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Discovering God, Part 2 Title: A Plan Revealed Subtitle: Discovering God In His Revelation Fill-in: We know God through His REVELATION Announce elder candidates. We are in part 2 of our Discovering God series through the book of Exodus. I have a very simple question that will lead us to our ll-in the blank. How do we know God? Think about that for a second. How is it possible for us, as tiny human beings to know anything at all about God? We’re in a series called Discovering God, how do we do that? We don’t get to make God up. We can’t just imagine Him as a glori ed version of ourselves. I mean, we can, but we won’t be very accurate. The answer is almost as simple as the question, and it’s the llin the blank We know God through His Revelation We know God because He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. He has Himself known in general ways, like through the world he has made. The Bible says that God’s invisible attributes and divine nature are on display in the things he has made. Or, as an outdoorsy person one of my favorite verses is “The heavens declare the glory of God.” God has also revealed Himself through what is called special revelation. He has revealed Himself through miraculous events. He reveals Himself through personal encounters. He has revealed Himself through His Word, the Bible, and He has most perfectly revealed Himself in His Son Jesus Christ. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, what is God like? God is like Jesus. God has made Himself known to us, and He does this not so we can know Him and pass a Bible quiz. He makes Himself known to us so we can grow in our understanding of Him, follow Him, and be transformed by Him. And I truly believe God is revealing Himself more than we realize. There is more of Him for us to discover there is more for us to understand about how He is working. The question is, will we have eyes to see it? Today as we walk through the next two chapters of the book of Exodus, we’re going to see one of the most famous revelation stories in all of Scripture, and it will serve to remind us of that very truth, we know God through His revelation.

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Recap of last week: Israel is enslaved in Egypt. Moses is in the wilderness, he’s been there for almost forty years. God has heard the groaning of the people of Israel, and chapter 2 ends by telling us that God saw and God knew.

Now Moses was keeping the ock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his ock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a ame of re out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. So when we last met Moses he was living in Midian, he’d found a wife and had some kids, but things weren’t going great for him. He ends up living out in Midian for a very long time, and while doing that he ends up working at a shepherd for his father-in-law. If that’s not living the dream, I’m not sure what is. By the way, if you’re paying attention you may have noticed that the guy called Jethro in 3:1 was called Reuel in 2:18. What’s up with that? It’s possible he went by two different names, and it’s also possible that they were two different people, as Hebrew vocabulary is not quite as precise in identifying Hebrew familial relationships as English is. Either way, it doesn’t matter. 
 But what is Moses doing here? He’s faithful in the little things. He’s being trained up to be a shepherd of people by being a shepherd of sheep. Was it exciting training? Almost certainly not. But it’s such a simple reminder that God uses seemingly insigni cant experiences to form us and shape our character. And here’s why being faithful in the little things is important: Because if you’re faithful in the little things, whether God calls you to big things or little things in the future, you’ll be a faithful person. It says Moses led his ock to a mountain called Horeb, a word that literally means “wasteland” so, we’re not exactly taking about a hip vacation spot with cute AirBnB’s. This is the same mountain that would later be called Sinai. Where does God choose to make himself known? Not in Pharaoh’s palace or any other center of power in the ancient world. God reveals Himself in the wasteland. And it says an angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a ame, that the ame was in the midst of a bush - side note, Hebrew used for “bush” sounds almost exactly like the Hebrew word for Sinai - so there is a little word play going on there. We don’t have time to take a deep dive into this, but there is all sorts of Garden of Eden imagery from the re to the bush that would have been noticeable to the rst readers of this story.

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Moses sees the re that isn’t consuming the bush, and since he is a normal human who knows how re works he is very confused. So he’s drawn in by sheer curiosity. Remember, Moses was a shepherd who spent his days doing shepherdy things. There’s no reason to

suspect that his rst thought upon seeing a perpetually burning bush would be that God was trying to communicate with him. And yet, God calls to Him, repeating his name twice, which was a way of showing endearment. And Moses answers. And he is told to not come near and to remove his sandals, because he is on holy ground. This is the only place in the whole Bible where ground is called holy, and it’s made holy by the presence of God. God identi es himself as the God of Moses’ father and of Israel’s patriarchs. And the purpose of that was for God to identify himself as the same God who was faithful in the past, and the same God who used imperfect people to accomplish his purposes. That legacy was about to continue. As Moses starts to grasp what is happening he starts to freak out a little bit because, come on, wouldn’t you? And by the way, if we look forward in the Bible, Luke 2, some nondescript nightshift shepherds are hanging out in the middle of nowhere and an angel of the Lord appears, scares them half to death, and makes a big announcement about a new move of God in the world. That, of course, being the birth of Jesus. These things aren’t random, folks. So what we have here is called a theophany, or an appearance of the divine. And what’s interesting is that theophanies in the Bible having something of a pattern. If you look at the calling of Gideon in the book of Judges or the calling of Jeremiah, you’ll notice they follow a pattern similar to this one. Let’s keep going, verse 7: 7 Then

the Lord said, “I have surely seen the af iction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land owing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Pause. So God reveals His plan. This con rms what it says at the end of Exodus 2. God has heard the cries of Israel and now he’s going to respond. And this is so important, look at what God is going to do. He is going to save them from something, slavery, for something, to bring them into the land, and we know from other places in Scripture that in the land they are meant to worship God and represent him to the world.

