Why Are We Here?

Bible Book: Exodus  19 : 1-8
Subject: Purpose
Introduction

A quick search of the Internet will demonstrate that one of the haunting questions which persists in the minds of many surrounds life’s purpose. On Google there were more than 134 million sites associated with this idea of the purpose of life. Interestingly enough, even many people who claim to be Christians continue to struggle with this issue: what am I supposed to do, why was I created, and what’s my purpose in life?

Perhaps you are here this morning and you too are wondering why God created you and what is it that He has purposed, from the beginning of time, for you to accomplish. If you are a Christian, our text this morning has an answer for you. It not only speaks to who you are, but when taken within the context of scripture as a whole, it speaks directly to why God made you and what it is He wants you to do.

Let’s go directly to our text. Look with me in Exodus 19:1-8.

Moses and the children of Israel are camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai, the mountain of God. You’ll recall back in Exodus 3:12 that God had told Moses that this would be a sign to him, that when they had been delivered from Egyptian captivity that they would come to the mountain and worship Him. So here they are, just as God had promised.

God is about to give them the law. In fact, through the rest of Exodus, Leviticus and on into Numbers, for some 53 chapters, God is going to be speaking to His people. Through the law He will show them how His people reveal His glory to the world around them. He will tell them the purpose for which they have been saved.

It is instructive to note that God always speaks to His people. He does not leave us in the dark; He does not leave us to wonder what He wants from us or what it is He wants us to do. To be in relationship with God means that God will communicate with us and that He expects us, through faith, to communicate with Him.

This is one of the things which demonstrated the reality of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as opposed to the false and pagan gods of Egypt. The false gods could not speak because they were made of wood, metal or stone. But the true God not only revealed His person in visible and demonstrative ways, He revealed Himself through His word, even as He continues to do today through Scripture. But when do we hear God speak to us? Look at the first few words of verse three.

Here we find Moses going up the mountain. Notice that it is while Moses is on his way up the mountain that God speaks to Him. This would be very easy to miss, but the Hebrew construction here is very clear. Before God speaks, before Moses hears His voice, Moses, acting on what God had told him months before, begins to ascend the mountain on his own initiative. The first part of verse speaks to us of faith. When we step out in faith to meet God, it is then that God reveals Himself to us in response to our faith in action. By faith, Moses begins the journey to meet God, God responds to that faith and speaks to him.

Folks, every time we go to meet with God we must do so by faith. As Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Moses went to meet God in faith and so must we.

Now, as God begins to speak to Moses, we need to listen closely to what He says. Look again at verse 3 and notice that as God speaks to Moses, it is within the context of relationship. God says, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, to the people of Israel.” God is not speaking to just anyone, He is speaking to His people, to those with whom He is in covenant relationship. Relationship is the foundation for communication with God. While Romans 1:20 assures us that nature itself demonstrates God’s existence for all to see, in order for us to hear and understand, as 1 Corinthians 2:14 makes clear, we must be in relationship with Him.

As we read this text, a very clear pattern becomes discernable, one which is seen throughout all of scripture. God first points to His work on behalf of Israel. In response to God’s action on their behalf they are called to respond in obedience. God then promises what will happen if they obey and finally we have their response to God’s word.

These four elements of the dialogue, then, will constitute the outline for our study this morning.

Let’s begin with God’s past work.

I. What God Has Done

Verse 4.

God tells Moses to remind Israel of what He has done. There are three things He mentions. By mentioning these three things, He neatly wraps us the history of Exodus so far.

a) What He did to the Egyptians

b) How He bore them on eagle’s wings

c) Where He brought them, namely to Himself

The Israelites were not like Jethro, who had to be told of God’s mighty acts, they had been eyewitnesses. They had a ringside seat to the plagues of locusts, to the death of the cattle, to the boils and flies. They had heard the cries of the Egyptians after the death angel had passed through, and they remembered the feeling of walking outside of their houses the next morning…their firstborn at their side, and looking back at the blood of the lamb over their doorpost and being grateful to God for sparing them.

No doubt there were still conversations around the campfires about how Pharaoh pursued them and how God opened the Red Sea and allowed them to cross on dry land. Certainly there were those who had picked up the swords or armor from the dead Egyptians who had washed up on the shore. They remembered what God had done to the Egyptians, how He had humiliated them and proved their pagan gods to be false. They had seen it all. But they needed reminding of what God had done.

