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“And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished;” Exodus 34:6-7a
God is faithful. That is, He is constant, steadfast and resolute. He sticks unwavering to His purposes and promises.
Faithful is a good trait. Yet in this day and age, where bad is called good and good is called bad [Isaiah 5:20], God’s faithfulness is exactly why many choose to turn their back on Him. In general, people want God to be faithful in His love, goodness, kindness, mercy and grace–as long as it applies the way they expect it to, satisfying each of their desires. But they don’t want Him to be faithful when it comes to His sovereignty, justice and holiness, for example. Because justice means that there is a moral law that we each must adhere to, and that there are consequences if we don’t.
In our self-as-god mentalities, we want to be our own sovereign and determine what is just for our situation–especially if it means opposing God’s holy precepts to fit our perceived needs. In this way, we are not being faithful–steadfast and constant–as God must be.
With God, who is transcendent, moral compliance is black and white–no shades of grey. Either we have forgiveness of sins or we don’t. Either we behave in godly ways or godless ways. Either we glorify Him with our lives, or we dishonor Him. Either we obey or we disobey. It’s like building a house with a rubber band for a ruler, stretching the measuring stick to make it say that the boards are the right length even when they’re truly not. And if every board is slightly off from the true measure, the house will never stand!
Consider that the opposite of a faithful God is one who is careless, cold and corrupt. One who is dishonest, fraudulent and negligent. One who is undependable, unscrupulous and untrustworthy. But these are all words that describe unfaithful human beings. These are the marks of sin in our world, not the hand of God.
God is faithful, we can depend that He will always forgive the repentant sinner. We can trust that He will maintain the seasons, days and years until He renews and restores His Creation [Genesis 8:22]. We can rest assured that He will keep His promise never to destroy the earth again in a worldwide flood [Genesis 9:11]. He was faithful to send His Son, Jesus, to carry out the plan of redemption instituted from the advent of sin [Genesis 3:15] despite the rampant unfaithfulness of human kind in every generation since. And He will be faithful, when the time has reached its fullness, to send Jesus to gather us home [Matthew 13:32 & 24:36].
God is infinitely and eternally faithful. And we are made in His image. We were made to return His faithfulness–to be steadfast in our love for and faith in Him. Do you?
We were made to reflect His constant love and forgiveness to others in our lives. Do you?
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
God is wisdom. And for us, He is the ultimate sound judgment applied in any and every situation we face.
Often, the situation is or contains a temptation–a very attractive and alluring yet unwise wrong that tugs at our desires. And more often still, people attribute the tests, trials and temptations of life to God.
But Paul, the writer of Corinthians, warns his readers from Israel’s own history, that this is not the case [1 Corinthians 10:1-13]. And James agrees that we shouldn’t say that God is tempting, trying or testing us [James 1:12-15]. Nor should we even believe that He would.
Paul writes from the backdrop of the Israelites’ desert wanderings. And when we reread those passages we see the words test and tested several times [Exodus 15:25, 17:2 & 7, & 20:20; Deuteronomy 6:16, 8:2 & 16, 13:3, & 33:8]. Each time the expressed purpose is knowing the Israelites’ hearts for God. But God is omniscient, He already knew their heart. He didn’t need to test anything.
Here we come again to Genesis 3 [vs.9. 11 & 13]. Three times God asks Adam and Eve a question and each time it is to open the eyes of their own understanding so that they could measure the distance of their newly sin-infested relationship to God.
Similarly, in the case of the Israelites, God proves–often translated as tests or tries–His chosen people, not to Himself because He already knows. But a demonstration to Moses that the people can be instructed in the things of God. An opening of the Israelites’ own eyes so that they can see to enter into a relationship with their Creator.
And Moses uses the same vernacular about the Israelites behavior toward God. Not that human beings can test God, but that they were calling Him into question. They desired that He prove Himself to their demands.
But in this way, every thing in life can be considered a test, a trial of our faith, a proving of our heart. Will we choose to acknowledge God by our actions? Or will we affirm the lie of self-as-god instead? God already knows the answer. He has no need of testing us to learn it for Himself.
That is why James cautions, do not say that it is God who tempts–tests or tries. Because everyone is tempted and tested when our own sinful human nature encounters a moment of decision however small or great [James 1:13-14]. If we give in to the desire to deny God and promote self in each moment–for this is the essence of sin–then the sin has rooted and, unless checked and removed, will grow up in our lives until it strangles the life of eternity out of us [James 1:15].
But if we allow God to be our wisdom in each moment, then His will takes root and grows in our lives from here through eternity.
Is God your wisdom? Is there any moment or action that you believe is too small to consider according to God’s will? Will you allow God to change your speech about where the temptations, trials and tests of life come from?
“And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’ Then the Lord said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.'” Exodus 33:19-22
It is not permissible to see God’s being with our human eyes, because He wants us to live to tell about Him, and our sinfulness would altogether overwhelm us in His holy and glorious presence.
