Community Baptist Church of Gay Head (Aquinnah)
October 18, 2020
Sermon: “Jesus Walks”
Exodus 33:12-23: Moses said to the Lord, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.” The Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”
Isaiah 45:17: Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him– and the gates shall not be closed: I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me.
Have you ever had a time in your life when you prayed, “Lord, walk with me. I can’t do this alone”?
You may have felt afraid about something. I felt that way when I moved to New York City as a young man, a little guy in a big city. I was terrified. I felt I lacked the knowledge and skills to navigate this new, exciting, but dangerous territory. I needed God’s help to find my way. And I found it, He put me on it.
Another time, I was afraid when my wife’s labor with our first daughter had complications. I was terrified. I knew I lacked any power over the situation. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only thing I could do was stay calm and trust God completely, because everything was in His hands. And He delivered our beautiful and healthy daughter.
You may have many stories like this in your life. The richest lives are filled with these kinds of stories, which pass from fear and trepidation to peace and calm with God’s help. But the story always begins with the prayer, “Lord, walk with me.” There’s no story if you turn away for fear: you have to choose to take heart, stand up, and walk in faith, straight through the fear.
“In my trials, Lord walk with me; when my heart is almost breaking, Lord I want Jesus to walk with me.”
In our passage from Exodus, Moses is pleading with God to walk with him and his people to the Promised Land, because God had said He decided He wasn’t going to walk with them anymore. God was angry with them. That’s because while Moses was up in the mountain meeting with God, the people of Israel built a golden calf, a false god to worship instead of the true God. God said, “Nevermind — I’m gonna put the kibosh on this whole thing.”
But Moses pleaded for Israel, and God relented, saying, “Ok — I’ll get you to the Promised Land, but don’t expect Me to come with you. Y’all are so rotten, My very presence would consume you.”
But Moses won’t take no for an answer. He humbles himself and says, “God, You said I found favor in your sight. You’re the one who told me to lead these people, so really they’re Your people. Help me to help You — by helping Your people. Not only this, if You’re not with us, how is the world going to know how great You are? You told me to talk a big talk about how You chose us — now we need You to walk the walk with us. We need to succeed in order to show the world Your greatness, but we can’t do that alone. Show me Your ways. Please go before us.
“Please walk with us.”
And God says, “Ok buddy.”
God was doing something then that He’d continue doing for some time, something that no one was able to understand for thousands of years until Jesus came along: God was allowing His people to fail him, and then helping them anyway. It wasn’t the first time, and it wasn’t the last time.
We might fail him — but He’ll never fail us.
God raised up Israel to be great and exalted; then brought them low on account of their sins; and then brought them back up again. Why? By raising them up to greatness, He was showing His special favor toward them; by punishing them for their sins, He was showing that He is just and trustworthy to be just, and that He, and not they, were in control; and, in raising them back up from their dejected state, He was demonstrating His love and His mercy, and that it was by no virtue of their own that they found favor in His sight, but simply because He chose them and called them by name.
Why so complicated? Why couldn’t God just reveal Himself to humanity without all that wheeling and dealing through history?
He was playing the long game.
Think about it. God is so pure that His mere presence would consume the people. They’d burn up like ants under a magnifying glass on a hot summer day. Moses said to God, “Please show me Your glory.” God said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass before you,” the LORD replied, “and I will proclaim My name—the LORD—in your presence…[But] You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live.”
But hey, wait a minute. Detour time! There’s all sorts of stories of people seeing God. Adam and Eve, walking through the garden, talked with him face to face. Noah saw God. Abraham hosted God in his own home, and bargained with him over the fater of Sodom and Gomorrah. They all walked with Him. Jacob wrestled with Him!
Is the Bible just jerking our chain? Are the critics right when they say it’s just a man-made mess, full of inconsistencies and errors?
No way! Jesus said, “No one has seen the Father.” The Bible does not contradict itself. So let’s get this mystery solved.
Does anyone remember how God answered Moses when Moses asked “you have not let me know whom you will send with me…show me your ways,” meaning, “show me how”: Here’s what God said: “Behold, I am sending an angel before you to protect you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to his voice; do not defy him, for he will not forgive rebellion, since My Name is in him.” (Ex. 23:20-21).
