Where Are You Looking?

Where Are You Looking?

As the new school year is approaching, this morning I thought I’d begin with a multiple–choice quiz. Ready? Here goes! The evidence that God loves those who are his is:

  1. Their lives are easy
  2. They always get what they want
  3. They never suffer
  4. He acts on their behalf

“A” is clearly incorrect for God never promises a life of ease; “B” is also incorrect for we don’t always get what we want. God would be a terrible parent if he always gave us what we wanted for, as any parent will tell you, children often want things that can harm them; “C” is incorrect for even those who know and love God aren’t spared the results of the Fall, at least not this side of heaven. That leaves us with “D”—God does indeed act on behalf of those who are his. We see this throughout Scripture:

At the time of the Fall when, despite Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God clothed and cared for them and promised to send them a Redeemer;

In the life of Noah who, along with his family, was delivered from the rampant evil that existed in his day;

In the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob whom God guided and led for he is the God of the living whose followers are enabled to live eternally in and through him;

In the life of Joseph. God acted on his behalf when he was sold into slavery, during his imprisonment, and as he ruled over Egypt;

And we’ll see God acting on behalf of Moses;

And we know that God acts on behalf of all who belong to him through believing in his Son, Jesus Christ.

The challenge, however, is that we want God to act on our behalf now; but God chooses to act on behalf of those who are his in his own time and his own way. And as we wait on his timing and action, he wants us to look to and trust in him. Moses was at the beginning of learning this lesson.

Last week we saw that when Moses and Aaron, in obedience to the LORD, went to Pharaoh and asked him to let the Israelites go for a three day journey that they might worship the LORD, Pharaoh not only refused their request but demanded that the Israelites continue to meet their daily quota of bricks while no longer being supplied with straw by the Egyptians. Consequently, the Israelite elders became angry with Moses and Aaron whom they blamed for placing them in this predicament. Moses then went to the LORD and said to him, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”[1] This morning we hear God’s answer to Moses’ lament.

As stated in verse 1 of Exodus 6, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.’” This was essentially the message that God had previously given Moses in Exodus 3 when he told him, “19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.”[2] Thus do we see God’s patience in reminding Abraham of what he had previously disclosed to him. And notice that once Pharaoh experienced the mighty hand of the LORD, he wouldn’t simply let the Israelites out; no, he would “drive them out of his country.” Once Pharaoh experienced the mighty hand of the LORD, he would insist that the Israelites leave his country. This is how strongly God would act on behalf of Moses and the Israelites, his people.

Next, God reminded Moses of another truth he had earlier disclosed to him—that his name is the LORD, Yahweh. As stated in verses 2–3, “God also said to Moses, ‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself fully known to them.’” With these words, God noted the difference between his prior revelations to the patriarchs of the Israelites, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and his initial self-revelation to Moses at the time of the burning bush. In the case of the patriarchs, what God revealed about himself was that he was God Almighty, El-Shaddai,[3] but he didn’t disclose himself fully as the LORD whereas to Moses he had added a further revelation: that he is the LORD, Yahweh, the great I AM.[4] Therefore, God’s revelation to Moses was even greater than that of the patriarchs. Now as one scholar states, “This does not necessarily mean that the patriarchs were totally ignorant of the name Yahweh (“The LORD”), but it indicates that they did not understand its full implications as the name of the One who would redeem his people.”[5] God connected the dots for Moses. He let him know that El-Shaddai, God Almighty, is also Yahweh, the LORD, I AM. In fact, in these few verses, the phrase “I am the LORD” occurs four times—in verses 2, 6, 7, and 8. As one commentator notes concerning this, “The use of God’s covenant name underscores the surety of His covenant promises and faithfulness.”[6] As the patriarchs had experienced God’s leading and redeeming, so would the Israelites who descended from them experience God’s leading and redeeming for they, too, needed God to rescue, to save them, from their dire circumstances.

Next God reminded Moses about the promise, the covenant, he had made with Israel’s patriarchs saying, verse 4, “I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners.” This covenant promise provides the basis of God’s continuing action on his people’s behalf. As he had Moses tell them, verse 5, “Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.” For God to remember something indicates that he’s ready to act upon it. Recall that it was when God heard his people suffering that he remembered his covenant and, consequently, appeared to Moses and said to him,

I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.[7]

Again, God heard his people’s suffering—and he acted on their behalf. And since Moses wasn’t the only one in need of God’s reassurance, he had Moses extend his reassurance to his people as well. As stated beginning in verse 6, he told Moses,

Therefore, say to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.”

