Yahweh – Our God

 

Week of December 2, 2012

 

Bible Verses:  Exodus 6:2-8; 15:1-3, 11-13.

 

Lesson Focus:  This lesson can help you trust God as the one faithful God who is able.

 

Yahweh Our God Makes Promises:  Exodus 6:2-8.

 

[2]  God spoke to Moses and said to him, "I am the LORD. [3]  I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. [4]  I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. [5]  Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. [6]  Say therefore to the people of Israel, 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. [7]  I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. [8]  I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.'"  [ESV]

 

[2-5]  God provides an answer to Moses’ questions in 5:22-23. The first part of God’s answer [6:1-5] contains two great truths about God, truths to hold on to whenever trouble comes: God always remains in control, and He remembers His covenant. First, God always remains in control. Moses’ complaint was that God was not doing what He had promised [5:23]. But the truth was that God had everything under control, as He always does [6:1]. This may not have been the answer Moses was hoping for. God never exactly explained why He allowed His people to go through so much trouble or why Moses was still the right man for the job. God did not try to justify Himself to Moses at all; He simply repeated His promise to glorify Himself by defeating Pharaoh. Moses thought that things had gone from bad to worse, but as far as God was concerned, everything was going perfectly according to plan. Even Pharaoh’s hard-hearted refusal was part of the plan of salvation. God was setting things up so that Pharaoh would not only let God’s people go but would help drive them out himself. The all-wise and all-powerful God had everything under control. Since God is sovereign, we may be sure that when trouble comes, He is still in control. Whether we understand it or not, He is working to accomplish some glorious purpose. Sometimes God allows our troubles to continue in order to prove that only He can save us. The story of the exodus is a perfect example. When Moses failed to change Pharaoh’s mind, it became more obvious than ever that only God could set His people free. It was precisely when Moses despaired of providing deliverance himself that God said, Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh. The lesson to apply is that when trouble comes, we are to trust in God alone for our salvation. Sometimes God allows trouble to continue in order to teach us to be patient. Moses seemed to think that the exodus would commence the moment he started obeying God. But godliness does not guarantee immediate results, and God’s plans often take a long time to develop, while He reveals His glory through the gradual unfolding of His purpose. Like Moses, we need to show a little patience by taking a long view and resisting the urge to quibble with God’s timetable. We also need to be cautious about deciding whether something is God’s will by looking at how it is turning out right at this moment. At the first sign of trouble Moses was ready to give up, but he needed to keep doing what he was called to do because God was still at work. Things almost never turn out the way we expect, especially at first, and God loves to glorify Himself in ways that go far beyond anything we anticipate. If Christians were to give up every time they ran into difficulty, God’s work would never get done. God’s answer to Moses contained a second great truth: that God always remembers His covenant. So much of the Christian life consists of being reminded of what we already know, so we can apply it to each new situation in life. When trouble comes, we need to be reminded that God is still God. He is the God of history, the very same God who promised salvation to Abraham and brought Moses out of Egypt. Like Moses, we need to be reminded that God knows what we are going through and that He fully intends to keep every promise that He has ever made. The reason the exodus generation got to see His mighty saving power was because God remembered His covenant – His unbreakable promise of salvation. God never forgot that He had promised to make Abraham into a mighty nation and to give him a land to call his own [Gen. 15:18-21]. Thus when Abraham’s descendants were slaves in Egypt, God remembered that He had promised to bring them into Canaan.

 

