9/11/2016 8:03:30 PM
God Has the Right Combination of Power and Love - Pastor Aaron Dolan
Take a look at the symbol on the front of the service folder. That symbol is also found somewhere in the sanctuary. I’ll give you a few seconds. Try to find it. Don’t point at it or give it away. As you’re looking for it, let me explain what it is. This symbol is called the “Hand of God.” There are at least two different versions of the hand of God symbol. Today we see this version. Next week we’ll see the other one. Today’s version shows the hand raised upward. It is in the position of blessing. It symbolizes God being active in the affairs of earth. The hand of God in blessing. Did you find it? It’s right up front on the green parament that drapes the altar. The three circles contain symbols for the Trinity: the Father (hand in blessing), the Son (Lamb of God), and the Holy Spirit (dove). Today we focus on the first one.
“I believe in God the Father Almighty.” It’s so familiar to many of us that those words sound like they should go together. But, wait a second. Father…and Almighty. There is a tension there. Can it really be true that he is both? Because, if he is my Father, that means he loves me and wants what is best for me. If he is Almighty, then he has the power to do whatever he wants. If he is both Father and Almighty, then why do so many bad things happen in my life? Why do I struggle? Why do I hurt? Maybe he is my Father who wants what is best for me, but then he must not be able to give the best to me. He must not be Almighty. Or, maybe God is Almighty, but then he must not want to help me. He must not care about me or notice me.
For centuries Christians have publicly stated through the Apostles’ Creed their belief that God is in fact both their Father and Almighty. The Creed says that because the Bible gives both names to God. For example, today’s sermon text, Exodus 6, shows us God as both loving and powerful. God Has the Right Combination of Power and Love. This morning, let’s explore Scripture’s description of this combination so that we can know it, see it, and trust it.
On the first day of Sunday School, it’s a good time to review a little Bible history to set the stage. God had made promises to Abraham and his son Isaac and his son Jacob. He promised that their family would grow to become a nation, and they would live in the land that was called Canaan at the time. And some time after they would settle in this promised land, all people on earth would be blessed through them because the Savior of the world would be born in that land as one of their descendants. But when we get to Exodus 6, those promises seem nowhere close to being kept. Yes, Abraham’s family did become a large group of people, called the Israelites. But they were living in Egypt. And they weren’t living as free people, but as slaves. Their days were spent making bricks, supervised by foremen who imposed impossible expectations of their work and who beat them if they didn’t meet those expectations. Imagine being an Israelite in Egypt. You open your eyes in the morning, and what do you have to look forward to? You’re hopeless, desperate. You’re surrounded by evil. There’s no reason to be optimistic or look forward to the future. And what do you think of God? If he even exists, he must not care much about you. Either that or he’s not able to do anything about your situation.
But now God is sending Moses to save the Israelites. As God spoke to Moses, he used two names for himself that taught everyone something about who he is. “God…said to Moses, ‘I am the LORD (notice, all capital letters). 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.’” Two different names. He is “God Almighty.” That means he has power. He can do anything. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob always knew that about God. Now he’s reminding Moses and the Israelites too. But now he also tells them that he is the LORD. When that word is in all capital letters, it’s a special name for God, a name that identifies him as a God of love who faithfully keeps all his promises. God Almighty, and the LORD. So what is God saying to Moses and the Israelites? “I have the power to save you and keep my promise of a new land and a Savior. I love you so much that I will keep my promises to you.” Since God told them that he is Almighty and the LORD, they could know that he had the right combination of power and love. They had God’s Word on it. Therefore, they had something to believe in.
That’s the first part of faith—knowing what to have faith in. The Israelites were not supposed to have faith in God because they hoped he would save them. They were supposed to have faith in God because he said he would save them. Likewise, I can’t say, “I believe that God will keep me alive until I’m 90, or I believe God will get rid of all the evil in the world.” God hasn’t said that. He never made that promise to me or you, so you can’t know that. And if you can’t point to a promise of God, you can’t have faith in it. But what has God promised? That he is Almighty. And that he is your Father. Do you remember what Jesus said in the reading from Matthew? “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” God is your Father. That’s his promise. He wants to give gifts, and his gifts are always good. That’s his promise. He is Almighty, which means he can do whatever he wants. That’s what he has told us. He works for the good of those who love him. He has said that. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for all sins. That’s what Scripture says. You know these things, because God has said them. And since God has said it, you can believe it. He is the Almighty, and he is your Father. He has the right combination of power and love to want to bless you and to be able to do it. Know it.
Why is it so hard to believe that sometimes? The devil is always there, in your doubt. He wants you to doubt what God has told you. “How can God be both powerful and loving, both the Almighty and my Father, when this is how you feel, or when this is what your life is like?” It’s the oldest temptation, but the most deadly one. The devil tells you, “Either God lied to you, or he doesn’t love you.” In other words, those promises of God must not apply to you. This is a wicked temptation. It’s the temptation to trust your eyes more than God. And if you end up living your life trusting your eyes whenever they disagree with God, then you have fallen into the sin of unbelief.
As the Israelites struggled in slavery, miserable, under the oppression of the Egyptians, they must have wondered if God’s promises applied to them. Maybe they only applied to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Maybe God didn’t feel like keeping those promises anymore. promises didn’t seem to apply to them. But God said, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go… I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.” And that’s what happened. God sent plagues on the Egyptians, and eventually they let the Israelites leave and head toward the land of Canaan, the one promised to them. They got to see the combination of power and love that God promised. And there was no doubt that it directly applied to them.
That’s the second part of what it means to have faith—seeing that what God has promised applies specifically to you. “I believe in God the Father Almighty.” But how do you know that he is not just the Father but your Father. How do you know that his power will directly benefit you? The reading from Galatians explained, “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” At your baptism God made it clear that you are his child and that his promises apply to you. Water was put on your head. That means you wear Christ’s life on you as if his perfect record of life is yours. And if you wear Christ, then you have the relationship with God the Father that Jesus has. Jesus makes God your Father. Your baptism proves to you that God is your Father, and that all his promises about treating his children with the right combination of power and love apply to you specifically. That means that, in whatever he does in your life, and in whatever he allows to happen, he has your best interests in mind, particularly your forgiveness and your eternal welfare.
That leads to the third part of what it means to have faith: trusting. This gets to the heart and core of faith—trusting what God has said and living like it.
That Israelite who opened his eyes to greet another morning in Egypt could wake up with hope, knowing that God was looking out for him. In fact, he could get up and start packing, because he trusted that his rescue was coming. God had said so.
God is your Almighty Father. So live with optimism. Face your challenges with a trust that God will see you through them. Own up to your sins with the confidence that Jesus has washed them away and given you the status of God’s child. Think about eternity with the certainty that Jesus’ life and death has secured your spot in heaven. Talk to your Almighty Father knowing that he wants to give you good gifts, and that he is able to do it. Because of his mighty hand, he will keep his promises to you. The hand of your Almighty Father is a hand of blessing. Know it, see it, trust it.
There have been a lot of changes in the world around you. Things change in your life, too. But God is still your Father, and he is still Almighty. That can never change.