For Sermon Notes and Discussion Questions, click HERE.
Today we are continuing in the narrative of the Exodus by looking at chapters 6 and 7 of Exodus. These two chapters, along with a good number of other references in God’s Word, are going to reveal to us today God’s ultimate purpose for the universe. Have you ever asked the question, why did God create everything? Like, really, why did he create us? Why did he create the universe? I’ve heard lots of answers to this question that are incomplete, or just don’t take into account what we really see in the Word. And I want to share two of these that I’ve heard, though there are many more, then we’ll get into the Word and see the truth of why God created everything.
1) “God had so much love that he had to create something to which he could express that love.” Perhaps that sounds reasonable to many, some of us here, but the problem with that is that it presents God as a needy, emotionally dependent being. But that’s not who God is. 2) “God was lonely and wanted companionship.” Again, that’s just not the God of the Bible. Acts 17:25- “He is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” God didn’t need to have something to express his love to, nor was he lonely and in need of companionship. Nor was he bored and just twiddling his thumbs wondering what he should do with his time. So why, then, did God create everything? For what purpose?
Today we’re looking at four thoughts on God’s ultimate purpose for the universe. We’re going to read a decent amount before we get to those four thoughts, but that’s what we’ll see in today’s chapters as well as other references throughout the Word. In today’s text, to remind you where we’re at: Moses and Aaron had just gone to Pharaoh asking him to let the Hebrew slaves go, and Pharaoh responded not only with a “no,” but also by making the Hebrews’ responsibilities harder! Not only were they required to make the same number of bricks as usual, but also they were now required to find their own straw to make the bricks! So now the Hebrews are mad at Moses and Aaron, and even in the last chapter pronounced a curse upon them. Not only that, but Moses himself responds by being unhappy with God. He complains and even questions God’s integrity in the last few verses on chapter 5. And now, starting in chapter 6, God will respond. Vv. 1-9.
But the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will 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.” 2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. 6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, 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. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 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 the Lord.’” 9 Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.
So God responds to Moses’ complaints, if you remember last week, by reaffirming his intent to deliver the Hebrews from their slavery! He reaffirms his identity as the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and his integrity as this God who keeps his promises. Then, he again, commands Moses to go to the people of Israel and tell them what He has said. But, as we see in verse 9, because of everything that had happened in chapter 5, the Israelites did not believe Moses.
Now, the next section, verses 10-30 are a step back from the narrative, and make up very clear section with the ancestors of Moses and Aaron capped by a few verses that say the same thing. We’re going to look at that in just a few minutes, but for now let’s move to chapter 7:1-7. In this part of our narrative, God yet again very clearly commands Moses with what he wants him to do. Starting in verse 1 of ch. 7:
1 And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” 6 Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them. 7 Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.
Now, in these two sections, the first 9 verses of chapter 6 and the first 7 verses of chapter 7, we see God’s clear plan, AND we also see the reason why he’s doing these things. Why is he doing what he’s doing? First, from chapter 6, verse 7: “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” That’s the part I want you to remember. Then, again, in chapter 7 verse 5: “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” So we’ve seen this, that “you” or “they” “may know that I am the Lord”, in each of the two sections we just read, and, guess what? We see it multiple other times throughout the Exodus.
Ultimately, why is God doing what he’s doing? Why is he bringing about the plagues? Why does he even, at least at times, harden Pharaoh’s heart and not allow him to let the Hebrews go? This brings us to our first thought on God’s ultimate purpose for the universe:
- God’s highest goal and purpose for creating the world is his own glory.
Why is he doing the things he is doing with Moses and Aaron and Pharaoh, and ultimately, all the things that he does? Because he wants the world to know who he is. He wants the world to know just how powerful and how real and true and glorious he is. He wants Moses and Aaron to see this; he wants the Israelites to see this; he wants the Egyptians to see this; he wants the entire world to see this. His character, his power, his might, AND his integrity—that he keeps promises!
