The Partial Kingdom: God’s People — Part Two
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The Partial Kingdom: God’s People — Part Two

Exodus 1:1–40:38  (ID: 2384)

When Moses gave Pharaoh God’s command to free the Hebrews from slavery, Pharaoh asked, “Who is this God?” To answer this question, Alistair Begg takes on a high-altitude survey of God’s deliverance of His people in Egypt. We see that this powerful God, who Moses can only describe as “I Am,” also makes demands of us through His law, provides a substitution for us when we fail, and frees us from the captivity of sin.

Series Containing This Sermon

The Kingdom of God, Volume 1

Genesis 1:1 – Malachi 4:6 Series ID: 26801

Sermon Transcript: Print

God our Father, we thank you for the Bible, and as we seek to try and understand its broad scope, we pray for your help, that our minds may be active, and our wills may be submissive, and our hearts may be ready to receive your truth. To this end we seek your help now, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

We have determined that it is wise for us to continue our series in attempting an overview of the Bible in both the morning and in the evening. Otherwise, it’s going to go on interminably, and we will lose sight of everything we’re trying to do. So, those of you who were not a part of the series because you do not attend in the evening are now part of the series, because we’ll be doing it both in the morning and in the evening. The reason for this is quite straightforward: When we took off from the end of the runway, I thought that we were in a 777, which is capable of a pretty good rate of ascent—it can climb, I think, about 3,500 feet a minute. Turns out that when I looked down, I realized I was flying a Cessna single engine, which is capable of a very slow rate of climb, and it’s gonna take forever to get to the book of Revelation. And so I determined that either we had to land and get another means of conveyance or that we needed to give our attention to this on a more consistent way. So we’ve decided on the latter course of action.

We’re trying to get the big picture of the Bible. We recognize that many of us have ideas about the Bible and information concerning pieces of the Bible, but we’ve found that it is almost exclusively true that we are in difficulty when it comes to understanding an overview of it. The key that we’re using to try and find our way, to trace a line through the Scriptures, is the kingdom of God, which we have defined as “God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule and blessing.”[1]

And last time we began to consider the promise of God’s kingdom. We’ve said that the Bible moves from promise to fulfillment, primarily between the Old Testament and the New; and having established the notion of a kingdom that is promised, we began to consider the fact that it is partially fulfilled in the history of Israel—it is partially fulfilled in the history of Israel. And we determined that we would look at this from four aspects, the first of which was as it relates to the people of God—God’s people. And the foundational promise, which we took time to underscore, is in Genesis 12:2, where God comes and he says to his servant Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation.” And we began to tease out that promise. We looked at it in relationship to Abraham and Isaac, and then Jacob and Esau, and in the evening of our last time together, we considered what that meant in the life of Joseph—that God had purposed to take Joseph, in circumstances that were not the best, and put him in the context of Egypt in order that when the famine descended upon his people, he would have a savior, if you like, in place to whom his people could go, thereby finding what they needed in a time of great difficulty.

The Bible’s story is not without difficulty. It has strife and animosity and jealousy in it. And yet, through all of those circumstances, God is working his purpose out.

That story, and indeed the story of all—Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Esau and Joseph—is a story that is not without difficulty. It is a story that has strife in it, and animosity in it, and jealousy in it, and so on. And yet, through all of those circumstances, we’re finding that God is working his purpose out.  Because the purpose that God has, as we found in Ephesians 1, is a purpose from all of eternity to redeem a people that are his very own. And so even when the circumstances seem difficult and daunting, we’re able to say, as Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50 in the portion that was just read for us, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”[2] And what God’s people were learning right at the very genesis of things—and that’s of course Genesis 50—is that God always overrules to ensure that his promises are protected and that his purposes are fulfilled.

Now, that’s not a lesson that is just long ago and far away, because that is the very reminder that many of us need coming out of the week that has just passed. We have endured in our lives things that we may not have chosen for ourselves. We may have faced disappointments. We have found in our family members cause for concern and for prayer. We may have received news of ill health or of a job change, or we may find that our lives are just not as smooth-sailing as we desire. And what we need to be reminded of is what Joseph reminds us of: that God is sovereign, overruling everything according to the eternal counsels of his will, and that, as Romans 8:28 tells us, “[In everything] God [is working] for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Now, when we left last time, we had come to the end of the story of Joseph, which we had read for us there in the closing chapter of Genesis, and that took us into the opening of the book of Exodus. Exodus, the departure, the leaving—and, of course, the story is fairly straightforward. The promise of food that was held out as a result of Joseph’s position in Egypt led to the relocation of Jacob and his family. They moved down into Egypt on account of food, and for a time, as Genesis closes, everything was absolutely terrific. But then it takes a turn for the worse, and when this new king comes into place—Exodus 1:8—he doesn’t like what he sees. He doesn’t like the idea of this people growing in stature and in size, and so he says, “We’re going to have to do something to treat these people in a way that doesn’t allow them to get up and beyond themselves.”[3] And so they put them to work, they enslave them, and in verse 14 it says, “They made their lives bitter,” they did so “with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.”

