Idols Can’t Do It, We Need God’s Presence, His Glory

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[Introduction]
Hello. Today, we’re going to talk about some big, important questions: Who is God? What does he want? Who are we? What do we want? And, how can we both get what we want?
But first, I want to give you a little preview, the Apostle John (Jesus’ really good friend), he summed up what we’re talking about today this way:
John 1 14The Word [that’s God] became flesh and made his dwelling [he tabernacled] among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John is pointing to the fact that…
Us humans, we want, we need glory, meaning, significance in our lives, we’re searching for it.
And, there’s only one way to really satisfy that desire, it’s God’s glory, our lives are pretty meaningless without God’s glory, his presence.
And, God wants to be with us, to live, dwell, tabernacle with us. But, we’re sinners (that’s who we are), we cheat on God. And, he loves us so much, he wants to forgive us, but he can’t just ignore our sin, let it go unpunished (he’s full of grace and truth, that’s who he is).
So, God makes a way, he finds a way for us to live with him, to experience his presence, his glory.
That’s the tabernacle in Exodus, through Jesus, the cross, it’s the Holy Spirit in us today. It’s how we can both get what we want.
We’re going to see this play out in practice, in the Exodus story.
Exodus as three parts
Part one is God rescuing his people from Slavery in Egypt, the plagues, that stuff.
Second part is God testing his people in the wilderness until they get to Mount Sinai.
At Mount Sinai, they see God’s Glory is fire and smoke on top of the mountain.
God says, I’ve rescued, you should be mine. We should have a covenant, obey me and you will be my treasured possession. It’s like a marraige ceremony
And, the Israelites are like, sounds good!
God invites them to come up the mountain to dinner, they get scared, and send moses instead.
Moses heads up, makes the covenant with God, ten commandments and so on.
And that brings us to the third part of Exodus, Moses heads back up the mountain and God has some gifts for his bride. It’s a lovely keepsake, copies of the Ten Commandments beautifully carved into some stone tablets by God. And again, God’s excited to be with his bride, to move in together, so he gives Moses blueprints, super detailed architectural plans, for the tabernacle, the furniture, the clothes the priests are to wear.
This is all in chapter 25-40 of Exodus, and for Bible nerds it’s super cool, the details are super meaningful, but most folks just get a little bored with this part of Exodus.
But, don’t lose the big picture. God’s in love, it’s like he’s married the Israelites and now he’s giving them the plans for a house so that he can be with them. And, it’s a little tricky. Holy God living together with sinful humans. There needs to be sacrifices for their sin, rituals to protect the humans from this dangerous God. Yet, he makes a way to be with them, to allow them to experience his glory.
Okay, so now grab a Bible, Exodus chapter 32 (page 61 in the Bibles we got here), in the middle of all the blueprints, tabernacle details, there’s like a three chapter intermission. Well, not really an intermission, it’s more like a return to the action, the wedding drama. They got married, had a nice reception, and while they were loading the presents in the car, the bride (the people) cheats on God.
Exodus 32: 1When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” 2Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 5When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” 6So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. 7Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ 9“I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
No one, including God, likes to be cheated on.
But, that’s what us humans do…
We Cheat on God, We Seek Glory Elsewhere
Sure, not a lot of us build golden calves in our garages to bow down to, but we all struggle with idols. We all put other things above God. We’re great at ignoring our idols, rationalizing, but they're not that hard to find. We just need to think about what we think about. Where do our thoughts just kinda keep going, rather than going to God: good things like family, career. Or, maybe bad things like drugs, porn. What is it that we’d rather spend our time, our money on instead of God?
If we let him, the Holy Spirit is really good at showing us our idols, the things we put above God. Just let him do that for you today. …
We all got idols, so let’s move on to why, how can God get us past that.
So, idols are us looking for glory in the wrong place.
And, “glory” isn’t something normal people usually talk about, so I should probably translate this from church talk into normal English.
In the Bible, the Hebrew word for glory had kinda two meanings. It means both weightiness, solidity, reality. And, it also means importance, significance. In English, probably the only word that’s got both meanings is our word “matter”. Matter, it's the stuff of the physical universe, it’s heavy. And, things that matter have significance, importance.
You and I need to know that we matter. That’s the glory we’re after from our idols.
Where do we see this in our lives?
Some of us are trying to get glory from achievement, maybe it’s professional glory, financial glory, political glory, artistic glory. If we’re successful, then we matter. And, it’s not just ego, if we can just be successful then we’re real, we have weight. Humans need that.
Some of us, we don’t care much about success, we just desperately want to be loved. If someone would love us, miss us, care about us, then we would matter, that’s the glory we’re after.
