Dependence on God’s Covenant
July 18, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
At Oak Hills we say our mission is “longing to know and make known the astonishing grace of God.” Every year I seek to take time to step back and take stock of how we are doing as a church, in light of our mission. We have many reasons to give glory to God for his work among us to fulfill this mission. We also have room to grow, as we always will this side of heaven. This summer, I want to encourage our growth in “longing” by looking at pictures of longing from Scripture, praying that we would be challenged and inspired. This is part six of a multi-part series.
Up until this point, we have considered only New Testament examples of longing to know and make known God’s astonishing grace. What about the Old Testament? God and his covenantal grace are the uniting thread of Scripture. Even in the Old Testament, saints were longing for and depending on God’s grace to sustain. One of the most powerful pictures of this is found in Moses at Mount Sinai.
Yes, Mount Sinai. The site where God delivered “The Law”… one of the most powerful pictures of longing for grace in Scripture.
The scene opens with a spectacular display of God’s power and majesty. We read in Exodus 19:16, “On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.” God speaks forth the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 in the hearing of all the people. And the people respond, speaking to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die” (20:19).
So, God speaks to Moses various other laws in chapters 20-23. Moses returns to the people in chapter 24. The people respond, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” (24:7). And then Moses returns to the mountain, this time for forty days and forty nights (24:18). During this time Moses receives the detailed instructions for building the tabernacle and all of the furniture pieces.
Forty days is a long time to be away. Just ask the Israelites. They speak to Aaron, Moses’ brother, “As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him” (32:1). They give up on Moses (and God) and commit one of the most atrocious sins in the Bible. They make the golden calf and worship it.
Now, if this was all about the Law, this story would be very short at this point. God would eliminate the idolatrous people. But, even at Mount Sinai, something even greater than the Law was being taught to the people. In fact, we can say, the law was helping the people to learn about the grace of God. When they were confronted with their sin and the just punishment for their sin, “they mourned” (33:4). God was teaching them that they did not deserve anything God would give them.
Moses knew, however, that God was not only the God of law and justice, but also the God of grace. He appeals to God, his gracious character, and his covenant to forgive the people. He says, “How shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (33:16). God had made a covenant promise to Abraham that he would be God to Abraham and his descendants and they would be his people. Moses appeals to that covenant language… “This is your people, O God! How can you abandon them?” God reaffirms his covenant to his people, but they ought not presume upon his grace.
Moses asks, “Please show me your glory” (33:18). This request reveals Moses’ longing to know God in his glorious grace. God responds with some of the most significant words in all of Scripture, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy…The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (33:19; 34:6). The core of God’s glory is his free grace. We can never earn it. We never deserve it. We cannot manipulate his grace. But in Christ, God freely gives it.
Moses longed for this grace for the people of Israel. Moses teaches us to long for God’s grace, even in our most grievous sins.