And God had born them on eagle’s wings. That is, swiftly and safely He had brought them to where they were. Like a mother eagle would care for her chicks, God had provided for Israel every step of the way. In a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night, which could have been seen for miles, God had made His protective presence known to them all. When they were thirsty He had provide water; when they were hungry He had provided quail and manna. When they were attacked by Amalek, God had delivered them through His supernatural power. They would not have been able to get to where they were without His divine intervention.

And where was it that He had brought them? To the mountain of God, to Horeb or Sinai. He had brought them to Himself, to where He would meet them and reveal Himself to them and give them His law.

Verse 4 tells us that God wanted them to remember how they got to where they were and it calls us to remember how we got to where we are.

Folks, this morning, I want you to stop for just a moment and think about all that God has done to bring you to where you are. Your current circumstances are no accident. He has brought you where you are for His own reasons. Like many of the Israelites, you may complain about where you are. You may think that you had it better in the past or you may think that you deserve to have it better than you do, but as you look back on your life this morning, you need to recognize all that God has done to bring you to where you are and that you could not even be where you are, were it not for God.

One of the persistent dangers we face as humans is the tendency to blame God for allowing the bad things and to take the credit ourselves for what we think are the good things in our lives. But if we will be honest, we have to recognize that we are where we are because of the salvation, the provision and the love of God.

Notice that in the end; all that God had done had been to bring them to Himself. The same is true for us this morning. All that God has done in your life and mine has been to bring us to Himself. To bring us into a closer relationship wherein He can speak to us and use us for His divine purposes.

Which brings us to verse 5, what it is God required of the Israelites.

II. What God Requires

Verse 5a.

This is the first part of an “if – then” contract. He says if you do this, then I’ll to that. There were two things God told them He required: to listen attentively to His voice and to keep His covenant, something that the law would more fully explain.

Note well that the call to obey follows the call to remember what God has done. Our obedience to God is always predicated by what God has already done. In other words, proper obedience is always in response to blessings God has already given us, rather than a method for obtaining more.

Sure, there were blessings which would follow their obedience, but even if God had not promised future blessings, the things He had already done should have been sufficient motivation for obedience.

It is important to note here that their salvation would not be based on their obedience, that is, their works had not saved them. They had already been saved by the blood of the sacrificial lamb. God had already delivered them. His requirement for obedience and that they walk according to His covenant with them, comes in response to the salvation they have already enjoyed. Here is a clear picture of grace. Their works could not deliver them, they had been delivered. Their obedience was in response to that salvation.

The same truth applies to you and me. We are not saved by works. We are not able to earn our salvation by doing this or doing that for God. Getting into heaven should never be the motivation for our obedience. The reason we do good works is not to get saved; the reason we do good works is because we have already been saved.

Ephesians 2:8-10 says it perfectly, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

God required them to hear His voice and obey, and to keep His covenant, that is, His relational contract He made with Abraham long before.

In the New Testament, or New Covenant, because a Covenant and a Testament is the same thing, Jesus establishes a New Covenant with us, one which is sealed with His blood. He died for us, paying the penalty of our sins and rose again to give us new life. In response we are to die to ourselves and allow Him to live His life through us. Just like the Israelites, we do not obey in order to get saved; we obey because we are saved.

This is what God requires. But then we move to the last part of verse 5 and into verse 6 where we find God’s promises.

III. What God Promises

Verses 5b–6.

There are three specific things God promises to Israel if they will obey. The first is….

A. A Treasured Possession

This speaks to their position.

That is, they are people He has called unto Himself, to be a royal possession, a special treasure, a crown jewel or a private possession. The Hebrew word here speaks to that which is special and set apart as something that is of singular and particular value. Note that God says the whole earth is His, but that out of all the peoples of the earth, He had chosen Israel.

In Deuteronomy 7:7 God reminds them that their special status was in no way based on who they were, but rather on His own sovereign choice of them. There He says, “It was not because you were more in number that any other people that the Lord set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers…”

The emphasis here is on the fact that God had chosen them, and in response they were given a choice to choose Him.

But secondly…

B. A Royal Priesthood

This speaks to their purpose.

God’s intention all along was that through this special people, through the Jews, all the nations of the world would be blessed. His plan was that as a nation of priests, they would be His ambassadors, His missionaries to the entire world and that through them all peoples would come to know the one true God. Salvation was never just for the Jews. To the contrary, God loves the whole world. He had chosen the Jews to be His messengers, a kingdom of priests so that they might tell others about Him and His love.

But thirdly, they were called to be…

C. A Holy Nation

This speaks to their practice, to the way they lived.