And, some of us, the likes we get on social media, the wins we have gambling, the drugs, the sex, the porn, shopping, eating, when we get that hit of oxytocin in our brains, we feel kinda like we matter, it’s a kind of glory. …
But, none of these last. The feeling that we matter fades and we need more and more. And these things don’t just fade, they fade us.
Take money for example. Nothing wrong with working and making money. But, if we’re trying to get our identity out of money, if whether we matter is tied to our financial success, that’ll drive us into the ground, we’ll overwork, let work consume us.
It’s true for all our idols, even love. Seeking love is good, we need love. But, if being loved is what defines us, if we don’t matter, we’re not real unless a particular person loves us: If you love me, then I’m okay. Well, that person can’t do it, can’t always give us what we need. And, we’ll try way too hard, give away too much, to get a love that will only let us down in the end. …
And, if you don’t believe me, Moses says the same thing in Exodus, in a pretty dramatic way. Back to verse 10 from before, God says to Moses:
10Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.
That’s a pretty amazing offer God makes to Moses, to make him a great nation.
But, Moses doesn’t take God up on his offer. Instead, what comes next is Moses making five requests, five intercessions to use churchy talk. If you remember back in chapter 3, Moses made five excuses on this very same mountain back when God showed up in the burning bush, now with these five requests we see Moses as the leader God knew he could be.
11But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people.
That’s Moses first intercession, little argument to God, then he’ll remind God of his promises to Abraham, Issac and Jacob.
God is offering Moses personal Glory, but moses puts that aside and lifts up God’s Glory. He is saying “God, reputation as someone who keeps his promises is more important than making me into a nation”
Moses sees that being a great nation will never be enough for him to know that he matters, he needs God’s glory.
Later, we see this even more clearly, chapter 33: 1Then the LORD said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” Then, jump to verse 15 for Moses response: 15Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” 17And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Okay, so God had agreed not to destroy the people, to keep his promises, but he’s suggesting that they take a break from each other, like they just got married and now they need a separation.
And, even though they cheated on God, God’s still going to pay them alimony: They get the promised land flowing with milk and honey.
I mean, in America, much of the American church, this is like the dream: God, make us rich and successful and stay out of our way, keep all your pesky rules to yourself, we got this without you.
But, Moses says: No way, God! If we can’t have you, your glory, just leave us here in the desert to die.
This is important. Moses is saying that…
Our Lives Don’t Matter Without the Glory of God
The thing we want (to know that we matter) we can only really get that from God, his glory, his presence in our lives.
To experience God’s glory is to experience his incredible beauty, to find God beautiful, not just useful, it’s to find God satisfying just for who he is in himself. It’s to worship him for himself, not for what we get out of it.
This is what Moses asks for. After God says: Alright, I’ll do what you asked, I’ll go with you. Exodus 33 18Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” 19And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
This is a little weird, but we’re back to how it’s tricky for a Holy God to marry, to live with sinful people.
Because Of Our Sin, God’s Full On Glory Will Kill Us
Remember, Jesus came full of grace and truth.
And here in Exodus, God doesn’t just show Moses his back, he gives Moses this super important description of himself (God of Exodus and Jesus, they’re the same) chapter 34 5Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. 6And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
That’s who God is, what he wants, it’s important for us to see him for who he really is.
Yes, God is madly in love with us, he wants to be with, tabernacle with us, he is full of grace, wants to forgive. But, he’s not just Santa Claus, he’s not safe. He can’t leave our sin, our cheating, unpunished.
See, to experience God’s glory, his presence, we actually need to confess our sins, to repent and let Jesus take the punishment for us.
And yes, God is just, he insists on justice, victims get this, God wouldn’t be loving if he left sin unpunished (after they made the gold calf they were guilty, the worst of them got the death penalty, 3,000 of them, and God brought a plague on everyone else, all the accomplices, sin has serious consequences), Jesus came full of truth. … Yet, mercy triumphs over judgment, more love and forgiveness (to thousands) than punishment (to a few generations).
See, to experience God’s glory, his presence, we actually need to accept God’s mercy, to give up on ourselves, our righteousness, and receive his righteousness through Jesus.
Yeah, the fact that he came full of grace and truth, that’s who God is, it explains the tabernacle in the desert in Exodus and it explains Jesus, suffering and dying for us on the cross, ‘cause…
God Makes a Way For Us To Experience His Presence, His Glory
This is how we both get what we want. God gets us and we get him. And, in him we matter, we have weight, significance. So, how do we press into this? I thought you’d neve ask. First,...
Check our motives. We talked about this before: Why do we want God? Do we really want him or are we just using him?
I love the way the guys at the BibleProject put this: The point of the golden calf narrative is to say God’s purposes have always been to work out his plan in the world through a covenant people. Problem. That covenant people, from the moment he marries them, have not wanted to be married to the real him.
