By Nicole McLeod
Please open in your Bible to Exodus 34:6
Prayer: Lord bless each woman who hears this message. Bless Your word and may it encourage all of our hearts, for truly our hope is in You … fill us with Your Holy Spirit to teach us as we ponder the unchanging truths of who you are, your attributes and your unchanging nature. And help us to grasp and hold tightly to the hope to which You have called us in Christ. So, let your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us just as we look again to You. In Jesus name
We have all been dealing with the fact that things have been changing a lot lately, haven’t they? But haven’t all created things been constantly changing? Seasons change, stars fall, plants grow, science and technology change, fashions change ( though mine don’t change much ☺), politics, education, laws, diet and health information are always changing. Our moods, our appearances change as we grow and age. Good changes are happening inside us, where Christ is at work transforming us, bringing new life into our hearts and minds. Change that distresses us is also happening all around us. And all of us experience the “growing pains” of change as we go through trials and testing of our faith. Sometimes we welcome change and embrace it, sometimes we resist change and must take a stand against it.
“We live our lives seemingly anchored to little more than change itself, and yet scripture beckons us to drop our anchor and hold fast to the One who never changes.”
He is our Rock. And what stirs in my heart during these difficult days, characterized by change, instability, and uncertainty, is the fact that there is comfort and hope in knowing the certainty of the truth that the God we love, and worship is forever perfect, and “…does not change like shifting shadows.” ( James 1:17) You and I need an anchor of hope. Something – someone - certain, solid, unchangeable, and true.
To face life's changes, look to the unchanging God in His unchanging Word.
To hope in God’s unchanging nature, (which is the title of this morning’s devotion), we need an accurate and Biblical understanding of who He is. A.W. Tozer made this well-known statement: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important things about us…. as what we believe about God not only affects our worship, but our practical Christian living and outworking of our faith”.
Tozer wrote his book, The “Knowledge of the Holy”, to help people like us, (who want to deepen our faith and love God and love people ) to find help through learning more about the attributes of God found in scripture. The subject is as vast and deep as the heart of God. There are many great books and resources on the attributes of God to help us.
Ch. Spurgeon, said this: “ No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God… But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe.”
And I would add, she who thinks of God will have more hope as well. Another great writer said:
"There can be no condensed learning of God; the very thought is an insult to His transcendent majesty. Rather we have to learn...what it is to slow down and meditate on the truth of His Being, to ruminate over, to ingest and digest the revelations concerning His holy character, to wonder overwhelmingly, to " be still [cease striving] and know that I am God " (Homer )
As we walk with the Lord this summer, and go about our daily tasks and routines, I’d like to make this our goal… to strengthen and deepen our spiritual lives by looking for glimpses and mentions of God’s attributes at work all around us… and think about them – as you read His Word, sing worship songs, pray and fellowship -in your conversations… We can be pre-occupied with many things, but it takes an effort to set our minds on things above… to fix our eyes on Jesus, and to mediate on His Name and worship Him.
I’m sure most of you know that for every letter of the alphabet there are many wonderful names of God and attributes we can think deeply about and praise Him for. We just sang about several of His attributes.
“I the Lord do not change…” declares Malachi 3:6 He is unchanging ,“immutable” – im meaning not and mutable – meaning changing. This morning we will look at the unchanging nature of the Father, The Son and The Word of God to give us hope.
- God THE FATHER is unchanging
Here in Exodus 3 God reveals His name to Moses.
When He spoke to Moses from the burning bush, it says Moses … hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. But as God spoke with Moses, and assured him He was the God of his fathers, and felt the suffering of his people and was ready to deliver them, Moses gained courage to ask God this question (verse 13) 13 … “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.
"I AM" is English for the first-person form of the Hebrew verb "to be". Referring to this moment, J.I. Packer wrote that I Am is “simply a declaration of his self-existence and his eternal changelessness; a reminder to mankind that he has life in himself, and that what he is now, he is eternally.”
If you will turn forward to Ch. 33, just after the golden calf episode, when the nation of Israel was at a very low point with God, one man, Moses pitched his tent outside the camp and talked with God in the tent of meeting to appeal to His gracious nature.
This “tent of meeting” is a picture to me of how each of us set aside a “quiet time” and place to meet with the Lord, and talk with Him, intercede for our loved ones, our community, our church and nation because we too know God’s gracious nature. The best part of a quiet time with the Lord is to see it extend into the day and continue to keep us walking in the Spirit… talking with the Lord …processing our day in prayer with Him. It is a precious relationship, and time with the Lord. Malachi 3 16 “ …Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.”
We glorify God when we think deeply about and speak about His glorious acts and qualities In vs. 18 Moses asked God (Exodus 33:18), “ Please, show me Your glory”. And hidden by God in the cleft of the rock, Moses saw/heard “behind” the Lord – as much of God’s glory as God knew he could possibly take in.
Warren Wiersbe: “The glory of God is the manifestation of all His attributes and character, all that He is says and does. Everything about God is glorious, and the highest activity of men is to glorify God (Matt. 5:16) (1 Cor 10:31)”.