[6-8]  Of all the things that God said to Moses, the most important was: I am the Lord. We know this was important because God repeated it so often, more than a dozen times in the book of Exodus. Here in Exodus 6, when Moses gets into so much trouble that he starts to doubt God’s plan of salvation, God says it repeatedly. He says it at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end, in verses 2, 6, 7, and 8. The whole focus falls on God’s revealing of Himself in a majestic act of self-identification: I am Yahweh. To know God’s name is to know His purpose. Certainly God gave Moses plenty of other details about His plan of salvation, but the most important thing was His name, Yahweh. God wanted His people to understand that the answer to all their problems was to be found in Him. Every aspect of their salvation depended on His being and character. Salvation began with God because it all came from His grace, and it would end with God because it would all return to His glory. Whatever difficulties showed up in the meantime, God would be able to handle because He is the Lord. Rather than trying to escape from our problems or complaining about them, the thing we need to do is find rest in the lordship of God. He is the answer to every difficulty. Perhaps this is why God allowed Moses to fail the first time he went to Pharaoh. If Pharaoh had released the Israelites the first time they asked, they would have given Moses most of the credit. Instead the mission backfired, and he had to take all the blame. Then everyone knew that Moses was unable to lead God’s people to the Promised Land. Only God could bring them out of Egypt, and the longer Moses and Pharaoh argued over the fate of Israel, the clearer this became. God was teaching His people to put all their trust in Him. In this way they discovered that when all else failed, the one thing they could count on was the One who said, I am the Lord being able to save them. Exodus is a God-centered book with a God-centered message that teaches us to have a God-centered life. Whatever problems we have, whatever difficulties we face, the most important thing is to know who God is. We are called to place our trust in the One who says.  I am the Lord. The Lord who calls us to trust in Him is the God of all salvation. In these verses He announces the seven “I wills” of salvation: I will bring … I will deliver … I will redeem … I will take you … I will be your God … I will bring … I will give. One reason it is so helpful to turn problems over to the Lord is that He can actually do something about them. He does not just sit there. At the beginning of this conversation Moses pointed out that God did not seem to be doing much of anything [5:23]. But by the time the exodus was over, Moses saw God do absolutely everything necessary to rescue His people. When God said, I am the Lord, what He meant was that He is the God of all salvation, the God who will do this, that ,and everything else to save His people. Although there are seven “I wills” in these verses, there are really only four basic promises. The first two “I wills” speak of liberation. At its most basic level, this is what salvation means: being freed from slavery or delivered from captivity. The main thing the Israelites needed was to be rescued from bondage, and when God said, I am the Lord, He was promising to be their deliverer. The second promise is redemption. Redemption is a financial term. In the ancient marketplace it was used to describe the release of a slave by the payment of a ransom. But in the case of the exodus, the Egyptians were the ones who ended up paying the price. Israel was redeemed with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. In Biblical times redemption was always the right of a family member or close relative. God was eligible to redeem the Israelites because of His kinship with them: I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God. In this case the word take really means “to adopt”; so the fourth and fifth “I wills” of salvation contain the promise of adoption. This family promise is the heart of the covenant, in which God takes us to Himself to be His people and gives Himself to us to be our God. In the exodus God proved His fatherly affection. God brought Israel out of Egypt into an intimate relationship of mutual affection. The last two “I wills” concern what might be called the promise of possession. The land was another promise of the covenant, and by now we can see why God introduced the seven “I wills” of salvation with the word therefore. The word therefore establishes a logical connection between the statement at the end of verse 5 – I have remembered my covenant – and all the promises that follow. God saves because He has promised to save. The “I wills” of salvation are based on His everlasting covenant. These are the seven “I wills” of salvation, in which God proves that He is Lord by saving His people – liberating them, redeeming them, adopting them, and giving them a land to be their very own. Salvation belongs to the Lord. From beginning to end, every aspect of the exodus was accomplished by God, and by God alone. God promised to bring His people out of Egypt and to free them from bondage. He promised to take them to Himself and make them His own. He promised to give them a land for their possession. The only thing left for the Israelites to do was to know Him as their Savior and Lord, as God also promised they would [6:7]. God saved the Israelites by His sovereign grace. He did all the saving so that He could keep all the glory. The same is true with salvation in Jesus Christ, which is the greatest exodus of all. As we listen to Exodus, we hear the first strains of a melody that becomes a symphony in the Gospels. Jesus gathered up the “I wills” of salvation and made them His own. Jesus is the liberator who has freed us from our sins by his blood [Rev. 1:5b]. Jesus is the Redeemer who paid the costly price of our sin by suffering and dying on the cross. It is also through Jesus that we are welcomed into the embrace of divine love, for it is to the church of Jesus Christ that God says, I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God [2 Cor. 6:16]. And at the end of all our days, Jesus is the one who will bring us to the land of glory. All that is left for us is to know Jesus as our Savior and our Lord. Salvation is not about us doing something for God; it is about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. All that is required is to trust in Jesus, believing that He has turned the “I wills” of salvation into the “I have done its” of the gospel.

 

Yahweh Our God Keeps His Promises:  Exodus 15:1-3.

