Cry for Help- Part 2
Every Christmas I insist that our family watch five Christmas movies. They are, in no particular order: Home Alone, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street (the original), Elf, and It’s A Wonderful Life. I also always insist that we save It’s a Wonderful Life for last and watch it on Christmas Eve. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, I always get teary when George Bailey realizes how much his life matters to so many people and how much they love him.
But God loves George, so he sends an angel (second class) named Clarence to show him how much his life matters.
You probably know the story (and if you don’t, it should be #1 in your Netflix queue). One Christmas Eve, George finds himself in a desperate place. His absent-minded partner lost a huge sum of money, (really, Potter stole it) and he feels responsible. George believes the only way out is suicide. But God loves him, so he sends an angel (second class) named Clarence to show him how much his life matters. Clarence convinces him, and George ends up crying out, “Please God, I want to live!” God answers, bringing him home to family and friends who generously and joyfully give him all the money he lost. Cue one of the most memorable moments in movie history. (“Should auld acquaintance be forgot…”)
When you were in a desperate place and cried out for help, God himself came to save you.
But do you know the best part about that story? Real life is better. God’s love for you is way better than how the movie portrays it. Because when you were in a desperate place and cried out for help, God himself came to save you.
We saw last time that when Israel cried out for rescue from slavery, God heard, he remembered the covenant, and he intimately understood their plight. It was completely inevitable that God would do something to rescue them. But what he did exceeded their wildest expectations. He personally came to set them free.
God Comes to Save Israel
When we left Moses, he was an outsider living in the land of Midian. Having married Jethro’s daughter, he spent the next forty years shepherding sheep. One day, he found himself near Mt. Sinai with the flock. He saw a bush burning but not being consumed, so he drew near to investigate. Unbeknownst to him, this burning bush was a theophany.
A theophany is an instance in which God makes himself visible to humans in some way. Fire is a common one: There is the burning bush here, the fire on Mt. Sinai later, the pillar of fire in the wilderness, and the tongues of fire at Pentecost. When God, in his holiness, is represented by fire, it can signify both purity and destruction. God is so holy that his presence in the bush makes even the dirt around it “holy ground.”
Moses, however, knew none of this. So he must have been surprised when God called to him, “Moses! Moses!” He wisely answered, “Here I am.”
God began his revelation by warning Moses not to come any nearer. Because Moses was sinful and not holy, he couldn’t come any closer, lest he be destroyed. And yet, nonetheless, God drew near. He pointed to the covenant, telling Moses that he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He followed this by explaining to Moses that he is also the God of his birth father. Can you imagine how much this would have meant to Moses, who so desperately wanted to be identified with God and his people?
The majestic, holy, all-powerful Creator of the cosmos had come to Earth in response to their desperate cries.
Moses responded to this revelation by hiding his face in fear. He believed that if he saw God, he would die. But God had not come to destroy Moses or his people; he had come to save them and purify them as his own beloved ones. Try to take this in for a moment. The majestic, holy, all-powerful Creator of the cosmos had come to Earth in response to their desperate cries. God’s answer to their prayers was way better than any second class angel!
It gets even better. God proceeded to tell Moses what he came to do. “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land.” (Ex. 3:7-8) I have come down to deliver them. Astonishing.
God Comes to Save You
On the one hand, what God did to rescue Israel from slavery in Egypt is an amazing story in its own right. On the other hand, it was meant to point to something infinitely greater: The deliverance of humanity from the power of sin through the incarnation of the Son of God.
Jesus was born to be “God with us,” to set us free from sin.
Every single person was trapped in the bondage of slavery to sin. There was nothing we could do to set ourselves free, other than to cry for help. God’s answer was, once again, to come himself to rescue his people. Paul writes that Christ Jesus, “although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:6-7) Jesus was born to be “God with us,” to set us free from sin.
Of course, Jesus being both God and man was not all that it would take to rescue sinful people from slavery. Remember how Moses could not draw near to the holy God because he would die? Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, that problem was only made clearer as Israel broke the covenant and moved farther and farther from God. There are multiple examples of people dying because they were sinful and God was holy. In order to make a way for his people to draw near, the penalty for sin – death - needed to be paid. God himself accomplished this, too. When Jesus died, he became sin, paying the ultimate price for everyone who believes in him. God’s answer to your prayer for salvation was way better than any second class angel.
God’s Comes Again to Save You
You and I have no greater need than to be delivered from sin. Without it, our future was the hell of eternal separation from God. With it, our future is “the good and spacious land” of the New Creation. There, we will dwell in freedom with the Lord and his people forever. When Jesus died, he secured this for you. Today, as you walk the Earth, God hears and answers your prayers. You are not alone. And one day soon, God himself will return and bring you to his Promised Land. Way better than a second class angel. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.