Monday, June 24, 2013
"Doc Notes" Our God is a Jealous God (Part 68)
For this nex portion read Exodus 34:8-17
We turn now to contemplate a portion of the further communication which Jehovah made to Moses in the Mount. It is not easy to break up this chapter into sections of suitable length for these comparatively brief articles, and therefore we are obliged to spend a little time in reviewing the ground covered in the previous one, that the continuity of thought may be preserved. In our last, we beheld God asserting His rights over those whom He had redeemed unto Himself: Moses being called to receive the Law at His hands. There we heard Him enunciating the principles of His government. These are seven in number, and close attention to them is called for if we would appreciate His "ways" with Israel of old. and enter intelligently into that which regulates Him in His dealings with us now.
God is "light" (1 John 1:5), as well as "love" (1 John 4:8), and therefore we are exhorted, "Behold therefore the goodness and the severity of God" (Rom. 11:22). The two sides to the Divine character shine forth in all His dealings with man. In Eden we behold His "goodness" in making promise of the coming of the woman’s Seed to bruise the Serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15), but we also see His "severity" in that "He drove out the man" (3:24) God as Love provided a shelter for Noah and his house; God as Light sent the flood and destroyed those who had corrupted their way on earth. The "goodness" of God commissioned two angels to deliver Lot, but His "severity" rained-down fire and brimstone and consumed wicked Sodom. God as Love preserved His people under blood in Egypt. God as Light slew all the firstborn of the Egyptians. The "goodness" of God, in response to the intercession of Moses, spared the idolatrous Nation from utter extermination, but His "severity" called for the sword to do its work (Ex. 32:27).
We may observe the clear display of these two sides of the Divine character in the ministry of the incarnate Son. The Lord Jesus came here "full" not only of grace, but "of grace and truth" (John 1:14). He was the Friend of publicans and sinners, but He was the Enemy of self-righteous hypocrites. The same One who was "moved with compassion" as He beheld the multitude (Matthew 14:14), "looked round upon them with anger" (Mark 3:5) as He beheld the hard-hearted critics of the synagogue. He who wept over Jerusalem, "made a scourge of small cords" and drove out of the temple the defilers of the Father’s house (John 2:15). He who "blessed His disciples" (Luke 24:51) cursed the fig tree (Matthew 21:19). His "beatitudes" in Matthew 5 are balanced by His denunciatory "woe’s" in Matthew 23. If we read of the "love of Christ" (Eph. 3:19), we read also of "the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. 6:16).
The same conjunction of these Divine perfections is to be discerned in the proclamation of the name of the Lord, which He gave to Moses on the Mount in connection with the enunciation of His governmental principles. He is both "abundant in goodness and truth" (v. 6). If He "keeps mercy for thousands," yet He declares that He will "by no means clear the guilty." Though He forgives "iniquity. transgression, and sin," yet He also visits "the iniquity; of the fathers upon the children." The sin of Ham was visited upon his descendants (Gen. 9:25): the sin of Korah and his company resulted in the earth opening its mouth and swallowing them up and their houses (Num. 16:32). When Achan was punished for his sin. there were stoned with him "his sons and his daughters" (Josh. 7:24, 25). When the Jews crucified Christ, they cried. "His blood be upon us, and upon our children" (Matthew 27:25) and God took them at their word.
And what is the practical application to us of these things? This: God is a God to be loved, but He is also a God to be feared, for "our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). Did we perceive that God is Light as well as Love, we should stand more in holy awe of Him. Did we behold His "severity" as readily as we do His "goodness," we should be more fearful of displeasing Him. Did we bear in mind that He not only pardons, but also visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, we should be more careful about our walk than we are. "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him" (Ps. 89:7) In Heaven itself the saints not only sing the praises of God, but they "fall down before Him" (Rev. 4:10). Then let us seek grace to heed that word, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12).
