“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.’”
- Ross Blackburn in his The God Who Makes Himself Known introduces us to a study of the book of Exodus which is focused upon the missionary heart of this Old Testament book. D. A. Carson, writing a review of the book says that it is a study which requires frequent stops for reflection upon what we have just read. Carson is correct in his assessment. I am just a few dozen pages into the book and already I have had to break away from it to reflect and understand what Blackburn has taught me.
What forced me to stop the first time was a simple comment that at the heart of the book of Exodus is two powerful missionary points with which we must grapple. The first is that God does everything for His own glory. This is not to be taken negatively as if God was in the business of insisting that everything else give way to His egoism. Blackburn tells us that Exodus insists upon the glory of God because it is in His glory that God reveals His character as a gracious, redeeming God to us. God wants us to wrestle with the reality of His character as One who is committed to do everything required to create for Himself a people who reflect His holiness in their daily living.
In our text from Exodus 6:6-7 we see that God delivers His people out of slavery to the Egyptians with all manner of mighty works of grace so that His people will know Him intimately. This is a vital principle for us. We cannot really understand ourselves and our needs unless we know God intimately. In fact an intimate knowledge of God is crucial to the knowledge of everything else. John Calvin expressed this truth in the following way.
“Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes, and gives birth to the other. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone. In the second place, those blessings which unceasingly distil to us from heaven are like streams conducting us to the fountain. Here, again, the infinitude of good which resides in God becomes more apparent from our poverty.” (Calvin, Institutes, Book 1, Chapter 1, Section 1, page 37)
The second point that Blackburn causes us to reflect upon is that everything God does, is done for our own good. Even, in chastening and in judgment God is at work accomplishing the good of the world. Our eternal good depends upon our knowledge of and obedience to God. Think about this for a few moments. How often have you found that those things in your life which seem hardest; even those disasters from which there seems to be no recovery, are the building blocks upon which real life has been built? I know that this has certainly been the case in my life. Time after time those events that I have worked tirelessly to avoid have, when experienced, become the keys to unlocking all that is good in my life. Hardship, illness, brokenness, fear, and failure, have all been used by God to bring us to Himself. This gives us a new, and in fact, a more Biblically balanced view of the events of our lives. All God allows into our lives has been given by His loving hand in order to accomplish eternal good for us. The question is whether we truly believe this.