So now we have the people of God, who have the promises of God—but they don’t seem to be working. If God has made promises, we understood it when we were receiving the benefit of food, but we don’t understand it now when we are on the sharp end of the stick and the enslavement that is represented in our labor. And quite frankly, if God is going to fulfill the purposes of his people, then he can’t leave them here. He’s going to have to set them free. And in the long years of slavery which are described for us here, some of the people must have said to themselves, “I think that God has forgotten his promise. I wonder if God is really going to do what he promised beforehand to do.” And that answer comes at the end of Exodus 2:23: “During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and [they] cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”[4]

There is the answer: God heard their cry, he heard their groaning. And he hears the cries of his people, he hears our groaning. In fact, when we take it all the way forward into the New Testament, we discover that the Holy Spirit even interprets our groanings, the things that we’re unable to articulate in our prayers. That’s the level of his interest in us and his involvement with us. So, for example, when you play those old songs like “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” it ought to be a great encouragement to us:

Why should I feel discouraged?
And why should the shadows come?
And why should my heart seem lonely
And just long to get out of here?
If Jesus is my captain
And my constant friend is he
And his eye is on the sparrow
Then I know he watches me.[5]
God hears your cry, God sees your groaning, God knows your circumstances.

It’s the process of logic. It’s deduction. It’s from the greater to the lesser, and from the lesser to the greater. And that’s what the people of God needed to be reminded of: God hears your cry, God sees your groaning, God knows your circumstances , and as a result of that, he introduces a rescue operation—which takes us to chapter 3 and the wonderful story of Moses and the burning bush.

Moses and the Burning Bush

Moses and the burning bush: we’ve seen it in pictures; we’ve learned it Sunday school, many of us; some of us, perhaps, are coming to it for the first time. God appears to his servant Moses in a dramatic way, and he gives to him a quite incredible assignment. Look at Exodus 3:9: “Now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and [I’ve] seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. [I’m] sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Then verse 11: “But Moses said to God, ‘’scuse me? Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ And God said, ‘It’s not who you are Moses, it’s who I am.’”[6] That’s a paraphrase. “God said, ‘I will be with you. And this [is] the sign [that I’m going to give you] that it is I who have sent you: When you [bring] the people out of Egypt, you will worship God [in] this mountain.’”[7] In other words, “We’re all gonna come back here to this mountain, and on the day that we meet on this mountain, it will be a reminder to you and all the people that I am true to the promises that I am giving to you.” And Moses asks the inevitable question: “Well, God,” he says, “suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”[8] And then we have this famous statement that most of us are able to quote and few of us have an idea what we’re on about: “[Then] God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’”[9] Moses might have replied again, “No, God, I’m asking your name.” And God would have replied, “I am who I am,” or “I will be who I will be.”

Now, we’ll pause here for just a moment, because this name, Y-H-W-H, which is the English for the Hebrew, four constants with no vowels: try and pronounce Y-H-W-H. It’s impossible. That’s the point. It is an unpronounceable name. It is, if you like, an unspeakable name. And in our older translations we have added vowels and created the word Jehovah, or in more modern translations, still adding vowels, we have the word Yahweh. When we translate that, when the translators translated the Septuagint version—that is, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures—you will recall (perhaps two of you will) that they translated that word “Lord,” and they capitalized every letter. It wasn’t capital L and then three lowercase letters, but every letter was capitalized: L-O-R-D. And you remember, perhaps, when we studied that, we said that was the significance when Paul says that “at the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,”[10] that Jesus Christ is the unpronounceable name—in other words, that Jesus Christ is none other than God himself.