"And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped" (v. 8). It is blessed to note the effect upon Moses of the wondrous and glorious communication which he had just received from the mouth of Jehovah: filled with adoration and awe he takes his place in the dust before Him. No formal or perfunctory homage was it that Moses now rendered. The words "made haste" seem to point to the spontaneity of his worship; the bowing of his head toward the earth shows how deeply his spirit was stirred. And if our hearts really lay hold of the perfections of God’s administration, we too will be bowed before Him as worshippers.
"And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped." This is ever the result when the Lord condescends to reveal Himself to one of His own. When He appeared before Abram and said, "I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou upright,’ we are told that "Abram fell on his face" (Gen. 17:3). When He appeared before Joshua as "Captain of the host of the Lord," we are told that "Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship" (Josh. 5:14). When His glory filled the temple which Solomon had built, all the children of Israel "bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement and worshipped and praised the Lord" (2 Chron. 7:3).
"And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped." Let us not lose sight of the immediate link between this and the close of the preceding verse. The last things mentioned there are that God will by no means clear the guilty, and that He visits the sins of the fathers upon the children. In- stead of showing resentment, Moses acquiesced; instead of challenging the righteousness of these things, he worshipped. Well for us if we follow his example.
"And he said, If now I have found grace in Thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray Thee, go among us; for it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Thine inheritance" (v. 9). Very beautiful is this. Moses continues to use the favor which he had personally found before God for the good of others. His affections were bound up with His people. Blessedly does he identify himself with them: "Let my Lord, I pray Thee, go among us." How this brings to mind that wondrous word of our Redeemer’s when, presenting Himself for baptism, He said to His amazed forerunner, "Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:16). Verily. "He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one" (Heb. 2:11).
Let us note carefully the reason now presented by Moses for the Lord’s accompanying His people: "Let my Lord. I pray Thee, go among us, for it is a stiff-necked people." This is very striking, though to some of the commentators it has presented a difficulty. It was their need which Moses spread before Jehovah: it was His grace to which he appealed. Seeing that God was "merciful, gracious, longsuffering," He was just the One suited to a "stiffnecked" people. None but He could bear with them. At the very time that Israel were worshipping the golden calf the Lord Himself had said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people: Now, therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them" (32:9, 10). Now, Moses not only acknowledged the truth of God’s charge, but, in wondrous faith, turns it into a plea for Him to continue in Israel’s midst! Beautifully has another commented on this:
"The relationship between Moses personally and God, was fully established, so that he could present the people such as they were, because of his (Moses’ own) position, and, consequently, make of the difficulty and sin of the people a reason for the presence of God, according to the character He had revealed. It is the proper effect of mediation; but it is exceedingly beautiful to see, grace having thus come in, the reason God had given for the destruction of the people, or at the very least of His absence, becoming the motive for His presence. We know this ourselves: my sinfulness in itself would be the reason for God’s giving me up. But now I am in grace, I can plead it with God as a reason, blessed be His name, for His going with me, never should I overcome and get safe across the wilderness. if He was not with me. Surely the flesh is there, hut it is wondrous grace" (Mr. J N. Darby).
Verily, it is all of grace from first to last. Christ came here not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13). The proud Pharisees resented it, murmured, and said, "This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them" (Luke 15:2). Thank God He still does so, and the more the Holy Spirit reveals to us the "plague" of our heart (1 Kings 8:38). the more we are enabled to apprehend the wondrous grace of God, the more shall we crave His presence with us and that because we are, by nature, a "stiffnecked" people. The more we discover the true character of the "flesh"—its unimprovableness, and our own powerlessness to contend against it, the more shall we long for an Almighty arm to lean on. So, too. the more we realize that this world is a "wilderness," affording nothing for our souls, the more shall we perceive the need of the presence of Him who—all praise to His name—is the Friend that "sticketh closer than a brother" (Prov. 18:24).
