Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Descent Week 2 - God’s Descent In Our Need

There are many natural joys that come from being a father of young children. When I’m gone for a long time at work, I get greeted as if I’m a conquering hero when I walk through the door. On top of that, even the most simple things can make them laugh. Just the other night, my wife was reading a story to the children on the couch. It was at a tense moment in the story where nosies could be heard off in the distance, and then the nosies stopped. For dramatic effect, my wife paused. At that moment I grabbed one of the kids and yelled. Everyone jumped in surprise, having a great laugh at being startled.
But with the joys of being a father, comes the harder jobs that have to be done. Probably the most frustrating of jobs is discipline. In fact, I recently had a quick conversation with a man who agreed that disciplining children is not something that we find enjoyable. Now I will say, I don’t mind it. It doesn’t bother me to discipline my children, because I know that to discipline them is to help them become who God created them to be. What I find frustrating about disciplining children, is when I walk through the door, and instead of the hero’s welcome, I find that I have to be the disciplinarian.
And I know from experience, and from other people’s experience, that waiting for daddy to get home to administer discipline, is not a child’s favorite part of the father child relationship either. Many a kid has heard the words, “Just wait ’til your father gets home,” and have dreaded every second until he arrives. And as a kid, there’s this thought that, even though your parent tells you they don’t enjoy disciplining you, they really secretly do. As if parents are wringing their hands, just waiting for the next time their child messes up, so they can discipline them. 
Now I don’t know about you, but the truth is, when I get a call, or a text telling me that when I get home I need to discipline one of the kids, I don’t like that either. Not only does it put me in a sour mood, but I also know that the chances of me being greeted warmly are probably zero.
But in order for my children to grow up, they need discipline. And my job is to be one of two disciplinarians in my family. So when I get home and I have to discipline, I do it, because in the long run, it will produce better lives.

And that’s where we come to in our second week of our Descent sermon series. A place where daddy’s coming home and the children know there’s discipline coming with him. But here’s the thing, there’s more to the discipline than punishment. There’s a heart behind the discipline that a lot of times, children and we miss. So if you have your Bible’s we’re going to start in Genesis chapter 3, but we’re going to jump forward to Exodus chapter 3.

And as you open your Bibles to Genesis and Exodus 3, let’s catch up from last week, so we can see where we’re at.

Last week we asked one of the greatest questions humanity can ask, “Why am I here?” Then we looked at four creation accounts from ancient civilizations to answer that question. Three of the accounts told us that the universe was in chaos, from there, war, or strife created earth, and/or humans. These three creation accounts therefore gave us the answer to, “why am I here,” with the answer, “by chance”. This works well with the modern atheist and naturalist belief, that tells us that we are randomly here, with no purpose as to why.
I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sit right with me. Because it leaves so much on the table. Why then should I do anything? What then is meaning? The why’s continue, because these answers to the greatest question on earth, leaves us with a sour taste in our mouths, because they do not give a meaningful and satisfactory answer. 
But then we dove into the Bible’s account of creation, and we found that the Bible does give us a meaningful and satisfactory answer to the question. Because it shows us a very different creation. Where God creates out of a desire, and not by accident. That everything has purpose, and we are his image bearers.
And to understand that God is a purposeful Creator, is to begin to understand Christmas. But there is more to the story, and that’s where we come to Genesis chapter 3 today.

Now a lot of people know the story of Adam and Even and the eating of the forbidden fruit, where God gives the two first humans one rule, you can eat of any fruit in the garden, except for the fruit from this one tree. With that understanding, I want us to fast forward the story a little bit to the aftermath of eating the forbidden fruit. So let’s pick up the story in verse 7. So they eat the fruit and then it says…

7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Here we see what a lot of parents experience on a daily basis. Kids do something they know they’re not supposed to do, and what action do they take? They hide. “Daddy is coming home, quick, clean it up, fix the broke vase, hide the food,” they say. Why, because just like children, Adam and Eve didn’t want what they knew was coming, a discipline.

Now if we continue on into the rest of the situation here, we find out that there is indeed discipline. There’s discipline for the serpent who coerced Eve into eating the fruit. There’s discipline for Eve, who fell for it. There’s discipline for Adam for allowing the whole thing to happen.
And it’s easy to look at God in this situation, and think, he flew off the handle. I mean, it was only one piece of fruit. Did God really need to discipline all of humanity for such a minuscule infraction?
And when we start down that line of thinking, it’s easy to see God as that mean disciplinarian that we’re waiting for as a child to come home. But if we look at God in that light we miss him, we miss the heart of the matter. 

To get at this the heart of God and understand hi side in the disciple that has to happen, to me, there’s no better place to see it than in Exodus chapter 3. Like the story of Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit, the story of Moses and the burning bush is known by a lot of people. Moses sees a bush that is on fire, but isn’t being burned up, so he goes over to investigate it. It’s there in verse 4 that we pick up the story.

