Monday, December 31, 2012

God Reflects On His Covenant and Name -- Exodus 6:1-5

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he shall let them go, and under compulsion he shall drive them out of his land.”  God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, Lord, I did not make Myself known to them.  And I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned.  And furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage; and I have remembered My covenant.”

This was a hard section to title.  While God is definitely speaking to Moses in response to his complaint, I feel there is also present an element of God thinking out loud and reflecting on what has transpired so far and what will transpire.  When looking at the actual language, one can easily say God is simply restating His promises to Moses, and you can almost hear Moses thinking, “promises, promises, promises”.  Sometimes we feel like that.  “God, I’ve done all I could; I kept my side of the bargain; what about you?  Why isn’t my child better?  Why doesn’t my husband have a job?  Why do I feel no one on earth loves me?  Why can’t we buy our own place?  Why is there so much trouble in my church?”
And this is the very time that we need to remember that, in one sense, we have not really trusted and believed unless we have trusted and believed to the very end.  I have been a Christian for over five decades now.  Sometimes, when I consider all that is going on in the world, especially with respect to growth of Jihadic Islam in the world and its goal of eliminating all Christians and Jews from the face of the earth, I ask myself “What happens if I fail my Lord in the end?”  All those years of faithfulness will not count for much if I do not run the full race.  I will have only believed and trusted when I saw evidence of His hand in my life.  I will have been no different than an atheist if I stopped believing and trusting when I felt He had not kept His Word to me.
I believe that is the very secret to a Christian life.  One allows his or her faith to carry him or her throughout life right up to the point of death.  It is at that point that one can be told, “you have run a good race”.  It is then that the struggles end.  I do not for a moment want to suggest that God cannot or will not be merciful even then (that is His call to make, not ours), but from my perspective anything short of that would make me feel I have failed my Lord and my faith at the time I most needed them.
God tells Moses that He will, by force, cause Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go.  But Moses had been told that earlier.  This was just a reminder.  That is the amazing thing about God – He gives people a chance to do the right thing voluntarily.  Only when they do not, He uses His power to bring about the result that He wants.  And He can do that because of Who He is.
And so He reminds Moses of that.  He tells him He is the Lord, the same One Who appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty.  Moses only had to remember what He did for them to know that He would deliver His promises to Moses as well.  If our God is God and He is, then we need to only remember what He has done in the past, and what He is doing for others even now, in order to be assured of what He will do for us in the future.
But here God makes an interesting distinction.  He says Moses knows Him by one name and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew Him by another.  Moses’ ancestors knew Him as “God Almighty” or more literally ‘El Shaddai’ (Genesis 17:1), the Creator of the heavens and the earth, or as "Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will provide" (Genesis 22:8).  But God wanted His children to know Him in a much more personal way, as Lord.
What God now wanted for the children of Israel, here He was sharing with Moses, His handpicked servant.  He wanted Moses to be in this close relationship with Him.  Beforehand, God was merely known as one Who keeps His covenant, but now He is to be known more intimately.  That is what He wants for us as well.  Do you know God as just the Creator (as major as that is) or a Provider; or do you know Him intimately as your Father and as the Lord of your life?
And here’s the rest of the good news.  God says His covenant gives Canaan to the people of Israel.  Nothing would change that.  They were to get the land in due course.  And then God addresses the ‘timing’ issue as well, knowing that Moses was concerned about “when all this was to pass”.   God had heard the groaning of the children of Israel – groaning that was caused by the increased work pressure put on them lately because Pharaoh got angered at their request for time off to go and worship God.
What does this tell us?  Simply this – God is aware of our own legitimate groaning.  And if we are close to Him, we will sense that He does and we will trust Him with the knowledge of that, knowing He will come at the right time to rescue us.  I personally experienced that again just this past week.  Just when I felt all was lost in a particular situation in my ministry, God heard my cry.  But in the process I did sense His love for, and direction of, me, and then He delivered me in a most miraculous way.  The result was far more than I expected.
There was a Gospel song a few years back sung by a group called Karen Peck and New River.  It was called “Four Days Late”.  It depicted the story of Lazarus on how his starts thought that Jesus was four days late in coming and all hope was lost.  But the truth was that Jesus was “right on time”.  I encourage you to look it up on the internet and listen to it.  Friend, God remembers His covenant with His people.  He did for the Israelites and He does now for you.

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