Wednesday, February 6, 2019
Exodus 23:20 – 21 (NIV) “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.
University of Maine officials fired a 20-year employee of the university in February of 2006 after she admitted she had allowed off-campus hockey players to eat breakfast for free, which is a violation of NCAA rules. Head coach Shawn Walsh required the players to eat breakfast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the season. When they would come through the line at the cafeteria, the players told her that they didn’t have any money and that they didn’t have any meal tickets. She felt sorry for them and she let them pass and eat free. The daughter of the fired woman said, “They knew she was a softy and if they came in saying they were hungry and they didn’t have any money she’d let them through.”
I’m afraid that many people today think God is a softy too. To pursue their own goals and accomplish their own agendas, they have redefined God so they can justify their choices and behavior. They believe that the compassionate and loving heart of God will overshadow any sense of justice He might have. No matter what they have done, they believe that a moment spent on their knees in an act (and it is an act) of humility will earn the forgiveness of God, knowing all the while that in their hearts they have no intention of changing their ways. They truly believe they can fake God out with their false remorse and that God will respond with forgiveness.
When the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt on their way to the Promised Land, God gave Moses His law. The law was designed to accomplish two things. First, it would reveal the holy nature of God, and second, it would reveal the unholy nature of man. The law brought to light our sinfulness. Then God promised that He would send an Angel ahead of them to bring them to the place that had been prepared for them. God warns the people to be careful not to rebel against the Angel. He also warned them that if they did rebel, they’d better not try and weasel their way out of it. The Angel would offer them no forgiveness for rebellion that persisted. The reason is this – the Name of God was in the Angel.
When the Bible speaks of the Name of God, it means more than just a series of letters in the alphabet that spell out a word. In the Bible, a name represented the character and reputation of the person. It embodied the fullness of that person’s nature.
My grandfather’s name was Jacob, and he hated it. He always went by his initials when he signed anything, and everyone who didn’t call him pastor called him “van”. He refused to use the name Jacob because the name means “deceiver” and he did not want anyone to think that was his nature.
With the Name of God in the Angel, the Angel would respond to every situation in the exact same way that God Himself would. The Angel was the exact representation of the nature and character of God. There would be no compromising the holy nature of God based on man’s attempts to negotiate a settlement. There would be no forgiveness for rebellion based on an insincere attempt at appeasing the nature of God with acts of remorse. Black and white justice would be the rule, because it is the perfect nature of God and it is the perfect expression of His love. True love cannot allow someone to believe they are forgiven when they are not. True love brings a person to true repentance.
There are two important lessons for us in this:
- Don’t try to fake out God with insincere repentance. You cannot earn the favor or forgiveness of God with acts of remorse that don’t come from a true heart of humility before the holiness of God.
- Don’t let other people try to fake you out. Each of us who knows Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord has the Name of God in us. We are to be the representation of God’s nature and character to the people of the world. That means loving them with the love of God. But love does not overlook sin. Love does not condone sin for the sake of peace or acceptance. Love does not compromise holiness with compassion. Love does not let people pass through the line because they have a good story to tell. Love seeks to bring people to true repentance so they can be truly forgiven.
We are to forgive others as God forgave us in Christ Jesus. We are to offer forgiveness freely, but not cheaply. Our forgiveness was only granted when we asked for it with a broken and humbled heart of repentance. It is only in that moment of brokenness that the true love of God can be experienced.
We show the true love of God to others when we join the Holy Spirit in His ministry to bring them to the same point of repentance.