Now, what is God doing in giving an answer like this? “Who will I say sent me? I mean, Pharaoh’s going to want to know on whose authority I come.” And he gives him this unpronounceable name. Well, I think God is saying, “There is actually no name that can adequately encapsulate the totality of who I am.” Now, of course, those of us who have English names or Anglo-Saxon names, we don’t really care much about this. If your name’s John or Mary or Fred or Karen, or whatever it might be, it really doesn’t mean much. I mean, you get those little things in Christian bookstores, but they’re usually fictitious. But if you have an African name or a Chinese name, then your name may mean “shining one.” Your name may mean “priceless pearl.” Your name may mean a whole host of things—“mighty warrior.” And so, the name encapsulates or seeks to establish something about the person. That’s true in Hebrewism. But God is saying, “There is no name that I could have that could establish, could absorb, the totality of who I am. So just tell him that I am has sent you. And if he wants to know who it is he’s dealing with, then tell him to watch what I do on behalf of my people.” “Do you want to know, Pharaoh, who God is? Then watch what he does, see what he does in the future, and then you will know what it means, I am who I am.”

The story of the Bible is not only the story of God’s work of salvation, but it is also the story of the unfolding of God’s character.

You see, the story of the Bible is not only the story of God’s work of salvation, but it is also the story of the unfolding of God’s character.  And while many of us have become adept in the reading of our Bibles, at asking questions of application which are important—How does this relate, and how does it apply? What is the Bible saying to me here? What does this mean to me?—they’re not irrelevant, they’re not wrong questions, but they’re not the first question. The first question ought to be of every passage, What does this tell me about God? What do I discover here about God? Because God is the hero of the story. God is the theme of the book. And the whole book is about God. So, instead of always coming to the Bible saying, “Well, what does this mean to me this morning? I dropped my groceries on the floor, and my cat ran away. I’m in deep difficulty. I wonder what this means to me. Is there something here for me?” Put that aside for the moment and say, “Is there something here about God that I might learn?” And then the Holy Spirit will say to you, “You know, this is a fantastic truth about God that relates to your groceries, relates to the loss of your cat, and relates to the fact that you’re not speaking to your husband.” But it’s not a promise book that addresses those questions primarily and first of all. It wasn’t written for that reason. It was written to establish God and his dealings and his character and his glory.

And despite the fact that many of us have been led to believe that what we need in our Sunday sermons are little anecdotal bits and pieces that will deal with our finances and deal with our relationships and help us with this and with that and the next thing, listen, my dear friends: there has never been a time in the history of Christianity when there have been more how-to books written for believers than today—how to do this, how to do that, how to live with your friends, how to live with your dog, how to manage your finances, how to do everything. How are we doing? How are we doing? Not well! Why? Because we know how to do everything, but we don’t know who God is.

Now, what Moses needed to know in order to do what Moses needed to do was who God is. Once he understood who God is, then Pharaoh, bring him on. Until he knew who God was, then, “Who am I that I could go to Pharaoh? Do you realize who Pharaoh is? Do you realize what Pharaoh has been doing?” God says, “Of course I do! But one plus God is a majority.”

The Plagues and the Passover

Now, what happens then, of course, is the stories that we’ve learned in Sunday school. And it comes to the question of the plagues, and then the Passover. You remember the story of the plagues: the gnats, and the flies, and the boils, and the hail, and so on. Did you ever say to yourself, “What’s all that about? Goodness gracious, all those chapters on gnats and flies and boils and everything. I mean, what is going here?” Well, that’s the question we’re supposed to be asking. And the question—what is the question? What do I learn about God here? Well, I learn that God is in control of everything. I learn that God is actually masterminding the details of the universe, that he is able to deal with frogs and gnats and flies and hail and light and darkness and life and death because he is the master and the controller of everything. That ought to make a difference to the way I go back to my office on a Monday morning, especially if I know God—that in every realistic sense, by the Holy Spirit, he drives in the car with me on 77.

Exodus 5:2 really sets this up for us, because Pharaoh asks the question, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I [don’t] know the Lord … I [won’t] let Israel go.” I love somebody like this, don’t you? Really honest? “Uh, hello, my name is Moses, Pharaoh, and, uh, I’m here on behalf of, uh, God… and, uh, the word is, let the people go.” “Well, let me ask you a couple of things, Moses. Number one: Who is this God? And number two: Why should I ever do anything that he says?”

Now, we could stop here and have a whole sermon on this, couldn’t we? This is terrific. I can feel a sermon coming on just on this whole subject. Because that is the question that many are asking, is it not? Well, you mention it to them on an average day, say, “Well, you know, since I encountered God in the Bible and met him in Jesus…” And the person says, “Well, who is God? And why should I ever do anything that he says?”

