom boat ride. Sure enough when we got off the boat over a dozen of these guys and before long, I had us all set up for a mere $20. You know that saying you get what you pay for? The guy walks us to this old fishing boat and we are headed out to sea. Every time we hit a wave this wave of water comes into the boat. We’re not talking just a little bit. In fact at one point Ethan says to me, Dad is this boat going to sink? The captain says, no problem lil amigo, and takes a cut off milk jug and begins to bail water. All of a sudden, i’m thinking, I killed my family in Mexico! We’re cinching down life jackets ready or this thing to go under. I realized I am in over my head. Who is going to rescue us? I think so often in our lives we find ourselves in situations where we are in over our head. Whether it be a consequence of some decision or simply some circumstance we can wonder who is going to bail us out? Its why I am often so blessed by the book of Exodus.
This morning, we continue in this series that we're calling His Story: Discovering the God of Scripture. The book of Exodus was likely written around 1400 bc by Moses. Exodus is often most well known for its stories of the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. The reality is, the book of Exodus is really about so much more. In fact as we’ll see, its the story of a God who sees the suffering of His people and raises up a deliverer who will lead to nation to freedom. He’s a rescuing God. To give you a sense of what this book is all about, I want to show another video that gets at the heart of the book of Exodus. Let’s watch together
For a lot of people, they’re familiar with the first part of the book, but struggle with the second. So today, I want to focus on the latter half of the book because I think it will give us a greater sense of the first. Today we pick up where the video leaves off. In verse 19:1-6, Israel arrives at the base of Mt. Sinai. There God arrives in a powerful way and speaks to the people. If you have your bible read with me there. As we read these verses, I believe we find a powerful summary of how God speaks and works with His people.
God rescues by relationship
Verse 1 opens with the detail that the people of Israel came to Siani on third new moon after they had come out of Egypt. This means they have been wandering in the wilderness for over 40 days at this point. Along the way, the people have been grumbling, God provided manna from heaven, water came gushing out of a rock, but now God is going to meet with them in a particular and special way. We learn in verse 3 that Moses goes up the mountain to meet with God. God tells them in verse 4, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on Eagles wings and brought you to myself.” He’s really summarizing the first part of the book. He’s saying Israel you were there when I heard you cry. You were there when I guided a basket to Pharaohs daughter to raise up a deliverer. You were there when I struck Egypt with the plagues, gave you instructions for the passover and split the waters of the Red Sea. Did you notice where the destination was? God did all of these things to bring Israel to himself.
From the beginning part of His plan and desire for humanity was to draw them into His family. He doesn’t just perform some act of charity, but his primary purpose is to bring His people as His sons and daughters. It’s why I think He calls the nation the house of Jacob in verse 3. He’s saying that this is part of the fulfillment of the plan that we saw last week in Genesis. God is setting into motion a plan and design to be with humanity. The question is, “Is that what we want?”
Fast forward to the next chapter. In chapter 20, God appears before the people and speaks to them directly and He gives to them the ten commandments. Notice what happens in , “Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.” God shows up in all of His power and the people say, we’re terrified. You speak to us and we will listen but don’t let God speak to us! Moses tells them, Don’t be afraid because God is simply showing you how powerful He is so that you might not sin. The people wouldn't have it. They stand far off and instead of talking with God directly, they looked to Moses.
In the same way, People are often looking for someone to talk to God for them. Sometimes you may even be tempted to look to me to tell you what God says. My greatest heart for you is that you go up the mountain. We will see the awesome power of God, but along the way He wants to speak to you. Friends the way God comes to rescue is by bringing people into a relationship with himself. He longs to speak to His people he does it by being with them. One of the greatest tragedies is the next verse in verse 22. The Lord said to Moses… God will take us as deep in the relationship as we are willing to go. It takes us to the response that we will be called to make as we experience His rescue.
2) God rescues as we respond in obedience
In , God speaks this word to Moses that “If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant then you will be my treasured possession.” Some have interpreted this command to suggest that God is telling Israel that her salvation comes by following the commands called the law. The trouble is as we saw last week, Paul tells us that by the works of the Law no one is made right with God. I think to understand the power of what Paul is saying here, you have to go back to the original intent and purpose of the law.
