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Visions of God
1. Going forth out of Egypt. Our study for today opens with the words: "In the third month, when the Children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai."
It is very plain to us that the wrath of Pharaoh and his armies could not keep the Children of Israel in Egypt, neither could they hinder them from going forth on their way to Canaan. Satan is powerful, but he is not all-powerful.
"The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
He will not, He will not, desert to its foes;
That soul though all hell should endeavor to shake,
He will not, He will not, He will not forsake."
(1) Let us consider the word "Hebrew," The word really means "to come across." It is suggestive of the fact that God called Abraham out of his country and: his father's house, to take him into another country. The Children of Israel were also called to go forth out of Egypt, and to go into another land.
(2) Let us consider the word "Church." The word means "A calling forth, a coming out." Thus, the two words are at least similar in their suggestiveness.
God called Israel out of Egypt, just as He called Abraham out of Haran. He called the Church out of the world, just as He called both Abraham and Israel out to go into another country.
The Children of Israel were strangers, sojourning in Egypt for the while, but they were not permitted to abide there.
We, too, are strangers to this world, and we are journeying to another world.
The place of blessing is always the place of separation. God said unto Abraham, "Get thee out * * and I will bless thee." God also says to us, "Come out from among them." Then He adds: "And I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you."
We would that all God's children would personally take the place of Moses. We read that Moses "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." We also read that he forsook Egypt. God, give us such a faith as this!
2. Coming into the wilderness. The latter part of our Scripture says they came "into the wilderness of Sinai."
(1) Sinai stands for the place of loneliness. The Children of Israel were shut up unto God because they were shut out of the teeming multitudes that thronged the streets of Egypt.
"Alone with God, the world forbidden,
Alone with God, oh, blest retreat,
Alone with God and in Him hidden,
To hold with Him communion sweet."
After all, it seems to us that no one can be lonely when he is having fellowship with God. Suppose the world is behind our back; suppose we are alone in a great and howling wilderness: if our loneliness shuts us up with God, and to God, we should rejoice. In His presence there is fullness of joy, and at His right hand there are pleasures forevermore.
(2) Sinai stands for the place of testing. It was there that God tested Israel to see whether she would obey Him, and whether she would follow Him fully. It was after Christ's baptism that He was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, and it is, beyond doubt, after our baptism, that we are tested. We cannot successfully walk in the wilderness without walking with God. The very fact that we are in the wilderness throws us upon our Lord as nothing else could throw us.
(3) Sinai is the place of revelation. It was at Sinai that Moses and Aaron saw God in a new and more wonderful way. It was at Sinai that God said: "I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee."
If we wish new revelations of God, we must be willing to be shut out from the world, and to walk with Him. After Saul was saved, he was led out into Arabia to be alone with God. While he was there God revealed Himself unto Saul in a marvelous way.
When we are filled with the things of this world, there is no chance to become "other-worldly." When we are listening to the voices of the populace, there is no opportunity for us to catch the voice of God.
I. A VISION OF GOD'S FATHERHOOD (Exodus 19:4 )
1. "In the mount of God it shall be seen." Exodus 19:3 says, "And Moses went up unto God." How great a privilege was this! We, too, may go up into the mountain. Our Lord delighted in doing this very thing. He even spent a whole night in the mountain alone with God.
Have you not read how we are raised and made to sit together with Him in the Heavenly places?
2. "The Lord called unto him out of the mountain." The mountain top is the place where God will reveal Himself unto us. It is there that He shows us Himself in all the glory and beauty of His Person. If we do not have visions of God, it must be because we do not get alone with God.
3. A revelation of God's Fatherhood. Exodus 19:4 reads: "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto Myself." In these words we plainly see the Father heart of our God. It is written, "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.
In this vision of God, there are three things before us.
(1) There is the vision of His delivering care. We behold the Father destroying the powers of darkness that sought to keep back His children. It was then that Israel saw what He did unto the Egyptians for their sake.
(2) There is the vision of His protective care. We read: "And how I bare you on eagles' wings." It is written, "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead Him." The eagle stirs up her nest, not in order to endanger the life of the eaglets. She is only teaching them how to fly. So the Lord's Father-heart taught Israel, and so He teaches us.