Jane taught this in our intro – Christ in you – the hope of glory.
Exodus 34:5-6 “ The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord.
First, The Lord descended in the cloud, He is above all and descends to reveal Himself to us., to communicate with humanity in a way we can understand and can respond to… (brings to mind Phil. 2 and Christ’s humility and condescension.)
The cloud mentioned was no doubt the cloud of glory known as the Shekinah. This cloud is mentioned many times in the Bible.
The Lord stood with him there…speaking of His Holy presence and proclaimed the name of the Lord: God spoke His name to Moses, revealing His character -His essence to Moses by His words, His Word.
Ex. 34: 6” The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. ” … in response to God’s self-revelation and words.
The writers of the books of the Bible regard Exodus 34:6-7 as “a foundational statement about the nature and character of God” and “forms a basis for Jewish and Christian theology”. We find this repeated in many books of the Bible (Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 103:8, 17; 145:8; Jer. 32:18-19; Joel 2:13; Jon. 4:2, Deuteronomy 5:9-10; 1 Kings 3:6; Lamentations 3:32; Daniel 9:4; and Nahum 1:3
The Lord, the Lord a God : (Yahweh, Yahweh El) Yahweh - God began by pronouncing His divine name Yahweh twice, the same name for God that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew; which expresses all that He is and does, followed by El “the biblical designation for Deity”. God presented Himself as the eternal, immutable God.
1.The first unchangeable attribute is that He isMerciful – Compassionate. We today can find hope in His unchanging mercy and compassion – I count on it! The word means ‘tenderly pitiful’ allowing Him to deal gently with weak and failing people. He is full of tender sympathy for the sufferings and the miseries of human frailty - ever willing to forgive sins and to restore people to Himself. Psalm 103:13 “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;” Think about His compassion.
Lam 3:21-26 “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him , to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”
2.The second unchangeable attribute in this is: He is Gracious. His Word is a message of grace. Jesus Christ is the supreme revelation of God's grace and truth; salvation is by grace; and grace governs and empowers our Christian living. The word translated gracious comes from the idea “to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior”. Grace gives the undeserving, the free gift of the Love of God in Christ. Think about His grace.
3.Slow to anger. We find great hope in God’s patient nature. He is Just and will surely judge rightly. Meanwhile God continues to demonstrate His patience and grace. He doesn’t have a short fuse and is patient with us. He is far above us!
4.Abounding in steadfast love / lovingkindness. The Hebrew word, Hesed -sometimes translated "kindness" "lovingkindness" (KJV, NASB), "love" (NIV), or "steadfast love" has the basic meaning of "unfailing love" or "loyalty." The fact that this word is used twice in these 2 verses is significant…. More in a moment…
5.Abounding in Faithfulness. We find great hope in God’s faithfulness, certainty, and dependability. ‘ Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father! There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not; As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.’ Think about His faithfulness.
6.K eeping lovingkindness (Hesed) for thousands…. He keeps Hesed love for thousands of generations of people who love Him, need His help and deliverance. It was tempting to make this entire devotion all about this wonderful word Hesed that is seen nearly 250 times in the Bible. The word is a challenge for translators to give it a BRIEF definition, but it is mercy, love, loving-kindness, steadfast love, faithful love, unfailing love.” One writer says this word “hesed is “a key that can open a door into the world of God’s own heart, as well as the world of loving our neighbor and perhaps even our enemies.” “Hesed”, he writes, “is a mindset and a lifestyle.” God’s hesed is demonstrated in Jesus’ teachings and healings. As lived by Jesus, it is a Hebrew ideal -it is something one does. And you come to understand hesed not by defining it but by doing it. It is a flowing love, its God’s love, which we receive and pass on… Acts of hesed extend God’s unchanging love mercy, grace and image into the world and change the world for good. “May Hesed love flow into our everyday lives as we mingle with people who are not angels, and we pass through experiences that worry and vex us, and annoyances we can’t evade.” Ps 33:22 “ May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.”
7.and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin… and are all 3 mentioned so that no one would think there were some types of sin God is unable to forgive. God’s character of love and mercy and grace is our confident hope of forgiveness in Christ of every sin. I shared the first part of this verse in the introduction…
Malachi 3:6-7 “I the Lord do not change. So, you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.”
The rebellion and sinfulness of the sons of Israel did not change the character and dependability of God and His open arms and invitation to return.
8. And God is the perfect blend of mercy and Justice - mercy to thousands of generations, and justice in its measure where needed…. He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
In context of His immutability, we know that His loving, gracious character does not cancel out His Justice and righteousness. If His love and forgiveness are rejected, God will punish. And the sin of rejecting Christ will have repercussions. Think about the generations of ancient hatred that are alive and well in the world today… or the tribes and people groups that have been at war for generations in many parts of the world, where children are raised to hate Christians and/or Jews from birth. But this is a challenging text, so I went to Pastor Steve, who has taught on these verses many times, for some help. He showed me that this phrase is found four times in scripture, and in two of those instances a key phrase is included. “The first mention” is what Bible scholars rely upon most, and the first mention is in Exodus 20:5.