Because God is who he says he is; because God is who he disclosed himself to be, he would without question carry out what he had promised. He is God Almighty, El-Shaddai, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the LORD, Yahweh, I AM. Therefore,

He will bring his people “out from under the yoke of the Egyptians;”

He will free them “from being slaves;”

He will redeem them, that is, he will rescue them from “the yoke of the Egyptians”… “with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment;”

He will take them as his own people;

He will be their God;

He will bring them to the land he swore “with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob;”

Again—he is the LORD! What he says will come to pass.

With these words God was providing reassurance to his people by telling them what his redemption will look like in practice; with these words he was letting his people know that he is their Redeemer. The people would learn the truth of who God is by seeing the ways in which he acted on their behalf. They would learn, as noted by one commentator, that “Redemption means not only release from slavery and suffering but also deliverance to freedom and joy.”[8]

Unfortunately, these reassurances didn’t produce the desired effect for the people didn’t believe Moses. The people didn’t believe God. As stated in verse 9, when “Moses reported this to the Israelites,… they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.” The Israelites didn’t listen. They didn’t believe. They didn’t hear the message of hope and encouragement that Moses brought them from God. Their suffering was too great; their discouragement too deep; their labor too harsh. They had been suffering and feeling discouraged and laboring for so long that they had given up any hope of their circumstances ever changing. Therefore, they couldn’t hear, much less accept, the awesome words of truth and hope that Moses brought them from the LORD.

Moses himself wasn’t exempt from such discouragement for when the LORD next told him, verse 11, “Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country,” Moses responded, verse 12, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips.”[9] If God’s own people didn’t believe him, what hope was there of Pharaoh, who had already denied him, doing so? Not for the last time Moses placed his eyes on the wrong place. Rather than focusing upon God Almighty, El-Shaddai, the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the LORD, Yahweh, the great I AM who, having created the world, could do anything, Moses focused upon himself, a man who spoke “with faltering lips.” It’s almost as if Moses believed that the reason he had failed to convince the Israelites and Pharaoh was because he wasn’t a sufficiently good motivational speaker. Moses had not yet learned that God’s working wasn’t dependent upon him; he had not yet learned that God’s working was dependent upon God.

Rather than focus upon God and the truth of his revelation, the Israelites chose to cling to their discouragement looking only upon their current suffering, oppression, and hard labor. Similarly, rather than focus upon the wonder of who God is, Moses chose to focus upon his faltering lips and thereby clung to his discouragement. What about us? Where are we looking? Where are our eyes focused? What are we choosing to believe about God and his involvement in our lives? Are we allowing our circumstances determine our theology, our understanding of who God is, or are we believing God and allowing him to make sense of our circumstances? Are we looking at our trouble—or are we looking at God Almighty, El-Shaddai, the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the LORD, Yahweh, the great I AM, Maker of heaven and earth?

If we, too, in our weakness and discouragement are focusing upon the difficulty of our circumstances rather than upon God, our New Testament passage from 2 Corinthians 4 can help us hit the “reset” button so that we might see our beautiful and gracious Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Verse 13 begins with a quotation from Psalm 116, a psalm that bears witness to ways in which God hears and rescues those who are his.[10] Verse 10 of this psalm states, “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”[11] Paul applies this verse to his own situation. He begins by noting, “Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak.” Followers of God share the same spirit of faith. Faith, what we believe, is intended to be shared. It’s intended to be spoken about. As the psalmist believed in God and testified to how he saw God at work in his life, so should we. As Paul goes on to note, the reason “we also believe and therefore speak” is because, verse 14, “we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.” This is information worth speaking about! For God’s progressive revelation, his progressive disclosure of who he is culminates in his Son, Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh. Therefore, to see Jesus is to see God. And as Moses and the people of Israel would learn the truth of who God is by seeing his action, so have we. For as Jesus rose from the dead, so will he raise from death those who belong to him.[12] His actions declare that he is Savior and Lord for all who believe in him. Therefore, Paul goes on to note, verse 15, “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” Truth has a way of spreading, especially truth about the Gospel, about the Good News about Jesus Christ. Good news about Jesus results in “more and more people” giving thanks to God for his goodness and glory as more and more people by believing in him have their sins removed by him and are thereby joined to him now and for all eternity. As was true for Moses and the people of Israel, redemption in Christ means not only release from slavery and suffering and sin but also deliverance to freedom and joy that are found in him and him alone.