(3) There is the vision of His guiding hand. We read: "How I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto Myself." The Father seeks to gather His children close up to His Father-heart.
II. A VISION OF GOD'S COVENANT-PROMISES (Exodus 19:5-6 )
God is speaking unto Israel through Moses, and He says: "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: for all the earth is Mine: and ye shall be unto Me a Kingdom of priests, and an holy nation."
1. "Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people." It is not that God does not love the world, nor is it that He does not welcome all men to come unto Him. It is that those who do come, and do trust Him, and do keep His Covenant, are proclaimed a peculiar people.
This is just as true of the Church as it was of Israel. In 1 Peter 2:9 we read: "Ye are * * a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light." The word "peculiar" means "particular," "special."
2. "Ye shall be unto Me a Kingdom of priests." The priest is one who is set apart for special audience with the Lord, and also for special ministry to men. Thus God called Israel and blessed her in order to make her a blessing. He wanted her to be His peculiar treasure, in order that she might become His especial priest unto others.
3. "Ye shall be unto Me * * an holy nation." They were not only to be a nation designated by their separation from all other nations of the earth, but they were to be a holy nation. All this comes home to the Church. God has called us out from among the nations, not only that we also might be a nation bound together by the ties of Heavenly love and comradeship; but a nation holy and without rebuke.
Let each one of us examine our hearts because, as Israel was, so are we also in the world. These words spoken to them are ringing in our ears. God has made a Covenant of Blood with us. It is a New Covenant which we are to keep sacred and holy before Him. If we keep this Covenant, we, too, shall be a peculiar treasure and a Kingdom of priests, and an holy nation; and thus we shall show forth the glories of our Lord unto all those among whom we move.
III. THE PEOPLE PLEDGING ALLEGIANCE TO GOD (Exodus 19:7-8 )
1. Face to face with God's command. 1 Peter 2:7 says, "And Moses * * laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him."
We, to whom God has given His testimony, must deliver it faithfully. We must deliver all, not a part of God's message. We must preach the preaching which He gives us.
The people who hear must open their faces to God's commands. To shut one's eyes or to stop one's ears will only lead to disobedience and its fearful fruitage. We must listen in order to do all that He commands us.
We often sing
"Face to face, with Christ my Saviour,
Face to face, what will it be?
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ who died for me."
Yes, that will be a glorious day; but how about beholding Him face to face now? How about praying, "Show me Thy face, O Lord; teach me Thy will, O my God"?
2. The people's response. Here is what they said, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." This is most refreshing. It is one thing to seek God's will, it is another thing to know it, and still another thing to perform it.
Here is what is called "full consecration." How many young people are now ready, without any reservation, to say, "All that the Lord hath spoken I will do"? It is written, "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." Again it is written, "Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."
The man who is not only a promiser, but a doer of the Word of God; that is, the man who obeys, is the one whom God blesses. He is the one who builds his house on the rock.
3. The people's words carried to the Lord. "And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord." No doubt all our pledges of obedience and of full surrender are laid up before God. Let us do what we promise.
IV. PREPARING TO MEET GOD (Exodus 19:9-12 )
1. A call to sanctification. Exodus 19:10 says, "Go unto the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow." If we are desiring to approach into the presence of God, and to dwell with Him, we must come to Him with clean hands and with pure hearts.
Our God is a holy God, and He cannot receive into His presence those who are unholy and defiled.
Listen to the Prophet Isaiah, as he warns Israel. They were seeking to appear before the Lord with their sacrifices. They were coming, however, with unwashed hearts. The Lord said to them: "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil."
Think you that the unclean can be welcomed into His holy presence? Sin has, since the day that Adam and Eve hid in the trees of the Garden, always caused men to flee the presence of God. "Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord."
2. A call to preparedness. Exodus 19:11 says, "And be ready against the third day." The people were about to have a vision of God. They were about to hear the Lord speaking unto Moses. They were to be made ready by the third day for that hallowed privilege.
We, too, are now in preparation against the day when we shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and "so shall we ever be with the Lord." Certainly only the redeemed of the Lord will be there. However, the redeemed need to be robed and ready.