"And pardon our iniquity and our sin. and take us for Thine inheritance." Here again we perceive the boldness of Moses’ faith. This was the climax of his petitions on Israel’s behalf. First, he had besought the Lord that His wrath should not wax hot against them (32:11). Then he had pleaded for the Lord’s continued presence in their midst (33:15, 16). Now he asks that the Lord will pardon their iniquity (note how graciously be identifies himself with his sinning people: "our iniquity and our sin") and "take us from Thine inheritance." When Sinai had first been reached, God had said. "Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people" (19:5). But the sin of the golden calf had severed every relationship. But here Moses as their mediator and intercessor pleads that everything should he restored.
That his prayer was answered we know from other scriptures. In Deuteronomy 32:9 we find him saying. "For the Lord’s portion is His people: Jacob is the lot of His inheritance." So also we find David declared, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord: and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance" (Ps. 33:12). Blessed is it to know that Israel, though temporarily, cast aside for our sakes, is God’s "inheritance" forever: "For the Lord will not cast off His people. neither will He forsake His inheritance" (Ps. 94:14). In a coming day the word shall go forth. "Sing and rejoice. O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee saith the Lord, and many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day and shall be My people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent Me unto thee. And the Lord shall inherit Judah His portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again" (Zech. 2:10-12).
"And take us for Thine inheritance." Again we would remind the reader that we are dealing with the contents of that book whose theme is redemption. How blessed then to learn that, through redemption, God has obtained for Himself an "inheritance!" Ephesians 1:18 speaks of the "riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." A truly marvelous concept is that, one to which our poor minds are quite incapable of rising—that the great and selfsufficient God should deem Himself enriched by worms of the earth whom He hath saved by His grace. This "inheritance," like all others, has come in through death, the death of God’s own Son. That death not only vindicated Divine justice by putting away the sins of His people, but it has brought in that which shall glorify God through the endless ages of eternity. God will occupy His "inheritance" forever. "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God" (Rev. 21:3).
"And He said, Behold, I make a covenant, before all thy people, I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee" (v. 10). This verse presents a difficulty, which is by no means easy of solution. God here promised that He would do unprecedented miracles on Israel’s behalf, "marvels such as have not been done in all the earth" Had these words been spoken at the burning bush, before Moses first interviewed Pharaoh, their application had been obvious: but here, at Sinai, their meaning is not easy to fix. God had already wrought great "marvels" on Israel’s behalf: the plagues upon Egypt, when water was turned into blood, dust into lice, frogs entering the homes of the Egyptians. but avoiding those of the Israelites, a supernatural darkness lasting for three days, though "all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings." (Ex. 10:22, 23); the dividing asunder the Red Sea; the raining of manna from heaven, and in such quantities as to supply the needs of two million souls; the bringing of water out of the rock—these were, one and all, prodigies of power. But here God announces still greater wonders!
We believe that the last book of the Bible describes the fulfillment of this word of Jehovah’s to Moses. There we read of plagues more dreadful and wondrous than those which came upon Pharaoh and his people. Upon Egypt God sent natural "locusts," but in a soon-coming day the bottomless pit shall be opened, and from it shall issue infernal "locusts," who in- stead of consuming vegetation, shall torment men, so that "in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it" (Rev. 9:6.) In Revelation 15:1 we read, "And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is flied up the wrath of God." How little the world dreams of what is shortly coming upon it!
In the past God put forth His power and delivered Israel from Egypt, but in a coming day He will, with still greater displays of His might and by means of judgments of far sorer intensity, deliver the scattered Jews from all countries among which they are now dispersed: "And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the Islands of the sea. And He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four quarters of the earth" (Isa. 11:11-12). "And I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds: and they shall be fruitful and increase. Therefore they shall no more say, ‘The Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them: and they shall dwell in their own land" (Jer. 23:3, 7, 8)
Of old, God divided the Red Sea for His people to pass through; but in a coming day He shall completely dry it up for them. "And the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with His mighty wind shall He shake His hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dry shod. And there shall he an highway for the renmant of His people, which shall be left from Assyria. like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt" (Isa. 11:15, 16, compare also Zechariah 10:11). So too we read, "And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates: and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared" (Rev. 16:12).