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Last week I brie y said that as much as I love America, we are not made for the American version of freedom. If you’re a notetaker it might be worth writing this down. American freedom is generally freedom from. Freedom from oppression, freedom from undue intervention in our lives, etc. That’s a good thing, but it’s not enough. It leads to, “Great, I’m free, now what?” In his wonderful book The Second Mountain New York Times columnist David Brooks says that young people today are “drowning in freedom”. That’s an interesting thought, isn’t it?

But I think he’s onto something. And I’m oversimplifying this process, but freedom from by itself leads to a different kind of slavery, not to an outside overlord but to our strongest internal desires. Freedom without purpose isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Christian freedom is freedom from and freedom for. When we come to know Christ we are saved from the power of sin and saved for serving God and loving our neighbor. Christian freedom isn’t about demanding our rights, that makes no sense. It’s about being free from slavery to sin, free from slavery to our own desires, freedom from slavery to individualism, and freedom to live lives of joyful service to God and others. That’s real freedom. There’s a lot of talk in secular culture about freedom, we need to remember that as Christ-followers we use that word, but we mean something entirely different. Man, don’t miss that. Freedom from is not enough. Christian freedom is freedom for. God sets us free for a purpose. To worship. To serve Him. So let’s apply that same idea to our salvation. It’s wonderful to dwell on what we have been saved from so that we can remember God’s grace and grow in our gratitude for it. But it’s also worth asking the question, what have I been saved for? What has God given me to do? That’s not salvation by works. That active participation in the Kingdom of God. God’s mission in the world is not about , to quote Wendell Berry, “encanting anemic souls into heaven.” It’s much more about bringing heaven to Earth. If you look at the words of Jesus or the words of Paul and Peter and others later in the New Testament, there’s an awful lot in there about how we live. There’s an awful lot of tools that can help us navigate the challenges of life in the 21st century. And it’s not about measuring up or being good enough. It’s about living under the rule and reign of God and being transformed by him. When we become Christians we are saved from the penalty of our sin, but we are saved for far more than just waiting for heaven. We’ve been saved for active participation in the Kingdom of God. I think too often we don’t nd Christianity very interesting because it feels passive and future oriented. Jesus says seek seek my kingdom today. That doesn’t feel very passive and it certainly isn’t future-oriented. You’ve been saved for a purpose. Your freedom is for glorifying God and serving others. God saved Israel from slavery for worship and service to Him. He saves us for a purpose. Ok, back to the story: Up to this point you can imagine Moses starting to nod his head and maybe even get excited. “Ok God, you are going to rescue Israel from Egypt. This is fantastic! You go do that, I’ll prepare the milk and honey and we’ll have a big party. Great plan, God!” I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this

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shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Things change dramatically in verse 10. God lets Moses in on a little detail that he left out in verse eight, “So, Moses, you’re actually a pretty big part of the plan. You’re going to go talk to Pharaoh and get him to let my people out of Egypt. We good?”” And Moses’ enthusiasm for this plan takes a bit of a hit. He says, “Wait a second. Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” But God promises that he will be with him, and he says when this is all over you are going to serve me on this mountain. And that’s all well and good, but you can imagine it didn’t do much to calm Moses’ fears. But we said at the beginning that we know God through His revelation, and I want to highlight some of what God has revealed about Himself in this story because some of us need the encouragement of remembering who God is and what He does: First simply, He reveals Himself. God is constantly revealing Himself to us. Do we have eyes to see it? He is paying attention. It says He saw the af iction of the people. He is holy. He is utterly separate from us. He is unchanging. The God of Abraham was the God of Moses is the God of us. He is personal. He calls Moses by name, and repeats His name as a sign of affection. He goes with us. When God calls us to do something He doesn’t leave us alone. He is with Moses, and He is with us. Next, Moses shifts his attention to a practical concern: 13 Then

Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘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, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

