August 25, 2002 Exodus 6:2-8
God also said to Moses, "I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.
6 "Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’"
What kind of a reputation do you have? OR what kind of a reputation do you THINK you have? Does it matter to you? It seems that the attitude today seems to be a kind of in your face, “I don’t care what people think of me.” Most of our kids are being raised by Eminem and Allen Iverson - that you need to - “be your own person and don’t worry about what anyone thinks of you - especially parents and authority figures!” Is that really the attitude to have, “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me!” Consider what the Bible says -
1 Timothy 3: He (a pastor) must also have a good reputation with outsiders.
Proverbs 22:1 A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
If a good name - reputation - is better than great riches, and also a prerequisite for a pastor, then shouldn’t that be a desirable thing? Shouldn’t we be concerned with how people think of us?
What about our God? You would think that an Almighty God would not care two hoots about what people thought of him - or what his reputation was. Why? Because we can’t dethrone God or vote Him out of office. We can’t win any battles against him or change his mind. But in today’s text, He is telling the Israelites exactly who He is - and how He wants to be known as - the LORD. Why was this so important to Him? What does it mean? Today we’ll find that out as we consider how -
The LORD Has A Reputation to Uphold
I. It started as God Almighty
Reputations can be ruined overnight, but they can’t be built overnight. Like a building, it has to be put up brick by brick - one day at a time. Over the years, then, God had built quite a reputation for himself. He mentions that in his conversation with Moses. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty. The first time that we find this definition of God is found in Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” In the introduction of Himself as God Almighty, he promised Abraham a child - as the all powerful Creator of life. This same idea carried across in Genesis 28 when Isaac blessed Jacob and said, May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. (Cf. also Genesis 35:11) From these previous two usages of this Word, God revealed Himself as a God of protection and blessings of life.
Therefore, when God said, “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty” - he was referring mainly to His revelation of Himself as a protector and giver of life. This is evident throughout their lives. He revealed His power and mercy in giving Abraham a son at 100 years old! He doubled his blessing to Isaac as he had TWINS - Jacob and Esau. And to Jacob, of course he gave the blessing of multiple children. Throughout their lives God protected them in their journeys to Haran, Canaan, and Egypt. We especially saw the evidence of God’s protection as he protected Joseph in his journey down to Egypt and brought all of the Israelites to live in Goshen safely. He had always been there for the Israelites - most importantly keeping the line of the Savior alive and well. It took time and hard work, but up to this point He had built quite a reputation as being a powerful and yet a caring and life giving God - El Shaddai - God Almighty - just what He wanted.
God cared about how the Israelites thought of him. If you have an attitude that says, “who cares what people think of me?”, why do you have it? Is it a cop out to continue on in behavior that we know could be corrected? Is it right for you to have a reputation of being lazy at work - for good reason? Is it right if people think that you are cheap or spoiled? Have you earned the reputation of being a bad father? Or a luke warm Christian? We don’t want people to judge us, but we don’t make much of an effort for them not to either at times. The problem we have with reputations, is that they can be misconstrued, and often are. Consider for instance JESUS Himself. They called him a glutton and a drunkard. They called the APOSTLE Paul a bad speaker and not very impressive. These were reputations they had, but they were NOT earned.
Of course, there is the opposite extreme - where all people are concerned about are their reputation. Consider for instance Saul. He had just made an illegal offering - so Samuel told him that he would no longer be king and that he had fallen out of God’s graces. And how did he respond? 1 Samuel 15:30 Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God.” So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the LORD. What was his primary concern? His reputation! It’s these kinds of people that really drive people nuts. They would rather be “genuine” than be a hypocrite - so they take on the attitude that says, “who cares what people think of me, I’ll just be myself no matter how rotten it may be.”
What was Paul’s attitude as a Christian? He counseled young widows to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Yet he also said, I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. . . He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. Ultimately, it all came down to what his reputation was before God.
You see, you can work your whole life to be known as a good citizen, a good family member. Even if you somehow achieve this, and don’t give anyone an opportunity to slander you, it doesn’t matter in the end. Because God gets beyond all of the show and sees you for what you really are. If you come to church, put on your Sunday best and a smile, and all of us may think to ourselves, “hey, he’s a good Christian.” But if you go home, cuss your wife, look at porn, and get drunk - God knows it. It doesn’t matter if the world thinks you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. It only matters what God thinks of you. He knows if you’re really a patient person. He knows if you’re really loving and forgiving. He hears your thoughts and words. His wisdom goes beyond these four walls. He knows who you really are. The real question is - what is your reputation with God? Have you built up a reputation as being a forgiving person? Or a slanderer? Do you have the reputation as being kind? Angry? Or content?
II. It continued as the LORD
Most of us would be happy if we were known as dependable and strong people. Imagine if the world looked to you as a giver of life - a protector of the weak - a rock that others could turn to for help! What a great reputation that would be! But God Almighty wasn’t satisfied with that reputation. He wanted more. So he said to Moses, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.
