Introduction: Get God
Trinity Sunday reminds us that, whatever else we do in life, we must get God. If he has revealed himself, then we dare not disregard that revelation. This reality, this truth, will help us to understand the stout and unflinching words of, for instance, the Athanasian Creed (which we’ll confess in just a moment!).
When we’re talking about the Trinity, we’re not about some dusty dogma for doctors of the church. No – we’re talking about the very fountain of true belief and practice. The Trinity is, as Michael Reeves puts it, “The truth that shapes and beautifies all others. The Trinity is the cockpit of all Christian thinking.”
In his book, Delighting in the Trinity, he goes on to write, “Why is God love? Because God is a trinity. Why can we be saved? Because God is a trinity. How are we able to live the Christian life? Through the Trinity.” Everything that we believe about God is because God is Triune. That’s why heresy about God is so cruel: it always and ultimately gives us a god who cannot save.
And, by the way, let us pay no attention to the foolish argument that the word is not found in the Scriptures. Neither is the word “Bible” used to describe “the Bible” in the Bible!
II. God Seeks Us, Not the Other Way Around (v. 1)
Transitioning to our passage in Exodus today, every time we confess our belief in the Trinity, we confess that this is who God has revealed himself to be, not who we have imagined him (or her, for that matter) to be.
Look at verse one. God reveals himself to Moses in the desert. Notice – Moses is not in the desert trying to find himself or find God. He’s not the one seeking after the living God. As Pastor Brian Kachelmeier puts it, Moses is AWOL. He’s running from the past, living as a shepherd. But here, in this desert place he is being sought by the living God. God is going to show Moses what he is like. If you are here today (or listening today), and you’re trying to find yourself or your truth or however you want to put it, can I suggest a better pursuit: ask the truth to find you! Any God worth his salt will be able to do that.
Here’s the first lesson of Exodus 3: Don’t shave the edges off God. Any statement that begins with “I think God is like this…” is usually wrong. At the very least, it begins in the wrong place. Tim Chester says, “You might as well say, ‘I like to think of elephants as two-legged animals.’ What you want to think about elephants is irrelevant! It won’t change the fact that they have four legs. And what you or I or anyone wants to think about God doesn’t change who God actually is. God is not a concept that we can shape as we choose. God is.” (Exodus for You by Tim Chester)
Before we can see who God is, we have to see who he is not. Who in the world would want to make a God who is simply a mirror image of themselves, or a production of their imagination? Does the Trinity fry your brain? Make you uncomfortable? Well good then – it just means you’re in the right neighborhood.
III. God Is…
So now we focus on who God is as revealed in this passage. Who is God?
- He is self-existent, not dependent (vs. 14 and 2):
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”
When Moses asks for God’s name, he is told that he is YHWH and that YHWH is the “great I Am.” It could be literally translated “I be who I be.” The Hebrew also could be taken in the past tense, “I was who I was”, or in the future, “I will be who I will be.” The point is God’s utter independence and, because of that, his utter faithfulness to everything he says and does.
We’ll say more about this in a bit, but we also need to see that right from the beginning, God reveals himself as a plurality in unity. We don’t tack the Trinity on to the end of the Bible, as if to say, “Oh okay, you’re a Trinity now? Things have changed! We’ll teach that!” Look at verse 2. Who is Moses speaking with? The angel (which here means messenger) of the Lord – who is YHWH himself! We should confidently say here that Moses is speaking with Jesus.
- Holy, not distant (v.5)
Verse 5: Then [God] said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
You know, there’s difference between a holy God, and one who is simply distant, aloof, and indifferent. Many people are perfectly comfortable with a god who is far away and utterly indifferent, content to leave them alone. But our God is holy. He draws near and makes a way for sinners to approach him in his holiness.
Valerius Herberger, reflecting on this scene writes these beautiful words: “O dear God, help me to bring to church a repentant heart that has laid aside all lust for sin. Indeed, help me every evening, as I take off my shoes, to be reconciled to You by true repentance. When we die, we must go barefoot. Oh, God, help me not take my shoes of sin with me to the grave! Grant grace that I may look to the most holy drops of blood that stained Your feet on the holy cross, and in such comfort go to meet my end.” (The Great Works of God by Valerius Herberger)
Those words lead us to the last enduring characteristic of the living God.
- Involved and immanent (vs. 2 and 7-8)
Let me say it again: Christians, we should believe that from end to end, the Scriptures proclaim Christ Jesus and the work of the Holy Trinity.
Look at verse 2 again: “And the angel [messenger/word] of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.”
Heavenly fire and creation (a bush) that is not consumed. What does that remind you of? “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory.” (John 1:14) The burning bush strains forward to the time when God will dwell with man in the flesh. It’s almost too much, isn’t it? To know that God is self-existent and holy is awesome. But know that this passage points us to when God will become man? There’s no one like our God.
Look lastly at verses 7-8: Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down (circle those words!) to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
Because the living God is faithful and holy, he is the God who comes down. Who hears. Who delivers. Who saves. That utter commitment will find its end, it’s telos, on the wood of a Roman cross, “[for Jesus], though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
Conclusion: Above & Among Us
When it comes to God and knowing God, the choice is to pretend, for us to form a god with our hands or to allow the living God to show us who he really is and, therefore, form us.
From Tim Chester:
“When people define God for themselves, they typically think of God as either wholly transcendent or wholly immanent. The gods of Islam and deism are all transcendence. Many in the West are functional deists – they believe in God, but he doesn’t affect their lives. As far as their concerned, God doesn’t see, doesn’t hear, doesn’t care, hasn’t come down.
In contrast, the gods of mysticism, Sufism and Eastern religions are all immanence. These beliefs teach that God is within us or everything is in some way divine (perhaps this is why Easter religions are often attractive to Westerners who have been brought up as functional deists). But the God who is, the God who revealed himself to Moses, is both above and among us.” (Exodus for You)
And with that I say a happy and blessed Trinity Sunday to you. Amen.