THE GLORY OF GOD ON CAPE COD

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Our God is Mighty

by Ed de la Cour on November 9, 2015

Deuteronomy 4: 32 – 34, 5: 15, 7: 17 – 20        

November 8, 2015

“OUR GOD IS MIGHTY”

 

            When a body builder wants to impress folks, all he needs to do is flex his muscles, cause his biceps to bulge, and ripple his abs across the vast expanse of his chest.  He growls and makes a mean face to show how seriously strong he is.  It’s all done to convince you to stay out of his way, and to convince the ladies that this is a man they want to meet.  In a similar way, the nations of the world put on great parades that display their military hardware – all their shiny tanks, aircraft, missiles, and column after column of sharply dressed and well-disciplined troops.  They do this in order to discourage other countries from any act of aggression.  The point of these displays is to say, “You better think twice and be very careful before engaging a nation like us that is so skilled at waving our weaponry and growling.”  The intended message is, don’t mess with us!

 

            In my reading of the Bible this year, I have seen a phrase repeated several times that I had not really noticed before.  What I noticed, especially in Deuteronomy, is that God works on behalf of His people “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”  The language strongly suggests great strength that is powerfully used.  The mental picture we see is of God rolling up His sleeves, baring His strong right arm, the arm of His strength, and going to war on behalf of His people.  When God wants to indicate His might and His power, this is the way He spoke, and we see it over and over again in God’s Word. 

 

This morning, I believe God would have us reflect on the strength of God and how His uses that power, because you and I are in need of God and His strength today.  We are simply unable do all we need to be able to do.  We are not strong enough physically, nor do we possess the spiritual endurance necessary to take on the enemies we have to face.  We cannot live with any degree of confidence and vitality when we are spiritually undernourished, when our strength is below par, and we are running on empty.

 

            I need to be truthful here, and so I will freely admit my own desires are selfish to the core.  When I am weak and hurting, I want God to perform for me.  I want God to provide for me.  I want God to do for me.  When I am in need, I am really unconcerned about the broader picture.  I care very little about the Kingdom purposes of God, because frankly I perceive my needs to be far more important than the purpose and the will of God.  That is utterly selfish of you and me, if you think as I do.  As an American Christian, I own a sense of spiritual entitlement that rivals that of ancient Israel.  The political advocates of American exceptionalism would feel right at home in the Old Testament.  Like them, I believe God loves me, and He is primarily concerned with my comfort.  Like them, I believe God’s favor rests on me and that His favor is defined by good health for me, rich provision for me, and a secure future for me. 

 

            You and I like it that our God is mighty!  We like to think that when we need God, He will arise and respond to our call.  When we are sick, God will heal.  When we are in trouble, God will solve.  When some enemy attacks, God will be our heavenly attack dog.  We want God at our beck and call.  We want His might to be subservient to our own all-importance.  Our awareness of and commitment to God’s Kingdom purposes are swallowed up by our determination that God will meet all our selfish needs and satisfy all our wants and desires.  It is far too easy for me to forget that the Kingdom of God is greater and more important than my need for comfort.  God’s purposes are much larger than this little old man.  This is very hard for me even to say because I am so steeped in the American individualism I was taught as a child, where life is all about me. 

 

            The point is that our God surely is mighty, but perhaps He does not employ all that power and all that great strength in just the manner we always would like to see and even hope to experience.  Let’s learn about the might of our God from Deuteronomy.

 

            First, in Deuteronomy 4: 32 – 34, Moses shows the people the reality of God’s personal relationship with the children of Israel.  The book of Deuteronomy contains sermons of Moses.  In these messages, Moses retold the story of the way God led His people.  Moses asked the congregation to inquire about their own history.  Don’t take my word for it; do your own investigation.  Do your own research.  Read your Bible.  Study it and draw your own conclusions, not based on what others have said, but on what you are seeing for yourself.

 

            Even though Moses probably lived some 3,400 years ago, the issues he raised then are completely relevant today.  He pointed to the Exodus, to Israel’s release from slavery.  We need to realize that, up to the birth of Jesus, the Exodus was the one time, the one singular act in world history, where God so fully and powerfully revealed His might and strength for the whole world to see.  Nothing even remotely like this happened before or since.  Pharaoh was the ruler of a world-class power, and he was defeated, his magicians were stumped, the gods of Egypt were humiliated by what they thought was just the tribal god of a bunch of Semitic shepherds who were good for nothing but slavery.

 

            Moses looked back over the past forty years and told his people to give thought to the way God dealt with them, to remember the power and the strength He employed on their behalf.  He said to them what I say to you: consider your own personal relationship with God.  Look at the historically verifiable facts in the Bible and in your own life, because no other god is like our God, no, not one!

 

            Friends, these mighty acts of God are spiritual confidence builders.  They are encouragers of our faith in God when we might otherwise be tempted to give up and throw in the towel on life.

 

            Now, if you’ll turn the page to Deuteronomy 5: 15, you will notice this verse is in the middle of the retelling of the Ten Commandments.  Because Deuteronomy is a collection of several sermons, you will find some expansion in the commandments as Moses teaches and preaches.  This verse is in the section of the Law of God about keeping the Sabbath day holy.  Once again, Moses has asked his listeners to remember, to recall, to reflect upon their life while they lived in bondage in Egypt.  Even though their parents, who had been slaves were all dead by now, the stories of their lives in Egyptian slavery were still quite fresh in the minds of their children, as well they ought to be.