God sent an angel of his presence before them, and “My name is in him.” This angel is the one who is called God by those who believed they saw him face to face — not just when Moses saw him, but when Adam and Eve saw him, when Noah saw him, when Abraham saw him. All of them had different names for him, too: El Shaddai, El Elyon. Jacob wrestled with Him — as if He were a man. Well, angels can look like men. The prophet Ezekiel sees a vision of an angel, and he says he resembles “a man whose appearance was like bronze.”
But do we remember what God Himself looked like the first time Abraham met him in the desert? Three men.
This is called a theophany, when the people see God in the form of a man. There are several of these theophanies in the Bible. Very mysterious indeed.
There is a very famous theophany in the book of Daniel. He says, “In my vision in the night I continued to watch, and I saw One like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. And He was given dominion, glory, and kingship, that the people of every nation and language should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Does anyone know who this is talking about?
+JESUS – FINAL REVELATION.
Jesus is the final revelation of God. He brings a new covenant that is superior to the old. In this covenant, God walks with us in a way He never did before. The law of the old is taken away and its condemnation of our sins along with it, since Jesus has secured for us a better covenant. Under the old, God might walk away from those who walk away from him. But under the new, He will never walk away.
Jesus says “I am with you always.”
Whereas the Law, according to both St. Paul and St. Stephen in the Bible, was “given through angels and entrusted to a mediator,” instead, the new is brought by the very Son of God, appointed by God to be “the heir of all things.”
This heir, this Son, is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word.”
“His powerful word” — can anybody remember where the Bible talks about the word of God? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.”
So we see that the Word, the Son, Jesus, was there from the very beginning of all creation. Every Theophany was actually a Christophany. Jesus confirms this himself when he says, “Before Abraham was, I AM” — “I AM” signifying the name of God, YHWH, which means “I AM”. Doesn’t that remind us of the angel who went before Moses and the people in the desert had “My name in him”? St. Paul in the Bible also says that Jesus was with the people of God in the desert of Sinai with Moses, saying that “they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”
Jesus walked with Moses. Can you believe it?
Now, we’re full circle. Back to Moses and God in the desert. I know all this talk about theophanies might have seemed like a detour from where we started, but it’s not. We are discussing theophanies precisely because without them, we can’t fully understand the difference between their world before the revelation of Christ, and our world since the revelation of Christ. The difference is huge, and if we want to find encouragement when we read the Bible, we need to be able to make this distinction. I don’t know about you, but so many times, I’ve heard someone say to me, “How can you believe the Bible when it has all that awful stuff in the Old Testament?” or “How can God be Love, when he did so many bad things to Israel in the Bible?”
Sometimes, I’ve been the one asking myself those very questions.
You see, God was never in a position to reveal Himself to humanity in such a simple way as showing up and saying, “Here I am!” No one can see the face of God and live. No, God played the long game. Instead, He chose certain people who would bear a partial revelation. Not by any virtue of their own, but simply according to His will.
And look at all of these chosen people before Christ, from Noah to the Prophets, even up to John the Baptist — what a burden they bore, receiving God’s self-revelation — but all in hope of the promise which was given to them by God through the theophanies of Christ, whom they knew partially, as the Angel of YHWH — the promise of the freedom of the Children of God. The Bible tells us that in those times gone by, the people of God were but “children…enslaved under the basic principles of the world…but when the fullness of time had finally come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law [of Moses], to redeem those under the law, that we might receive our adoption as sons.”
And not just those born under the law will be received as God’s children, but all people. The people of God are no longer under the law of Moses! The blessings guarded by the law of the old covenant are now free to all who believe. The tree of life is in our backyard, and the river of life is in our neighborhood. There is no longer any barrier between God and man, since Christ reconciled both in himself. Now, we may all access God directly, worshipping Him in spirit and truth — in truth because we know Him as He is, in Christ. They knew God as an angel that went before them, as a pillar of fire in the desert, as a consuming fire in the mountain. But we know that God as love — as much gentle dove and self-sacrificial lamb as He is all those other things.