God Almighty also wanted to be known as the LORD. What significance did this have? How was it different from what he already had been known as? Throughout his time as the LORD, he had sworn to His Israelites that he would bring them back to the Promised Land as OWNERS of the land - not as ALIENS. This was a covenant he had made with the Israelites - as He promised them that he free them from their slavery to the Egyptians. When God wanted them to know Him as “LORD”, He wanted them to know that is absolutely constant and absolutely independent of anyone or anything. He is not swayed by majority vote or hampered by a mob in his decisions and actions. When He makes a promise, in His everlasting power He is able to keep them. The Israelites would witness this FIRST HAND when they would see the ten plagues come crashing down on Egypt and the Red Sea split in two. They would see a part of God that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had only heard about - His promise of the Promised Land come true. The Israelites would know Him as the LORD.
Two weeks ago I was bidding on a program from Ebay - a Microsoft Office XP Professional version. I was excited when I finally won a bid for much cheaper than the other ones were going for. However, when I received it in the mail, it turned out to be a pirated home-made copy that someone had made. When I tried to email him for a rebate, he wouldn’t answer my e-mails. At this point, I was getting furious. When I checked into it, I found out that he had cheated other people as well. His advertisements and products were false, and he proved to be a liar and a thief.
When someone gives you their word - it means a lot to us. On TV their was a movie about a father who was always lying to people - including his son, about how he would spend time with him. But when his son’s wish came true that he had to speak the truth, he told himself that he was really a bad father. Why? Because regardless of how much fun he was to be around - he DIDN’T keep his promises.
God wanted the Israelites to know that He was the LORD - one who KEPT His promises. Nothing could sway his opinion. Nothing could stop his plans. His covenant with them would prove who He was - the LORD. He had a reputation to uphold.
It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? God has no reason to be concerned about what people think of Him. Regardless of what we do or say He is eternally secure and powerful. Nothing can change that. Yet He wants to have a good reputation on earth. And here we are, completely dependent on what GOD thinks of us - as to whether we live or burn eternally. And what is our attitude? We seem to show no concern for what God thinks of us. When we speak with our mouth, we don’t think, “what will God think of what he’s hearing?” When we work, instead of thinking, “what does God think of my performance,” we only concern ourselves with what our boss sees at most. We don’t realize that if we have the reputation before God as being slanderers, lazy, lustful, or angry people - we will not stand righteous before him on Judgment Day.
Why does God care what we think of him? It doesn’t make sense - until we understand what it means to be God - and why we can take comfort in who He is. He is the LORD. That means that His attitude toward us is not based on who we are, or what we do. It is totally independent of us. It is totally based on what he told Moses later on in Exodus 34 - “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” The LORD is compassionate and gracious because that is who He is. He likes promising things and giving things - because that’s just the way He is. There was no REASON that God laid out for WHY he would redeem them from their slavery to the Egyptians - except for the fact that He had a REPUTATION to uphold, as the LORD.
What does this mean to us? We haven’t always earned a great reputation for ourselves. You may never rid yourself of your reputation as being strange, or conceited, or uncaring, or whatever it may be. Maybe these are even earned, hard as you may try to change your reputation. When it comes down to it, when we stand before God - none of us has the ability to pull the wool over His eyes. But understand, my friends, that your reputation only enhances God’s reputation. The LORD has a reputation to uphold - as a God of MERCY and a God of GRACE who KEEPS HIS WORD. He wants to be known as a God who does something for no other cause than mercy. He enjoys making something out of nothing - purifying the most stained sinners in the world. We have his WORD on it, which says,
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 1 Timothy 1:15
Where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20
Paul said it so plainly, if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. No matter how bad our reputations may be - even if deserved - it will never change the reputation that God has - as a faithful LORD who keeps his Word.
THEREFORE - think about it - your salvation is not based on YOUR reputation - any more than the Israelites salvation had anything to do with their reputations. It only has to do with the fact that God is a merciful and forgiving LORD who sent His Son - to die for the world. This same LORD has promised us that, “whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved.” This LORD promises that through faith in Christ you are credited with Jesus’ righteousness. He has never gone back on His Word - and he will not go back on it now. The same LORD who saved the Israelites and brought them into the Promised Land, has saved you through the blood of Christ, and promises you your own Promised Land to live in in heaven.
When you make a bid on Ebay, everyone has what they call a “rating.” If their rating is “0", it means that they have no votes one way or the other. But if they have a 40 or a 100 or 200, it usually tells you that they are pretty trustworthy. When I bid on that office XP, the seller had a rating of “0" - neither good or bad. He had no history. So I was taking a chance. He advertised a good product, but even that wasn’t what it was promised to be. I got burned. But so will he if he doesn’t repent.
I lost 202.50 with my gamble. When it comes to your salvation - we aren’t talking about a week’s worth of pay. We’re talking about an eternity of heaven or hell. You can’t make a gamble here. You need to trust in someone who has a good reputation. You need to invest in a good product. What better person could you trust in that One with a rating off the charts - having never cheated anyone and always delivered a perfect product? What better product could we have than the blood of Jesus Christ - which purifies us from all sins and delivers us into heaven. That’s what we have in our LORD. He has a reputation as being faithful, loving, merciful and dependable. He has a reputation as being a Savior of sinners - a God of grace. He has a reputation of keeping His Word. He will uphold his reputation through all generations. He has to, because that’s who He is. Amen.