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February 15 2015

God’s Desire, Part 1

 

In Gaotan, China, in 1942, Liu Guojiang came upon a woman and one of her daughters who had tumbled into a river while washing clothes. Liu rescued them—and promptly fell in love with the woman, Xu Chaoqing. She considered Liu a hero, but some community members didn’t approve of the couple’s ten-year age difference. So Xu and Liu eloped, and they and Xu’s four children retreated to an abandoned straw hut in the mountains of Chongqing. Worried that his wife would get injured on the small, steep trail between the hut and the town below, Liu spent 57 years—and broke 36 steel chisels—carving 6,000 steps by hand into the mountainside to ensure that his wife could ascend and descend without trouble. Liu maintained the stone staircase until his death, in 2007, at the age of 72. Xu passed away on October 30, 2012. The two are buried on the same mountain where they’d built their lives together.

 

That is an expression of love. When you love someone you seek to satisfy their needs or their desires. This story illustrates a man meeting the need of the woman he loved. 

 

God does not have any needs. He is self-sufficient. God does have desires. His desires and His purposes are the same, for what He desires he seeks to bring about. What are God’s desires? What are His purposes? An important passage of Scripture reveals what these are. It is Exodus 5:22 – 6:8. READ. PRAY.

 

This passage records a conversation between God and Moses. Moses had asked Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt and he was refused. There is a curious thing about this passage. There are two introductions to God’s speech. In verse 1 we read, “Then the LORD said to Moses…” Then, in verse 2, we read: “God spoke to Moses and said to him…”

 

This is because Moses asks two questions. See those questions in verse 22 of chapter five: “Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord, why have you done evil to this people?” That is the first question. He also asks: “Why did you ever send me?”

 

Not only had Moses’ request been refused but Pharaoh was rather defiant. He replied to Moses: “I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.” Not only defiant, but mean. The production quota of making bricks was left the same but the Israelites had to gather their own straw for the bricks whereas before the straw was provided for them. As a result, they could not keep up and so their foremen are beaten. 

 

Have you ever felt beaten? Have you felt as if you are unable to keep up with all the demands upon you? Then you have something to gather from this conversation and it is not straw!

 

They ask for relief but Pharaoh grants none. Then the Israelites turn on Moses. They blame him. So often, when God’s people are unhappy they take it out on God’s spokespersons thinking that it is their own ideas that they promulgate when, if they are faithful, they are only speaking what God has them say. So it was with Moses.

 

Moses is frustrated. He is doing and saying what he is supposed to do but no one is happy.  He takes his frustration to God.

 

The questions are of an accusatory nature. “Why have you done evil to this people?” Some translations have: “Why have you mistreated this people?” Moses is blaming God! The second question, “Why did you ever send me?” is hardly asking for information. God already told him. At the burning bush the Lord said that he was to bring his people into freedom. 

 

Moses is doubting God! He is uncertain whether God is going to do what He said he was going to do. In modern parlance his question might be framed, “God, what are you up to?”

 

Then, in verse 23, he complains: “For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.” 

 

Have you wondered where God is at times? Have you complained to God? You are not alone! Moses did. In fact, many servants of God did as recorded in Holy Writ. There is no question it is better to fully trust God, but great men of God have experienced the doubts that Moses had. 

 

But Moses did not just give up. He didn’t pick up his toys and go home. That’s how some Christians react when things do not go as they wish or as they pray. Moses did not give up. He turned to the only One who could answer, the only One who could help: God!

 

Instead of rebuking him, the Lord answers him and reassures him with a promise. The first words of God are an answer to Moses’ second question. The Lord answers the second question first. “Now you will see what I shall do to Pharaoh, for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.” God is saying, “Not only is this why I sent you but it’s going to happen by my power, by my strong hand.”

 

God’s answer to Moses first question is longer and reveals some marvelous things about our great God. It begins in verse 2 and his answer is in two parts. First he identifies Himself then he tells his desire, his design, his purpose.

 

[I] God’s self-identification. God’s reply to Moses begins with a simple but highly significant assertion: “I am the LORD.” In most English translations the force of the statement is not readily apparent because God is actually telling Moses his name but it is simply translated as “the LORD.” The Hebrew consonants are the English equivalents of YHWH. It is agreed by just about all scholars now that the correct pronunciation is “Yahweh.” The reason why most English Bibles still translate it as LORD is two-fold. First our knowledge of Hebrew has steadily grown over the last 200 years. There was a time when there was ambiguity about certain facets of the language. With further study, research, and archeological finds a solid understanding of the language has emerged. Hence, whereas at one time there was uncertainty about how the Name should be constructed, now there is not. Second, the Jews were what some might call superstitious, thinking that the name of God was too sacred to pronounce. So they wrote vowel marks above the name to remind the reader not to pronounce the name but to use a title for God instead, “Adonai”, the Hebrew word for Lord. Even though we are fairly confident of the correct pronunciation, most English Bibles have kept up the tradition and simply translate it LORD.