 

            Remember your own years in slavery.  As we sit here, we can remember the story of our own lives.  We recall what our lives were like before we met Jesus.  We remember how we struggled with self-hatred and how we felt we could never be forgiven.  We reflect on how we wished we could be free from all that oppressed us.  By the mighty hand and outstretched arm of God, Israel was released from the whips and chains of their tormentors, and it is by the blood of Jesus that we are set free. 

 

            It was the mighty hand and outstretched arm of God that reached out to you.  As you struggle today, will you decide to give up on God and will you choose to become a slave once again?  Will you work and work and work, giving no thought to rest and worship, or to honoring the God who loves you?  The might of God is not only about making war on His enemies.  It is also God’s purpose that His might and power teach us and lead us in the way we should be living.

 

            Let’s look at another example in Deuteronomy 7: 17 – 20.  Now Moses was asking Israel to look toward the near future.  It was just a few weeks before the invasion of the Promised Land was to begin.  This was like the D-Day invasion of Europe.  Everyone knew it was coming.  Jericho and its king were all well aware of the nation of Israel massing just a few miles away across the Jordan River.

 

            Our God is mighty in every area of our lives.  You and I are frequently made to face problems that are far bigger than we can handle.  We must face a foe that is stronger than we are or an enemy that is fiercer than we could ever be.  The little Jordan River before them represented the thin boundary between what is familiar and what is well outside of their comfort zone.

 

            Again, Israel was asked to remember what God did to Pharaoh, how the greatest king in the entire world at that time was defeated although Israel was completely powerless before him and his chariots.  Verse 18 says, “But don’t be afraid of them.”  Before us are institutions of wickedness.  Arrayed against us are powerful agencies of evil.  There are insidious diseases that we face.  They are all bigger, they are all badder, and they are all more terrible than you and I can imagine or we could ever hope to handle.  But do not cower in fear of them.  Remember the mighty hand and outstretched arm of God.

 

            You and I are in a far better place than ancient Israel could ever be, because we can look beyond God’s deliverance through the Red Sea.  We can see not only the plagues and terrors visited upon Egypt, but we can also look to Jesus.  If God’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt was the singular most powerful and the greatest use of God’s mighty power in human history to that time, then the cross and the resurrection of Jesus far supersedes those acts of our omnipotent God.

 

            It was on that cross that the mighty hand and outstretched arm of God was directed, first of all, against God’s only Son.  Jesus was cursed because He hung on a tree.  That’s what the Bible says.  He became the Scapegoat for our sin.  He was cursed to carry the weight of the sin of the whole world into the wilderness.  By His sacrificial death, this Lamb of God paid the price in His blood to remove the stain of our guilt and to pay the terrible penalty of God’s righteous judgment against sin and those who commit sin.

 

            Yes, those were terrible plagues against Egypt.  The cross was a terrible plague wreaked upon God’s only Son.  But then, Israel was brought through the midst of the deep water of the Red Sea.  They faced certain death only to be led through the sea safely, unharmed, unhindered, and free from the effects of death, and all by the mighty arm and outstretched hand of God.  That was a beautiful picture of Jesus, released from the decay of death and set free from the bondage of the tomb when He was raised to everlasting and victorious Life on Resurrection Morning.

 

            Remember how God dealt with Pharaoh.  Remember how the mighty hand and outstretched arm of God worked on behalf of Israel.  Remember the cross.  Remember once again how God would not allow His Son to stay in the tomb, but worked to push that stone aside.  Remember how God brought the life of Jesus back into that mortal body and raised Him immortal and invincible.

 

            Perhaps you were never a slave in Egypt, but if you have met Jesus, if you have been to the cross believing, you have been forgiven.  If by faith, you have been to the empty tomb and have believed that God emptied that grave to give you the hope of new life, then the chains that once bound Jesus and that were broken, have also been broken for you.  God has brought you through the waters of the Red Sea of death.  He has lifted you up; He has raised you to a new life that is imperishable.    The mighty hand and outstretched arm of God has worked in your own life, for your benefit and for your future.  God used His strength powerfully, mightily, and liberally to secure your life and to give you hope and a future.  He broke the chains that bound you. 

 

            And that’s not all God has done.  Verse 20, “Moreover, the Lord your God will send the hornet among them.”  Do you want to know why the enemy of your soul screams so loudly and yells so viciously at you?  The Bible says in Revelation 12: 12, that the devil knows his time is short and therefore he is full of fury.  He is full of anger and rage against God and against the children of God. 

 

The hornet is a Biblical term and it is used only a few times.  It speaks of the awesome and terrible fear of God that fell on the enemies of God and against those who opposed Israel.  The word hornet is used because what God did was like a swarm of stinging insects set upon God’s enemies.  He caused them to flee in panic before the Lord and His people.  There is no sure defense against the mighty hand and outstretched arm of God!

 

Of what are you afraid today?  What is keeping you awake at night?  What fears rumble around in your heart, just out of reach?  Why don’t we take time to do some remembering today?  Think about what God has already accomplished in your life.  How has God provided for you when there was no other way for provision to come?  How has He released you from the chains of depression or addiction?  Do you know His forgiveness today?  Do you experience His love fresh every morning?

 

David says in Psalm 27: 1“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”  God has defeated sin and death and judgment.  Is anything too big for God?  Don’t you think God can handle this storm too?  If the life of God has taken hold of your life, if the Lord has proven Himself faithful to you, if His mighty arm and outstretched hand has undertaken your defense before, will your God fail you now?

 

-- 
Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr.
First Baptist Church of Pocasset
298 Barlows Landing Road
Post Office Box 1080
Pocasset, MA 02559
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