March 18, 2020
Exodus 3:18-23 (NIV)
18 Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Let me return to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive.”
Jethro said, “Go, and I wish you well.”
19 Now the Lord had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand.
21 The Lord said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”
Penultimate. That’s the word of the day. It means something like “secondary” or “second to the ultimate.” And that’s the problem. We get caught up in penultimate things to the point we lost sight of the ultimate thing.
We come to a moment where we need to get some altitude over our situation. We need to remember the big picture; to see beyond the penultimate to the ultimate. There is a critical word that has gotten lost in all of the conversation back and forth between Moses and God. We see it in v.23 as God tells Moses what to say to Pharaoh.
“Let my son go, so he may worship me.”
We saw it earlier when God told Moses the confirming sign of the whole affair would be that they would worship God on this mountain. Before it’s all said and done we will hear this refrain over and over and over again.
Let my people go, so that they may worship me.
Let my people go is penultimate. So that they may worship me is ultimate.
The penultimate purpose of deliverance is for the good of the people. The ultimate purpose of deliverance is for the glory of God. This is why worship matters so much. We were created to worship God. You and I and every other person on the face of planet Earth were made for one thing and one thing only: to worship the one true and living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We aren’t worshippers because we worship. We worship because we are worshippers. History right up to the present moment shows us human beings will worship anything and everything under the sun, including the sun! In fact, the very essence of salvation and deliverance is to be rescued from the slavish oppression of a false god and brought into the gracious dominion of the true and living God.
We tend to think of worship as the thing we do (or used to do as the case is these days) on Sunday at Church. In fact, worship has pretty much been defined down to the act of singing to God. Hear me right—singing to God is worship, but it’s only the tip of the tip of the ice berg.
To worship God is to orient one’s entire being and life around the presence, purpose and power of the God of heaven and earth, whom to know is to love. It is to live with an open-hearted, single-minded, undivided love for God, his Creation and especially people. When we worship God, he brings our entire existence into the peace-filled, joyful life of love-governed-power we were made for.
God knows our hearts will not rest until they rest in him; hence his mission is to deliver us from our every unholy attachment, broken inclination and involuntary bondage to worship false gods. We can think our mission is to do this good deed and give to that good cause and wrap it all up in religious garb and completely miss the point of the whole thing—more worshippers bringing more worship to God. As John Piper famously says, “Missions exists because worship does not.” When we forget the ultimate thing, it’s only a matter of time before the penultimate things become so much noise.
God does not deliver us so we can have a nice life in the suburbs with campfires and s’mores (and I do love me some s’mores). No, God saves, delivers, redeems, and blesses us so we can be burning bushes—on fire but not consumed—in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, churches, grocery stores, city centers, and places no-one else dares to go.
Christian, you were meant for glory. You are made to be on fire for the God who made you. He made you to burn brightly for his glory and for your neighbor’s good and for the deepest satisfaction you never imagined possible.
People who say such things . . .
Father, I want to be a person who says such things. I confess I so easily get lost in the weeds of life, forgetting what it’s all for what it all means. I want to stop right now and open my heart to worship you; to stand in awe of you, even to kneel in humble reverence. Let my every waking minute take on that posture, in everything I am doing. Let the firey glory of your love burn in me until all that is left is you; for then I will truly be myself. Come Holy Spirit, and train me to be such a person of faith. I pray in Jesus name, Amen.
Do you find yourself caught up in penultimate matters? Are you needing to be reset for ultimate matters? Will you find a quiet place, a closet, somewhere you can open up your adoration to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? And don’t forget to say, “Here am I!”
For the Awakening,