The Promises and Mission of God
Exodus 34:1-7 ESV
The Lord said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. 3 No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” 4 So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. 5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.
Everyone in this room has a name. You were given your first and middle names most likely at birth or perhaps when you were adopted or perhaps you changed your names. There is some sort of story about your names. For example, your parents might have liked that name, or it might have been a traditional family name, or you might have been named after someone famous, or there might have been other reasons. But there is a story behind your name. In our culture’s old traditions when women marry, they often take their husband’s last name to express their union with him, and so their last name becomes part of their story. (By the way, the Bible says nothing about this last practice.)
God’s name is part of his story. Our names help identify us among billions and billions of humans. God’s names not only identify him in contrast to false gods, but his names also tell what he is and does. God’s story involves making known the significance of his name—of all that God is. Think of the baptismal formula: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). This name presents his tri-unity and is a must in understanding God’s story. Exodus, the second book of the Torah, tells much about God’s name.
Before we get back into God’s story, I must say this. Each week I am not going to retell the previous part of the story, because the review would quickly become too lengthy! But I will tie in important ideas of his story, both back and forth, to help us profit better from the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ.
I.God’s progressive revelation of his name from Abraham to Moses.
Progressive revelation is an important idea in God’s story. God’s people from the earliest times knew that God’s personal name was the Lord or Yahweh. This name means either “I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be”. But God did not use that name to tell his story to them. Instead, he used other names.
A.God’s names to the Patriarchs (the fathers of the people of Israel)
1.Abraham knew God as God Most High (Gen 14:17-22), as Lord (Gen 18:27, 30-32, Adonai, the Ruler), as God Almighty (Gen 17:1, able to do whatever he wills), and as the God of heaven and earth (Gen 24:3). Each of these names contributes to God’s story when they are used.
2.Isaac knew God as the God of his father Abraham (Gen 26:24) and as God Almighty (Gen 28:3).
3.Jacob knew God as the God of Bethel (Gen 31:3, it was the place where God had first spoken to him), as the God of Abraham and Fear of Isaac (Gen 31:42; 32:9; 46:3; 48:15), and as God Almighty (Gen 35:11; 48:3).
Comment: The great idea here is that God wanted to be known as their God, as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The living God is willing to enter into a personal relationship with people. This is at the core of the covenant that God makes with his chosen people (Heb 8:10).
Apply: Is God your God? More importantly, would God agree? There is one way to know that God is your God—through faith in Jesus Christ (Jn 14:6)
B.God’s names in the Exodus events. God’s story at this point reached the time for him to tell his people more of the greatness of his name—of all he is. He uses his name Yahweh to do this. When Israel seemed at the point of utter despair (Gen 2:23-25), God remembered his covenant and began to show what it means for him to be Yahweh.
1.The announcement of this name at the burning bush (Ex 3:14-17) – He will do what he pleases to keep his promises and to take Israel into the land.
2.The question of Pharaoh sets the stage for a war (Ex 5:1-2). At first it looks like Pharaoh will win.
3.The reassertion of God’s plan (Ex 6:6-8) – Notice how God’s proclamation of his name brackets the core of the message.
4.The display of the Lord’s signs and wonders (Ex 6:28-12:30; especially 7:5) – the war against the Egyptians and their false gods
5.The Lord’s triumph at the Red Sea (Ex 14:1-15:21; especially 14:4, 17-18; 15:7, 11)
6.The provision of the manna (Ex 16:12)
7.The giving of the law covenant at Sinai (Ex 20:1, 7)
Apply: The story of Exodus shows the power of God’s name. It is fatal to get into a way with God. You will lose. But there is a way of peace (Rm 5:1-2). But you can’t find it by fighting the true and living God, because he is in control of all things.
II.God’s name declared after disastrous disobedience (Ex 32-34)
In this event the Lord makes known the wonder of his grace.
A.God had made a covenant with Israel (Ex 19-24) about seven weeks before.
1.God made known his desire to be in a special relationship with Israel as his people. To pursue this desire, God gave a covenant so that they could live with him as his people, but all would depend upon their obedience (Ex 19:1-6). Note the “if… then….” In Christ we have something much better (1 Pt 2:9-10).
2.God publicly announced the central terms of this covenant, the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17), and the people agreed to these commands and other laws associated with them (Ex 24:3-8). God then allowed the leaders of the people to eat and drink in his presence, which speaks of personal friendship (Ex 24:9-12). Following this, Moses spent forty days with the Lord to receive instruction about a movable temple, the tabernacle, through which God would live among the people (Ex 25-31).
Comment: At this point, everything looks good from outward appearances. But there is an internal problem with Israel. They did not have a heart for God (Deut 5:28-29). We would all do well to examine ourselves to know if we have a heart for God, or are our desires set on other things (cf. Mt 13:22-23)?
B.Israel broke the covenant with God (Ex 32:1-35)
1.Israel wanted other gods instead of the Lord, and Aaron attempted a foolish compromise, calling the worship of an idol a feast to the Lord. Thus the first three commands of the covenant were broken.
2.Moses interceded with the Lord not to destroy the people, and God relented from judgment. Notice carefully that Moses does not plead the law covenant, but God’s promises and oath (cf. Heb 6:13-18) in the holy covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God then sent Moses back down to the people. Moses saw the wild orgy and threw down the two tablets of the covenant, symbolically showing that they had broken the covenant. The Levites rally to the Lord’s side, and through swift judgment they restore order. Moses then risks everything as he prays for forgiveness for his people.
3.After extended intercession by Moses, the Lord agrees to continue to be with Israel as their God and to take them to the land promised to the Patriarchs (Ex 33:1-17).
Point: The Lord is showing that prayer for others is a significant part of his plan in their salvation. We can pray for others on the basis of God’s covenant promises, because God will be faithful to his name.
C.Moses boldly asks to see God’s glory (Ex 33:18-34:7).
Although he had experienced God’s shining brilliance a number of times, he wanted more. He had a heart for God.
1.God agrees to let Moses see a little of his glory, but he promises also to give him something more that will make known his glory in a richer way—the proclamation of his name (Ex 33:18-23).
2.Up on Sinai, God tells Moses about his kindness and sternness (cf. Rm 11:22). The Lord tells him seven ideas that show forth his glory, which can be summarized by the words salvation and judgment. The Lord puts the emphasis upon salvation. How can any sinner ever hope to live in the presence of God? He judges sinners! Yet he also is compassionate, gracious, patient, overflowing with love and faithfulness, and forgiving. And so he makes the law covenant with Israel (Ex 34:8-28).
3.In this proclamation of his name, God progressively reveals more of who he is. The rest of the OTS draws from this revelation: (1) the Law – Num 14:18; Deut 5:9-11; 7:9-10, (2) the Prophets – Is 63:7; Jer 32:18; Ho 2:19-20; Joel 2:13; Jon 4:2; Mi 7:18; Na 1:2-3, and the Writings – Ps 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 145:8; Neh 9:17, 31-32; 2 Chrn 30:9.
Apply: Since God’s name reveals his glory in his story, we need to know his names and think of God as he has spoken of himself. For example, “Father in heaven, I come to you through the Lord Jesus Christ. You have revealed yourself as Yahweh, which means that your glory is in your compassion. My heart and life are filled with sorrow, suffering, and misery. It is your glory to show compassion to someone like me. I desperately need it. Let me see the glory of your compassion. And then may my life radiate with your compassion to others.”
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teachers and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.