Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lessons from Moses: Glory is the Point! - Exodus 40:34-38

Today we are concluding our preaching series entitled “Lessons from Moses”. The first week we took a look at Moses' early life and we talked about the beginning of his journey and how God used a terrible situation to ultimately bring God glory. The following week we looked at Moses' encounter with God at the burning bush and how God proved to Moses that we can have confidence in God. Last week we looked at Moses and his conversation with God and how God deals with Moses' thoughts of unworthiness. Today we are going to take a look at the last section of Exodus to see the necessity and importance of giving God glory.

This past week I spent three days in Leesburg at the Life Enrichment Center at a Florida Conference mandated seminar. I got there on Monday afternoon and it was over on Wednesday. I was not looking forward to this seminar. I had a great many things that needed my attention here and I just did not feel I had the time to be away for three days. But it was mandatory, so I went.

Well sometime Tuesday evening, right about dusk, I was standing out on the dock overlooking Lake Griffith and I my eyes started to tear up. I was not in pain, I was not overly stressed. I was overwhelmed. I saw this gorgeous lake, wildlife all around, beautiful sunset, and I was overwhelmed. I immediately began to pray and thank God for what I was seeing, what I was hearing, and what I was feeling. God was at work. Right then and there God was at work. I was in God's creation marveling at this work. Admiring that work. Being overwhelmed at that work.

With our Scripture lesson this morning, we have fast forwarded though much of the book of Exodus. We talked last week about a conversation Moses was having with God before he went to Pharaoh for the first time. We have passed the ten plagues, we have passed the exodus from Egypt, we have passed the wondering in the desert for 40 years, and we have passed the Mt. Sinai experience where we were given the Ten Commandments. Now please do not think this was all passed over because of a lack of usefulness or significance. Those events and that era in history are wonderfully filled with God’s story and his love for the Israelites. But what I want us to focus on today is the reason we need to praise God, the reason we should give God all of the praise and glory God so richly deserves.

The first half of Exodus is filled with incredible stories about the Israelites, God’s willingness and efforts to deliver them, Moses’ pain staking efforts to guide them through the desert, and the giving of the Ten Commandments from God to the Israelites to govern them in their new lives. Now, the second half is the explaining of that law. The tedious explanations of how most conceivable situations are to be handled in their new found freedom. It is quite detailed, but inexpressibly necessary for them to have.

After these laws and their explanations are covered we move into the description and construction of the tabernacle. These are very detailed instructions about how certain items are to be placed and arranged, what the priests are to wear, how sacrifices are to be prepared and offered, and even the day that Moses is to setup or open the tabernacle. Then we get to the reason for all of these laws. We get to the point of what all of this is for. The presence or the glory of the Lord is coming to dwell within this tabernacle. The God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob is coming to dwell within this tabernacle in order to be among God’s chosen people.

Our lesson begins with a cloud covering this newly established tabernacle and the presence of the Lord filling it. The presence of the Lord was so overpowering that Scripture tells us Moses was not allowed to enter the tabernacle. The NIV says that glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. But I like the extra word that is added by the New Living Translation, the tabernacle was filled with the awesome glory of the Lord. This event was the culmination of years, of decades, of life. These Israelites had endured incredible experiences, trying hardships, and numerous breaks in their relationship with God for this event to take place.

God had finally come to dwell with them. It is important to see something here. We are all God’s creation. And we were created with one goal in mind, a relationship with God, to experience God’s full and glorious presence. And this tabernacle was going to be the vessel by which God's chosen people were going to experience God's full and glorious presence. This tabernacle was also going to be the vessel by which God traveled with the Israelites.

The second paragraph of our Scripture lesson lays the traveling details out for us. We read that whenever the cloud would rise from the tabernacle then that was the sign for the Israelites to pack up camp and move, following the cloud. However, if the cloud stayed above the tabernacle the Israelites were to stay put. So as to add to the impressive nature of God’s presence Scripture tells us that the cloud would turn to fire by night so that all could still see God’s presence among them. And this practice continued throughout their journeys.

So what does this mean to us thousands of years later? I believe plenty!

Sometimes we get so caught up in the rules of being a follower of God. We memorize the laws, we read Scripture, and we pattern our lives after how we have been taught all good Christians should live. But do we often stop and take the time to understand why we do all those things, why do we praise God. I think it is important for us to know why we do what we do, beyond the idea that this is what I have always done or this is what my mamma and daddy taught me to do.

I have thought of a few reasons that I want to share with you today. You may think of some more to add and that is fine. But why do we praise God?

Because God is long suffering! II Peter 3:8-9 tells us, “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent”. The reason things do not always happen as fast as we want is our fault. We are the ones that throw the wrench in the gears. God is long suffering. God is patient. God is merciful. God did not abandon the Israelites and let me tell you they deserved it! God will not abandon us. God wants us to be in relationship and fellowship with God more than anything else. That is why God is patient, God does not want us to be destroyed. God is worthy of our praise because God is long-suffering.

Because God is worthy! There is a song by Natalie Grant called “Perfect People” and the chorus goes, There's no such thing as perfect people, There's no such thing as a perfect life. So come as you are, broken and scared, Lift up your heart and be amazed
And be changed by a perfect God. Our God is perfect and our God is worthy of our praise. Again, look at these Israelites. They strayed and came back, strayed and came back, strayed and came back. God never left them, they left God. And despite this pattern God still delivered the promised land of milk and honey to their descendants. We are absolutely an imperfect people, but we worship a perfect God worthy of our praise. A God that will accept us at our worst and help to become our best. A God that redeemed us all, at the price of a Son. A God that created us out of desire not necessity so that we could dwell with God in a perfect Heaven for all eternity. God is worthy of our praise!

I realized another thing while I was standing there in Leesburg being overwhelmed at God's creation. And that was that I was where I was supposed to be. I had had a very active week, had another one in front of me, and found it difficult to concentrate because I was thinking about how I was going to get everything done after missing three days.

But at that moment, out there on the dock, all of that disappeared for me and I felt the love, the awesomeness, and the warmth of my God reassuring me that everything was going to work out. I could feel God breathing into me a deep breath of relaxation and letting me know that the God that created this world, the seas of the Earth, the birds of the air, and stars in the sky, was watching over me, was walking along beside me, and absolutely cared for me. And that is the God that we are to give the glory to. That is the God that deserves our love and honor. And that is the God that we have gathered here to worship today to give God all of the honor and glory that He so richly deserves!

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