Two powerful themes stand out to me in this third chapter of Exodus. One is the holiness of God and the second is God’s continued compassion for His people.
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
This scripture always strikes me as an extremely important reminder of the holiness of God and the importance of recognizing it and considering if our actions adequately reflect that recognition. Are our hearts and minds in the right place when we go before God in prayer or worship?
The second theme of God’s continued compassion for His people jumps out at me in verse 7:
7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.”
God chooses to hear our cries and to care about our suffering. I have been through a very difficult season the past few years that has been punctuated by many great losses. For this reason, reading those words in verse 7 takes on a whole new meaning. There is power in being reminded that He is listening and that He cares so very deeply.
Not only does He care about our suffering, but He also understands our insecurities and the challenges they can present for us.
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
In what ways might you need to “take your sandals off” before God so that you can properly acknowledge His holiness?
When you encounter hard seasons in life, what are some ways that you can be reminded that God hears you and cares about your suffering?
How might God be calling you to help others who are stuck in suffering? How can you bring God’s words, power and compassion to them?
Everyone needs compassion. Our gracious God, the ultimate source of love and mercy, readily extends compassion to us when we face the great challenges in our life. But it doesn’t stop there. God is not “deservingly” showing compassion to us because we have made sacrifices for his namesake. He overwhelms us with compassion when we deserve it the least. When our ears have been deaf to his calling, when our back has been turned, when our eyes are glistening with selfish pride, that is when he is most compassionate. It is pretty simple: life is best lived in and by the design of God. Anything else is to be pitied. But we do not serve a God of overwhelming pity. He doesn’t stop at, “man, that stinks, wish you would have made some better choices there, bud.” He picks us up in our filth, gives us the full concentration of his blessings, and turns our feet back on the path that leads to him. Over and over again. Undeservedly. In today’s reading, we get a quick lesson in the history of compassion of Israel from Abraham to Nehemiah. Draw some (rather easy) parallels to your own life as your study this account of the rich mercies of God.
“But they, our ancestors, were arrogant; bullheaded, they wouldn’t obey your commands. They turned a deaf ear, they refused to remember the miracles you had done for them;…And you, a forgiving God, gracious andcompassionate, Incredibly patient, with tons of love – you didn’t dump them.” – Nehemiah 9:16 MSG
God still has compassion for you, even after you have been arrogant. You can attempt to go it alone. God doesn’t give up that easily. When the miracles no longer come, when the blessing subside, and you decide to turn back, he doesn’t merely say, “told you so.” He says “turn around, I’m still here.”
“Yes, even when they cast a sculpted calf and said, “This is your god Who brought you out of Egypt,” and continued from bad to worse, You in your amazingcompassion didn’t walk off and leave them in the desert.” – Nehemiah 9:18 MSG
God still has compassion for you, even when you don’t give him credit. Oh, how we like to take credit. How scorned are we when we don’t get the little credit due to us? And we haven’t really done anything. It would be simple enough to say, “Good luck in the desert by yourself,” yet God hears the cries of his people and comes rushing in to, again, fight the battles.
But then they mutinied, rebelled against you, threw out your laws and killed your prophets, the very prophets who tried to get them back on your side— and then things went from bad to worse. And in keeping with your bottomless compassion you gave them saviors: saviors who saved them from the cruel abuse of their enemies. – Nehemiah 9:27
God still has compassion for you, even when you stab him in the back. That’s right, literal stabbing of prophets delivering the word of God. Maybe you are not guilty of such a crime, but openly denying the word of God delivered to you in your life is an equal abuse of the Word of God. That’s pretty much what sin is. But guess what? Those who openly and defiantly deny the gospel, receive sanctification and redemption through Jesus Christ if they make him the Lord and Savior of their life. Your confession is never rejected, if done so from the heart.
But as soon as they had it easy again they were right back at it—more evil. So you turned away and left them again to their fate, to the enemies who came right back. They cried out to you again; in your great compassion you heard and helped them again.
This went on over and over and over. They turned their backs on you and didn’t listen. – Nehemiah 9: 28, 29 MSG
God still has compassion for you when you return right back to your sin. That’s right, we are almost cartoonish in our behavior sometimes. Do the sin. Ask for forgiveness. <5 min later> Do the sin. Ask forgiveness. Thankfully, we have a God of infinite mercies, BUT as Paul says our goal is not to exhaust the grace of God. If you haven’t figured it out, somewhere in our sinful nature is the habit to turn back to sin, but we must try to actively stop or flee from it. God is unfatigued with extending his compassions if we truly seek him through repentance.
You put up with them year after year and warned them by your spirit through your prophets; But when they refused to listen you abandoned them to foreigners. Still, because of your great compassion, you didn’t make a total end to them. You didn’t walk out and leave them for good; yes, you are a God of grace and compassion. – Nehemiah 9:30,31 MSG
If you’re reading this, God still has compassion for you. You are not abandoned. It may feel foreign because you have pitched a tent outside the wall, but there is NOTHING that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Maybe you’re seemingly satisfied to be out there for now. Man, that’s awful. You will not receive even the pity of men if this is where you stand. But God looks compassionately upon you, and leaves the gate open, giving every opportunity to be a part of his grace, love, forgiveness and hope. There is a time limit though, an end game. Once you stop breathing, it’s over. There are no guarantees when this will be. An even more compelling argument than “no guarantees” is every moment you are not living in the presence of God, you walk around heavily burdened with sin, guilt, doubt, and shame because you don’t know His compassion. He will take it all from you and cast it as far as the east is from the west. Stop. Turn. Cry. Listen. Let go. It is time to let His compassion overwhelm you.