You see, Pharaoh asked the right question. The New York Times this week set it up wrongly. The New York Times this week, in introducing, I think, the Frontline program (which I didn’t see) with George Bush, concerning his faith and convictions about the Bible and Christ, the question that they had in their headline… or, no, it wasn’t a question, but it read, “George Bush and His God.”[11] See? “If you want to know about George Bush and his God, as opposed to anyone else’s God, then you should tune in. And by the way, I don’t think you’re going to like his God, I don’t think you’re going to like his faith, I think you’re going to discover how dangerous a man this is,” and so on—that was the inference and the implication of it all. Why? Because they didn’t ask the Pharaoh question: “Who is the Lord? Who is God?”

There is only one God: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who makes himself known in creation, who reveals himself in the Scriptures, who reveals himself finally and savingly in the person of his Son.

There is only one God: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who makes himself known in creation, who reveals himself in the Scriptures, who reveals himself finally and savingly in the person of his Son , and it is to this God that a man or a woman comes in repentance and faith and becomes a member of the family. But you see, our friends and our neighbors are asking the question in that way, aren’t they? “Well, let’s hear about your God.” No, Pharaoh says, “Who is Yahweh, who is Jehovah, that I should obey him? I want to know, because I don’t know the Lord. And because I don’t know him, I’m not going to let Israel go.”

Now, then come the plagues—I’ve backed up to that—but then come the plagues, and finally, the killing of the firstborn. God passes through the land in judgment, you remember; every firstborn Egyptian is killed. The Israelite firstborn also deserve to die; they’re sinners, but God provides for them a way of escape. In the same way that he had just done, providing them a way of escape from the famine that they were experiencing, bringing them down to meet Joseph, whom he had put in a position to be able to provide for their needs—in the same way, he now provides for them by way of the Passover. And you can read of that in Exodus chapter 12: the blood on the doorframe, and when the angel saw the blood, then he passed over the household.

Now, again, many of us have studied this in Sunday school, and we tend to view it in a very truncated way: here is a story, it’s in the Old Testament, and it’s about something that happened a long time ago; there was a man called Moses, he was in the bulrushes, he got out, and somehow or another there was a burning bush, and then he did something else, he went to Pharaoh, a lot of plagues, boils, gnats, flies, hail, everything else, and then finally there’s something to do with lambs and blood and so on, and there’s a terrific story. But what is the story? Well, it is, in the Old Testament era, the great act of God’s salvation. And in it and through it God is teaching his people a vital principle which will then unfold throughout the whole of the Bible: namely, that God saves by substitution—that he saves by substitution—that he saves one person because someone else dies in their place. And from the very beginning of things he makes this perfectly plain to his people. And the deliverance from Egypt is pointing forward. The people deserve to die for their sins, but because they trust in the sacrifice of another, as God has asked, then they are delivered. This, of course, is pointing forward. That is why, when you get to the first chapter of John’s Gospel, and John the Baptist sees Jesus coming, he turns to the people around him and he says, “[Behold], the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”[12]

Now, you have introduced a lot of people in your day. You’ve seen people that others haven’t known, you’ve introduced them. But none of us have ever said such an amazingly bizarre thing about any individual—I hope we haven’t, we shouldn’t, we couldn’t. But what is this? The disciples had said, “You know, the one on the other side of the Jordan, a lot of people are going to him. He seems to be building up a big church. John, your church isn’t doing so good. Your crowd, your evangelistic meetings are dwindling; his evangelistic meetings are getting better.”[13] John says, “That’s okay. I’m not the bridegroom, I’m the best man. The best man’s only there to make sure the bridegroom’s in place and the marriage happens.[14] I’m a finger that points, I’m a voice that cries, I’m a light that shines, but this one, he’s the Lamb of God. He takes away the sin of the world.” And the people are saying, “Wait a minute; do you mean ‘Lamb of God’ like in ‘Lamb-of-Exodus-chapter-12 of God?’” “Yeah.” “Oh, so the exodus in Exodus is, if you like, a foreshadowing of this great exodus when a man or a woman, trusting in the blood that is shed on their behalf, a man or a woman that deserves God’s judgment, hiding not in their good deeds but hiding in what another has done for them, is set free from sin in the way that the Israelites were set free from bondage?” Yes.

Now, you see, you’re never going to get that unless you stand far enough back from the Bible. You stand up too close, all you’ll have is the story of the bulrushes and the thing and the so on, and you won’t see it in the great scheme of redemptive history. Are you following this? Yeah. Good, ’cause I hope I am, too.