 

But “LORD” can help one miss the significance. (Read from a version that restores the name) One thing is known for certain. The name is derived from the Hebrew verb hayah, “to be.” Everyone agrees with this. What is less certain is what the name means in the way it is constructed. What does the name actually mean? It used to be popular to think that when there appears to be an explanation of God’s name, in Exodus 3:14, that it is ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ That is certainly a possible meaning of God’s statement to Moses there. It is equally possible that it means “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.” He could be saying and probably IS saying that he will be to His people what they need Him to be! 

 

In context, both back in Exodus 3 and here, what the Lord is communicating is that he will save His people. He will deliver them. Therefore, the name of God tells us of His divine presence to save! It told the Israelites and it tells us that He is a Savior, a Deliverer, to those that call upon Him. Let us see this more clearly in the second part of the Lord’s answer to Moses.

 

[II] Yahweh’s Desire. God’s desire is for His people. In this short answer he reveals to Moses four desires which are his purposes. 

 

[A] In verse 6 we read: Say therefore to the people of Israel, “I am yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.” 

 

He reveals his name yet again and links it to his desire to deliver his people: “I will bring you out…” “I will deliver you…” “I will redeem you…” His first desire and his first purpose is to deliver.

 

[B] Secondly, his purpose is to form a godly community. Verse 7 begins, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God…” God’s purpose is that the people now to be formed are to be distinctly his people. He does not save them and then let them be. They belong to him. But, also, He belongs to them! “I will be your God.” This is reflective of how God works out his purposes in us today. He does not save someone and then allows that person to go through life on their own – making their own decisions, deciding to live like the Egyptians, that is, like the world from which they came. No, when God truly calls a person they become His possession and they become a peculiar person – a person that flees from the ways of the world and from sin, a person that lives for our wonderful, loving, and gracious God. No true child of God continues to willfully live in sin. A sign of a false conversion or what someone thought was an expression of true faith is deliberately choosing to live in sin. Many times God will deliver a person, or a people, out of some predicament or even heal them of some malady and some may misconstrue that as being born again. Physical salvation and spiritual salvation are two different things. When a person calls upon God in sincerity for their eternal salvation that calling is always accompanied by a forsaking of all sin. It is throwing down the tools of our rebellion and joyfully making the Christ our Lord in reality, not in empty words.

 

So it was with Moses and Israel. God saved them physically from the bondage in Egypt, but his intention and purpose, his desire, was a godly community. 

 

[C] Thirdly, his desire is for a living relationship with his people. Verse 7 continues: “…and you shall know that I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” They are to know, that is, experience him as Yahweh their God. God invites his people into the adventure of knowing him! This is not only seen here in these few short words, but this desire can be seen throughout the Old Testament and even moreso in the New testament. Consider David’s words: 

 

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, 

and your righteousness to the upright of heart!     

 

When David writes about knowing God he means not something so base as believing he exists. Just about everyone believes that. He means knowing him intimately. He means those who have a living relationship with him.

 

Jesus says it most clearly: And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 

 

Eternal life is having a relationship with the Living God and with His Son, Jesus. This, too, is God’s desire.

 

Oh! This is God’s goal! This is his desire! To have an intimate relationship with His people! 

 

  • Are you intimate with Yahweh? Or, is He distant to you? 
  • Do you speak with Him often? Or, do you only pray when you need something? Kind of like a son who only calls his mother from college when he needs money? 
  • Are you playing the role of a Christian because some things are expected of you? Or, are you thinking of the Lord hour by hour as young lovers do in their absence from one another?

 

God’s desire is for a living and intimate relationship with you!

 

[D] Finally, Yahweh’s intention for his people is that they enjoy the good life. Verse 8: “    I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 

I will give it to you for a possession. I am Yahweh.”

 

Why is Yahweh bringing them to the land and then giving it to them? One reason is because the inhabitants of that land defiled it with their sinful living and God had had enough. But another reason, and an important one is that it is because it was the best land in that part of the world. In 3:17 it is described as a land flowing with milk and honey. This is a way of saying that it is a land in which life is pleasant and in which living is marked by abundance. “Milk and honey” means the abundant life.

 

God desires that his people live the abundant life. But this comes fourth. 

 

  • First comes salvation. 
  • Then comes a community where God’s people live in holiness and harmony. In the Old Covenant this was Israel. In the New Covenant this community is the church. 
  • Then comes relationship: knowing God. 
  • When these desires of God are realized then the abundant life is also realized.
  • For Israel the abundant life was primarily physical though not solely so. The physical blessings overflowed into the spiritual lives of the people. 
  • Under the New Covenant, our age, the abundant life is primarily spiritual though not solely so. The spiritual blessings overflow into every area of life.

 

Are you living the abundant life? If you are not, it goes back to God’s desires. If your desires are not His desires then this will explain why the milk and honey are not flowing.

 

How? How may I get God’s desires to be my desires, preacher? Remember Liu? Liu loved Xu. Because he loved her it was a joy for him to carve those steps. There is nothing like love to motivate and direct us into the right actions, the right life. When we love the Lord, his desires become our desires.

 

And love is something we can choose to do.

 

Choose this day to love the Lord your God with more of your heart, with more of your mind, with more of your strength.