But Moses boldly petitioned to see God’s glory. And God, in His sovereign mercy and grace, granted that Moses see just His back. In fact, God covered Moses with His hand and only removed it at the first moment when it was safe for Moses to look upon Him.
Why would God not want everyone to see His face?
Can you imagine the world of trouble that human beings would cause creating and recreating the face of God? Painting. Sculpting. Duplicating. Publishing and posting. Especially in our very visual generation. The face of God would be reduced to an all too familiar, flawed representation that in no way compares to who He truly is. And people would come to replace the real God with a mere likeness.
Just the chapter before, the people of Israel demanded Aaron make them a golden calf to worship [Exodus 32]. They sang and made offerings to a piece of over-sized bovine jewelry!
The same danger existed with God showing His face to them. Wouldn’t these same hard-hearted people have desired to sculpt God’s portrait in gold and precious stones? But to whose glory and honor?
He didn’t want an empty self-portrait. He didn’t need their offerings or to enslave them in religious rituals, prostrating themselves before His image. He wanted their hearts full of love for Him. Just as He wants us to passionately pursue a personal relationship with Him.
In every other world religion, the false god has a face, an image that the followers associate with their worship–because they are no god at all, just an image made by human hands. But the One True God is high and lifted up [Isaiah 6:1 & 57:15-17].
He is holy [Leviticus 19:2; Joshua 24:19; 1 Samuel 2:2; et al].
He is beyond understanding and compare [Exodus 15:11; 1 Kings 8:23; Job 36:26; et al].
And we will behold God when we stand redeemed before Him in heaven one day [1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2].
Are you living to see God face to face?
“Even while the people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did.” 2 Kings 17:41
Hand-me-down faith happens when we base what we believe about God on what others tell us, rather than on what God tells us about Himself in His Word. One of the greatest dangers of this hand-me-down religion is seeing God wrongly.
When our faith–what we absolutely, certainly believe without being able to see–comes from people rather than the Word of God, we inherit a flawed understanding. Because we are all sinful and therefore have imperfect understanding–understanding that falls short of fully comprehending the glory of God [Romans 3:23].
Jesus warned that there will be those who believe they belong in heaven, that they have lived religious lives invoking His name, but they will not actually have known God–by experience and relationship–they will not have known and done God’s will [Matthew 7:21-23]. Why? Quite possibly because they didn’t get into His Word for themselves. They didn’t read the Scriptures with the intent of pursuing the knowledge of God.
Yet, there is certainly a place for instructing others in the truth. God commanded the Israelites to love God with all that was within them, and from this love to impress God’s Word on their children by talking about Him all day long in every situation [Deuteronomy 6:4-9]. They were to observe Sabbaths and holy days and be ready to answer their children’s questions about why they did such things [Exodus 12:26; Deuteronomy 6:20; Joshua 4:21].
But this instruction was meant to turn hearts to seek God in His Word, not substitute human instruction for God’s Word.
In the 2 Kings passage above, we see that well-meaning, religious, but still sinful people, easily mixed worldly ideas with the truth of God. They worshiped the Lord. But even while they did what should have been right, they served idols–a complete rebellion against God. More tragically, they handed this mixed faith–which was no faith at all–down through the generations of God’s chosen people.
But the youth did not have to accept the watered down truth they were given. King Josiah ruled not many years after these verses. When God’s Word was found in the Temple and read to him, he grieved that he had not fully known God, that understanding had been withheld from his generation. He returned to a right belief in God and endeavored to lead all Israel into a right understanding [2 Kings 22:8-13].
What is your understanding of God based on? Human interpretation or God’s Word? If human interpretation in any measure, turn back to God’s Word like King Josiah and seek to meet Him face to face for yourself.
“And God spoke all these words: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” Exodus 20:1-4
Writers often use figurative language to help readers visualize their words by comparing one thing–possibly new or unknown–to something that is well known. Scriptures use many metaphors and similes to help us gain an understanding of who God–who is beyond human comprehension–is and what He is like.
A metaphor attributes a quality to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable, as in, guilty people, whose own strength is their god [Habakkuk 1:11]. Human strength is not God. And even if people choose to treat their brawn with the same worth-ship, as should belong to God alone, it does not make our muscle a god.
A simile describes an object or action by comparing it to something else using the words like or as. For example, we should not think that the divine is like gold or silver or stone–an image made by human design and skill [Acts 17:29]. Even though God’s feet are compared to polished bronze refined in a furnace [Revelation 1:14], He is not actually made of the metals and rocks that He created. Even the stones that we call precious gems can never begin to attain to the worth of our shared Creator God.
The human mind is so desirous to comprehend and appropriate Godhood, that we all too willingly accept metaphor and simile–figurative language for literal personage. We give our affections to created materials fashioned to represent the unportrayable Godhead. We accept Satan’s lie that we ourselves can be our own god [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14].
