Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Glory and Goodness of God

The Glory and Goodness of God                                                  11/15/15

Exodus 13:17-22, I Timothy 6:11-16


Exodus:  God will lead his people to the promised land.  Follow the glory of God!

Timothy:  Take hold of the eternal life found in our confession of Jesus Christ as Lord.  Proclaim the goodness of God!


What is our responsibility in seeking God, in all his glory and goodness?

Hebrews:  Make level ground for your feet.  

The Israelites must not have believed their ears.  Did Pharaoh really let us go?  We’ve been slaves for 400 years.  My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great- grandparents were first slaves in Egypt.  And every generation since them longed to go back home.  Did Pharaoh really let us go?

The story tells of two escape routes.  The first through Philistine country:  Israel’s enemies.  The second was the desert Road toward the Red Sea.  The first could prove too much for the nation on the run.  God says that if they were to face battle, they might wish for the lure of security that slavery might have provided them.  We see this in other places in Israel’s story, where they wonder why they left Egypt, “There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted” (Exodus 16:3).

Israel is led through the wilderness as it moves towards the Promised Land.  And as it moves towards the Promised Land, they move alongside the One Who Promised.  The LORD leads his people with a cloud by day and fire by night.  The LORD went ahead of his people.  What an assuring thought that is:  we are bound by time.  God is not.  The Lord prepares the way.  The Lord prepares the promised land.  The people are but to walk when the cloud or fire moves.  You and I, whatever we might face this week:  the Lord went ahead of them.

Did the people realize they were watching a daily glimpse of the glory of God?  Did they cease to marvel that this pillar led the people and beckoned them toward the promise that was theirs?  There may have been pots of food in Egypt, but it was not to be compared with what God had wanted for the people. 

As the people walked toward the promise of God, they also carried with them the stories that shaped who they were.  Joseph, favored Son of Jacob, ruler of Egypt by Pharoah’s command, had long ago died.  He died not having returned home to the land of promise.  But as the reading today says, He made his children promise that one day, they would return his bones to their proper resting place.  That promise is preserved throughout the generations, anywhere from 215 to 400 years, depending on biblical scholarship.  They kept his bones, so that they too might follow the glory of God all the way home.

This verse is outstanding in its call to us.  We carry the message of the generations that precede us.  We continue the heritage that came to us. The gospel message made its way to you and me.  It is anti-Christ to think that the message stops with us.  And even if we do not accomplish the promised land in this lifetime, we preserve the message for the next generation.  

 The pillar of cloud by day.  The pillar of fire by night.  The glory of God before the people, calling them from Egypt, calling them to the promised land.  Walking alongside of them in the wildnerness.  Follow the glory of God!

As we follow the glory of God, we see and proclaim the goodness of God.

Today’s reading from Paul instructs Timothy to flee from all of this, and pursue righteousness.  What is the “all of this” that Paul wants Timothy to flee from?

false doctrines, conceit, lack of understanding, unhealthy interests, quarreling about words, envy strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, constant friction, temptations, traps, foolish and harmful desires, wandering from the faith, piercing oneself with all types of grief.

Did the list just read speak more about you than the Bible’s instructions for who we are called to be in Christ?   If so, you are responsible for making unlevel ground by which your feet and faith have slipped.  It isn’t too late to make level ground.   Be reconciled to God.  Make peace with your neighbor.  Be the family of God for God’s glory, and for our communities.

What is the life that Paul instructs Timothy to embrace?

*the pursuit of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness:  the good race!

*fighting the good fight and taking hold of the eternal life in Jesus Christ that starts with our confession of him as Lord.   The good fight!

*a life that mirrors Jesus Christ, who also made the good confession.  The good example.

*to live as blameless and spotless, and to keep the command as best we can until Jesus Christ appears:   the good call.

Paul is writing about the goodness of God:   we have purpose, we have meaning and direction, and a call to run after.  We have a race to run well, a fight to fight well, an example to emulate well, a life to follow after God.

We know the goodness of God when we know God.  Paul describes the Lord who long before had used cloud and fire to make his presence known.

God the blessed one

God the only Ruler

God the King of kings

God the Lord of Lords,

God the immortal one

God the unapproachable light

God the honored and strong one, forever and ever.

This is the goodness of God:  that we can know God, and can love God, and can run after God.  

The appropriate response to God’s goodness is to help others know about it.  In this sense, we have a real responsibility as a congregation, and in our individual Christian lives, to make level ground by which people may also walk toward God.   We shouldn’t be creating grueling hills, nor lead people to dangerous slopes where rocks can gash and falls can break bones.  We are to do our best to proclaim the God we read about in Scripture.  Tell people about God’s glory.  Tell people about God’s goodness.  Invite people to take one step of faith on the level ground.  And if they take one step, they are moving toward all the glory and goodness of God.  They are moving in the right direction.

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