The Real God
Every person can grow in their understanding of God by noticing the characteristics of God demonstrated in this passage.
A golfer who had been playing badly went to a psychiatrist who told him to relax by playing a round of golf without a ball. "Do everything you would normally do, but use an imaginary ball," advised the psychiatrist." The golfer tried it the next day. He stepped up on the first tee, imagined he got a 260-yard drive, made a fine approach shot to the green, then putted for a par.
The round went splendidly and as he approached the 18th hole, he met another golfer playing the same way--no ball. The other golfer had seen the same psychiatrist. They decided to play the last hole together and bet $10 on the outcome. The first golfer swung at his imaginary ball and announced that it had gone 280 yards right down the middle of the fairway. The second golfer matched his drive. The first fellow then took out his 5-iron and after swinging at his imaginary ball, he exclaimed, "Look at that shot! It went right over the pin and the reverse spin on it brought it right back into the hole! I win." "No you don't," said the second golfer. "You hit my ball."
Bits and Pieces, February, 1990, p. 16.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our fantasy world that we lose sight of reality. I want to look at some of the characteristics of God in this passage that make it clearer who he is.
Characteristic I. God is powerful
A. My uncle had a machine shop in the basement of an auto parts store. He called my dad one night when it had been raining all day and now was getting to night time and the water was stacking up against the doors. He had parked his fork lift against the door, but he could not get the water the keep from coming in his shop. My dad was a firefighter and had access to fire trucks with pumping equipment. Eventually, the garage door with the forklift parked against it all gave way and pushed the forklift out of the way and flooded the shop in about three feet of water. The water was a powerful force.
B. Maybe we can all think of things that remind us of God’s power. Some people look at the sky and are amazed at our God who created all of that. Other look at the human body and are in awe of what God has been able to do. I have to imagine that the Hebrew people were amazed at what God had been doing and what he was going to do in this passage. Over the previous period of time God had caused 9 plagues to infect the people of Egypt. These were powerful events that had decimated the land of Egypt. Now God is saying that he is going to bring one more plague on Egypt which will cause Pharaoh to drive the Hebrew people from the land.
C. This plague was going to bring death to every household in Egypt unless they heeded the precaution that Moses had given them. God was going to kill all of the firstborn sons throughout the land of Egypt. The only way to avoid this tragedy was by killing a lamb and painting its blood on the doorframes of the houses. Imagine the impact this would have if it happened just in the city of Lansing. This would be huge. Each of the plagues Moses had predicted would happen. The majority of them he warned Pharaoh that they were coming. This was not some grand coincidence. This was God at work, fulfilling the things he had told Moses would happen.
D. The things that happened were not just a coincidence. This plague that struck the land of Egypt was not just a coincidence either. These were events that God had caused to happen.
E. It can be hard for us to believe that this is the same god that we have today. We have not seen plagues and people crossing the red sea on dry ground. We don’t have the physical evidence that these people had. What we do have is historical evidence. We can look at our Bible and know that God did these things. In Hebrews we are taught that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the same God. We might live in a different time, but God remains the same. Just because he has not done these mighty things in your presences does not mean that he has changed. We need to remember that our God is still an awesome God.
Characteristic II. God wants obedience
A. Last week we were camping. As most campers we would often have a camp fire going. The trouble we faced was the little ones did not understand that they needed to stay clear of the fire. It was dangerous. Benjamin is three years old and I would tell him stay away from the fire because it is dangerous. He would steer clear of that problem, but a little later he would walk near the fire again. I would remind him, you need to stay away from the fire. He would listen and move his little body away from the fire. It would seem like no time at all and he would be moving close to the fire again. This was frustrating, because I want my children to get it the first time. Sometimes it takes several times for them to catch on.
B. The Hebrews have now been in Egypt for about 500 years. During this time they were forced into slavery. They asked God to deliver them and Moses was sent. But, things got worse before they got better. Their labor was made harder. Then God brought the plagues. This final plague is on the firstborn of Egypt. In order for the Hebrews to be protected from this plague God gives a list of things he wants done. He wants them to kill a lamb and use its blood to paint the door frames of their houses. They are to eat the lamb and it is in a specific fashion that they are to eat. Basically they were to eat it in a hurry and be ready to leave when Pharaoh gives the command that they can leave. They were getting ready for their departure.
C. I see what God was doing very similar to me watching my son near the fire. I was protecting my son from getting burned. God was protecting his people from getting injured when he brought his wrath down on the Egyptian people. We can see this in many of God’s laws. He is protecting people. In the commandments it says you shall have no other God’s before me. The reason God would say this is because there is only one real God. All the others will lead you to destruction. When he said don’t steal, he was protecting you and the people you would be stealing from. Neither one of you is hurt if you obey God’s command.
D. It is important for us to realize that God has given us rules. They are not in place to hinder us or to prevent us from having a full life. To the contrary God has given us his laws in order for us to thrive. He wants us to do well. He gave us Jesus Christ so we could have salvation and we can spend eternity in his presence. God wants obedience in our life, not for the sake of oppression, but for the sake of prosperity.
Characteristic III. God listens and responds.
A. The story is told of Franklin Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, "I murdered my grandmother this morning." The guests responded with phrases like, "Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir." It was not till the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Nonplussed, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, "I'm sure she had it coming."
B. I would guess that we have all had the experience of talking with someone and not really feeling like they were listening to you. When they do respond it feels even more like they were not listening. I can imagine that the Hebrew people held this opinion. They felt like God was not listening. Then when God did listen to them things seemed to get worse rather than better. God is making steps toward giving them what they want. He sees their slavery and he is concerned about what is happening. He sends Moses to be a deliverer. He brings plagues on the Egyptian people. These are all steps that are bringing the people closer to their dream and their desire for freedom.
C. I would guess that there were many times when the Hebrew people were thinking that God was not listening to them, or that he was not concerned about what was happening to them. It seems that there was a sense of anticipation that was building around what was happening among the Hebrew people. Moses was giving them their instructions of what needs to be done before they leave. I think that any sense of disappointment was gone because they had experienced the other plagues that God had done. This was now the real thing. God was really going to deliver them. This meant that all of those years of crying out to God had paid off. God had heard the prayers of his people and he was about to give his response. This was something amazing that God was going to do.
D. I believe I have heard the story of D. L. Moody. He had one hundred non-Christian people he that he was praying for their salvation. At the time of his death all but six had become Christians. I have heard that those six became Christians at his funeral. This was not something where Moody prayed one day and then God answered the next. Some of these people he had prayed for many years. Perhaps there were times when he was a little discouraged and wondered if God would really answer his prayer and bring those people to Christ. God answered. They all came to Christ. He heard their prayer and he responded.
E. Typically we want God to answer our prayers in our way and in our time. We don’t want to have to wait for years for the answer to come. We don’t want to experience heart ache and greif during that time. God’s answer is always right and it is always right on time. God hears our prayers and he responds to our prayers even when it does not feal like it.
When I talked earlier about my son going near the camp fire, I knew that he did not realize what danger he was in. I knew because I have been burned before and I did not want that to happen to my son. I am sure that many of God’s dealing with us are the same. He sees dangerous situations and he warns us. He does not use his power automatically, but he preserves it for the right time. His rules are for our protection as well. God can see things we can’t see, and consequently there are times when we feel God is not responding to our prayers. God responds with what he knows is best. He will take care of us in his wisdom and power.