In chapters 21-40, God gives a series of laws to the people. These laws can essentially be divided into two main issues- laws of how the people relate to one another and how they relate to God. These laws deal with everything from how to resolve economic disputes when one persons livestock wounds another. Or how you care for sojourners and refugees in your country and provides protections that they be cared for. (22:21)
Personally, I think this is a powerful concept because what God is saying to his people is that if they are going to live as God’s set apart nation, they need to reflect His heart for others. In , Jesus summarizes it this way, “Love our neighbor as ourselves.” In other words, the ethic that is to be reflected among God’s people is an integrity in their dealings with others and an approach that seek not their own well being, but the well being of others. I think its important to recognize that God takes our relationships with others incredibly seriously. These laws are given so that we might see the responsibility we have as chosen people to reflect God’s love for others.
The remainder of the laws govern how the people are to relate to God. Particularly God gives instruction for the building of a big tent called the tabernacle. God gives very precise instructions on how it is to be built. As we read chapters 36-40, we find this detailed account of the construction of the tabernacle. Details like they used so many talents and shekels shall use this much gold, to make this kind of cup, with this kind of oil, to light this lamp. This detail seeks to a deeper issue. Throughout the instructions in and 35-40 you see this repeated phrase, a command, “to do all as the Lord had commanded.” In fact, if you have your Bible turn over to , as you read notice that every aspect of making the priestly garments ends with this phrase, all was done, “as the Lord had commanded Moses.”
The point here is not to suggest that God’s blessing and call are contingent on our obedience. Rather our obedience allows to receive the blessings God is already giving. A couple years ago, I heard an Indian evangelist tell of the story of a woman who came to him and asked him to “cast out the demon of smoke.” His response was powerful, I can cast out a demon. But the flesh that you’re battle. Again are we so desiring to be free that we are willing to follow God on His terms. Do we so long to be from that addiction that we put anything that would lead us towards it? Are we willing to be set free?
3) God’s rescue keeps us from putting him in a box.
In , we’re told that Israel would become a choice possession, a holy nation, a royal priesthood. These are all images of God setting them apart. The book ends in , we are told that the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. We get this little detail in verse 15 that just blows my mind. It says that the glory of the Lord so filled the temple that Moses couldn’t even go in. I think a great mistake that people make is thinking that all God was dwelled in the tent. It didn’t. The smallest expression of God’s glory overwhelmed the house. In the ancient world, people would see temples as the dwelling place of their gods. They believed that the temple could contain all of His power. When Moses can’t even go in, its a powerful statement that no matter how hard we try to put God in our boxes, He is always bigger. On our trip to Israel one of the most provocative thoughts was the idea that God never wanted the Old Testament temple. In these chapters of Exodus, you have these detailed descriptions of how to build the tabernacle. Do you know where we find descriptions for the building of the temple? You don’t.
Well what do we do with the fact that God says that Solomon will build the temple? There’s two ways you can read that. Either its a statement of blessing or simply of tolerating it. In fact, if you study Solomon’s reign you’ll find that He often does things to keep pace with the foreign nations at the expense of following God. Heres the thing, do you know the one charge that leveled against Jesus at was true. He said that He would destroy this temple and in three days rebuild it. the people of Israel so focused on the building they built missed how big God really is.In a speech that Stephen gives to the Sanhedrin in . Listen to what he writes,
44 “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, 49 “ ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? 50 Did not my hand make all these things?’ <915-6>
Stephen is reminding the Sanhedrin that God can never be confined to a box, a building, a temple, no matter how large. God isn’t bound to the conventions of popular culture, success, or even our small works. I fear sometimes that people reason that in much the same way, we reason that if we come to church once a week, touch the pavement then we are freed to live as we please. If God has come to dwell among us, he calls us to radically follow Him as his disciples.
Maybe you’re here today and God is saying that you’re enslaved. It may be to a sin or may even be to something other than his call that you have allowed to define you. Friends I want to encourage you today that the same God who split the red sea, brought water from a rock and sent manna from heaven is here today. He wants to rescue. The question is do we? This week, my prayer is that God would give us boldness to go up the mountain. Full of confidence and faith we would see the one we stand before. The all powerful God who has come to rescue.