 

[1]  Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying, "I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. [2]  The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. [3]  The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name.  [ESV]

 

[1-3]  Whenever God does something great, He deserves to be praised. Often this praise comes in the form of a song. There is singing all through the Old Testament. Usually when God saved His people, they sang His praises. Music plays an essential role as a response to God’s redemption. It is impossible even to conceive of Biblical Christianity without songs of praise. Here in Exodus 15, the Israelites had just been saved from the Egyptians in Exodus 14. Right at this moment they needed to praise God for delivering them. Salvation is what put the song into Israel’s heart. As soon as the people were safe, they burst into song, offering God an exuberant doxology. Notice the order. First the Israelites saw God save them. Then they put their trust in Him as their Savior. Finally, they sang to His glory, which of course was the entire purpose of the exodus. The Israelites were saved for the glory of God. The Song of Moses was their spontaneous, jubilant response to His grace. Music has been described as a gift from God that allows us to express our deepest heart responses to God and His truth in meaningful and memorable ways. It is a case of our hearts joining with our minds to say, “YES!” to the truths we are embracing. This is what the Israelites were doing on the shores of the Red Sea. They were saying “YES!” to the power and the glory of God, as it had been revealed in their salvation. This song of salvation is for all God’s people to sing. It was not enough for Moses to sing it, or even all the men of Israel. The women have seen the same salvation, and they were trusting in the same Savior, so they also needed to praise God for His victory at sea. The children were singing too, for they had been saved along with everyone else. The whole church is called to offer the same kind of praise to God in the name of Jesus Christ. We have seen His salvation in our reading of the Gospels. By faith we have stood with the women at the cross, watching Jesus suffer and die for our sins. By faith we have looked over the shoulders of the apostles into the empty tomb, where Jesus rose again. Jesus has saved us from sin and death. Now every man, woman, and child in the church is called to join the choir and take up the Song of the Savior. The song’s most obvious emphasis is on what God has done. Exodus 15 is rooted in the facts of history. It graphically portrays what God did to bring the Israelites across the sea and at the same time to destroy the Egyptians. It gives such specific details that we can almost see the exodus unfold before our very eyes. The song’s vivid imagery depicts what happened at the Red Sea. By the power of His wind, God piled up the seawater into two great walls. The Israelites went through on dry ground, but when Pharaoh and his elite forces tried to follow, they fell to the bottom of the sea. To understand why God did this, one need only listen to Pharaoh: I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil. These few, short, lines capture the very essence of Pharaoh. The Egyptian monarch was thoroughly self-centered. He was proud and boastful. He was bloodthirsty and violent, bent on destruction. But God is not mocked. So He humbled Pharaoh’s pride by sending his army to a watery grave [10, 12]. This was all God’s doing. God is the one who hurled the horse and rider into the sea [1, 4] and who threw down His enemies [7]. It was His hand that shattered the enemy [6] and His breath that blew back the sea [8, 10]. Moses praised God for what He had done. We do the same thing whenever we sing a Christian hymn. We give glory to God for what He has done in and through Jesus Christ. Good hymns help believers remember and recount God’s saving work in history. In order to worship God properly, we must have a personal relationship with Him. We must come and claim Him as our very own God. This is how the Song of Moses began, with the prophet’s personal appropriation of God and His salvation: The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation [2]. Moses had a personal relationship with God. He was able to say This is my God, and I will praise him [2]. Moses had found salvation in this God. He had come to know Him by faith, and he wanted to set his personal testimony to music.

 

Yahweh Our God Stands Alone:  Exodus 15:11-13.

 

[11]  "Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? [12]  You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. [13]  "You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.  [ESV]

 

