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Sermon: Exodus 33:12-23
Pentecost 7 – July 19, 2020 – Rev. Steven J. Radunzel

As you well know in the days following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis there were a lot of demonstrations against the police in many cities. There were even some protests here in Waukegan as people marched down Grand Ave. and Lewis Ave. one night making a lot of noise. The large windows of many stores were eventually boarded up either for protection or because some demonstrators had become violent and destructive.

The day after these demonstrations the word began to get around that demonstrators were threatening to be violent and do damage to homes in the neighborhoods near those major streets where the earlier demonstrations had been. I don’t know how true those threats were, but at the time there was a reason to be somewhat concerned. I remember going to bed that second night a bit scared. And I thought to myself this was the first time in my adult life that I’ve gone to bed a little bit concerned what might happen during the night.

As we’ve talked with one another and other acquaintances during these times of COVID and social unrest in our nation we often end the conversation by saying, “Well, God is in control. He knows what he’s doing. God is with us.” And those statements are really true. And how thankful we can be that God is in control and is with us. What really would be dangerous and frightening is if God were not with us, if we were just at the mercy of violence and an uncertain future.

Our text today also impresses on us the truth that

IT’S A GOOD THING THAT GOD IS WITH US

This text is a conversation between Moses and the LORD. It took place shortly after the golden calf incident when the people of Israel made a calf out of gold as an object of worship. They were concerned that Moses had abandoned them and was dead. Just days earlier God had explicitly commanded the people that they were not to worship any god other than the LORD and they were not to represent God with any images of any kind made out of wood or metal.

But to our great amazement they did. The LORD’s anger at the people was so intense that he threatened to destroy them all. Thankfully Moses interceded and prayed for God’s mercy. He relented and didn’t destroy the people, but he did say he would no longer go with the people to the Promised Land. He would send an angel with them, but he himself would not be with them.

So just imagine if God were not with us. Just imagine if God’s protecting care were not with us through the night or during a time of illness or some danger or uncertainty. And God wouldn’t have to be with us. He’s not obligated to be. He could abandon us just like he threatened to abandon and destroy the idolatrous people of Israel. He could abandon us just like he abandoned his Son Jesus when he was on the cross. Remember how Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Our sin separates us from God and could separate us from him forever in hell.

Moses was terrified by the idea that the LORD would not be with him and the people of Israel as they continued on to the Promised Land. So he continued his effort to intercede for the people. Moses said to the LORD, “Remember that this nation is your people.” Your people. There was a lot of meaning and implication in those words, “Remember that this nation is your people.”

Putting it very plainly there was a lot of leverage in those words, and Moses knew it. Moses knew that these words could convince God to be merciful. In fact, God had chosen these people to be his own people. He had promised long before that they would be his people and grow into a great nation in the Promised Land. They would be specially blessed by God, and from them would come a very special Descendant, a Messiah, a Savior for all the people of the world.

Moses was really saying to the LORD, “Remember your promise. You can’t go back on that promise. You have to go with me and the people. You have to be with us. If you don’t go with us it will be a disaster.” Moses even went so far as to say, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” “If you, God, are not with us, there’s no point to anything.”

If God is not with us there is no point to anything. Imagine during this uncertainty of the coronavirus, during these social and political uncertain times in our nation, during any time of trouble, imagine what it would be like if God were not with us, if we had no care or help from him, nothing. There would be no meaning to anything. There would be no certainty. There would be no eternity other than a hellish one. If God is not with us there is no point to anything.

But God is with us. As bad as this coronavirus gets we can always be sure that God is with us, God is stronger than this virus, that God has a reason for our nation and world enduring this. We may not know exactly what his purposes are, but we do know that God does have his purposes, he’s in control, and all will work out for our good and the good of all his people. As bad as anything gets in life, God is with us, and all will work out for ur good and the good of all his people.

The LORD reassured Moses, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” God has really made that promise to us all. In our psalm today we read the words, “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.”

But how do we know that? How do we know that for sure? How do we know that even in the worst of times God is with us and will care for us? Well, we know because God has told us in his word that he’s with us. In Psalm 139 King David says to the LORD, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right had will hold me fast.” We here at Immanuel should especially know that God is with us. That name Immanuel is a Hebrew word that means God is with us.

Remember how God promised that a Messiah, a Savior for all people would come from his people Israel? In Isaiah 7 the LORD prophesies his coming. He calls him Immanuel. He would be born as a little child to a virgin. He would be God himself who came to be with us, to be one of us.

That child of course is Jesus. Jesus is our Savior and the Savior of the whole world. Jesus is the proof that God has made an eternal promise to be with us.

And there’s great irony in the fact that God is merciful and always with us because God abandoned Jesus on the cross. There God forsook Jesus his own Son. He laid all of our sin on him and charged him with our guilt. There Jesus atoned for our sin. And when he rose again from the dead it was the proof that our sins were forgiven and that eternal life was God’s free gift to us. Jesus’ resurrection is the proof that God is and always will be with us in this life and in the life to come. In his letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul writes, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave hm up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
Moses must have thought he was on a bit of a roll here with God. Most of us would have been enormously relieved that God had relented and promised to go with the people of Israel to the Promised Land. We would have said a great big thank you and ended the conversation aware of how blessed we were. But not Moses. He wasn’t done yet. He had another request, and it was a big one. “Now show me your glory.”

Do you understand what Moses was asking God? He was asking God to appear to him in all his blazing glory. No one had ever seen that complete and total glory of God. When God did appear to Moses or to others he appeared as a human being or as the Angel of the LORD or in an unusual appearance that we call the Glory of the LORD, but never in full glory.

Did Moses want more proof of God’s promise? Was he just curious to see God and saw this as a perfect opportunity? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that God graciously did what Moses asked. He said to Moses, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. . . . But you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” God would show Moses his glory as God, but only a portion of it. God was really protecting Moses. If he, or if any of us sinners, ever saw the full and complete glory of God we would die, we would be consumed.

So the LORD said to Moses, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

Do you want to see the glory of God? Do you want more proof of God’s promise to be with us? Are you curious to see God and know him? If you do want to see God, if you want to know him and see his glory, then look at Jesus. See Jesus. Jesus is God who has wrapped all the glory of God in his human body, in his human nature. Jesus is the proof that God hid you and me in the cleft of the rock and allowed us to see his glory just like Moses.

Jesus is Immanuel. He is the proof that God is with us. He is the proof that God loves us. He is the proof that our sins are all forgiven. He is the proof that all things in this life work together for our good. Jesus is the proof that we will see the eternal and full glory of God in heaven.

It really is a good thing that God is with us. Amen.