In chapter 10 of Exodus, he even expresses that he wants Moses’ children and grandchildren to know who he is! In verses 1-2 of chapter 10- “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them, that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.’”
It is so obvious throughout the Exodus that God’s highest goal and purpose for bringing about the Exodus, and ultimately in creating the world is his own glory. Now, before we talk a bit more about this, I want to move on to the part of chapter 6 that we haven’t looked at quite yet.
Verses 10-13 reveal this little dialogue again between Moses and God, similar to what’s already occurred multiple times. Then, in verses 26-30, the exact same thing is written as in 10-13, except this time in the opposite order. Verses 10-13, before the genealogy, look at the role of Moses, then the role of Moses and Aaron. Then, verses 26-30, after the genealogy, look at the role of Moses and Aaron, then the role of Moses. So what’s happening here?
Basically, these opening and closing sections sort-of formalize the importance of the genealogy. Why is the genealogy important? (Because I know most of us probably do not too often appreciate the genealogies in the Bible: the father of, the father of, the father of, the father of). But here’s why it’s important: it preserves the ancestry of Moses and Aaron, making very clear to later readers that THIS is the exact Moses and Aaron that God used to bring his people out of Egypt. It’s kind of confirming which Moses and Aaron it is whom God is using. But, also, within these two caps of sorts, before and after the genealogy, it reveals especially Moses’ role in all of this. Why? He’s the one actually interacting directly with God.
Now I’m not going to go through this genealogy with you today, but I do want us to step back, again, and see the 2nd thought on God’ ultimate purpose for the universe.
Goes right along with the first, but expands it a bit.
- God interacts within the entire history of humanity for his own glory.
God doing what he does for his glory and to reveal that glory to all people is not limited to the Exodus, as we see from the importance of this genealogy, and as we see throughout the entire Bible!
Now maybe at this point you’re a little critical. Ryan, is this really true- “God does everything for his own glory”, or is it just one or two verses kind-of blown out of proportion. Throughout the rest of the Bible, is there evidence that God is really doing everything he’s doing for his own glory? Let me give you a few references:
- 1:4-6- God chose us for his glory: “to the praise of the glory of His grace.”
- Isaiah 43:6-7- God created us for his glory: “whom I created for my glory.”
- Psalm 106:7-8- Yet another reference revealing that God is delivering his people out of Egypt in the Exodus for his glory: “He saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.”
- Even more specifically about Pharaoh, Romans 9:17: “for this very purpose I have raised you up (referring to Pharaoh), that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
- In Exodus 14:4, which we’ll get to in a few weeks, God defeats Pharaoh at the Red Sea, and then reveals his ultimate purpose for it: “I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.”
- Even later in Exodus, when they’re wandering in the wilderness, God spared them more than once, and according to Ezekiel chapter 20, why did he spare them? Just because he cared so much for them? No! He did it “for the sake of my name (Ezekiel 20:9, 14, 22, 26, 38, 42, 44). You want to really see God doing what he does for his name’s sake (for his reputation, his glory), study Ezekiel 20.
- Ultimately, even Jesus Christ, why did he suffer and die. For our sins, yes! But ultimately, why did he die for our sins? For his glory. The Gospel is not all about us. Jesus died for the Father’s glory. John 17:1- “Father, the hour has come; glorify your son that the Son may glorify you.”
If you read through any portion of the Word, taking note of times when God says things like, “for my name’s sake,” or similar expressions, you will be amazed. It’s everywhere! And it’s like the unspoken reality of the Bible. Why?