V. VISIONS OF THUNDERINGS AND LIGHTNINGS (Exodus 19:16 )
1. On the third day, in the morning. If the third day stands for resurrection, may not "the morning" stand for that dawning of the new day, when He shall come In the glory of the Father? Yes, that will be "morning", to us. Remember, He comes as the Bright and Morning Star, and as the Sun of Righteousness rising with healing in His wings.
2. In the morning there were thunderings and lightnings. Let us read from Revelation 4:1-11 ; "And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices." The vision of God brings always the thunderings of His judgments. How else could God reveal Himself to a people given to sin and rebellion? Could He come as a God of love apart from His justice?
Say you that we will all draw back from before Him at His Coming? That depends on whether we have been washed in His Blood and cleansed by the washing of regeneration, by the Word.
The Holy Spirit said, through Paul, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in His body, * * whether it be good or bad." Then the Spirit, through Paul, adds, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men."
Remember, in Exodus 19:1-25 , God is about to manifest Himself, not in grace, but in Law. He is about to give His people the Ten Commandments. Therefore there are lightnings and thunders. Remember, also, that in Revelation 4:1-11 , and in 2 Corinthians 5:1-21 , the Lord is coming as Judge to judge His people, therefore we have the "terror of the Lord." Had not grace come by God, in the Cross of Christ, none of us had been saved.
The Law worketh wrath. The Law was a sentence of death. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. However, with all the heights and depths of the meaning of the grace that saves us, there is, in grace, no excuse for continuing in sin. All saints must live as unto the Lord, and not as unto men, "knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance * *. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons (with God)."
VI. THE VISION OF FIRE (Exodus 19:18 )
"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."
Let us, as Christians, not relegate the "fires of God" altogether to the lake of fire and brimstone. To be sure, death and hell shall be cast into the lake of fire. However, in Exodus 19:1-25 God was seen before His people, a people who had come out of Egypt by the shedding of blood.
In Hebrews 10:1-39 we read: "Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God."
Again we read in 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 : "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
The fires which had to do with the giving of the Law will never touch us under grace. Now to God's own word in Hebrews 12:18-29 : "For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken unto them any more: (for they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) * *."
To what then are we come? We "are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the City of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, and to the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn, * * and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the Blood of sprinkling (the Blood of Jesus), that speaketh better things than that of Abel."
Thank God, then, for our sins are under the Blood that speaketh of remission, and forgiveness, and that tells us that we are free from the curse of the Law. This is ours in Christ Jesus.
However, let us remember the admonitions which close this chapter in Hebrews. For we who are saved are yet to be judged for our works the things we have done, good or bad, since we were saved. Thus it is, that, after all the marvelous words quoted from Hebrews as above, the Holy Spirit still urges saints: "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from Heaven."
The Spirit of God, then, uses the history of the mountain shaken by His voice, back at the giving of the Law, and says, "But He hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also Heaven."
What then shall we do? Here is the word of the Lord, and His plea: "Wherefore we receiving a Kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear." Why should we so serve? The answer is plain, "For our God is a consuming Fire."
The saints shall not be judged with the wicked, but at the judgment seat of Christ. Let us therefore not use the glorious doctrine of salvation by grace, as an excuse to continue in sin.
We need a progressive vision of God. First we know Him as Creator, then as Saviour, then Lord, etc., etc.
"The point of this message is seen in the word 'now.' God had come to them in Egypt as Redeemer, and at Sinai as Teacher, but in Canaan He was to be their Lord, Master, Prince, Captain, and leader. This was to be the secret of Israel's blessing and power; God as their Captain, and Joshua as only an instrument in God's hands. * * This thought of Divine Lordship, as following sanctification, marks the true life of the believer. The Prophet Isaiah suggests this in the significant order of the two words: 'government' and 'peace' (Isaiah 9:7 ). First government, and then peace; for, of course, it is only as there is government that there can be peace; and only as Christ is our Lord, can there be any trite life for the believer. The same thing is taught in the New Testament, where, beyond all else, Christ is shown to be Lord. 'To this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord' (Romans 14:9 ). This is the meaning of the well-known phrase: 'I believe; I belong.' We are to accept the fact that when Christ died and rose again, He did His work for the purpose of our life being wholly given to God: and then the Holy Spirit marks us off for God by the bestowal of a new life and nature, which enable us to be what God wants." Griffith Thomas.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Exodus 19". "Living Water". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany