Banks Community United Methodist Church
  January 25, 2004
"God's Holiness"

Pastor Brian Shimer

"GOD: Hidden and Revealed"
Exodus 33:12-23

I. In the third verse of Heber's great hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy," he wrote:

        Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
        Though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see.
        Only Thou art holy, there is none beside thee,
        Perfect in power, in love and purity."
The spiritual realm is not open to view. The true glory of God is invisible to us. We cannot see this God, this Holy God.

Transcendent God. God Incomprehensible.
Infinite. All powerful. All Knowing.
Sovereign God.
Self-existent. Without beginning or end.
Almighty God.
Able to create. Creator of the heavens. And the earth.
And all things within.

He can only do what is good. Whether in justice or mercy. He is a holy God.
(Rom. 9:14-23)

His holiness is not our holiness. It is unique. For there is no other, like God.
(Isaiah 46:9)

He is not like us. For God is not made in the image of man. But man in the image of God. (Gen. 1:27)

Immutable God. God without change. (Malachi 3:6)

By His unchanging nature, His holiness is insured. In all that He is and all that He does; God is holy. http://www.jerichoministry.com/hesholy.html ©2000, R. Thomas Brass All rights reserved

Such is a short description of the God of whom Heber has us sing!
This is the God we worship.
This is the God Moses encountered by that burning bush when he discovered the self-existent God makes all He encounters HOLY.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.

This is the God who is so honored in the Jewish tradition that they will not pronounce the name God gave to Moses. They call the name YAHWEH the unpronounceable name. It is the name written as four Hebrew consonants, and given the vowels for another Hebrew word so that when it is seen in text, the reader says the word ADONAI instead of YAHWEH. It is so holy, human lips may not even speak it!

Only Thou art holy. There is none beside Thee.

II. This is the God Moses met after coming down from the Mountain of God in Arabia.

Moses had been up on the mountain 40 days receiving the law, and the people grew tired of waiting. "This Moses, we don't know what has become of him," they said.

In chapter 32 you can read how they looked up on the mountain and all they saw was burning, darkness and gloom and storm (Hebrews 12:19-20). Aaron, swayed by the people, had them bring him their jewelry, melted it and made a golden calf. It was a God they could see. Then these people so recently delivered from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, and since that exodus, delivered from hunger, from thirst, from fear, and from enemies, turned from God to worship gold! They indulged in wickedness. They trifled with the Holy God.

God could not abide with such a stiff-necked people. Moses intercedes for the people, saying, "If you cannot forgive them, then blot me out of the book you have written" (32:32).

What intercession! God says: "Whoever has sinned, I will blot out of my book…" And he struck them with a plague.

So, God has punished and the people are wondering what will happen next. They know their sin. In chapter 33 they are mourning their sin and God would not travel with them any longer, saying: "you are a stiffnecked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you."

Still God came to speak with Moses at the Tent of Meeting, and all the people stood in the doorways of their tents worshipping the Lord as he spoke with Moses outside the camp.

III. All these preceded the conversation you have just overheard through the
Scripture reading. In this private talk between the Unseen, Almighty God and Moses, we learn just how close they are. God has told Moses:

"I know you by name; you have found favor with me."

We know from Scripture that the key to following God is to know Him and be known by him. In the accounts Jesus gives of those rejected from His Kingdom, is the chilling phrase: "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers" (Matthew 7:23). People who have religion without Jesus have nothing. In the end there is just darkness. People who claim great works for God, but do not know God, will in the end of nothing. The 5 virgins who did not keep oil in their lamps, in other words, who did not keep their relationship with God fresh and alive, returned to find the door had been shut against them. They cry out: "Sir! Sir! Open the door for us!" But he replied, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you" (Matthew 25:12).

Moses was a man with a keen freshness in his friendship with the Holy God. God knew Moses' name. There was relationship there. And there was communication.

Some imagine they are saved but are not communicating with God. They have no relationship there, no pleasure of communion. If this is the case, there is also no salvation. We each must turn from self, from our own ways, from our own inventions to God.

In addition Moses found favor with God, literally, he found grace in God's sight. The first one in Scripture said to have found "grace" was Noah whom God chose to save with his family out of all the wicked people surrounding him because of His blameless life.

Moses in finding Grace in God's sight seeks to understand the way of God with the people. As the NIV says, "Teach me your ways." Moses is asking not just to understand and follow the character of God in order to continue to obey God, but that he might know God's intention with Israel. Moses is contrasted to the people of Israel in Scripture as one who knew God's ways while the people only knew God's deeds or actions (Psalm 103:7).

In this passage the word "ways" is actually in the singular. Who is the WAY of the Lord? Jesus! He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. So, Moses wants to know God's way. God's way is personal.

God replies, "My presence will go with you…" or the covenant has been restored with the people. They have been forgiven if God will again go with them. Then, he says, "I will give you rest." This is a reference to the destination of their sojourn, the land of promise, they'll enter God's rest.

Moses then says something marvelous. He tells the Lord, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here." We don't want to move from here, Lord, without you.

We need to hear this. Aren't we tempted in the church just to do things because we have always done them? Why do we need to have this dinner? And the answer is, "because we have always had that dinner." Perhaps we need to listen for the Lord's presence. Otherwise we become weary in our well-doing.

After God reiterates this promise to Moses, assuring him of the undeserved favor Moses has found with God, Moses asks: "Show me your glory!"

IV. Here Moses is with the God who dwells in unapproachable light
wanting to know Him more -- I don't want to just hear you and see only the cloud. I want to see your full display of glory.

Moses is so courageous here.

How can mortal man even fathom the glory of God?

Glory is an Old Testament word that means "weight" and in the New Testament means "brightness." It is the full weight of the majesty of God. Glory shines brightly but has weight and mass like water. Whenever the glory of God filled the tabernacle in the wilderness later in Exodus or the Temple in Jerusalem, no one could enter!

"Show me your glory," Moses asks. "And God says, "this is my name!" The names of God are manifestations of his glory" (John Piper, from a sermon dated 1984 on Exodus 33, found at desiringgod.org). As we know the name of God we encounter His glory.

The Lord tells Moses what he will do saying, "I will cause my goodness to pass in front of you and will declare my name, the Lord, in your presence."

God sovereignly reveals himself to Moses. He declares "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Every person is a beneficiary of God's sovereign care. "The rain falls on the just and the unjust," Jesus taught. God's mercy is evident even upon the unbeliever. But it would not be an act of mercy for Moses to see God's full glory. It would kill Moses, so it was a mercy to say no.

However at the end of the passage the WAY of God and the GLORY of God and the MERCY of God and the COMPASSION of God are all displayed in tangible form.

"Behold," the KJV text says. "There is a place by me…"

V. This is good news. God says, although you cannot see me, here,
there is a place by me. What an act of mercy and grace, undeserved favor. God works a way to reveal himself and show us a great truth for daily life.

What is that place beside the Lord? God says a rock. There was a rock with them in the wilderness. The Rock Moses struck from which water flowed to quench the thirst of the people. The Rock, Paul tells is in 1 Corinthians, was Christ. Jesus was there in the Old Testament, present as a spiritual rock. The Rock brought forth living water, just as in the John 4 Jesus says he brings living water that quenches thirst. The rock was struck then, foreshadowing how he would die for the people.

Moses can stand upon this rock - and upon the rock of Christ alone we find our standing. When we are down in the mud and mire, God will lift us up, wrote the Psalmist in Psalm 40, and plant our feet upon a rock!

Jesus will later teach the wise man builds his house upon the ROCK.

And upon the rock of trust in Him, Jesus says, He will build His church.

This rock, God says has a cleft in it. And when I pass by, God says, I will put you into the cleft in the rock and cover you there with my hand. And after I have passed by, I will remove my hand and you may see my back.
A. So God is so HOLY we cannot look at him, so he stooped to be known. IN this passage we see God making His ways and glory known to Moses. We read in John and Hebrews how Jesus came to reveal God's glory to us, to exactly show us God. So that the incomprehensible God could be known.

B. God told Moses to stand upon the ROCK. Where are you on sand in your life? Where are you resting in your own works and efforts? Are you like Moses at the burning bush standing in your own works, your sandals, needing to step out onto the place made holy by God?

C. God hid Moses in the cleft in the Rock and covered him with hIs hand. Safe under the protection of God. The danger was the might of God's presence even in the glory of the Name being spoken aloud. Our danger is to be dwelling in our own works, to be seeking our own ways, to be seeking our own glory and totally miss out on God's gift of salvation. IT is to trust our own way. IT is to be so full of ourselves that we miss being placed into the cleft in the rock, which is salvation.

Salvation is not about our own safety. Moses was given this gift - the standing upon the rock, the safety in the rock, so that he could more effectively lead the people. IT was not just for a fun God experience. Experience was a testimony to the people. They would behold God's glory on Moses' face. As we receive and enter into salvation, people also behold God's glory on our faces.

D. After God had passed by, he promised he would remove his hand and then Moses would see his back. Even God's back was glorious. We see God's presence after the fact often. We realize how God healed or protected or delivered or redeemed after it has happened. We realize how the conversation was timed and arranged for us. We see how the phone call happened just in time. We realize suddenly God had guarded our lives. From the cleft in the Rock, from Christ, we can see the Kingdom, we can see God's work. From outside we miss it. People declared it had thundered when God has spoken to Jesus. Some could behold the glory of God: "See the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world," while others only saw the "carpenter's son, whose brothers James, Jude, Joses and others are with us to this day."

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Banks Community UMC
151 Depot Street
Banks, Oregon 97106