EXODUS 20:4 and Deuteronomy 5:8-9 both say: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
From David Guzic: “ This does not mean God punishes people directly for the sins of their ancestors. The important words are of those who hate Me . If the descendants love God, they will not have the iniquity of the fathers visited on them.
Adam Clarke’s Commentary: “‘This necessarily implies – IF the children walk in the steps of their fathers ; for no man can be condemned by Divine justice for a crime of which he was never guilty.”
But showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments : It’s possible for everyone to receive God’s mercy; if they will only turn to Him in love and obedience. What is important is always the heart of a person,“those who love Me” and “ those who hate me”. Sin can have an effect upon future generations, but God grace and mercy are available to all through Christ. God will judge each person fairly and individually; He is faithful in love and faithful in justice.
- GOD the Son is unchanging: Jesus Christ—God incarnate—is “ the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8)
His oath, His covenant, His blood, support me in the whelming flood; When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay…On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand…
If you think about this, ( and it is fun to do this), it is because God is unchanging that we can know Jesus personally and commune with him today, through the Word of God about him from yesterday. And today is where we have fellowship with him by faith, and hope for tomorrow as we will know – from the past – that we will forever be with Him. We trust that in the future, as it is today, that Jesus will continue through the generations to save those who believe and trust in Him because, “ He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7).
And though we find our confident hope in this truth that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8), this truth is also a stern rebuke to false teachers and those who would try to modify the words and character of Christ to suit themselves. We do not change His Word to suit us, it is His word that changes us, to the glory of God.
God revealed His unchanging nature to Moses throughHis word. Jesus is God’ ultimate and final Word and revelation given to us… as we know from Hebrews 1 - His word of reconciliation, salvation and eternal life. At His baptism, God spoke out of the cloud, saying 7 “…This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)
Hebrews 1:1-3 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
Vs. 8… about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
Vs. 12… But you remain the same, and your years will never end.
3.GOD’s WORD is an unchanging source of hope:
Lastly, let’s turn to Hebrews 6. You can live without many things, but not without hope. Let Biblical hope anchor your mind, will and emotions in the safety of God’s harbor! No place is more secure.
Hebrews 6. 17 “ Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain”
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul firm and secure…” (love the image of an anchor, did you notice the anchor on our summer schedule?)
A ship firmly anchored is kept safe from idly drifting, it’s position and safety are secured. Hope is a stabilizing force in the lives of believers. The word soul is a general word which speaks to the whole life of the person, so it is an anchor for the whole life. When our hope is not in God, we are easily tossed to and fro by the storms of life. But when we are anchored by God and His Word, we find a place of stability in Him. He wants us to be anchored in Him and filled with a living and unchanging hope that He only can give.
Romans 15:4 “ For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
Paul tell us here that the scriptures were written to teach us… so that we might be encouraged by them to endure, persevere and by them, stay full of hope.
Grass and flowers fade, “but the word of our God will stand forever” ( Isa 40:8 ) . The psalmist writes, “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” ( Ps 119:89 ). Psalm 33:11 says, “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.” His Word is Timeless, and His Promises are Everlasting! Matthew 24:35 says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” His Word is truth and declares that He is the God who saves, and He is the God in whom you can place your hope! His love is forever. His forgiveness is forever. God’s immutability is the promise that everything we know about God still holds true and applies to our lives today. It is what makes God our rock, anchor of hope and firm foundation.
As we end here today, please turn back to Exodus 34 and to our verses, In Ex 34:8-9 Moses reacts to the revelation of God. “So, Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. “ The effect on Moses was adoration and prayer. He bowed His head towards the earth. When we focus upon who God is and how awesome He is, the most practical thing it causes us to do is to worship Him. Worship Him for His unchanging attributes, His Mercy Compassion, Grace, Longsuffering, Faithfulness and Steadfast Love, for all He is and all He has been, for all He will be. And (from Hebrews 10:23-24) ‘Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…” to encourage others to serve him in hope as well. Hold onto hope – spur one another on to hope. If you are struggling with hope and needing prayer today, I ask you to please talk with someone before you leave. Let someone pray with you or reach out to a Christian friend for help. And there are several things which may be helpful…
- Refocus on who Jesus is, by praising Him for His unchanging attributes
- Reflect on who Jesus is, by reading His Word
- Remind yourself of his power, there’s power in His Name, His Word in prayer
- Rejoice in His presence within us to change us and bring God glory
- Reflect on His position in your life, as sovereign Lord and King
Prayer: Father, You’ve placed us in an ever-changing world, and You truly understand how difficult change can be. Thank You that we are secure anchored in Your unchanging presence! You will never leave nor forsake us. ( Hebrews 13:5 ). Keep us full of hope in You and filled with hope to share with those around us. It’s in the precious name of Jesus Christ that we pray, Amen