Same deal with us: Do we want to be married, committed to the real God, real Jesus?
Do we even know what God is actually like or is he just a creation in our heads? We always agree with him because he’s just a projection of us. It’s worth taking some time to meet God in the Bible. Maybe start with the biographies of Jesus (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John). Even if we’ve read them hundreds of times, go back, pay attention to the parts you’re ignoring, skipping over.
For me personally, what Moses said to God about going with them helps me check my motives: 16How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?
I love that following Jesus is about transformation. My life has gotten better and better the more I become like Jesus. But, more and more, I want to become like Jesus to make Jesus famous, to bring glory to him, because he’s that good, he deserves that, I don’t want to talk anyone else into following Jesus, I want them to see Jesus in me and want Jesus for themselves.
Jesus is so good. If as a Duluth Vineyard community, the people around us saw more and more of Jesus in us, his glory, that could change everything. Yes, Lord Jesus! …
Okay next, after God says he won’t go, can’t go because he might destroy them on the way, it says: Chapter 33 4When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5For the LORD had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’ ” 6So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.
So, is God against jewelry, hates earrings, bracelets? No, back then they didn’t have banks. They carried lots of their wealth around in jewelry, ornaments.
Here, God’s pointing out that the way we use our wealth, you can draw a pretty direct line between how we use our wealth and what we look to to matter, for significance, security, glory. Last week, we saw the Isrealites using their wealth, ornaments to build the tabernacle. And, this week we saw them using their ornaments to build an idol, a golden calf.
What does how we use our money say about us and if we’re looking to other things besides God for glory? Test this out by…
Practicing generosity.
Try giving 10% of your income to the church like it describes in the Bible, or go even farther, try being radically generous with the poor like we see in the early church, the book of Act. Give away so much money that you actually feel it.
And, right away you’ll see the things you look to besides God for glory. But, I can’t give more, I gotta, I wanta spend my money on ____. What? That’s our idol. That’s what’s keeping us from seeing God’s glory.
And, if we do force ourselves to be radically generous, it doesn’t just show our idols, it starts to break they’re power. Practicing generosity is both an expression of our belief that God alone is the source of our significance, our security. And, giving actually strengthens that belief in us, solidifies it in our hearts. Just ask God what he thinks about you giving? …
Next, look at Moses’ prayer: 18Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
What are we praying for? Nothing wrong with praying for healing. Nothing wrong with praying for our friends, families. We should bring all our needs to God in prayer. Yet, do we ever…
Pray for God’s glory. Holy Spirit, show me your glory. Show our church, the Duluth Vineyard your glory, show us your glory so we can show the world your glory.
We do not have, because we do not ask. Pray for God’s glory. How about the next 40 days, do this 40 days in a row.
And, prayer is a conversation with God, a two way street. As we’re asking to see his glory, let’s listen for his reply, give him some space to respond. Without some regular time in silence and solitude, it’s pretty easy to miss God’s voice. …
Next, Moses asks to see God’s glory,... Chapter 33 19And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you
God will do the same for us, but we got to…
Look at God’s goodness.
It’s all around us in creation, but I can’t think of any better place to see God’s goodness than on the cross, Jesus on the cross.
Jesus, the only son of God, humbled himself, became human, lived a perfect life, then suffered and died on a cross to rescue us. Do we see the goodness, the beauty of the bloody cross? On the cross, Jesus cries out: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Remember how we can’t see the face of God and live. Sinless Jesus could. But here, for the first time ever, Father God turns away from Jesus, Jesus lost the loving face of God.
And with that, for the first time in all of eternity, Jesus (the only son of God) was utterly ignored, insignificant, he wasn’t glorified, adored, he was cut off, he didn’t matter … at all. That’s hell, Jesus experienced hell in our place.
The cross is awful, horrible, and not just for the blood.
And, the cross is beautiful, glorious. Jesus lost the face of God, so that you and I could see his face. He experienced hell, so God could welcome us into his kingdom, dwell in us through the Holy Spirit. The cross is Jesus full of both grace and truth. It’s how he can be both for us.
Take the time to marvel at the cross, to see God’s goodness there, experience his glory. …
Alright, so that’s it, that’s how these three chapters in Exodus show us: Who God is. What he wants. Who we are. What we want. And, how we can both get what we want.
Now, we all get to decide what to do about this? We all got idols, we all cheat on God. Will we turn from our idols and seek his glory?
He is so in love with us, slow to anger, full of compassion, forgiveness for us. Is it time for a real relationship with the real God? Let’s welcome his presence, let’s let him show us how in him we matter, we have weight, significance.
Why don’t you stand up with me.
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