August 27, 2023
5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. 9 “Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”
A will is nothing more than a big stack of papers to a child. Only when a child is old enough to understand that a will talks about things you get for free does it become interesting, and the same is true for most adults. However, your excitement for your inheritance disappears when you found out that you only get your inheritance if you have always been on your best behavior. No one is always on their best behavior, and our parents often know our stubborn bad behaviors better than anyone.
Moses recorded the Israelites’ stubborn bad behavior in the chapters before our Old Testament reading from Exodus 34. Some of the highlights of Israel’s stubborn bad behavior included doubting God would save them from Pharoah’s army after freeing them from slavery through his ten miraculous plagues, complaining about a lack of food and water in the desert, which was answered by God miraculously providing manna, quail and water from a rock, and making a golden calf idol while waiting for Moses who went up on Mount Sinai to speak with God who had covered it with a thick cloud, lighting, thunder, fire and sent an earthquake. Their stubborn pursuit of ungodly desires mixed with worshipping a false god was cause for God to abandon them. They would be to blame if God stopped faithfully providing for them.
God was ready to abandon Israel for their stubbornness. God saved Israel from their slavery in Egypt to bring them to the promised land, but they stubbornly refused to be faithful to him. In Exodus 33, the chapter before our Old Testament reading, the Lord shared bad news,
33 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you … 3 … But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
These words were devastating to the people. Their stubbornness was exposed by God, and he was ready to destroy them, but his words brought them to repent. So, Moses went back up on Mount Sinai and in our Old Testament reading from Exodus 34, we hear Moses’ humble request, 8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. 9 “Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.” Moses confessed the stubbornness of the people and included himself in asking the Lord’s forgiveness for their wickedness and sin.
The stubbornness of others tests our faithfulness. When a child stubbornly cries, refuses to sleep, clean up their room or ask nicely for something, we are ready to give them to grandma and grandpa. When our spouse stubbornly refuses to listen to or speak about the finances, parenting, workload, recreation time or activities, in-laws, spiritual matters, etc. we are ready to walk out. When a classmate, teammate, friend, coworker or family member stubbornly refuses to listen when we share our faith, we are ready to stop sharing the law and gospel. When others are stubborn, they put our faithfulness to the test. The stubbornness of sin lives in all of us. It is inherited, passed down, modeled, taught, accepted, etc. and over time grows from a path to a trench to a canyon so deep we see no way out. We have been on both sides, either being stubborn or dealing with another’s stubbornness. When Moses was on Mount Sinai, his faithfulness as the leader of Israel was tested. He was tempted to give up on Israel for their stubbornness, but standing there before God, he was faced with the guilt of his own stubborn sins.
Your stubbornness puts God’s faithfulness to the test. When you pit someone stubborn against someone faithful, in essence you pit two unchanging things against one another. Before Moses asked that the Lord forgive Israel’s stubborn wickedness and sin, the Lord described himself to Moses in Exodus 34,
6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
The Lord overcomes our stubbornness with his faithfulness to establish what is good and punish what is bad. His faithful love is stronger than our stubborn sins. This is explained in our New Testament reading from Romans 10, 5 Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” Paul quoted from one of the five Old Testament books written by Moses, Leviticus. The Bible does promise the inheritance of eternal life to those who are righteous by keeping the law, but that is something none of us can do as we hear in Psalm 51, 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Our stubborn inherited sin keeps us from faithfully keeping God’s law. So, rather than being saved by a righteousness from the law, we are saved by the righteousness by faith as Paul continued to write in Romans 10, 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). It was not our will or ability that went up to heaven to bring Christ to live on earth or resurrect him from the dead. Instead, it was the will and power of the Lord who entered our world a sinless human being who lived faithful to God’s law, showing love to God and his neighbor, keeping all Ten Commandments given on Mount Sinai, and having a clear conscience in the presence of God. It was also the power of the Creator of the universe and all life who breathed life back into Jesus, whose angel moved the stone, who appeared to many witnesses and ascended into heaven. The Lord is faithful to his compassionate, gracious love to save us by treating Jesus as the guilty one for our stubborn sins sacrificing him on the cross and giving us righteousness by faith as a gift. God’s faithfulness passes the test against your stubbornness.
God’s faithfulness is our answer to other’s stubbornness. In our gospel reading from Matthew 16, Jesus asked his disciples to describe who he was and, 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” This was the righteousness by faith Paul spoke of in Romans 10. Peter was given faith in his heart and was blessed to share this revelation from the Father out loud. Jesus then revealed this truth as the answer to our stubborn sinfulness, 19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Jesus’ illustration of binding and loosening to referred to forgiveness. Jesus’ faithfulness won us forgiveness through the cross and empty tomb, and we get to share this powerful message out loud with others. When others are caught in stubborn sin, point them to God’s law. If they stubbornly refuse to repent, then bind them in their sins and faithfully share with them the danger of God’s wrath and hell. On the other hand, if they confess their sins, answer with Jesus’ forgiveness, or loosen them from the burden of their sins. Surround yourself with those who will do the same for you. Stick with a pastor who will do this for you. Israel was blessed through Moses’ request in Exodus 34, “Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.” The Lord was with them and blessed them with the land of Israel. More than that, he blessed them with his promise of an eternal inheritance in heaven through the coming Messiah. You are the Lord’s inheritance, his people, through his faithfulness manifest in Jesus. You are blessed to share with others the reality of our stubborn sinfulness and the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of the living God, who through his compassionate, gracious love saved us.
The Lord wrote his will down for you. The Lord uses the Bible to carry out his will. Through his word, the Lord convicts you of sin and points you to Jesus’ forgiveness. The Bible is the Lord’s testament to your inheritance. Through it he gives you the gift of faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture alone is your confession, it is your answer to your sins, the sins of others, to hardship, temptation, guilt, death. The Bible proclaims good news, “The Lord answers your stubbornness with his faithfulness.” Amen.