Life Theology

Meditating on Massive Realities

The other day, at work during a training class, I was drifting off into theology land, as I often do, and I was hit with the reality that God is. He exists. I couldn’t come up with other words. I was bumbling in my head. I was thinking, God is and always has been. He’s…there…here. That is massive.

Then I was struck with the reality that I exist. I breathe and talk and walk and think. I am actually alive.  That is a massive reality.  Add onto that another layer of heavy, cosmic bricks: God created me and knows me. How about one layer more: God reigns over the universe, including my small world, and controls it all with wisdom and ease.

That’s enough to make you think for eternity. These are massive realities, and as I sat in a small training class with sixteen other people, I was worshiping in my heart. And now, as I type, I think of God’s words to Moses in Exodus 3 when Moses asked, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”  God answered Moses like this: “I AM WHO I AM…Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (3:13-14).

“I AM” (God’s name, “Yahweh” in Hebrew) communicates a self-dependent, unchanging existence. It communicates sovereignty and freedom. That is massive.  But God does not merely exist; he is a God who reveals himself. He initiated with the people of Israel, to give himself to them and to save them. And he reveals himself to you and me through his word — the story he has written since creation. What a great God!

Because of this, I need to ask myself (and you need to ask yourself) a few questions: Is the God I worship the self-dependent, unchanging, sovereign, and free One? Or do I worship a god that is dependent, changeable, powerless, and bound? Do I worship the creator God, or something that has been created?

These massive realities are of infinite importance, and our eternity hangs on what we do with them.


The Lord’s Glory Through His Spoken Word

When you ask the Lord to see his glory, as Moses did in Exodus 33, what are you expecting?  Moses asked and probably got an answer he didn’t expect.  “Please show me your glory,” he said.  God replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD’…But you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (vv. 19a-20).  A few verses later, God says to Moses that he will only see his back, but that he cannot see his face.

Moses probably wanted to see God’s full splendor, majesty, and brillance.  He probably wanted a sign.  He wanted something amazing to happen.  What he got was a flicker of lighting, as if seen in the corner of his eye, but it was all Moses could handle.  Any more and Moses would have been consumed.

In chapter 34, God finally shows Moses his glory.  Verse 6 says, “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”

God showed Moses his glory by speaking.  He simply “passed by.”  Moses got a glimpse of God’s back, and it was splendid.  From this we have at least two implications.  When we ask to see God’s glory:

  • God will speak. For us, this happens through his written word, which he spoke to men who wrote it down.  God authored a book, and his glorious self is revealed in the pages of that book called the Bible.
  • God will speak his name.  God said in 34:19, “I will proclaim before you my name.”  Then in 35:6 he says, “Yahweh, Yahweh!” and continues on to reveal to us what that means.  He describes his identity, his essence, and his attributes.  God is a forgiver, a lover, and a gracious Father, but that he is also a just God who punishes those who are unrepentant of sin.

To see God’s glory, go to the pages of Scripture.  He has revealed himself there.  Read his words and soak them up “taste and see that God is good!”  God will speak and he will speak his name.  He will point you to Jesus, the true reflection of God, because he is God himself.  Jesus is the one who shows that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” because he lived it, purchased it, and sealed it with his blood on the cross.


What Manna Do You Need Today?

In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp.  And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.'” And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat.
– Exodus 16:13-18

God provided everything the Israelites needed to survive.  He gave them meat, bread, and water.  Yet they still complained.  In Matthew 6, Jesus taught us to pray like this: “Our Father…give us this day our daily bread.”  I’m sure for all of you, you have what you need physically.  We have a home, food, and clothes.  If we have these, we will be content (1 Tim. 6:8).  Yet we still complain.

Though God wants to and does provide physical needs, when Jesus taught us how to pray, I think he meant primarily manna for the soul.  I would argue that if our soul is fed, then our external circumstances will not be worthy of complaints.  Christian, what manna do you need today from the Lord?  Do you need strength to enjoy him?  Do you need comfort during afflication?  Do you need conviction for a habitual sin?  Do you need love for an enemy?  Do you need patience in trial?  Do you need thankfulness in bad circumstances?  Do you need courage in the face of death?

I know that I need these today — and daily.  I’m willing to bet that you do as well.  Go to your heavenly Father for your bread today.  He is more than willing to give it.

Life Theology

Idolatry and Grumbling Are More Closely Related Than You Might Think

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul warns his Christian readers to not be idolaters (v. 7) and not to grumble (v. 10) in the same breath.  At first glance, these probably don’t seem like related sins.  But if we zoom in on the context, Paul is clear: you grumble because you are an idolater.