[11-13]  What God has done shows who God is. His work always reveals something of His character. It is not surprising, then, that in his song Moses praised God for many of His divine perfections. He was not writing a systematic theology on the attributes of God; he was simply singing God’s praises. Nevertheless, he found it impossible to do this without listing some of the things that make God so great. Moses praised God for His eternity. He repeatedly called God by His special divine name, Yahweh or Lord. This is the name that God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. It means that God is the self-existent, eternal, and unchangeable Lord. The God who brought Israel out of Egypt is the God of the burning bush, the same God who first made His covenant with Abraham: the Lord is his name [3]. Moses also praised God for His power. Given what happened at the Red Sea, this was one of his most obvious attributes: Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power [6]. God is omnipotent, all-powerful. He proved this at the Red Sea by overpowering His enemies. Next Moses praised God for His wrath [7]. Many people – including many Christians – find it difficult to praise God for His wrath. God is so holy that it would not be right for Him to tolerate sin, and thus He is to be praised for the justice of His wrath. Here it helps to understand how different divine wrath is from human anger. The main difference is that God’s anger is always righteous. Divine wrath is holy hatred of sin and its perpetrators. This wrath of God is not a vehement, irrational, vindictive, arbitrary, capricious venting of God’s supernatural anger. It is the manifestation of the repugnance of a holy God against all who defile, disrupt and destroy the world that He has made. And, of course, this is exactly what the Egyptians had done – defiled, disrupted, and destroyed what God had made. Moses gives a significant reminder of their murderous slaveholding when he describes them as being consumed like stubble [7]. The word stubble echoes the beginning of Exodus, when Pharaoh made the Israelites gather stubble to use for straw [5:12]. Repeating the word stubble was a way of hinting that God gave the Egyptians exactly what they deserved. His wrath was just, as it always is, and therefore He was to be praised. He will be praised this way again at the final judgment. Moses praised God for His supremacy. The eternal, just, and all-powerful God is superior not only to His enemies, but also to their gods. Moses asked, Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? [11]. The answer, of course, is that there is no one like God. He is utterly incomparable. As the plagues demonstrated, none of Egypt’s gods had anything like the power of Israel’s sovereign God. In order to prove the supremacy of God’s deity, Moses listed more of His superior traits: majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders [11]. God alone is majestic in holiness. He is set apart, unique, perfectly and absolutely pure. God alone is awesome in glory, as the exodus was intended to demonstrate. He alone is able to work wonders like the plagues and the parting of the sea. Then there is God’s love: You have led in your steadfast love [13]. By steadfast love, Moses meant God’s covenant-keeping love, His absolute loyalty to His people, and His faithfulness to His promise. God had proved His love to Israel over and over. Everything that had happened to this point in the book of Exodus was motivated by God’s love. He had kept all of His love promises to Israel. In particular, He had kept His promise to redeem them, to buy them back from slavery. Soon God would keep His promise to lead His people to the Promised Land. Moses looked to the future, confidently anticipating the days when God would lead His people to conquest. He traced the route that they would follow to Canaan. One by one, all their enemies would be defeated [14-16]. This was a prophecy of victory, the fulfillment of which is documented in the book of Joshua. Moses was not describing random acts of violence but righteous acts of divine judgment that God would execute because of His great love for His people. Moses prophesied that God would keep judging the nations [16-17]. God does not keep His love to Himself but shares it with His people. To that end, His grand purpose was to bring His people home to live with Him. The mountain in verse 17 may refer to Mount Sinai, but more probably it refers to Mount Zion, the city of God in Jerusalem. It was there, in the holy sanctuary of His temple, that God made His earthly dwelling. The Old Testament is the story of God bringing His people to their home in the house of the Lord. This is still God’s plan for His people. the temple at Mount Zion was an earthly symbol of God’s heavenly temple in the New Jerusalem. Every day God is bringing more and more people into His holy dwelling. Soon all God’s people will be there to sing the song that will never end. So Moses ended his song with this chorus: The Lord will reign forever and ever [18]. This was the right note on which to end. After a long quarrel with Pharaoh, God had settled once and for all the question as to who was King. Moses praised God for His kingly rule not simply over Israel but over the whole creation, and not simply then, but now and forever. What an amazing God! He is eternal and omnipotent, holy and just, loving and faithful. What kind of God do we really need? Without question, the kind of God we need is the kind of God Moses considered worthy of song. We need a God who will be with us always. We need a God who has the power to save us, to triumph over sin in our lives. We need a God of wrath, who will see to it that justice is done in the end. We need a God of everlasting love, who will take us home to live with Him forever. The God of Moses is everything that anyone could ever need or even want in a God.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.         What two great truths does God give to Moses as an answer to his questions in 5:22-23 [see 6:1-5]? We need to hold on to these great truths whenever trouble comes into our lives, waiting for God to fulfill His great promises to us.

 

2.         What is significant about God’s revealing Himself to Moses as Yahweh (the LORD)? Why would God’s name have provided comfort and strength to Moses?

 

3.         What are the seven “I wills” of salvation that God reveals to Moses in 6:6-8? What are the four basic promises that God is giving Moses through these seven “I wills’? Meditate upon how these four great promises are still true today for God’s people.

 

4.         Why did Moses and the people sing a song of praise to God? What does this tell us about the place of music in our worship of God?

 

5.         There is always an unbreakable connection between what God does and who God is. God always acts in perfect harmony with His character. Therefore, whenever we praise and worship God for what He has done for us, we should always focus our worship upon who God is, His character or attributes. How does Moses do this in 6:11-13? What attributes of God does Moses mention as the object of his song of praise? How do these particular attributes connect with the work God is doing for Moses and the people? In our praise and prayers of thanksgiving, let us follow the example of Moses by moving beyond God’s action to His person; beyond what God does to who He is.

 

References:

Exodus, Philip Ryken, Crossway.

Exodus, Walter Kaiser, Jr., EBC, Zondervan.

The Message of Exodus, J.A. Motyer, Inter Varsity Press.

Exodus, Douglas Stuart, NAC, B & H Publishing.