You have the same point of emphasis in 1 Corinthians 5, where Paul says that Christ has become “our Passover lamb.”[15] And the word that was given to the children of Israel, remember, was, “Make sure that when you celebrate this Passover you do so properly so that in years to come you may celebrate the Passover, and when your children ask you, ‘What is this about?’ you will be able to tell them, ‘God redeemed us with an outstretched hand.’”[16] What is happening tonight in Communion? Why shouldn’t the children take Communion? If they sit with you, why should they not take Communion until they have professed faith in Jesus Christ? Because it should be for them a question mark. It should be a question: “Daddy, why do you do that thing with that little thing of thing? Why is there such… and what’s that little piece? Why do you take the bread? Why do you do this?” “Well, honey, I’m gonna tell you when we get home.”

Now, what are you gonna tell somebody about why you take Communion? You say, “Well, let me tell you a story, first of all.” Tell them the story of Moses. Tell them the story of the burning bush. Tell them all that wonderful stuff. And then join the dots, and tell them that the reason you do what you do is because Jesus has become a savior and a friend to you, and he will become their savior and friend if they will trust in him just as you’ve trusted in him. And you may have the privilege of leading your child to faith in Christ, as opposed to just absorbing them into the process, thinking that somehow or another they’ll catch it in the breeze.

The Exodus from Egypt

Now, let me take it on one stage, because it gets even more exciting. Pharaoh, remember, changes his mind—he changes his mind. After they’re off and away, he says, “I don’t like the fact they’re gone. I think we’ll go and bring them back.”[17] And what you then read is the story of the pursuit, and finally the crossing of the Red Sea. It’s wonderful stuff. The Israelites are pursued. They’re powerless to save themselves, but God intervenes and he parts the sea. What was the question that Pharaoh had asked? “Who is the Lord?” If you didn’t get it before now with the plagues, Pharaoh, you’re going to get it right at this point. “Here they come! Mount up, fellas, we’re going to bring them back!” Off they go. They’re trapped. They have no way of escape. They have the sea in front of them, and they have the army behind them. If the promise that God has made concerning his people is to be fulfilled, something miraculous is going to have to happen, right? Either all the soldiers are going to have to fall off their horses or turn around and go away, or God is going to have to part the sea. And he parts the sea. And then he brings the sea back on the heads of the enemies. Do you still want to know who God is, Pharaoh?

Now, you see, this again—and I don’t want to keep bringing the fulfillment for you—but I want to give you one verse in Colossians chapter 2 in order to make this point as clear as I can. In Colossians chapter 2 Paul says in verse 9, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.… In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men,”[18] and so on. Verse 13: “When you were dead in your sins and in the [circumcision] of your sinful nature”—in other words, when you were pursued and when you were powerless—“God [intervened and] made you alive with Christ. He forgave [you your] sins … canceled the written code … he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”[19] Now, it’s hard not to read those verses without seeing the foreshadowing of this amazing intervention on the part of God: as the troops of Pharaoh pursue his people, they are powerless, they are trapped, they have no way of escape; God intervenes, triumphs over the enemy, makes a public spectacle of them, pointing forward to the spectacle that God makes in the triumph of his cross.

Now, again, I say to you that unless we stand back far enough from this, we will never get it. Because when you get, now, to the end of chapter 18, you discover that the story of the people of God doesn’t go immediately to the promised land. No, where do they go? Well, they go to Sinai, where God had appeared to Moses. Remember, God had said to Moses, “I’m going to liberate the people, and this will be a sign to you, when you gather on the mountain where I’m meeting with you now.”[20] That takes you to Exodus 19:4. Moses meets with God, God says, “Let me tell you what to say to the people”[21]—verse 3—“This is what you’ll say to them”—Exodus 19:4—“‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine’”—notice this, God is Lord over all the earth, he is sovereign over his creation, he is God of all by creation—“‘Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’[22] This,” he says, “is what you’re to say to the Israelites.” And this is partially fulfilled in Israel. But when you get to 1 Peter in chapter 2, and Peter is writing to the scattered believers from Cappadocia and Bithynia and so on, remember what he says to them: he says, “You are … a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God … who [has] called you out of darkness [and] into his [marvelous] light.”[23]

In the exodus, God is a God who delivers; in the giving of the law, he is a God who makes demands; and in the provision of the tabernacle, he is a God who draws near.