The forefathers of our faith did not know Him in this way, but we do. Though He walked with them, they knew Him only in part, while we may know Him in full.
+BACK TO CYRUS.
Do you know who we’re all like? We’re like old King Cyrus. According to the Old Covenant, he did not meet the requirements to be a member of God’s household: he was not ethnically Hebrew; he did not keep the Law of Israel; and on top of that, as the King of Persia, he was the leader of the greatest enemy the people of God had at that time.
But God calls King Cyrus, “my anointed.”
Anointed by no virtue of his own, none whatsoever. Nonetheless, chosen to serve God’s purpose in rebuilding the Temple and fulfilling prophecy, he became a vessel by the hand of God for the vindication and blessing of Israel. Even after she’d been punished for her sins. To be an instrument of good works for the glory of God.
We are the same. We are also called to build a spiritual Temple amongst ourselves, though have no qualifications that are sufficient to recommend us to the Holy and perfect God, let alone protect us from being consumed by the glory of his presence. We’re all imperfect. Those of us who wish to do good often struggle to do any, while we end up doing things that we wish we hadn’t. Take heart. Even good old St. Paul said, “I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.”
But let us thank God for providing for us a covering, for the nakedness of our sins, with the white linens of the saints, dipped in the sanctifying blood of the Lamb of God Jesus. This is the key to the Kingdom, and our faith puts the key in our hand, that we may open the gates of heaven.
Nothing can make us fireproof before the flame of God. But through faith and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we become flame.
In one important way we are different from Cyrus. Cyrus could not seek after his anointing in order to attain it. It was according to God’s purpose alone that Cyrus was anointed. But had God not willed it to be so, Cyrus would have never had the opportunity.
But we do have such an opportunity. We can seek God’s anointing through the prayers of faith rather than justification by the law — all those requirements we mentioned before which made one eligible to live in God’s house. And that’s very good news for us — the people of God never had this opportunity before Christ.
“Christ”, by the way, means anointed. Jesus was the Anointed of God. With God’s anointing, we can be little Christs — that’s what “Christian” means.
Anointed with what? The Holy Spirit.
We cannot walk with God without the Holy Spirit. We are told that Enoch walked with God, and then he was no more, because he was taken up. He was taken up in a kind of foreshadowing of Elijah, and of course Jesus. All were righteous men who walked with God. It is rare for anyone to be as righteous as they.
Yet unlike them, we are told that even before death, we are raised with Christ, seated with him in the heavenly places. We are first buried into his death by baptism, and then raised into his resurrection by the power of the Holy Spirit — by spiritual anointing. Whereas the saints of old might be raised if they were righteous, we are raised so that we may be made righteous in Christ. “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life.”
God walks with us. He dwells with us. He is present among us, and yet does not consume us — He has made provision for us, sending His Son to die for us, so that we may be reconciled to God. So that no matter how often or far we walk away from Him, He will never walk away from us. We may be in God’s presence and not be consumed. Rather than coming as an angel, or in a pillar of fire and a thunderous cloud descending from the heavenly throne of God in a whirlwind, God is present with us in the living temple of our bodies, and in the living temple of the Body of Christ, the church. In peace, in love, in patience, in grace.
“Blessed is he who has believed without seeing,” indeed. For those who walked with an angel whom they could see, nevertheless could not behold the face of God.
But we have seen the face of God indeed, since we have received the testimony of the Church and the Holy Spirit — “he who has seen the Son has seen the Father.” All those of old saw an angel, and did not gain what they were seeking. But the apostles, and we with them, through faith, have seen the Son of God “born of a woman, born under the law”, revealing in himself the fullness of “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word” — and by this we have received adoption as God’s children, living out heavenly realities on earth: becoming, like Him, images of the radiance of God’s glory and love.
The footprints of the Son of God are preserved in the earth’s soil forever. The mountains and hills burst forth in singing about it, and all the trees of the field clap their hands for it. The Lord walked the earth so that we may walk with him in heaven.
But more than this, the living footprints of the Son of God go before us in spirit, and lead us to a fuller life.
Have faith, and remind yourself, “Jesus walks with me.”
“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with your heart you believe and are justified, and with your mouth you confess and are saved.