Because, thinking about these things might cause us to be taken aback for a moment. God does everything for his own glory? Maybe you’re wondering this morning, “That just seems a little self-absorbed. Or narcissistic, egotistical, something. But here’s the thing: the reason our minds might wonder about that is because we simply cannot grasp the infinite glory of our great God. We can’t. Think about this: if a man were to walk up here this morning, and say, “Bow down to me, for I am God and the world revolves around me.” If a man were to come up and say that, or God forbid an elder or myself were to come up and say that, what would you do? You would leave; you would think we’re crazy; maybe something just snapped in the brain. Why, though? Why would you think that’s crazy? Why would you not stand for that? Because it’s not true! Not true at all! It’s a complete lie, and a lie of the highest and worst kind!
But. Imagine this: If Jesus Christ were to walk in this place in all his splendor and glory after having ascended back into heaven 2000 years ago and having sat in at the right hand of the Father, if he walked in here, and didn’t even say a word, what would we all do? We’d fall flat on our faces, likely unable to comprehend or handle his majesty. We cannot even fathom what that would be like. And that’s assuming we don’t just fall down dead because of his holiness and purity and our sin.
It’s not egotistical for God to desire his own glory, at least in the sense that it’s egotistical for a man to desire that. It’s not narcissistic. It’s reality. The world more than revolves around God; it is held up and sustained ONLY because God wills it to! In all of history, in all of the Word, God does what he does for his own glory, even in the things that are less than glorious (at least in our minds), which brings us to Thought #3:
- God has ordained that all things, including tragedy, are for his glory.
This is when we get to at least start talking about the plagues. Let’s read starting in chapter 7 verse 8, to the end of the chapter. For those of you who have been chomping at the bit to get to the plagues, we will get into the first right now. So, starting in verse 8:
8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that turned into a serpent. 16 And you shall say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.” But so far, you have not obeyed. 17 Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.”’” 19 And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’”
20 Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. 23 Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile. 25 Seven full days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile.
So, Moses and Aaron performed the signs to Pharaoh for the first time, but he didn’t listen because his own sorcerers could do the same, or obviously they could trick everyone into thinking they had performed these miracles. So then God sends Moses to bring about the first plague, by turning the Nile River into blood. But Pharaoh’s sorcerers also were able to replicate this, though I’m sure on a much smaller scale, so Pharaoh refused to let them go.
Now, I have in mind all the plagues, and even in particular the last, the death of every firstborn son in Egypt, but I have in mind all of them with this 3rd thought on God’s ultimate purpose for the universe: God has ordained that all things, including tragedy, are for his glory. This one takes some explanation, but it is clear that the purpose of the plagues in Exodus, even the incredibly tragic ones (like the death of the firstborn in chapter 11), are for God to reveal part of who He is to all people. We’ve clearly established that with the repetition of God’s desire for all people to know that he is the Lord! To know of his character and glory. But this is not only true of mighty signs that bring wonder. It’s also true of signs that bring pain!
In each of the 10 plagues, which we’ll read through in the coming weeks, God is demonstrating his own power over the different false gods of the Egyptians. In this first plague that we just read about, God is showing his power over the false god Aisit, who was the Egyptian god of the Nile. And even in the most horrible plague, the 10th, the death of the firstborn, it was specifically to show Pharaoh and all of Egypt that they were powerless in the face of the true God of the Hebrews. Even more than that, in the midst of this tragic scene that showed Pharaoh his complete powerlessness, God not only reveals his power; he also reveals his grace. In chapter 11, as God had commanded, all who had placed the blood of a lamb on their door posts would be saved from the wrath of God that was coming. I do want to get into this a little bit, even though we’ll be getting into it more later.
This blood of the lamb, of course, is a prophetic foreshadowing of the blood of Christ, God’s first-born (in the sense that he had the importance and prestige of the first-born), his blood would be spilt so that God’s wrath would pass over us. This goes right along with our previous thought about God interacting within human history for his glory; here he was arranging these historical events to bear witness of the greatest act of love in all the universe: Christ dying on the cross bearing our sin, and then rising again defeating death and sin altogether.
