On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.”
The Israelites were expectant to go somewhere better than Egypt, and then the Lord led them to the wilderness, which arguably was just as bad or even worse. This is where God decided to deliver His covenant to Moses to share with His people. In this, they would be reminded of God’s faithfulness, His commands, and His promises.
This is so often our story of grace as well; we submit our lives to God and things don’t magically get perfect. They actually seem to get worse sometimes. I went through a season where God allowed me to spend nine months getting to study His Word and be surrounded by others who were seeking to do the same thing at the Kanakuk Institute. But for me, that is where my journey with anxiety really began. In an environment where I was growing closer to the Lord more than ever, I was feeling the weakest I had ever felt, because my anxiety was crippling to me in every aspect. This allowed me to truly depend on God, knowing I had nothing to bring to the table, and He still loved me the same. This allowed me to trust in the promises of who God says He is, who I am in being His, and to cling to that truth over the anxiety that I felt. This allowed me to ask God the hard questions and wrestle, knowing that I could cling to the promises that He is unchanging, and He will never leave me or forsake me. Because of this season that was a wilderness for me, where God showed me more of Himself, I know Him and love Him more deeply. It was in the wilderness that God revealed His faithfulness and continued to do so for the Israelites. No matter where we are or how bad circumstances may seem, we look to a God that has proved to be faithful over and over again.
And who does God say He is? Further ahead in Exodus 34 is my favorite text in the Bible. Verses 6-7 say, “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, 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.’” This is the character of the God we seek, the God that knows us, loves us, and sent His son to take our place so that we may be saved through His Son's righteousness. Thanks be to God! This is the God who calls us His own and in whom our identity rests securely. May we remind ourselves daily that this is the One who we live for and who we are fully known and loved by.
We also can notice an important detail here in the text – the Israelites were not saved after they obeyed God; they were saved before it. We know reading further in the text that the Israelites' faith probably wouldn’t be marked by the word “faithful” either. But would ours? What is comforting in our failures to trust and sometimes even failures to believe is that God is who He says He is, whether we believe it or not, and He is faithful, whether we are or not. He remains the same. Hebrews 13 says that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. The God we serve is never changing, always faithful, always reliable, and perfect in every way. We can hold fast to the faithfulness of our God because He is the hope we look to, and not ourselves. May we seek His face and His kingdom before anything else, in all aspects of our hearts and lives.
Lastly, how do we get to this point of knowing we need a faithful God like this? John Newton once said, “No one ever recognized he was a sinner by being told.” We must be shown our sin; we won’t receive it just by being told. I grew up in an incredibly God-fearing home, and I did not truly see my need for a Savior until college. I don’t know when that moment was for you, but what I do know is once you truly meet Christ, it changes everything. As believers, we get to experience grace and freedom unlike anything else because of the free gift of salvation that God has given us through His son. Because God has allowed us to receive salvation through Christ alone, we see our sin, and instead of it crushing us, we get to experience the fullness of God, His forgiveness, and His redemption from our own sin. We can rest in the truth that it doesn’t depend on us, but He alone sustains us. He remains our faithful Father and will continue to fulfill every single one of His promises. We can rejoice in getting to know Him more daily, being fully loved by, and delighted in by our holy, perfect, almighty God for all our days.