Recently I have been able to spend a lot of time with my nephew and niece. My nephew is 2 years old and my niece is 7 months old. It’s almost a little weird how spending time with children can be such a blessing. They almost never give you anything or return the amount of love that you give them. Yet for some reason they are a blast to be around. My nephew is at a stage where he wants your full, undivided attention. This is great when you have some free time to hang out but when you are running late or need your focus elsewhere it gets a little challenging. Children have a way of a bringing joy to your life with a simple smile.
In Genesis 29 Jacob works for Laban to make Rachel and Leah his wives. I am completely unsure how Jacob handled having two wives but it doesn’t seem like he handled it well. Jacob didn’t really want to marry Leah but Laban his father-in-law lied to him and he ended up having to marry both sisters in order to have Rachel. Jacob had some options being married to both, he could either treat both of them right or he could treat one unfairly. He chose the latter by ignoring Leah the sister he didn’t want to marry
I want to hone in on verses 31-35. You may already be familiar with the story but sometimes it is nice to get a reminder. In verse 31 it says that Leah was hated and God saw her being hated. So God opened her womb and gave her sons. Leah’s response is that God gave her these children so that her husband would love her. Maybe so, but maybe God just wanted to bless Leah with children.
This passage shows us a larger idea as well. We too often forget that God is with us and sees everything. It can be easy when we are going through hard times for us to feel like we are all alone. I think Leah probably felt alone. She is married to a guy who never wanted to be married to her and chose her sister over her. She probably felt like she was competing with her sister for the love of their husband. I imagine that her relationship with her sister was really messed up. She probably felt all alone through this whole situation.
God saw the situation that was unfolding and looked upon her with compassion and showed her love and mercy by giving her children. God sees us in our situations and he does interact in our world to stop injustice. Psalm 34.18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” He didn’t let Leah’s suffering go unnoticed. Your suffering doesn’t go unnoticed either. Isaiah 64.4 says, “… no eye has seen a God besides you, who act for those that wait for him.”
I take a lot of solace in these scriptures because I know that when I am suffering, feeling alone and am brokenhearted that if I wait for God in whatever situation that I am in that he will act in that situation. Whether it’s a situation like Leah’s where everyone hated her and she had to be feeling lonely or you just feel alone at school and you don’t feel like you have any friends we have a God that if we wait for him, he will act. God isn’t blind to our suffering and he will move our lives if we wait for him. In Leah’s situation I am sure just having the first-born child would have been good enough to bring joy into her life. God went well beyond that and gave her three children to raise and to love. God showered her with goodness.
Have you ever gotten your car stuck before? Growing up, my brothers and I often went over to our grandparents’ farm. In high school, I started helping out with keeping up around the place. I would load up in the old beat up farm truck and head to the places that need to be looked after, which sometimes took me down into the swampy parts of the property. Some days, I could maneuver just fine through the trees and brush, but on others, I would begin to sink. If the truck got into a place where the tires couldn’t get traction, then they would start to spin, sinking the truck even deeper into the muck.
Lot has got himself stuck in a similar situation. In Genesis 13, Lot chose the edenic land close to the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, while Abram moved further away from him. Abraham, through his prayers and his concern for his nephew Lot, convinced God to relent in destroying the city in chapter 18. But, even so, we see the depth of the evil of the city in chapter 19, where the angels could not even find 10 righteous people. Because of this, the destruction God had planned was set to occur. God was going to destroy the city with burning sulfur (Gen. 19:23-26), an epic and troubling display of God’s wrath.
In the midst of these verses, filled with despicable actions and God’s judgment of them, we also see the tender portrayal of God’s forgiveness and compassion. While getting ready to destroy the city, the angels, who God had sent, grabbed Lot’s hand and pulled him out of the city. This was done “because of the Lord’s compassion for him” (Gen. 19:16). Lot was stuck in his ways, stuck in the lifestyle of sin created by the place he was living in. He was stuck in the filth and mud. God however loved Lot too much to leave him in this place. He grabbed Lot and brought him out of his former life.
So often, we are like Lot. We thought we chose the best path for ourselves when we survey the options in front of us. Sometimes though, what looks best to us may lead us too close to the lifestyle of sin. We get into that swampy place and spin our tires – stuck even if we wanted to get out. It’s in these moments that God reaches in and pulls us out. It may be painful, but it is so so worth it to leave behind those sinful places and follow God out of what is destined to be destroyed.
Do you feel like you are stuck in sin? Pray for God’s salvation today.
If someone were to look at news regarding the Middle East, there is a good chance it would have something to do with the people of Israel fighting against the surrounding nations. Israel always seems to have problems with its neighbors. These problems go all the way back to Abraham! In today’s section of reading, there were several passages about neighboring nations of Israel.
At the beginning of our reading in Isaiah 14:1, it states that “the LORD will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land.” Even though the people of Israel were a wicked nation at this time, God was still going to have compassion on them. This is an example of the grace and mercy of God, as He was still going to work with them and give them their own land. Similar to God having mercy on the people of Israel, God is willing to have mercy on us. God’s will is that no one should perish; He wants us to seek Him. If we do, then God will have mercy on us and grant us a spot in the coming Kingdom.
The rest of our reading for the day had to deal with the oracles of the surrounding nations. Although God was merciful towards his own people, the other nations don’t necessarily receive that same mercy. These other nations were opposing the people of Israel, and God was not too fond of that. He was going to redeem His people. God has the back of the Israelites, even when they were at their worst.
Nowadays, according to Paul, “There is neither Jew nor Greek,” (Galatians 3:28). Anyone who devotes their life to God, is seen as a chosen people from our Heavenly Father. The chosen people in the Old Testament were pretty much the Israelites. The chosen people nowadays are followers of Christ. Therefore, just as God had the backs of the Israelites, God has our back.