Even with Christ, it is clear that God ordained that people would bring about the death of Christ, a GREAT evil. For what purpose? For God’s glory! Specifically through the sacrificial death of Christ. In Acts 4, Peter and John had just spoken before the rulers and elders defending their teaching on the resurrection; the Sadducees had arrested them. After defending themselves and being released, they were praying together with the people of God, and this is part of what they prayed in chapter 4, verses 27 and 28: “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” God has ordained that even tragedy bring him glory.
One of my favorite prophetic passages in the Old Testament is Isaiah 53. In the midst of speaking of the coming Messiah who will be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, it says in verse 10, “It was the will of the Lord to crush him.” Wow. This doesn’t mean that the people are not responsible for their evil actions. Acts 2:23, in the middle of Peter’s sermon right after Pentecost, he says, “This Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, this Jesus whom you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men, God raised him up.” In that verse we see such a clear affirmation of two truths that are an apparent paradox to you and me who have limited minds: 1) God is absolutely sovereign over everything that happens in the world, AND 2) Human beings are responsible for their sin. Next week, as a teaser to get you excited about coming back, we will spend the majority of our time talking about just that, specifically, how it is that we see God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, and yet at other times Pharaoh hardening his own heart. Come back next week.
But even when we may not fully understand exactly how it works together, God has ordained that all things, including tragedy, are for his glory. God’s goal even in expressing his wrath and judgment is his glory! There is so much more here, that’s difficult to cover in one message, and we will be looking more into this in the near future, even in this series. But for now, I hope you see not only the compatibility of God using tragedy for his glory, but even the beauty of God bringing about what we consider to be tragic things for his glory and ultimately, also, for the good of his children. The question for us, with everything we’ve talked about today, is:
- “Are we living our lives in line with God’s ultimate goal?”
This is the fourth thought, which is really a question. It’s not enough to see God’s glory as presented in the Word and in the world! Are we living in line with God’s ultimate goal being to reveal that glory?! 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
The first step to truly living in line with this goal that he has, is seeing him as he really is. We are constantly bombarded by the smallness of what the world has to offer. But these small things so consume us that we begin to think these small things are GREAT BIG things! Career, money, comfort, the worldly success of your kids. We don’t know true glory. And churches and Christian are trying to combat these small worldly ambitions with a small God. We make God into our image; we fit him into what we think he should be, and what we can comprehend or handle, and all the while we miss the infinitely glorious God of the Bible.
That’s also why the first thing that comes to our minds when we hear that God created all things for his glory is, “Gosh, self-absorbed much?” This isn’t some man or woman claiming that the world revolves around them! This is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the Lord, Yahweh, Adonai! The God who created all things from nothing and is the reason all things continue to exist. The God who brought 10 plagues upon the Egyptian people to reveal his might to all the world. The God who is not bound by time but is sovereignly involved in all of history. The God who incomprehensibly limited himself in the form of a man to die taking our sin and shame upon himself, and then rising again defeating death and sin that we too may have life. The God who will undoubtedly win and destroy all the powers of darkness in the last day.
This God is not like a man or woman who thinks the world revolves around them. This God is GOD and the world MORE than revolves around Him. It is utterly dependent upon Him for its life and sustenance.
Our God is not small. Our God is not limited or even that concerned about our personal whims and desires. Our God has his own great purpose for the universe. The question is, do WE live our lives with the same purpose? Do we have in mind the greatest purpose for which we can live, or are we blinded by the small things the world has to offer, and the smallness of our own personal ambitions?
His purpose is bigger, better, infinitely more important, and eternal, lasting, not short-term. Why not align ourselves with his great purpose?
In John chapter 17, Jesus is praying to the Father, and in verse 24 he prays something very specific. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” One day we will see God’s glory fully, but we can also see and understand a dim reflection of it now, when we read the Word and see Him as He really is. The question today: do you see it? Are you overwhelmed by God’s glory? And ultimately, is the chief goal of your life to see, savor, and reveal his glory?