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God says I am who I am. That is God’s self-identi cation. I am. The idea there is that He was, He is, He forever shall be. He is the creator and sustainer of all things. He is uncreated, He is the uncaused cause. In John 8 Jesus would get Himself in trouble with the religious

leaders of His day by saying, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Why was that problematic? Because He was identifying Himself with God. The Hebrew pronunciation of God’s name, I am, or at least our best guess at is, Yahweh. In the ancient world the name of God was regarded as so sacred that very early on it stopped being pronounced. To complicate matters further, Hebrew is written using only consonants, not vowels. When scribes began copying the Bible, they added vowels not as letters, but as combinations of dots and dashes underneath the letters that I’m convinced are the work of the devil. Or at least that’s what I thought when I had to pass Hebrew class in seminary. This is meant to aid in reading and pronunciation. But when scribes got to the name of God, they felt it was irreverent to spell it out like they would any other name, because of the whole no pronouncing thing. So again, we don’t know for sure how God’s name was spoken. Now, it’s possible that you’ve also heard the word “Jehovah” as a name for God, and that re ects what they early scribes did to reference God without saying His name. They kept the consonants from Yahweh, but used the same vowels from the Hebrew word adonai, which means, lord. And if you take the consonants from Yahweh and add the vowels from adonai you get ya-hoah, or Jehovah. Like eight of you found that interesting, the rest of you are like, I was hoping we’d talk about Hebrew vowels in church today. So terms like Jehovah and Adonai became more common than Yahweh in part because of the sacredness of God’s name. That’s part of why in your Bibles you might see the word “Lord” in a slightly different font than other words. That’s typically a translation of the word Yahweh, and it’s important to remember, Lord is a title, but Yahweh is God’s name. Bottom line, God has a name and it’s not God. It’s Yahweh. God is God and His name is Yahweh in the sense that I am a human and my name is Brian. And now God, Yahweh, has appointed Moses to be His prophet, and He has told him to tell his people that he is the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, why? It’s to clarify that this wasn’t some new God, but the God worshipped by their ancestors. Let’s keep going, verse 16

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and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the af iction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land owing with milk and honey.” ’ 18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacri ce to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. 21 And I will give this

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people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.” So God lays out the plan in a bit more detail. He says you’re going to go talk to the elders of Israel and they’re going to be with you. Remember, Moses was a former Egyptian criminal who they hadn’t seen in a really long time. He didn’t exactly have a ton of credibility. And remember, he’s asking them to go ask Pharaoh to let their people go. And lest we be confused about what they are asking for because we are modern Westerners reading a document from the ancient Near East. “Three-day journey” does not literally mean a trip of 72 hours. It means, we’re leaving for however long we feel like, which means…forever. So as we look ahead to Pharaoh’s resistance to all of this, we have to remember that he knew they weren’t really asking for three days off of work, they were asking to leave town pretty much permanently. And Yahweh knows all of this, and He says Pharaoh won’t be compelled to do anything without a mighty hand. A mighty hand or outstretched arm is a common Egyptian inscription meant to describe Pharaoh’s power, and it is not coincidentally used in the Exodus story to describe God’s power over Pharaoh. And then I love this last part. God says, I’m going to give you favor in the eyes of the Egyptian people, and each woman in your crew will go to your neighbor and ask for some silver and gold and clothing for your journey, and they’re just going to give it to you and be cool with it. Alright. Chapter 4, God has laid out the plan, we should be good to go, I’m sure Moses will be very enthusiastic now that his concerns have been addressed.

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Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’ ” 2 The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3 And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. (Seems reasonable) 4 But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— 5 “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” 6 Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. 7 Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his esh. 8 “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the rst sign, they may believe the latter sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

Ok, so now we’re talking. God says you want some proof that I’m with you, I’ll play. The staff becomes a snake. Anyone remember middle school history class and your unit on ancient Egypt and what ancient pharaoh headdresses looked like? A snake. They were a sign of Egyptian power. Moses grabs the snake and turns in back into a staff. Later in the story this same miracle will be performed in pharaoh’s court and the symbolism would not have been lost on pharaoh and his people. Then God gives him two more signs that anticipate some of the plagues that will come upon Egypt in a passage Pastor Judah will lead us through in a few weeks. Now, you’ve likely noticed that Moses is giving God quite a bit of pushback here. And as Moses shifts from asking questions to at out whining we’re going to see that God gets frustrated, but I want to point out what God does with Moses’ questions. He engages Him. He addresses them. He doesn’t shame Moses for having questions and doubts. I’ve never really understood why questions and doubts get shamed in some parts of the Christian world. Questions help us separate the core truths of our faith from secondary issues. They help us see that there’s actually quite a bit of diversity of thinking in the Church of Jesus Christ. They keep us from throwing everything away when something seems inconsistent. Questions are not a sign of weak faith, they are a sign of an engaged, sincere faith. I became a Christian when I was 15 and I’ve never had a period of wandering from my faith since then. But I’ve wrestled with big questions. I’ve gone through seasons of deconstruction and reconstruction. My 25-year-old self was pretty sure most everything was black and white and as I’m pushing 40 I’ve become a lot more comfortable with gray, and I’m not just talking about my hair. And with God’s help I’m going to keep deconstructing and reconstructing for the rest of my life, because I know God’s not afraid of my questions. The core truths of our faith remain the same, but beyond that there’s a lot to wrestle with. God has made Himself known through His selfrevelation, but there’s also a lot we don’t know. God meets Moses in His questions and He is willing to do that for us. Verse 10: 10 But

Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” 13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”

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God says, “Listen Moses, if I call you to something I’m going to equip you for it.” Something for all of us to remember today, don’t forget, if God calls you He’ll equip you. But then we get to

the bottom of this. Moses is done throwing up smokescreens and gets real. God’s asking him to do something and he just doesn’t want to. 14 Then

the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.” 18 Moses

went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19 And the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand. We’ll come to see that Moses’ staff is a symbol of God’s presence and power throughout the story. By the way, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” Is quoted almost verbatim in Matthew 2:20 when God tells Joseph that he and Mary and baby Jesus can return to Israel. That’s one example among many where Matthew is very clearly presenting Jesus as a new Moses. Verse 21: 21 And

the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my rstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your rstborn son.’ ” We have a preview here on what we’re going to get into in the next few weeks. Moses will go to Pharaoh, he’ll demand Israel’s release. Pharaoh will end up with a hard heart, seemingly with God involved. What role does God play? What is Pharaoh’s responsibility in all of this? Join us next time on Discovering God in Exodus! Verse 24: 24 At

a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. Zipporah took a int and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision. 25 Then

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Since it’s just us I’m going to let you in on a little secret, but don’t tell anyone. There’s some weird stuff in the Bible. And as far as weird stories go, this one is hard to beat. The commentaries I read this week seem to only agree on this point: that a lot of Old Testament scholars have spent a long time trying to gure out this story. That’s the sort of exciting stuff

Bible scholars get to do. To make things better, all of that effort hasn’t yielded much. Most think that God is seeking to kill Moses here, which seems odd given everything they’ve been through. One thinks God is trying to kill Moses’ rst-born son Gershom, which would t with the whole rst born son thing from the previous verses, but again that’s a minority view. Either way, we know that God is clearly upset that Gershom is not circumcised, and Moses’ wife somehow knows what’s going on and she swoops in and saves the day - I guess - by performing an emergency circumcision on her son, who by the way is almost certainly old enough that this will scar him for the rest of his life, pun intended. And then it says she touched Moses’ feet, but the Hebrew only says “his” so it could actually be her son and “feet” is a Hebrew euphemism for, uh, not feet and bridegroom more than likely actually means relative, so it’s possible this is a mother con rming she is a blood relative to her son, something that would have been normal to say during a circumcision ritual. The whole thing is a mess and I’m getting uncomfortable. But here’s the bottom line: God viewed a lack of circumcision as a very big deal. Genesis 17:14 said that anyone in Israel who was uncircumcised had broken His covenant. And as God is about to start a new thing with Israel, He’s not having that level of disobdience. Verse 27: 27 The

Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. 30 Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their af iction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. Aaron and Moses meet up, Moses lls him in, they go nd Israel’s leaders and, wouldn’t you know it, God was right, the people believed. And what did they do in response to this revelation from Yahweh, this knowledge that He sees them, they worship. God is a God of revelation. And that is how we know Him. We know Him because He has revealed Himself to us. In this story, God reveals Himself to Moses in a burning bush. God reveals Himself to Aaron as a voice calling him to go. God reveals Himself to the nation of Israel through these two men who come to them declaring God sees them and will act on their behalf. I think it’s really easy to feel unseen. I’ve certainly felt that way before and my guess is you probably have, too. Maybe you feel that way today. And what I want to encourage you with today as we close is that you can sit here in this room, three thousand plus years after this story took place and you can know that God sees you.

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We know the greatest revelation of God there is. We know that 2000 years ago God came not in a bush or a voice, but as a person, Jesus Christ. And He came to us as people who were enslaved to the pharaoh of sin, and He saw us and He invited us to be free from our

slavery, to be ‘transferred from the domain of darkness’ the Bible says. He invited us to follow Him, to learn from Him, to participate in His work in the world. And then, He showed us the depth of His love by dying on a cross to pay the penalty for our sin, and rising again to show us that the ‘pharaohs’ of sin and death will not have power over us. We have been saved from those things and we have been saved for a purpose. And so we can look to the cross and see it for what it is: an eternal reminder that God sees us, that God is for us, that God is with us. He is a God of revelation. He is a God who meets us in our deserts, who meets us in our weakness, and who meets us in our enslavement and He shows us the way to freedom. It’s following Him. Let’s pray.