The story of the Israelites, Paul says, was written for us as an example (vv. 6, 11).  The Israelites did little right as they made their way through the wilderness.  Their perspective was limited.  Their hearts were not inclined toward God.  They constantly looked to creation instead of Creator — which is, in essence, idolatry.  Instead of looking to their future Messiah, they participated in pagan festivals (Ex. 32:6).  Instead of seeking pleasure in God, they sought pleasure in sexual relationships with Gentile women (Num. 25:1, 9).  Instead of looking to Christ as their sustenance, they complained about the manna and lack of water (Num. 21:5).  Instead of praising God for being delivered from slavery, they grumbled about wandering around in the desert (Num. 14:2).

Created things were never meant to satisfy our hearts and longings.  Created things, from the beginning, were meant to point us toward the Creator, who gives us life, breath, and everything (Acts 17:25).  If we worship idols (anything other than God), we will always grumble because they will always let us down.  Whether that idol is a sexual partner, food or drink, the American dream, or anything else you can think of, it will let you down.  And when you get let down, you will grumble.  I see it in my life — even in the smallest details.  When I put my hope in people, I get let down.  When I put my hope in organization or situations running smoothly, I get let down.  When I put my hope in my own merits and talents, I get let down.  When I put my hope in anything other than the person and work of Jesus, I am disappointed.  But praise be to God that Jesus will never let us be disappointed (Rom. 10:11).

Let’s look to Jesus.  If we do, our perspective will change.  We will be able to honestly rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in every circumstance (1 Thes. 5:16-18).  If we seek Christ, our hearts will find true satisfaction.  Creation was never meant to provide that.

Truly our hearts are restless until they rest in You.
– Augustine


Out of the Valley of Achor into a Door of Hope

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.  And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.  And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. (Hosea 2:14-15)

God says he will allure his people into the wilderness.  So often, God leads his people to where it is dry, lonely, and dark in order to bring them to himself.  God has to bring us to a place where sin is no longer appealing, no longer satisfying so that we might hate it and want more of Christ.

When Israel arrived in the wilderness, God gave “her her vineyards and [made] the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”  And so it is for us today.  There God will bring us back to spiritual vibrancy and prosperity. He will take our trouble and turn it into hope — “Achor” in Hebrew means “trouble.”  Valley of Achor references Joshua 7:10-26 and Achan’s sin of plundering spoils in battle.  Achan had silver hidden in his tent and Joshua’s men found it. Achan, his wife, his sons and daughters, and his oxen, donkeys, sheep and all his possessions were stoned by Joshua and all of Israel for their sin. They were stoned in the Valley of Achor (v. 24). They broke the very command that God made in 6:17-19. God said, “But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD” (vv. 18-19).  After Achan and all his family and possessions were stoned, God’s anger was lifted. In verse 26, it says, “Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor,” because in verse 25, Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.”

So, in Hosea, when we read that God has made the “Valley of Achor a door of hope” it is no small thing. He will take Israel from a place where they deserve to be stoned because of idolatry, sexual immorality, false worship, and wicked hearts to a place where hope is all they see.

In the same way, God has taken us from the trouble of our own sins that we once were in as children of wrath and sons of disobedience and given us mercy found in his Son Jesus. God took us from a place where we should have been stoned to a place where Christ reigns with the hope of glory.  Only Christ can lift the trouble that we have on our hands because of our transgressions and give us life. Now we can believe what Titus 3:7 says: “Being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

At the end of Hosea 2:15, it says that God’s people will answer him when he gives them this hope.  When God gives his people back their vineyards and gives them hope in spite of their trouble, they will answer to God, “as in the days of her youth” (meaning when God and his Bride were first married), with the song of Moses, a song of exodus from their sin.  After Moses and the Israelites crossed the Red Sea to escape Egypt, they finally sang praise to God for deliverance (Ex. 15:1-21).  This is the same song that all God’s people will sing before the throne for eternity (Rev. 15:3-4). This song in Revelation is called “the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.”  The song of the Lamb.  It is the song of Jesus, the one who bore all of our trouble in his body of flesh on our behalf, so that we might have a true and lasting hope.

Who is the Savior who brought Israel out of Egypt in Exodus? Jesus. Who is the Savior that will bring Israel out of their idolatry in Hosea? Jesus. Who is the Savior that has rescued us from the domain of darkness and the kingdom of Satan? Jesus.

How awesome is our God!  Let us worship the Lord Jesus who has brought us out of the Valley of Achor and given us a living hope that we might be redeemed and live with him forever.