“I Am Your God”–Whom Do We Serve?

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slide_jer-7_23In Leviticus 26:12–13 God declares, “I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt . . .” (NASU). The middle two phrases present an expression of the covenant relationship between the Lord and His people. That relationship includes His personal presence (“I will walk among you”). This excludes any detached or aloof relationship. The divine title Immanuel (“God with us”) expresses such a close relationship.

For many Bible readers, biblical covenants seem like legal technicalities couched in ancient stipulations. However, when we examine the Lord’s covenant relationship to His people Israel, we discover a very personal and practical side of the sovereign Lord’s affiliation with His vassal people. Observing the covenant formula’s occurrence in the Old Testament leads naturally to watching for it in the New Testament. As a result, students of the Bible find that the relationship God maintained with His people Israel is quite similar to His relationship with the Church.

The first occurrence of “I will be your God” comes in Exodus 6:7, “Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God . . .” As in Leviticus 26:13, God identifies Himself as the One who delivered His people out of Egypt. God fulfills His work just as He promised (see Gen 15:13–16). He is the Savior of His people, their Rock, their Refuge, their Defender, and their Provider.

In Isaiah 40–41 we find one of the best descriptions of God in the Bible. In those chapters we behold God’s creation (40:21–31), God’s covenant (41:8–9), God’s care (41:10–13), and God’s character (41:14–20). In the immediately preceding context Isaiah contrasts the living God of Israel with the idols of surrounding nations and of Israelites living in idolatry (40:18–20). The apostle Paul later points to the same contrast for New Testament Christians (1 Thess 1:9). It behooves to remember that an idol is anything that usurps the sole place of God in our lives.

God’s Creation (Isa 40:21–31). The covenant Lord of Israel created everything (v. 22) and judges the wicked, no matter how powerful and influential they might be (vv. 23–24). In other words, He is the all-powerful God who can accomplish anything—including all that He promises to His people in Israel or in the Church. Indeed, the LORD God is incomparable—no other “god” can equal Him (v. 25). The stars in the created universe consist of a number equal to the grains of sand on all the shores of Earth’s oceans (see Gen 22:17). Recent calculations by scientists utilizing space telescopes like Hubble have confirmed these numbers for the stars. Yet, God not only created the stars, He named them (Isa 40:26).

Instead of focusing on the Creator, Israel expressed a greater interest in obtaining their own self-determined rights (“justice due me,” v. 27). Oh, how much that sounds like modern Americans focused on their rights! In response to Israel’s question, God repeats His own questions with which He began this section of the text back in verse 21: “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” When will Israel, when will we, understand? God repeats His words because His people are slow to comprehend and obey. The Lord’s power and wisdom cannot be measured or fully comprehended (v. 28). The Creator possesses the capacity to strengthen and encourage His people (vv. 29–31).

God’s Covenant (41:8–9). “Descendant of Abraham” (v. 8) literally reads in the original Hebrew, “the seed of Abraham.” The phraseology takes us back to Genesis 12:1–3 as well as Genesis 15:5—back to God’s covenant with Abraham. The New Testament opens with a direct reference to that same covenant: “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt 1:1). Jesus Christ is the ultimate “seed of Abraham” through Whom God will bless all peoples. That blessing commences when the Creator and Judge of all mankind enters into a personal relationship with His people—a relationship expressed by means of His covenants. He chooses His people (Isa 41:9) and He channels them into His service as His servants (vv. 8, 9). God’s covenant consists of His proclamation identifying His people and giving them His stipulations concerning how they must serve Him. Covenant obligations define His people’s path of obedience—that which they must do in accord with His covenant stipulations.

God’s Care (41:10–13). The God of the covenant cares for and provides for His people. They need not fear the circumstances in which they might find themselves. Why? “for I am with you” (v. 10). The writer of Hebrews 13:5 declares the same truth by quoting Deuteronomy 31:6 and 8. This truth of the divine presence with the people of God remains true whether they are Israel or the Church (see Matt 28:20)—that is one of the continuities between the two testaments and between the two distinct peoples of God. The Lord says, “Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isa 41:10, emphasis added highlighting the emphatic particle). You and I, however, act in exactly the same way as Israel—in a time of trouble we attempt to extricate ourselves before taking the situation to our God. As God’s people we must recognize His presence with us and His readiness to help us. “Do not fear” (v. 10) occurs a second (v. 13) and a third time (v. 14). The third puts God’s people in their place: “you worm Jacob, you men of Israel.” We are as ephemeral and weak as the lowly worm—a maggot—the creature that consumes our bodies in the grave. Yes, that is where we fit in this world’s food chain—below the maggot! That is why God’s people, why we, must depend upon Him, upon His strength and wisdom rather than our own.

God’s Character (41:14–20). Verse 14 identifies the character of God as holy: He is the LORD, your Redeemer [lit., “Kinsman-Redeemer”], and the Holy One. That attribute occurs again in verses 16 and 20. The “Holy One” is one of Isaiah’s favorite descriptive titles for God. The title reminds us of Leviticus 20:7, “be holy for I am the LORD your God.” Peter repeats the same charge to the Church: “‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Pet 1:16). God’s holiness must characterize His people—both Israel and the Church (see 1 Pet 2:9). Our God is the same as Israel’s God. His people in all periods of time (pre-Israel, Israel, and the Church) must reflect our God’s communicable attributes.

Let’s conclude with 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17, which echoes the themes we have observed in Isaiah 40–41:

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.

He is our God, “our Father.” He is the Eternal God who possesses the power and the wisdom to offer to His people, to us, His comfort, His hope, and His strength. He does so in order that we might serve Him. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).

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