Exodus 3:7-8 (NKJV) 7 And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. 8 So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites.
Exodus 33:1 (NKJV) 1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’
Over the last few weeks we have learned from Hebrews chapter 3 and 4 that unbelief kept Israel from going into the land promised to them by God. This land was both the blessing God wanted for their lives and their destiny. Unbelief robbed them of both. Unbelief grew in their hearts because they allowed rebellion. Rebellion leads to unbelief and unbelief robs us of our inheritance in the Lord. We must eliminate them from our lives at all costs.
This week Pastor Jervis Witherspoon was with us in Living Word. He is a minster from Liberia, West Africa who works as the advisor to the president of that nation on religious matters. He is also a minster for Bethel World Outreach in Liberia and beyond. Pastor Jervis shared some things with us from the book of exodus that follow what I have been sharing this month. I want to give you some thoughts that grew from his message to our church.
We see an interesting progression here in the two verses I have chosen for today. In Exodus 3:7, God refers to Israel as “My people.” He tells Moses that he has come down to deliver them.
Chapter 33 comes just after the great rebellion of Israel at Mount Sinai. Moses had been in the presence of God on top of the mountain. Because of his delay in returning to them, the people decided to make a God of Gold that would lead them back to Egypt. Moses intercedes for them and God does not destroy them and start anew with Moses.
In the first verse of chapter 33, God declares he will give the people the land he has promised to them. However, he does not call them “My people.” This time he refers to them as the people you brought out of Egypt. He does not say he delivered them. He says Moses delivered them. Their whole identity had changed because of rebellion.
It is interesting to me that, although they will still receive the blessing of God, he can no longer call them “his people.” We know that because of their continued rebellion that generation never did enter the Promised Land. Their children went in because God will always have a people and have his way. God’s promise was fulfilled in their children and in the future Israel was once again known as “his people” and he was known as their God. The generation of rebellion’s identity was changed forever.
There is something we must understand about both rebellion and unbelief: They rob us of our identity in God. They do not always rob us of certain aspects of his blessing. They always rob us of the closeness that is ours in Christ.
There is a New Testament scripture that has been somewhat misunderstood as of late that can shed some light on this for those of us who are born again. That scripture is 1 John 1:9-10.
1 John 1:9-10 (NKJV) 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
I was talking to someone recently and he asked me a good question. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that we were made righteous, or right with God, by what Jesus did. He did not know sin. We were sinners. He obeyed God and through that obedience all who receive him are made righteous by his obedience. He asked me, “If Jesus made me right with God by what he did and not what I did, why would he have to cleanse me from unrighteousness if I sin? Did the blood of Jesus stop working?”
The answer is to understand that righteousness is in two directions. Jesus paid the price for my sin. We all know that Christians sin. In verse 10 Jesus says that if we say we have not sinned we make him a liar. Since he uses the word “we”, John is talking to the church not the world. Christians sin.
John reveals to us the wonderful mercy of the Lord. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. This is easy to understand. He is faithful to apply to us what Jesus paid for in salvation. He is just in doing so because the blood of Jesus cleansed us “once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10) Why would we need to be cleansed of unrighteousness? Did our behavior undo what Jesus did? Of course not.
I am not commenting here on whether it is possible to lose salvation. I am talking about you and me. In daily living, we fall short of the glory of God. That is just a fact. We do things willfully and through ignorance that are outside of the requirements and nature of God.
When I was growing up, I was a good kid. My brothers and sisters gave my parents a hard time. I was born late in their lives. I was good in school. I did not get into trouble. When I told my mother I had been saved, she said, “From what?” Yet as good a kid as I was there were times when I got into trouble.
I was the “apple of my parents’ eyes.” When I did something wrong I did not stop being the apple of their eye. They did not stop loving me. However, I remember sitting in my room thinking that our relationship would never be the same because of what I had done. I was afraid to come into their presence. I was afraid of how they saw me.
Of course, I was wrong. They were upset with me and they were training me to be an adult. To me it just felt like I had become unrighteous in their eyes. I did not need to be cleansed from unrighteousness in their eyes. They loved me and were proud of me. I had done something wrong but that did not change our relationship from their standpoint. It did change it from mine.
When I came down for dinner, my parents let me know that all was well. Not only was I forgiven but our relationship was “cleansed of all unrighteousness.” That is what 1 John 1:9-10 is talking about.
Rebellion changed the identity of Israel. This change was not so much in God’s eyes. As long as they were in rebellion, they could not come into his presence. If they repented, God would restore that relationship. They would be able to see themselves as God’s children again.
Because of Moses intercession, God was still going to give them what the covenant promised. They were still his people. Their rebellion robbed them from his presence and the identity that comes from that presence.
We need to understand that unbelief and rebellion do not cause God to disown us but they do cut us off from his presence. Without that, we cannot experience the fullness of our relationship with him. Without that fullness, we will lose our blessing and our destiny.
If we confess our rebellion or unbelief, he is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from the sense of separation we feel. Restored to the fullness of relationship, righteousness, we will find that we can receive all that God has for us.