4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
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.

Here we begin to see the heart of God for his creation. He sees Moses and calls out for him to come closer.
But, in verse 5 we see the broken relationship between God and humanity that happened back in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve usually walked with God with no barriers, but because they ate of the forbidden fruit, barriers between the perfect God, and the now corrupted creation were put up. Those barriers are what the Bible calls sin. In Moses’ encounter with God, we see that Moses cannot get any closer to God because God is holy, he is perfect, and Moses is not. God is perfect, but Moses is like his ancestors Adam and Eve, lost in sin. Moses murder someone, causing his own sin to put up barriers between himself and God.
In verse 6, when God introduces himself, Moses recognizes the broken relationship with humanity and God, and his own sin, this is why Moses hides his face. He’s not just physically hiding his face, but relationally as well. Just as Adam and Eve hid from God, so too, Moses hides from him. And it says, Moses was afraid. He understands the perfection of God, and his own imperfection.
And this is the child knowing he has done wrong, and here’s his father coming to the door. I have found my children underneath their covers hiding from me when I have to discipline them. I remember when I was around four years old, I gave another child a bloody nose. I remember running to my house to hide, because I knew I would be disciplined for what I had done.

And we could end there, with an understanding of God as this allusive, and tyrannical disciplinarian. We could end with this understanding that there is a separation between God and humanity. That we need to hide from the wrath of God. And you know what, many people do. Many people see the God of the Old Testament and see a vengeful, wrathful, angry God that is out to discipline humanity for crimes they had no hand in.
But if we do, if we stop there, we miss the heart of this Father. We miss the true purpose of the discipline. We miss the God who is not out to destroy us, but rather to restore us.

Verse 7, God says, “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 tells Moses, I have heard their suffering, and I am concerned. I personally know the feeling of concern a parent has for their child. I see that very same concern from God.
But it doesn’t end there. It says in the next verse, “8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”

This is monumental. We saw last week that God came down to create, and to be with his creation. God descended to create out of a desire to do just that. At the beginning of today, we saw that humanity broke that relationship. It would be easy for God to wash his hands of us and move on. But no, God comes down again. He descends again, but this time it’s to seek to restore his relationship with humanity.
This is why Jesus tells the story of the Father with the Two Sons, or if you like, the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 (11-32). I think of that story as concerning the Father more than the sons. The story is simple, a father has two sons. The youngest wants his inheritance, receives it, and leaves the family. Eventually the youngest son squanders the inheritance, and returns. And this is where we see the heart of the father. Since his son had left, the father had been watching for his return. And when the father sees the son in the distance, the father runs to restore the relationship.
This is what we see from God throughout the Old Testament. God descending to restore the relationship that we broke. Every time we do something that goes against God, we add to the breakage of the relationship that Adam and Eve began.
Yet, God continues to descend. God continues to run to us. God continues to hear our suffering and he is concerned.
The Old Testament is the story of the father returning home to discipline his children, and the children being in fear of him. But here is what we must understand about the father, this is what we must understand about God: the father doesn’t discipline because he wants to break the relationship, the child has already done that, no, the father disciplines to bring the child back into a right relationship with the family.
When I discipline my children, I try to end with two things: talking about the reason for the discipline, and a hug. Children need to know that their discipline is a result of their actions, not the father’s love. The father’s love is in the discipline, because through the discipline, the relationship is restored.
But there is a caveat, the relationship will continue to be broke, because we want our own way more than God’s. And so, we see God in the Old Testament descend again, and again, and again to mend the relationship we continue to break. This is the descent of God in our rebellion, in our need.
And in order to bring a finalized mending, God must descend again, but this time in a different way. This third descent of God is what we will talk about next week.

But for this week I want to challenge you with this: have you recognized your own rebellion against God? How do you hide your life from him? What things have you done, or are doing, that if your father came to you, you would be hiding under your covers?
I want to challenge you this week to search your heart, ask God to search you as well, and then talk to him about those things are you hiding. Remember, God desires to restore your relationship with him, not to beat you down. But we need to recognize in our own lives, what God calls sin, those things that we do that are opposite of what God wants.
And when we confess those things, Scripture tells us he is faith and just to forgive them (1 John 1:9). 
Let us recognize that God comes to us, even while we sin, even while we rebel because he is our Creator, caring deeply for those he has made out of his desire.

Let us look upon God as the father who comes home, and let us be a people who give him the greeting as the conquering hero, and love him as our disciplinarian. Because in both cases, he is there so that our relationship with him would be restored, and we would live a full and joyous life. 
Now may your relationship with your heavenly Father emulate the relationship of the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen

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