As A.W. Tozer put it, the heart of idolatry is assuming that God is something other than who and what He truly is. It is substituting an understanding of God that is made in the likeness of the Creation, rather than conforming our lives to His likeness as Creator.
But God said, don’t do it! Don’t have other gods ‘al pa-na-ya, literally, before the face of me. In other words, don’t have any other gods at all. Not, don’t prioritize or favor others over me. Don’t create anything at all to worship. Recognize me for Whom I Am, the One True God who created and loves you.
Are you guarding your heart against idolatrous notions? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God to you through His Word. Has Satan’s lie seared your conscious? Refuse to accept counterfeits and substitutes for the power and love of the One True God in your life.
“As you come to him, the living Stone–rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him–you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scriptures it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do no believe, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,'” 1 Peter 2:4-7
Who is God? How you answer this question is more important than anything else, because your whole life–every thought, word, deed and motive of the heart–stems from what you do or do not believe to be true about God.
It’s just like the cornerstone of an ancient building. The first stone to be laid was always the cornerstone. It was so important to the entire design of the structure, that it was often ceremoniously engraved with a date, a name or the purpose of the building. And not only was it the first part of the foundation–a footer if you will–but it determined every angle, every line, every direction–really every architectural possibility of the entire rest of the structure.
God is God [Exodus 3:14]. Alone [Deuteronomy 6:4]. There is no other like Him [Psalm 113:5]. And He is so many other things beyond our complete comprehension. Yet in our finite humanity we are able to perceive God and to right our perceptions about Him.
The danger of the comfortable-church-attending-habit, that has become synonymous with American Christianity, is that many of us develop a distorted or dimmed view of the One True God, devoid of His actual presence in our lives [2 Timothy 3:5]. But if our cornerstone is one of deformed understanding, then the rest of our worldview will also develop flawed and out of alignment with the Truth of who God is.
From such a precariously stacked faith, it’s no wonder that many are unable to give an answer for the hope we have within us [1 Peter 3:15]. It’s no wonder that we have a hard time developing a loving, committed relationship with God through prayer, Bible study and worship. It’s no wonder we don’t see miracles performed through everyday ordinary believers. And it’s no wonder that others don’t see God in us and turn, repenting, to give Him glory [1 Peter 2:12].
How solid is your cornerstone [Matthew 16:18]? Who do you say that God is [Matthew 16:15; Mark 8:29]?
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright and Morning Star.'” Revelation 22:16
The scriptures mention the angel of the Lord about seventy times [Genesis 16:7-11, 22:11-15; Exodus 3:2; Numbers 22:22-35; et al]. It is often said that this idea is difficult to translate accurately. Sometimes it seems like an angel, while other times it seems like a Christophany–Jesus Himself, in a pre-incarnate [before He was born in the flesh] appearance.
However, both Revelation 1:1 and 22:16 tell us that Jesus sent His angel to reveal these writings to John. Could it be that the angel of the Lord, then, is a title for a specific angel who is Jesus’ personal messenger to humankind?
Regardless of whether or not this is the case, the purpose of this message bearer to John is to testify to the churches. In John’s day, they were seven specific churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor [Revelation 1:4 & 1:20], but the letters were not to be dismantled because the truth therein was to be for all the church for all remaining earthly time [Revelation 22:9-10].
And in fact, the book of Revelation is extremely important for the authority of Scriptures. Yes, all of it is God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16], that is not in question. But imagine a Bible without the book of Revelation. Imagine after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, if those same heavens fell quiet, the apostles carried on their earthly ministry and the New Testament ended with the letters of early church history.
But just as the God’s spoken Word began the Biblia or the sacred books, so the spoken Word of Christ brings them to the end. Christians living in the Roman Empire, and every believer after, needed to hear from their risen Savior about what they would experience and why–what was coming that transcended all of this earthly trouble. When and how we would one day be united with Him for eternity.
He is the beginning of our understanding and the end as well [Revelation 1:8, 22:13]. He did not come to bring us the light of truth, just to leave us in darkness about where everything leads [John 1:5]. Countless heresies had arisen in the first few decades after Jesus’ ascension–when He wasn’t physically present to set them to right, but He refused to leave the lies unaddressed, to allow us to fall back into the waywardness of our sinful predisposition.
As the long prophesied Root of Jesse and Offspring of David to the house of Israel [Isaiah 9:7, 11:1 & 10; Romans 15:12; Revelation 5:5], and as the true bright and morning star to the Gentile nations [Isaiah 14:12; 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 2:28 & 22:16], He spoke into the confusion of sin that sought to overshadow His ascension. He remembered us–kept us in mind as worthy of consideration–loving us all the way to eternity and back just as He always has.
And He spoke. Light into the darkness. Life into the death consuming our heart and mind. Revelation into the confusion.
Satan again would leverage confusion about the understanding of scriptures and end times events to bar the faith-gates of our hearts. But what if God’s people returned to His Word for understanding? What if we received the Revelation that was so freely given to us? What if we let it penetrate everything that we are and we lived it to the fullest?