Big Idea: Because of God’s glory the cursed sinner receives grace and restoration.
Our eldest son, Seamus got engaged last Sunday. Jo and I are very excited – much joy.
The engagement ring is a family heirloom. It belonged to my grandmother who passed it on to my mum and then it made its way to Seamus.
Initially, the value of the ring was just sentimental. A gift from my Grandpa Tom to my Grandma a long time ago. Grandma and Grandpa were very precious to us, so this ring is a significant bit of family history.
But in the process of having it resized, we discovered that it was actually valuable in monetary terms.
The sapphire is a real Ceylon sapphire. It has an unusually light colouring, which makes it highly sought after and quite valuable. The band is old gold – the jeweller tells us they don’t make them like that any more. It’s highly prized.
Here is an expensive piece of jewellery; normally well out of our price range. With a precious emotional connection.
It is, to our family something irreplaceable, something exceedingly significant, something weighty, dare I say something glorious.
In our passage today we get a glimpse of God’s glory. Far greater than any engagement ring.
But the question I want to answer from our passage is …
How does seeing God’s glory help us to delight in Him, to enjoy Him?
I want a greater sense of the joy of belonging to God. How do I promote that joy? I want to delight in him more. How does that delight mature?
It comes from understanding His glory.
Our chief end, the reason we were made is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. I want that for me and I want that for you.
Even more importantly, God wants that for us. That’s why we have this passage.
Let’s take a look at Exodus as we get …
It is set against the backdrop of the people’s sin.
The Exodus 32 we have the record of the people of Israel worshipping the golden calf, an idol. They have sinned grievously. They deserve the full weight of God’s anger to crash down on them. A crime against divinity.
They have broken the covenant and so God’s righteous anger has broken out against them.
They are in the place of judgment. Make no mistake … It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. You cannot take sin lightly. All sin is grievous because it leads to death.
I helped an electrician get some wiring in under our house the other day. Felt good. But I wasn’t allowed anywhere near the back of the meter box. That will kill you – I’ll go in there for you.
In our passage, Exodus 33 Moses approaches God on the people’s behalf. Their sin is killing them, they need someone to step in.
Now Moses knows that the people are getting exactly what they deserve. God’s righteous anger because of their sin.
So he doesn’t come with a list of excuses. He does not come with a list of good qualities trying to persuade God they are worth saving. His hope is not that their good deeds might outweigh their sin. Don’t ever rely on that strategy, it’ll never work.
Moses’ hope rests only in God. Read 33:18 Please show me your glory.
Moses is placing his hope in the weighty character of God, in the glory of God. Please show me your glory. And God does.
In Exodus 34:6-7a Moses gets a glimpse of God’s glory. While he is in the cleft of a rock, with his face to the wall …
6 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, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty … “
What strikes me as I think about this statement of glory is how un-glorious it could seem. God declares his glory not in terms of how great He is, but in how weak and hopeless we are.
Muhammad Ali was a legendary boxer. The only thing quicker than his fists was his mouth.
Muhammad, Muhammad Ali, Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.
His catch cry was, “I am the greatest!”
Here are two quotes as he declares his glory… It’s hard to be humble when you are as great as I am. My only fault is that I don’t realise how great I am.
When the God of all glory, the creator and sustainer of all, declares his glory it’s in terms of how he accommodates sinful people like you and I.
He is merciful and gracious v6 He exhibits undeserved kindness. He understands our weaknesses. He overlooks our thanklessness. Remembers us even as we live distracted lives forgetting to consider, honour and thank him. He does not cancel us. He exercises undeserved favour.
Slow to anger v6 If you are a parent of small kids you might particularly appreciate this quality. Not immediately frustrated with our failings. He delights in repentance not punishment. The time of accounting will come when he will act decisively against rebellion and sin. He is slow, not stalled. But there is time, an opportunity to repent.
He is abounding in steadfast love v6 The boundaries of his love go beyond our capacity to understand or perceive. My favourite steaks are the ones that are bigger than the plate they come on. God’s love is better, big, more abounding. How high and wide and deep and long we cannot determine. Beyond our capacity to imagine. He exercises this love toward sinners like you and me.
and he is a God of faithfulness v7 He can be trusted. He is committed to those whom he has committed himself to. He is committed to his promises even when his people are not.
A God prepared to forgive. v7 And he is a God of justice v7. He will put all things right.
God’s glory is revealed in his care for sinners. His mercy, grace, steadfast love and faithfulness, patience and justice. That is a glory we can delight in and savour. This is the reason for our confidence to approach him. To seek forgiveness, enjoy a relationship with Him.
When a jeweller shows you an engagement ring they will place it on a piece of black velvet. The dark background better enhances the light as it reflects off the precious stones and metal.
