God is Consistent!
To everyone watching online, it’s great to be with you. To everyone here in person, it’s great to see you. Today my good friend, Dalton John, is going to lead us in a word of prayer. Dalton and I are part of the same Men’s small group that meets on Tuesday mornings. He has two sons, DJ and Demetrius. Please welcome Dalton as he comes to pray.
Dalton has a deep faith in God. He believes that God exists and rewards those who earnestly seek him. I believe that too. But not everyone does. Now everyone has faith – faith in their career, faith in their intellect, faith in reason, but not necessarily faith in God. Here are some bus billboard advertisements paid for by atheist groups. These are seen on buses in Europe & the US. Don’t believe in a god? You’re not alone. Are you good without God? Millions are. There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.
That sign actually said “probably.” Are they thinking 60/40 or 50/50 that there IS or IS NOT a God? What reasons do you or people you know have for not believing in God? Questions like… Why does God allow evil & suffering? Why doesn’t God just make a dramatic appearance so we all know He’s there? Didn’t evolution put God out of a job? One of the biggest questions people ask who don’t believe in God is this. Why trust the Bible when the Bible says things that are just plain weird?
I want us to look at one of those “so called’ weird Bible passages. Today is week five of a series we’ve called “God is…” For five weeks we’ve contemplated God’s description of himself. God has this wonderful relationship with Moses. He literally spoke to Moses face to face except Moses never saw God’s face. No one has ever seen God’s face until Jesus walked this planet. So God did the next best thing. He hid Moses in the crevice of a rock and then showed him his glory. This took place in Exodus 33. God then describes himself to Moses in Exodus 34. Let’s start at verse 4. (Read 4-7a) This is where I normally stop. I’ve stopped here four times, but we can’t stop here. God has more to say. (Read all of verse 7). Oh my! Here’s one of those weird Bible verses. It was all so good then everything went south. What kind of God punishes children? Am I responsible for my parent’s sin? Will my Mom be held liable for my sins? What kind of God curses multiple generations?
Well, not the God you know, love and serve. Not the God we worship. Dr. Robert Plummer wrote a book called 40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible. These are the kind of geeky books I like to read. Dr. Plummer provides six guidelines or principles when coming to grips with a passage. Here they are:
#1: Take note of the Biblical genre you are reading. Genre is a type of literature. Are you reading history, poetry, one of the four Gospels, apocalyptic books like Daniel or Revelation, or one of Paul’s letters? 1st Corinthians was written to the Corinthians and not to us, but the letter is for us. #2: Be aware of historical or cultural background issues. We are reading Exodus. Exodus is a historical record of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. #3: Pay attention to context. What’s being said then. If you are reading Isaiah, understand the book was written 700 years before Jesus was born. If I said. The Indians are in trouble. Am I talking about Native Americans or a Cleveland Sport’s Team? (who will soon be renamed!) If you don’t have the right context, (what’s happening that then) you will draw the wrong conclusion. #4: Read the Bible in community. We are woefully individualistic. God created us to live, worship and grow spiritually together. Author Alan Ahlgrim said, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” #5: Let Scripture interpret Scripture. Never let one verse create application. Note what’s before and what’s after the text. #6: Read the Bible as a book that points to Jesus.[i] Exodus points us to Jesus. The law can’t save us. We are not perfect. But Jesus is. Jesus answers our question. If Grandma cheats on her taxes, are her grandchildren liable? According to Jesus, the answer is no. This happened in John 9:1. (Read 1-3a) But people in Jesus day, Moses day and even TODAY say yes.
How can we get a better handle on this? Luke Borton told me about an incredible book. First, Luke & his wife Kirsten had a baby girl this week. Here’s Zoya Reese Borton. Born on June 22. Luke told me about John Mark Comer’s book called God has a name. God’s name is Yahweh and Comer writes an entire book of these two verses. Let’s read this verse line by line to better grasp God’s description of himself. Verse 7 begins this way.
maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.
Forgive means to “lift up, to carry or to take away.”[ii] This is what God does for those who believe in him. What does God forgive? WR &S. Let’s start with wickedness. Wickedness refers to any kind of bad behavior. A pastor assured his congregation he was their servant and that they should feel free to call him anytime they had a problem. That night the pastor's phone rang at 3 a.m. On the other end was a dear elderly lady who said, "Pastor, I can't sleep." "I'm so sorry to hear that," he comforted her. "But what can I do about it?" the pastor asked. She sweetly replied, "Preach to me a while, pastor."
I want to smack her upside the head, but smacking old women is bad behavior. So is punching some distant relative at a family reunion or giving someone the finger as they cut you off in traffic. Rebellion means “to break the law.” Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper was eighteen years old when she took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. She spent the next fifty-nine years of her life dedicated to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1990, she became principal of St. James Catholic School, continuing in this role for twenty-eight years. When she retired in 2018, the archdiocese conducted a financial review of the school for the new principal. It discovered that Sister Mary Margaret had embezzled over $835,000 over the course of ten years. Federal prosecutors say she used the money to bankroll her gambling habit. She pled guilty and is cooperating with the authorities.[iii] God calls this kind of sin – rebellion. Have you ever rebelled, ever broken the law? Sin means “to miss the mark.” Visualize an archer aiming at a target. Pull back the bow and let the arrow fly. But the arrow misses the bullseye. And every time we sin, we miss the mark. I’ve missed the mark, many, many times, but God forgives sins that come in all shapes and sizes. Forgiveness flows from His very being. It’s who He is and what He does. However, verse 7 also reveals who God is.
Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…
Who would argue with this? Someone does something to you. Extorts money. Hurts your child. They are guilty. Do you think their sin should go unpunished? Do we just ignore what Hitler did? What serial killers did. Some people are guilty for what they did. It just can’t be proven. But God promises to right all wrongs.
God is telling us that He can be perfectly loving and perfectly just all at the same time.[iv] He will forgive. But we often think we don’t need his forgiveness. Our post-Christian world basically denies sinfulness. John Mark Comer said, “The idea that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” that each of us is born bent, that something deep in the core of our being is warped out of shape – this is out of step with our time.”
If a person refuses to admit that they are sinful they can’t receive our great God’s forgiveness. Sin is deadly. God does not ignore it.
Kaylin Phillips went viral on Tok-tok after sharing a video of the moment she unknowingly held “one of the most dangerous animals in the world.” She’s holding a type of octopus has “enough venom to kill multiple adults within minutes.” She had no idea. She thought it was harmless. Sin can seem harmless, but it’s deadly.
God’s goal is a world with no evil. His justice isn’t about revenge or payback, it’s the healing and renewal of the world. When any human repents; God responds. But if we won’t repent, he’ll wait for so long and then he allows to go where He is not present. Don’t you want to live in a world where there are no cruel dictators, no ethnic cleansing, no racism, no exploitation of women and no fatherless children – no evil at all? If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, one day you will.
A friend of mine told me about an Ohio Mom who has three kids – 9,7,& 6. Her boyfriend wanted her but didn’t want her kids. He told her to dump them. She did. Late one night, she took her kids to a park and shoved them out of the car and drove away.[v] Have you ever asked this question? Will somebody please do something about this? God did. God is just, he will not leave the guilty unpunished. That’s awesome Pastor, but what about the last part of verse 7?
he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
What is God saying about himself? He’s saying that He’s consistent. Whether it’s your great-grandfather, grandfather, your Dad or you, God is consistent when it comes to sin. Sin is real. Sin is deadly. But if you turn to him, he will forgive you. This is especially true of idolatry. This is what God already said Exodus 20:5. (Read 5&6) In both chapters the sin is idolatry. God tells them not to worship idols in chapter 20 and then punishes them for making an idol out of a golden calf. When parents worship idols their children often follow their example. Grandpa bows to money, Dad bows to his career, the son bows to his hobbies, and the son worships himself. But each is punished for his own sin. This is what Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 32. This is what Jesus concluded in John 9. Moses said this in Deuteronomy 24:16: Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.
What does that mean for us today? When parents sin they create consequences for their children and if often lasts for multiple generations. Here are two examples. One Biblical and one personal. In Numbers 14, God tells Mom to send out 12 spies to explore the Promise Land. Ten return saying it’s too dangerous so the people refuse to enter. God gets mad. He wants to end them and begin again through Moses and Moses reminds God of who He is in Numbers 14: 17. Read 17-19. So God makes the parents wander for 40 years and guess what. Their children have to wander too before entering the Promise Land. One personal example.
If I have an affair. This would betray my wife and kids. Anything I’ve ever said about commitment or trust would be mocked. You might not lose your job, but as a minister I would lose mine. But let’s say I realize my dumb decision, break it off and plead to Tricia for forgiveness. She might forgive me. I hope she would in due time. I have no doubt that God would forgive me, but the negative ripple effect would be HUGE! I might have to spend the rest of my life trying to undo the consequences.
Does God forgive? Yes! Does Jesus heal? Yes! But the weight of sin is heavy and it often causes us to miss out on God’s blessing. SO WHAT GREG? Here’s why this is important.
God does not want you to miss out on his blessing. His greatest blessing meets our greatest need. His scale weighs in our favor. We need his mercy. We need forgiveness. How can we receive it?
For centuries Jews practiced animal sacrifice. God forgives sin through blood. You come to the temple bringing an animal. Most times a lamb. The priest slits its throat, its blood is spilled and its hide is burned on the altar. You sin. The lamb dies.
God became flesh. Jesus was born. John the Baptist called Jesus the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
We sin. So Jesus died. He death paid the price for sin. We sin. Jesus gives us grace and mercy which means God no longer sees our sin. Here’s the now what!
Do you realize you are a sinner in need of forgiveness? Acknowledge your need.
How does anyone receive forgiveness? Believe in God’s one and only son!
Will you live for Jesus? Here’s how. Imitate him. Be compassionate & gracious, slow to anger & abounding in love & faithfulness. May we say to people Sin is real. Sin is deadly. But anyone who turns to God can be forgiven.
[i] Robert L. Plummer, 40 Questions about interpreting the Bible, 95-107 [ii] John Mark Comer, God has a name, 223 [iii] https://www.denisonforum.org/columns/daily-article/nun-steals-835k-for-gambling-habit-howie-mandel-describes-struggle-with-anxiety-healing-the-alienation-of-our-souls/ [iv] Michael Card, Inexpressible, 28-29 [v] https://toofab.com/2021/03/02/six-year-old-died-after-grabbing-back-of-moms-speeding-car-as-she-tried-to-abandon-him-in-a-park/