Among all the pagan nations of the world, among all of the people who were worshiping false gods, going through life pursuing only the things of the flesh, Israel was to be different. Through their lives, through the way they lived, they were to display the divine nature of God; they were to demonstrate the glory of God to all around them.

These were the three promises God made to Israel: To make them a prized possession, to use them as a kingdom of priests, and to display His glory to the world through the transformation evident in their lives.

This promise is repeated in the New Testament, but instead of applying to physical Israel, it is applied to spiritual Israel, that is, to all people who have come to faith in God through Jesus Christ.

Look at 1 Peter 2:9-12, “ But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people, once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

The message is the same to us as it was to Israel. He has chosen us, not based on who we are, but based on Who He is. He did not choose us because of our intrinsic goodness or our natural abilities, just the opposite is true. He chose us in spite of our inherent sinfulness and our fallen nature. And even as He saved Israel for a purpose, He has saved you and me for a purpose. It is not merely that we can enjoy the delights of being in relationship with God, which in itself is a glorious privilege, but rather so that we might proclaim His excellencies to the world around us. This is one aspect of being priests, to tell others of God’s love.

2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.” He has called us out of darkness into His light so that we might let His light shine through us that others may see the miraculous transformation which has taken place in our lives and give glory to God.

 

But there is more here. As a kingdom of priests, we are all priests, all able to go directly to God. This is one of the foundational truths to which we as Baptists hold. We do not have to go to a priest or a pope to get to God. Scripture says in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is One God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all…” And Hebrews 4:16 says because Jesus is our High priest, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

And just like the Israelites were called to be a holy nation, we too have been called to be holy, set apart from sin and set apart unto God. Yes, the passions of the flesh wage war against our souls, but greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. We have become more than conquerors in Christ who gives us victory, and with every temptation makes a way of escape possible for us. He has chosen us, called us and set us apart to be His special possession in all the world and His desire and design is that through our lives others will be drawn to Him.

IV. How We Respond to God

Verses 7-8.

So in response to God’s word, the scripture says that, “All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do.’”

Verses 7 and 8 are insightful and at the same time tragic. They show us the shallowness of Israel’s understanding and their willingness to agree to something they don’t fully understand.

Not only did they not understand what they had agreed to, but they would not keep it. In just a few short days (chapter 32) while Moses was up the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, they would make a golden calf and worship it, saying it was this idol that had delivered them from Egypt. And the scripture basically says they got drunk and partied, hardly the activities of a holy people.

You see, at the end of the day, they forgot Who had brought them to where they were; they forgot Whose they were and to what they had been called. They forgot their life’s purpose, and without that purpose as a guiding beacon, they began to wander; literally they would wander for 40 years till an entire generation died off.

Folks, what a message for you and me this morning.

If you are here and you are not a Christian and you’re looking for purpose in life, you won’t find it outside of a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, it’s just not possible.

Conclusion

Nicky Gumble, in his book, Questions of Life, tells the story of the famous author, Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace. In his book entitled, A Confession, Tolstoy recounts how life had given him everything the world says should make a man happy. For a while he sought for meaning by living a promiscuous life, only to find that partying left him empty. Then he inherited a large sum of money, and with his writing amassed a huge fortune, and yet that did not bring him the happiness he sought. Then fame came his way. The Encyclopedia Britannica describes one of his books, as one of the two or three greatest novels in world literature, and yet this still left him empty. Then he got married and began to have children, 13 of them to be exact. And even a loving wife and a house full of adoring children could not give show him the meaning of life and fulfill his deepest desires. He searched in science, and in philosophy, and everywhere else he could hope to find fulfillment, but still, he came up empty. It was the peasant people of Russia who, in spite of their difficult lives, who seemed the happiest and it was through their example that he came to find faith in Jesus Christ.

Like Tolstoy, you may be looking for your life’s purpose, but I assure you, outside of Jesus, you’ll never find it. This morning, life can begin to make sense to you if you’ll come and give your heart and your life to Jesus.

If you are here and you are a Christian, God has saved you, not based on your own goodness, but based on His grace. He has called you to be His own possession and has declared that His purpose for your life is for you to declare His praises to the world around you. By remembering Who brought you to where you are, you become aware of why He brought you here, not so you can merely enjoy the good things in life, but primarily so you can display His glory to the world around you. Get this, God saved you to use you to bring others into His kingdom. Everything else you do should be secondary to that, and if it’s not you’ve got your priorities out of line.