Notice how God’s glory is set against the backdrop of sin. Doesn’t it shine all the more? Doesn’t that enhance our view of his glory? We don’t deserve such favour, patience, forgiveness and yet the glory of God is his care for the sinner.
When I am most aware of my sinfulness the temptation is to hide from God, not to talk with him. But God’s glory means that I can call on him, he does listen and he will forgive.
No matter how far away you think you are God will hear. No matter how rotten you think you are God’s grace is more.
The only correct response is to join Moses, face to the floor in worship. Read v8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshipped.
He worships God; declares his praise, offers thanks, repents of sin and commits to serving Him wholeheartedly. Delights that he is a God who offers the sinner grace and relationship.
When Moses comes down the mountain to the people …
Read v30-33 [They see] … Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and [eventually]… all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.
Moses has come into the glory of God and he then reflects that glory down among the people of God.
God’s glory is reflected in his shiny face. So shiny that the people are afraid and he needs to put a veil on.
But as shiny as Moses’ face is he is a shadow of a far greater weight of glory yet to be revealed.
God’s intent was always to reveal more of his glory and not just to one man but to the world.
And so in Jesus, we have …
At the beginning of his gospel, John tells us that Jesus fully reveals God’s glory.
And the Word became flesh [God the Son became a man; God with meat, the incarnation, in the flesh] and dwelt among us [literally tabernacled among us, picking up the promise of Exodus that God would dwell among his people. If we were alive 2000 years ago we could have seen and touched and heard him; but now we rely on John’s testimony], and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. … 16 For from his fullness [not a glimpse but God’s glory on high beam] we have all received, grace upon grace [in Jesus an even great weight of grace has been revealed]. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he [Jesus] has made him known.
John says that God’s glory is fully revealed through his Son the Lord Jesus who stepped down into the world of sinners. God’s glory in all its fullness is seen fully in the context of Him saving sinners.
My mum stepping into brackish, stagnant, stinking water to rescue one of my little brothers. One of my other brothers and I were just standing there watching – not wanting to go anywhere near that mess. But mum stepped into the mess to pull him out, that’s love. I’m pretty certain that if was up to my other brother and I he would still be in there.
The true glory of God is seen in Him stepping into our mess to rescue helpless sinners.
The law given through Moses just alerted people to their need – hey, you’re in the sewer. But it could do nothing to save them. Like a couple of useless big brothers.
But grace and truth came through Jesus. God’s unmerited favour and the one solution to our sin arrived in the person of Jesus, God’s glory on full display.
Through His death on the cross he paid the debt of our sin and satisfied the demands of divine justice. God completely dealt with all our sin through the cross.
Remember God’s words to Moses – willing to forgive but not turning a blind eye to the guilty.
In that one glorious sacrifice, on the cross, Jesus earned forgiveness and dealt with the guilt for all who would trust in him.
Jesus fulfilled God’s plan revealed in part to Moses. The sins of ancient Israel beforehand and the sins of you and me afterwards were paid in full on the cross.
God’s glory is seen in all its splendour through sending his Son Jesus so that the Father’s determination to forgive and his commitment to justice are fulfilled.
It changes our status before God. Declared right with him.
And this is regardless of how you might feel from time to time. If you trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins you are forgiven and declared completely right before God.
Sometimes we will feel unmoved, cold to God, unable to muster thanksgiving or devotion, or even the desire to do that. But in Jesus, even as we fail our position before God is not changed. When you do feel this way pray, and keep praying. And preach the gospel to yourself, reminding yourself of who you are in Christ.
And remember that faith in Jesus is simply receiving his promise with empty hands.
Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to you for dress; helpless, look to you for grace; filthy, to the fountain I fly; wash me, Saviour, or I die.
In Christ alone, my hope is found.
Moses came to God empty-handed, Please show me your glory. We come to Him empty-handed relying only on the glory of God revealed in Christ our Saviour.
As shiny as Moses’ face was it was a shadow of the glory revealed in Jesus, forgiveness given, guilt removed, God by His Spirit living in us.
When Seamus first gave Nayara the engagement ring she was delighted by what it represented, a committed lifelong relationship with the one she loves. When she heard the story behind the ring, learning of its “glory” makes this engagement ring an even more precious symbol of their relationship.
Understanding the nature of God’s glory enhances the truth of our salvation in the Lord Jesus. Confidence that our right standing comes not through us but Jesus. Confidence that all our sin is dealt with at the cross. Produces thankfulness. Directs our praise. Shapes our life.
I try hard to honour God, to take up my cross and follow Jesus, and to promote the Holy Spirit’s fruit and work in my life. I work at disciplining my body, to run in a way to finish the race.
Because God has revealed His glory in terms of His saving action for me, it would only be right that my heart’s desire would be to live for him. On my better days that’s my prayer and my goal.
But always my confidence comes through God’s glory revealed in Christ.