But not only will God perform mighty miracles on Israel’s behalf, but as Exodus 34:10 adds, "It is a terrible thing that I will do with thee." Clearly this refers to the Great Tribulation. when God will deal with Israel for their sins. As Jeremiah predicted, "Alas! for that day is great so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble" (30:7). Of that dreadful period Christ declared. "For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved" (Mark 13:19, 20.)
At Sinai God appeared before Israel with the most awe-inspiring manifestations: "And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly" (Ex. 19:18) But when the incarnate Son returns to this world, we are told that He "Shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 1:7, 8). To this grand event the Apostle Paul referred when quoting from Haggai: "Whose voice then shook the earth: but now He hath promised, saying. Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven" (Heb. 12:26.)
Should it be asked. What is the connection between the awful contents of this 10th verse of Exodus 34 and its context? The answer is not far to seek. At the close of v. 9 we find Moses beseeching Jehovah, "Take us for thine inheritance." The next thing we read is. "And He said. Behold I make a covenant." etc. With His omniscient eye. God looked down the centuries. and then made known to His servant what must, ultimately, take place before Israel became His "inheritance" in fact. When this Covenant of Marvels has been fulfilled, the prayer of Moses will receive its final answer. It is in the Millennium, following the awful judgment of the Great Tribulation, that the Lord will enter upon His heritage. Then shall it be said, "Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel, be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, He hath cast out thine enemy; the King of Israel. even the Lord is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion. Let not thine hands be slack. The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty: He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love. He will joy over thee with singing" (Zeph. 3:14-17.)
"Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite. and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite" (v. 11). Here the Lord returns to the more immediate present. Note the "this day," and the change from the "I will do marvels" and "it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee" of the previous verse, to "I drive out." It should also be observed that the extermination of the Canaanites is attributed not to the military prowess of Israel, but to the alone power of Jehovah.
"Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou guest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee" (v. 12). This was a call to separation. There must be no unequal yoke uniting the people of God with the children of the Devil. The Lord was taking Moses at his word: in 33:16 he had said. "Is it not in that Thou guest with us? so shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth." It is solemn to discover how Joshua. at a later date, disobeyed this very exhortation, see Joshua 9:14, 15. Centuries after, serious trouble issued from Joshua’s sin, see 2 Samuel 21:1-9.
"But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves" (v. 13). This also has its spiritual application to us. Not that Christians are called upon to reform society and improve the world, by engaging in crusades against vice and drunkenness. The counterpart in our experience to what we have here in v. 13 is that we should wage an unsparing war upon that which prevents us from enjoying our inheritance in Christ. Everything that would displace God in our lives and in our affections must be demolished. Every idol—that which comes between the Lord and my heart—must be ruthlessly hewn down.
"For thou shalt worship no other God: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" (v. 14). Very searching, but very blessed is this. First, God is ‘jealous’ of His own glory. Through Isaiah He has declared, "I am the Lord: that is My name; and My glory will I not give to another" (42:8). That is why God has chosen the foolish things of this world, weak things, things which are despised, yea, non-entities "that no flesh should glory in His presence.’ (1 Cor. 1:27-29).
Second, God is "jealous’ of the affections of His people. He is grieved when our love is given to another. "My son, give Me thine heart" (Prov. 23:26) is His appeal. "Set Me as a seal upon thine heart" (Song 8:6) is His call to each of us.
Third, God is "jealous" of His people: "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye" (Zech. 2:8) is His own avowal.
As we have practically reached the limits of our space, we refrain from commenting in any detail upon v. 15, 16. The more so because what is there said has been before us in Exodus 13 and 23. That which is therein enjoined is separation from the Canaanites themselves, from their ways, and from their worship. In view of what had so recently taken place, the closing words of our passage are very solemn: "Thou shalt make thee no molten gods" (v. 17.) May the Lord grant both writer and reader that purpose of heart to cleave fully unto Himself, and that singleness of eye that has in view nought but His own glory, ever remembering that our God is a jealous God.