Putting a Face to the Name 3/26/23

Pyramids  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  32:48
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Who here has ever had a pen pal? How difficult is it to truly know someone when you’ve only ever contacted them with a letter?
How difficult is it to really get to know someone you’ve never actually met in person?
How much easier is it to get to know that person after youve sat down and met them face to face?
We even have a saying. Its nice to finally put a face to a name?
In a way Thats what we’re running in to in our passage today.
The set up
God has called his people out of slavery, he’s displayed his glory to them. He’s led them out into the desert. Hes given them a whole host of commandments about how to live, and how to worship.
Right now God’s number one Goal is for the israelites to know that he is God.
The Problem.
Despite the fact that the Israelite had seen the wonders of God, they had seen his miracles, they had heard his voice, they had heard his commandments, they were still struggling with the fact that they didn’t have anything tangible
The israelites had spent the past 430 years worshipping idols.
Remember that all of the instructions for the tabernacle, all of the things that we talked about last week, were given to Moses, but from the perspective of the Israelites nothing had been built yet.
That doesn’t mean they didn’t know what was going on. All the way back in Chapter 19, God tells Moses that the people will be able to hear God speaking
Exodus 19:9 NIV
9 The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said.
Despite being able to hear God’s voice, and to see God’s miracles, they are unable to comprehend the idea of a God they can’t see or touch. They were used to the old Egyptian ways of idolatry. There is a very distinct difference between having an item that represents or reminds us of God, and an item that “is” God. The Egyptians didn’t believe that their statues reminded them of God. They believed that they actually “were” gods.
Exodus 32:1 NIV
1 When 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.”
God’s Justice
After the Israelites make this idol, God makes it clear to moses that he is going to punish their sin.
Exodus 32:9–10 NIV
9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now 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.”
God is doing something very interesting here. He gives Moses a warning. “Leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them.” In effect God is saying “If you don’t go and do something about this, I will. This opens the door for moses to say to God no, I’ll take care of it. Please don’t punish your people. Remember your promise to Abraham.
We shouldn’t take away from this that Moses had some sort of “power” over God, or that we can “reason” with God.
Rather, we should understand that God makes his intentions very clear. He let’s us know what the consequences of our actions are. He gives us very clear instructions: Do this, or else this will happen.
We may not like the fact that God is like this. This is one of the most difficult aspects of God’s character that we wrestle with. I talk to non-Christians all the time, and the consensus that I get is that people want the mercy and forgiveness of God without the justice and punishment. I struggle with this too.
In order to understand this “duality” of God, we have to understand God’s purpose for us. God doesn’t delight in punishment. In fact, he is extremely hesitant in dealing out justice
Ezekiel 33:11 NIV
11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’
As much as we wish that God could just be forgiving and merciful, and never punish sin, each and every one of us at some level knows that if God never punished sin, then He wouldn’t be a good God.
Only God has the proper judgement to be able to strike that balance.
We see it in parenting today. On one extreme you have parents who rule by the belt. You didn’t finish your homework, you’re getting the belt. You put your elbows on the table, you’re getting the belt. You missed your curfew, you’re getting the belt.
My job is not to tell anybody how to raise their kids, most everyone here has kids who have already grown up, but when parents discipline their children discipline their children for every little thing, and there’s no mercy, two things happen
The discipline starts to lose its effect.
Children start to resent their parents. They lose that loving relationship
On the other side of the extreme, parents who never correct their kids, and never offer discipline end up with children who never grow, who never learn, and who never grow up to become productive members of society.
So God sends Moses down, and allows Moses the opportunity to lead his people, to correct their sins. And He deals with the people very harshly. Make no mistake about it. They had commited a very grave sin, and they needed to be dealt with harshly. He smashes the tablets, he burns the idol they made, he forces them to drink water tainted with the powder from the golden calf. Finally he calls out and says
Exodus 32:26 NIV
26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.
He gives everyone there one final chance to rectify their actions. And it’s not a difficult process. He simply says “if you’re for the Lord, come stand over here” Because at the end of the day, that’s what God wants. He knows we do a bad job with obedience, he knows we don’t get things right. He understands that. At the very bare minimum God simply asks I want to know who is for me and who is against me. He wants you to pick a side.
And all those who chose not to be for the Lord, they were punished. Violently.
Ezekiel 33:11 NIV
11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’
The Turning point
And then Moses goes back up on the mountain to speak with God. God re-states the covenant, he restates his commandments, and then he sends Moses back down.
This time, something is different. This time, he goes down and gives instructions, and they follow them.
Exodus 35:5 NIV
5 From what you have, take an offering for the Lord. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the Lord an offering of gold, silver and bronze;
The Israelite not only follow these instructions, they go above and beyond. To the extent that they were so obedient that workers building the tabernacle had to come to Moses and say “you have to stop these people. They’re bringing too much stuff.”
Exodus 36:5 NIV
5 and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.”
Exodus 36:6 NIV
6 Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more,
Exodus 36:7 NIV
7 because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.
Imagine what that would be like.
