Is Your God Too Small?

Exodus 3:13-14

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Dear Friends in Christ,

Since today is Mother’s Day, I thought I would begin my sermon with a story about a married couple that was about to have their first baby.  In the classes they took to prepare for this life-altering event, the wife came up with an idea.  Apparently she had heard from other women that men tend to freeze up during times of high stress and they don’t quite know what to say when their wife is going through the pains of labor.  So she came up with some things for her husband to say to her and she even wrote them out on some index cards.  Things like:  “You’re doing great, honey!  Keep it up, sweetheart!  It’ll all be worth it, dear!”

Well, her husband thought that was such a good idea that he decided to do the same for her.  So he made a list of things that he wanted her to say to him while she was in labor.  Things like:  “I’m ok, honey, you can watch the game.”  Or, “It’s not as bad as they say.  You can go home and rest.”  Or, “Thank you so much for making it possible for me to go through this wonderful experience.”

Well, sometimes we do need somebody to help us know what to say, to in essence put words in our mouths.  You parents do that for your children, don’t you?  If someone gives your child a gift, what do you instantly say to them?  “Now what do you say?” Of course they’re supposed to say thank you.  Or if they come and ask you for something in a rather demanding tone of voice, you might say, “Aren’t you forgetting one very important word, like the word please?”  Or when they’ve beat up on their little brother or sister, you might tell them to apologize, to say “I’m sorry.”  And one reason we do that, one reason why we put words in the mouths of our children is because that’s one way to put values in their hearts.

Well, God does the same with us, especially when it comes to the area of worship.  He puts words in our mouths.  He gives us a vocabulary to use that helps to instill values in our hearts.  And we’re spending some time right now on this third and final leg of my “Faith Odyssey” sermon series examining some of those words.  Words like holy, hosanna, glory, and the one that we looked at in one of my sermons several weeks ago, the word HALLELUJAH.  I thought I was finished with that word when I was finished with that sermon, but then I realized I wasn’t, that there were still some things I wanted to say about its meaning for our lives today.  So let’s turn our attention once more to this wonderful worship word that reveals to us the kind of God we serve.

And as we do so, I want to ask you a very important question.  And that question is:  Who or what is your god?  That’s not a trick question because there are so many gods that people worship today.  You know who your god is when you look back over the past few weeks and months and you take note of who or what received most of your time, most of your attention, most of your thoughts.  For some of us, our god might be our reputation.  It might be our job, our home, our car, our bank account, our computer, our cell phone.  It might even be our marriage or some other relationship that we place ahead of the one true God.

Well, once you’ve identified who your god is, then let me ask you another question:  How big is your god?  If your god is your reputation, if your god is your bank account or your home or your car, you need to ask yourself:  Is that god big enough to forgive my sins?  Is that god powerful enough to resurrect me from the grave?  Is that god capable of giving me eternal life?

These are essential questions for us to consider because according to the Bible, we become like the god or gods we worship.  Ps. 115:8 says:  “People who make idols will be like them, and so will those who trust in them.”  So if your god is real small, then your goals and dreams are going to be small.  If your god is weak, then you’re going to be weak.  If your god is limited to just an hour long worship service on Sunday morning if even that, then your god is not going to have much of an impact on the rest of your week.

But if your god is big, if your god is large enough that he can suspend the stars in the heavens and carve out the valleys and raise up the mountains, if your god pre-dated time, if your god has never not been because he’s just always existed, then all of a sudden you are introduced to a whole new way of looking at life.  And you are stronger because your God is stronger than anything that exists and anything that could come your way.

And the word HALLELUJAH is one way God has of opening our eyes and expanding our vision and enlarging our view of him.  Remember the meaning of that word from when we looked at it a few weeks ago?  It literally means “Praise to Yahweh,” Yahweh being the official name that God ascribed to himself in the Old Testament.  And as we mentioned in that sermon, that name means “the One who is and the One who causes to be.”  We learned it’s a name that reminds us that the God we worship is unchanging, uncaused, ungoverned, and unstoppable.

For the origin of that word we need to go back to our text for today, back to the days of Moses when he was an 80-year-old shepherd tending flocks for his father-in-law Jethro, a far cry from the palace in Egypt where he had been raised.  Moses had done this job for the past 40 years.  But then came the day when the bush began to blaze and the voice began to speak from it and Moses knew in his innermost being that things were about to change dramatically.  For God was calling him to go back to Egypt to deliver his people from slavery there, only to have Moses raise more objections and excuses than a little child does when it’s time to go to bed.  But God has answers for every one of them.  So finally, Moses agrees to go, but before he does he has a question for God: “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, `What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” And how does God answer him? He says, “I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I AM has sent me to you.’”  If you examine that passage in the original Hebrew language that it was written in, the word that we awkwardly translate as “I AM” is the proper name Yahweh.

