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Posts Tagged ‘Exodus 32’

In yesterday’s review of D A Carson’s The God Who Is There I mentioned being struck by the echoes of Exodus 32-34 he found in the prologue to John’s Gospel, specifically John 1:14-18.  For those interested, I’m listing the 5 he discusses on pages 111-117.

1. Tabernacle & Temple: John 1:14 states, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  “Made his dwelling” can also be literally translated as “tabernacled.”  In the next chapter of John (2:19-21) Jesus refers to Himself as the Temple.  The choice of wording in both places is not accidental, as the Tabernacle and Temple were where God’s presence dwelt.

2. Glory: John writes in v14, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son.”  This recalls Moses’ prayer, “Now show me your glory” (and Moses only sees the “backside of his glory,” to use a Caedmon’s Call lyric).

3. Grace and Truth (Love and Faithfulness): John, again in v14, describes Jesus as “full of grace and truth.”  When God passes by Moses, who is hiding in a cave, he is described as “abounding in [or full of] love and faithfulness,” (the bracketed portion is Carson’s insertion) which could also be translated “grace and truth.”

4. Grace and Law: In vv16-17, John writes, “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  This recalls the given of the law to Moses (which first happens in Exodus), which was a gracious gift, but surpassed by the grace that comes through Christ.

5. Seeing God: John writes in v18, “No one has ever seen God,” which recalls Exodus 33:20, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”  The implications for Jesus’ divinity are strong.  This shouldn’t be a surprise, of course, because John already said the “Word was God” (v1) and “the Word became flesh” (v14).  Jesus is God in the flesh.  This is why Jesus can later say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9).

It would be a fun exercise to sit down and come up with all the echoes of the Old Testament in John’s Prologue (1:1-18) as there are many.  While his discussion was relatively brief, Carson encouraged me to think more deeply as I read through these familiar passages and look for ways the writer is pulling from the Old Testament.

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Knowing God: God Unchanging

Why in the world would we read a text written thousands of years ago for knowledge of God?  Even if they are accurate in their teaching, why would we think that they are still applicable today?  As we read the Bible, we are confronted with cultures vastly different from our own.  How can we bridge that gap?  Should we even seek to build a bridge?

A great start at an answer can be found in Chapter 7 of Packer’s Knowing God.  In short, the linchpin to Biblical relevance and interpretation is the fact that “God does not change in the least particular” (p. 77).  The theological term in mind here is God’s immutability.  Packer expands on this in six ways:  God’s (1) life, (2) character, (3) truth, (4) ways, (5) purposes, and (6) Son do (does) not change.  (Sidebar:  Coming on the heels of a chapter about the Holy Spirit, this reader would have appreciated His appearance in Packer’s list as well as (7).  Of course it follows that if God is immutable, the Holy Spirit is immutable, but why not say it explicitly?)

We trust Scripture, then, because it is a faithful revelation by the God who does not change about Himself.  The culture and context of Scripture might often differ widely from our own, but the God who acted and spoke in that context is no different today than He was then.  This is one of the reasons why I believe that one of the safest questions ever to ask of the Bible is, “What does this say about God?”  You can’t miss, because if something was true of God then, it is true of God now, and will be true tomorrow.

We must always bear in mind, however, that inasmuch as God does not change, He is also a personality.  As such, He is dynamic and relational.  He responds to us, our circumstances and our prayers, this fact the Bible readily asserts.  It is possible to get so wrapped up in God’s immutability that we forget that His actions do change; only they change in ways that do not violate His character, purposes, ways, etc. (e.g., God relents from destroying the Israelites at Sinai upon Moses’ intercession in Ex. 32:14).  Interesting enough, this is foundation to one of the (manifold) reasons why we pray.

I found Packer’s concluding paragraphs among the most convicting in his book (p. 81):

If our God is the same as the God of the New Testament believers, how can we justify ourselves in resting content with an experience of communion with him, and a level of Christian conduct, that falls so far below theirs?  If God is the same, this is not an issue that any one of us can evade.

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