And the foreshadowing of that is right here in the word that God speaks to his people before he gives to them his law. Because let me finish here: the climax of Exodus is not here. The story of the exodus in Exodus only covers the first eighteen chapters. The rest of the book focuses on two things: the giving of the law and the establishing of the tabernacle. Now, for me as a boy, the word tabernacle could put me to sleep—just tabernacle… I don’t know, I never liked the word tabernacle, I’m not that keen on it even today. But it is an important word, and I’ll show you what it means this evening if you care to come. But it’s vitally important, because what we’re about to discover is this: that, in the exodus, God is a God who delivers; in the giving of the law, he is a God who makes demands; and in the provision of the tabernacle, he is a God who draws near. 

Now, of course, if you are a believer this morning, you know this. If you’re not, then it may be that you know it and you’ve never done anything with it, or that you don’t know it at all. And when you take your Bible and you open up and say, “What does this teach me about God?”—it teaches me that God delivers. In the same way that he delivered the people from the bondage of Egypt, so he delivers men and women from the bondage of our own corrupt hearts, and our propensity for evil, and our jealousy, and our spite, and our sinful thoughts, and so on. And if we’re in any doubt about whether we are sinners, then we need only to talk to our roommates, and particularly if the roommate happens to be our spouse. If there’s any doubt at all that we’re in need of deliverance, someone around us will be able to help us. And then when we ask, “What is God like?” we’ll discover that he’s a God who makes demands—that the covenant into which he brings us is a covenant that demands that we trust him and that we obey him. Because

We never can prove
The delights of his love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor he shows,
And the joy he bestows,
Are for them [that] will trust and obey.[24]

And when we ask, “Well, what is this God like?” we will discover that he is also a God who draws near. And that’s the significance of all this tabernacle stuff. It’s really quite exciting. And with God’s help, I’ll try and make it as exciting as I can for us this evening.

God’s people—are you one of them?—in God’s place, under God’s rule, and enjoying God’s blessing. It’s really the story of the Bible. I hope you can find your face in the crowd.

Lord God, we thank you that you are a God who delivers us. And some of us today have been trying on our own for a long time to reform our characters, to change our lifestyle, to do our part. And, either because of pride or unbelief, we have never come to an end of ourselves and said, “O God, unless you deliver me from this entrapment, then I’m going to be overwhelmed and lost forever.” And some of us just cry out from where we are, “O Lord God, deliver me from myself and from my sin because of what Jesus has done, because of the fact that he died in my place.”

Some of us are living very cavalier Christian lives. We’ve somehow or another been taught that we can do whatever we want, when we want, for as long as we want, and nothing really matters. And we need to be reminded that you are a God who makes demands, and that we should “love you with all of our hearts and soul and mind and strength, and that we should love our neighbor as ourselves.”[25] Help us, Lord, to this end, we pray.

And we thank you this morning that you are a God who draws near, that you’re not distant from us, but that you come and you take up residence within us by the Holy Spirit, as amazing and dramatic as this sounds, and the Bible becomes alive to us, and the songs of faith become joy to us, and the gathering of God’s people becomes significant to us, and the celebration of Communion becomes vital to us, and so on.

So then, we want to know, as we continue our study, who you are, God. We want to know what you’re like, and we want to know what you do. And we thank you that you deliver, and you demand, and that you draw near.

And so, may your grace and your mercy and your peace from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one, today and always. Amen.

[1] Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom (Exeter, UK: Paternoster, 1981), 47.

[2] Genesis 50:20 (NIV 1984).

[3] Exodus 1:10 (paraphrased).

[4] Exodus 2:23–25 (NIV 1984).

[5] Civilla D. Martin, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” (1905). Paraphrased.

[6] Exodus 3:11–12 (paraphrased).

[7] Exodus 3:12 (NIV 1984).

[8] Exodus 3:13 (NIV 1984).

[9] Exodus 3:14 (NIV 1984).

[10] Philippians 2:10–11 (NIV 1984).

[11] Alessandra Stanley, “Understanding the President and His God,” New York Times, April 29, 2004.

[12] John 1:29 (NIV 1984).

[13] John 3:26 (paraphrased).

[14] John 3:29 (paraphrased).

[15] 1 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV 1984).

[16] Exodus 12:24–27 (paraphrased).

[17] Exodus 14:5 (paraphrased).

[18] Colossians 2:9–11 (NIV 1984).

[19] Colossians 2:13–15 (NIV 1984).

[20] Exodus 3:12 (paraphrased).

[21] Exodus 19:3 (paraphrased).

[22] Exodus 19:4–6 (NIV 1984).

[23] 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV 1984).

[24] John H. Sammis, “Trust and Obey” (1887).

[25] Matthew 22:37, Luke 10:27 (paraphrased).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.