Now I may be wrong, but because Moses demonstrated on this occasion through all of the excuses he offered that he was a typical human being, I suspect he may have been hoping for a little more than that from God.  I imagine he would have liked God to drop down from heaven a detailed itinerary of what was to come.  For Moses it would have been great if God had said, “OK, Moses, here’s how it’s going to work.  You’re going to go back to Egypt and tell the Pharaoh to let my people go.  But he’s not going to listen to you.  So then I’m going to bring 10 plagues upon the Egyptians.  Then there will be something called the Passover which I’ll explain to you when we get to that point.  Then I’m going to walk you and your people through the Red Sea.  And have you ever heard of manna?  Well, you’re going to love that – bread from heaven every day.  And I’ve got this pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night thing that I’m going to do to lead you through the wilderness.”  Moses would have loved such a detailed account of what was going to happen.  The reason I say that is because we would love for God to do the same thing for us whenever we find ourselves in our own personal Egypt.  But you know what?  God didn’t do that for Moses, and he doesn’t do it for us.  Instead what God does for us is what he did for Moses.  In essence he told Moses in the burning bush, “I’ll tell you what I’m going to give you.  I’m going to give you me.  I’m going to give you Yahweh – the One who never changes, the One who has never been caused, the One who has never been governed, the One who has never been stopped.”  And with that assurance and in that confidence, Moses went back to Egypt and did what the Lord called him to do.

May I ask you a question, my friends?  What’s the Egypt that you’re about to go into?  Or, what’s the Egypt you find yourself in right now?  We all have them, don’t we?  It might be a new challenge, like a new position you’re taking on in your work place.  It might be an old challenge that you’re facing on the job right now, one that just doesn’t seem to go away or get any better.  Your Egypt might be a strained marriage, a financial setback, a nagging health problem.  Whatever your Egypt is, the challenge is to allow the concept of Yahweh, our unchanging, uncaused, ungoverned, and unstoppable God, to be what shapes and dictates how you deal with that Egypt.

Think of it this way.  Suppose you ladies were married to Dwayne Johnson, also known as the Rock, and you had a brand new jar of pickles that you just couldn’t get open.  Would you worry about it?  Or suppose your dad was Bill Gates and you couldn’t get your computer to turn on, would you worry about that?  Or suppose your best friend was Phil Knight, the owner of Nike, and your shoestring broke, would you worry?  Why do we worry so much?  We worry because we allow our view of God to be so small.  Now please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here.  I am not in any way minimizing any of the problems or challenges that you may be facing right now because I know that I’m talking to people who are battling cancer, people who have been out of a job for a long time, people who are struggling financially, people who are dying on the inside because of problems they’re having with their children.  But let me say this.  In comparison to God’s strength your problem is no greater than a tough-to-open lid on a pickle jar would be to Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson.  I know from our perspective it seems much bigger than that.  But from God’s perspective and in his economy it’s not that big.

So I want you to do something right now.  I want you to picture yourself carrying your problem, your burden, whatever it might be, into the royal throne room of Yahweh.  And I want you to envision yourself setting it down in front of him and then stepping back and looking at it.  Can you see how small that problem all of a sudden becomes as it sits in his glorious, awesome, and powerful presence?  Can you feel the hope and encouragement that he offers you as he receives that burden from you and takes it under his care?  And can you picture yourself leaving that throne room with your shoulders a little straighter and your smile a little brighter and your steps a little stronger? Not that the problem is solved yet.  Moses’ problems weren’t solved when he left the burning bush.  If anything, they were about to begin.  But he knew he wasn’t alone.  He knew who was with him.  He knew Yahweh was there and that he would never leave his side.

And that, my friends, is a big reason why we worship.  And that’s why God gives us these worship words because sometime between Sunday and Saturday we forget, don’t we?  Am I the only who does that?  We forget.  So we need a reminder.  So we walk in here on Sunday morning and God says, “OK, say this word, HALLELUJAH.  Think about what that means:  Praise be to Yahweh.  I am Yahweh.  And I am with you.  And I love you so much that I gave my only Son Jesus to die on a cross for you so that we can spend eternity together in a pain-free, problem-free, tear-free existence.  So trust me, cling to me, lean on me because I can handle anything that comes your way.”  Would you bow your heads for a moment?

Lord God, Heavenly Father, we thank you that you are Yahweh, our unchanging, uncaused, ungoverned, and unstoppable God.  Help us to never forget that for we confess how easy that is for us to do, especially when we find ourselves situated in our own personal Egypts.  Deliver us, Lord, through your almighty power.  Comfort us through your Holy Spirit.  Save us through the precious blood of Jesus.  And one day grant us entrance into that perfect life where all heartaches will cease, all tears will be wiped away, and unending joy will be ours through Christ our Savior.