Imagine what it would be like if we stood up here and said we have too many offerings. You’re giving too much. We don’t know what to do with all of this, you need to stop.
One of the things we really want to do here is build up a resilient children’s ministry. We want to reach out to families in alliance. We want to create a place where parents look forward to bringing their kids to church. Imagine what it would be like if we had to stand up here and say “We have too many people volunteering to help out with building the children’s program. We have too many people bringing crafts from hobby lobby. Too many people volunteering to teach Sunday school
Imagine what it would be like if we had to say there are too many people who are willing to come in early and set up communion. Too many people coming in to make coffee. Too many people showing up to vacuum the church and to decorate.
There’s too many people showing up to Tuesday night Bible study.
Could you imagine how amazing it would be to have that problem?
What’s the difference? Why did it work this time but not the first time?
The face of God.
I want us to back up and go over the conversation between God and Moses on the Mountain. We’re going to look at two different passages. The first is Exodus 33:12, and the second is going to be in Exodus 34:29. Exodus 33:12 takes place right after Moses deals out God’s punishment, and goes back up to make the second set of tablets. Exodus 33:12-23 .
Exodus 33:12–13 NIV
12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
Exodus 33:14 NIV
14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
The word there in the Hebrew for “Presence” literally means “face.” But the word as it comes across is kind of a play on words. In the same way that we might say someone is “saving face” meaning they are trying to uphold their reputation. Or we might say “It’s good to see a friendly face.” On one level we mean their actual face, but what we really mean is that it’s good to see the whole person, and everything about them, not literally their face.
This is important because in verse 18 Moses asks
Exodus 33:18 NIV
18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
Exodus 33:19 NIV
19 And 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.
Exodus 33:20 NIV
20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
What God is getting at has nothing to do with a physical face or a literal physical presence, and everything to do with his goodness. He’s saying you can not experience the fullness of God because even though you’ve found favor in my sight, you’re not ready to receive that much goodness.
Exodus 33:21–22 NIV
21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When 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.
Exodus 33:23 NIV
23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
Again God is using this Hebrew play on words to basically say I am going to reveal to you a tiny fraction of my glory and goodness.
The Face of Moses.
Exodus 34:29 NIV
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.
Unbeknownst to Moses during that entire conversation, God did something incredible. God allowed that fraction of his “face” or presence to be revealed through Moses to the Israelite people, as evidence of the fact that he was working through Moses.
Even that tiny fraction of God’s glory, of the power of the Spirit of God was enough that Moses’ face shined so brightly that he had to cover his face with a veil.
This accomplished 2 things
It served as concrete proof to the Israelites that God really was on the Mountain. There was no wizard of Oz moment, pay no mind to the man behind the curtain, none of that. This was tangible proof of the working of God. Something they could see and touch and experience.
It inspired their obedience. It inspired them to bring offerings to the tabernacle, it inspired them to build the tabernacle and the furnishings to the exact specifications that God required
The Building of the Tabernacle
Chapters 35-39 describe the building of the Tabernacle
If you took too Bibles and set them side by side you would see that it’s built exactly the way God commanded it.
Exodus 39:42–43 NIV
42 The Israelites had done all the work just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 43 Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded. So Moses blessed them.
All of that was accomplished by a fraction of the presence of God among them. In the Church today, do you know what we call that? The pressence of God that inspires us and convicts us, and gives us proof for God’s existence, and allows us to do things we wouldn’t be able to do on our own?
The working of the Holy Spirit
If a fraction of the power of the Spirit of God did all that, how much more will the Fullness of God dwelling in you accomplish?
2 Corinthians 3:6-18 .
2 Corinthians 3:3–18 NIV
3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! 12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
What Paul is saying here is that the power revealed in Moses isn’t even comparable to the power we receive when we are immersed into Christ, when we put on his clothes. when we receive the fullness of God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit It’s not even worth comparing.
And yet what we do sometimes is we try to hide it. We don’t want people to know that we are Christians, we just want to fit in with everybody else. Don’t do that. You should be living your life in such a way, you should be allowing the Spirit to work through you in such a way, that when you walk into a room people instantly think
“There’s something different about that person.”
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but they have this glow about them.
People today have the same problem with God that the Israelites had in the desert
The Israelites couldn’t believe because they didn’t have tangible proof of the power of God. So they created Idols. Because they needed their God to have a face they could look at. A literal face so that they could see proof of the presence of God.
And what God did was reveal to them that His glory wouldn’t be revealed in some statue. It was going to be revealed through the presence of Moses, so that he would be so different that they would have to believe that he was in the presence of God.
People today are no different. They need to see God in a tangible way, and when they don’t get that they set up their own idols. Celebrities, politicians, money, power. These are all idols. These are all things that people set up because
They’ve been waiting at the base of the Mountain for so long that they’re starting to wonder if God is even really there. So they set up their own golden calves because they have to worship something.
Your Job as a Christian is to take the glory that’s dwelling within you and to let it shine so bright that people have no choice but to believe there must be a God behind it.
Let them see the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life by your Love. Your Joy. your peace. Your patience and kindness. Your goodness and your faithfulness. Your gentleness and your Self control.
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