“Therefore,” because of the Good News of our precious Lord Jesus conquering death and passing on his eternal life to those who know him so that they, too, are able to conquer death, Paul states in verse 16, “we do not lose heart.” For the truth of who God in Christ is can be found in what he has done to redeem us:

He has saved us from the consequences of our sin;

He has saved us from our enemy, Satan, the Devil, that ancient serpent;[13]

He has saved us from the devastating effects of the Fall;

This is what makes it possible for us not to be discouraged, not to lose heart, come what may. For, as Paul goes on to state, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” Our bodies may be weakening; our eyesight may be diminishing; our hair may be graying or falling out; our hearing may be waning but inwardly, in our soul; inwardly in our spirit, “we are being renewed day by day” by the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. He is the One who is able to comfort and encourage us by turning our eyes away from our trials and placing them upon Jesus; He is the One who is conforming us into the image of Jesus Christ by helping us put to death the things that belong to our earthly nature and instead clothing us with the things that belong to our heavenly nature.[14]

As Paul goes on to note in verse 17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”[15] Compared with the reality of heaven, of our eternal existence with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the troubles we experience on earth are like an annoying gnat or mosquito. They’re light. They’re temporary. They won’t last. Therefore, rather than focus on these temporary trials, we should remain focused upon what is eternal. As Paul states in verse 18, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” If we focus on our present trouble, we will lose heart. The unseen world may be invisible to our earthly eyes, but we can know it with the eyes of faith. For as the author of Hebrews tells us, faith is the confidence of things hoped for; it’s the evidence of things not seen.[16] By faith we can know the eternal unseen truths God has revealed by his risen Son in his written Word. Just as we cannot see the wind but can experience its effects—positively, by a cool breeze on a hot day; negatively, as in the devastating effects of hurricane winds—so, too, we may not physically see the Spirit of God, but we can know the effects he brings—by encouraging us and helping us experience his love, and by convicting of us sin and reminding us of his judgment for those who deny him.

So, dear sisters and brothers, when we’re feeling discouraged; when we suffer; when we are downcast; when we are burdened with the cares of the world, let us ask ourselves: What are we looking at? What are we allowing determine our understanding of who God is? Are we looking at our troubles and concluding that God doesn’t love us? Or are we looking at him, at the truths he’s disclosed about himself in his Word and by his Son? Are we embracing his eternal truth or are we embracing our temporary suffering? Let us ever point one another to the truth of who he is!

For God isn’t only God Almighty, El-Shaddai;

He isn’t only the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;

He isn’t only the LORD, Yahweh;

He isn’t only the great I AM;

He isn’t only the Maker of heaven and earth;

But he is also:

God who made us in his image—who made us for himself;

A heavenly Father who loves us;

A kind Shepherd who watches over and cares for us;

A Lamb who died for us, who took our sins upon himself, in order that we might never die;

A Redeemer who came not only to take away our sins; not only to destroy death; not only to destroy our enemy, the Devil, Satan, that ancient serpent; but who also seals[17] and indwells us by his Holy Spirit who will never leave or forsake us[18] and will deliver us into his eternal presence, joy, and glory.

Dear hearts, this is the evidence that God loves us. Therefore, thus, let us believe; thus let us speak; thus let us look to him that we might praise him now and forevermore!

Let us pray.

Benediction: Hebrews 12:1–3: 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

[1] Exodus 5:22–23.

[2] Exodus 3:19–20.

[3] Genesis 17:1: When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.; Genesis 28:3 (Isaac is blessing his son, Jacob): May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples.; Genesis 35:11: And God said to [Jacob], “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants.

[4] Exodus 3:14–15a: 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.

[5] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Exodus 6:3.

[6] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Exodus 6:2–8. Emphasis added.

[7] Exodus 3:7–10. See also Exodus 2:23–25: 23 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

[8] Zondervan NIV Bible Study note on Exodus 6:7–8.

[9] Literally “I am uncircumcised of lips,” perhaps a reminder that he was unworthy of being listened to since earlier he hadn’t circumcised his son as God required as noted in Exodus 4:24–26: 24 At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. ‘Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,’ she said. 26 So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said ‘bridegroom of blood,’ referring to circumcision.)” Se sermon preached on August 1, 2021 on Exodus 4:1–17, God Over All.

[10] Psalm 116: 1 I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. 2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. 4 Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” 5 The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. 6 The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me. 7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. 8 For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, 9 that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. 10 I trusted in the Lord when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”; 11 in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.” 12 What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. 14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. 15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. 16 Truly I am your servant, Lord; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains. 17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord. 18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, 19 in the courts of the house of the Lord—in your midst, Jerusalem. Praise the Lord.

[11] Septuagint (Greek) translation.

[12] See Romans 8:11: And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

[13] Revelation 12:9: The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

[14] Colossians 3:1–14: 1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.; See also Ephesians 4:17–24: 17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

[15] See also Romans 8:18: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

[16] Hebrews 11:1.

[17] Ephesians 1:13–14: 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.; 2 Timothy 1:14: Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

[18] Hebrews 13:5–6:Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”[Deuteronomy 31:6] 6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”[Psalm 118:6,7] Deuteronomy 31:6, 8: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you…. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Psalm 118:6,7: The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.