Summary: Sermon taking a comparison of Moses' desire to see God face to face and Jesus speaking of giving to God what belongs to God
18th Pentecost 11
Bearing the image of God.
I want to take a different route this morning and do a comparison of the Old Testament with the New. In Exodus 33: 12-33 Moses speaks to God about a desire to see Him face to face. Up to this point Moses had spoken only to burning bushes, clouds, pillars of fire and now he wants the closer relationship. I am sure that we can all relate to this desire to have a closer relationship.
But despite those conversations, Moses yearned for more. He wanted to behold God’s presence, literally to see him. Moses asks God if he can see his glory.
Moses is asking for certainty. God has freed them from Egypt and brought them into the wilderness where they will wander for a generation. God is feeding them manna and quails and giving them fresh water in the desert. He has promised them a homeland, but the truth is, they are homeless. Their roots are in Egypt, but they were only slaves there. Today’s needs are taken care of by the grace of God, but the truth is, they have no assurance other than God’s promise that tomorrow they will not starve or die of thirst. And they have a destination, but they know nothing about it. God has promised them a land flowing with milk and honey, but the truth is, it is utterly unknown to them.
So isn’t it natural that Moses wishes to be just a little more sure? On the one hand he has a demanding God. On the other hand he is leading a frightened and cantankerous people. So he is in essence saying to God, “Give me just a little more. I know we talk like we’re face to face, but let’s make it literally face to face, just one time, to make it a little easier for me to trust you and lead confidently.”
So because it is a natural inclination to want to see God, and because Moses needs a little more certainty, he asks God this, “Show me your glory, I pray(Ex. 33:18).”
So God offers Moses something, but not everything. “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, the Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live (Ex. 33:19,20).”
So God is going to let his goodness pass before Moses, and proclaim his name with his own voice, but prevent Moses from seeing the face of God. Instead God will let him see his back. The Bible says, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by, then I shall take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen (Ex. 33:21b-23).”
So God walks by, and with his own hand, covers the opening in the rocks where Moses stands peering upward. So he sees God’s palm. Then God, having passed by and facing away, lifts his hand and Moses glances up and sees God walking away, sees God himself, but only God’s back.
I wonder what that means? We know this for sure – it means God is with Moses. He is there. He listens and he responds.
We know for sure also that it means this – since Moses sees only God’s back, where is God? God is moving ahead of the people. Leading them. That’s something Moses needed to know. And it is something we need to know too. We need these two things in our arsenal for living. We need to know that God is there, listening and responding.
In the same way, God wants to know are we listening and following and bearing His image to the world. This is revealed in the conversation Jesus has in Matthew 22.
The story starts with the Jewish Church leaders looking for some way to get rid of Jesus.
They know that they don’t have any power to do anything to Him themselves, except flog Him and that might just have made Jesus even more popular. So they tried to find ways to get Him to say something against the Romans so they can take over and do something to keep Jesus quiet.
But there is a problem. A lot of the ordinary folks regarded Jesus as a prophet and just giving Him to the Romans could make things very difficult for themselves. So they come up with a plan that, if it works, and they see no reason why it won’t, whatever Jesus does will upset one side or the other.