Tom McGivern - God's Greatness - Maroota II, Australia Convention - 2017

Exodus 3:14, “And God said unto Moses, 'I AM THAT I AM,' and He said, 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, "I AM hath sent me unto you."'”  Jeremiah 29:11, “'For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,' saith the LORD, 'Thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.'” II Timothy 1:12, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”  My thoughts are in the Book of Exodus today. In my first year in the Work, I understood that the meaning of "exodus" was "going out."

 

We are going out today and it gives us some thoughts. We have a Sister at home who tells a little story of two Sister workers who were looking for a place to hold Gospel meetings. Eventually, they settled on having meetings in the home of a man who lived alone with his dog. So, they sorted the place out and got meetings going there. After a while, it was time for them to go to Convention preparations and a few weeks later, they had a letter from the man, “Me and my dog are getting back to normal.” We have heard many good things and we have new desires to do better, but we know from experience that as time goes by there is a tendency for “me and my dog” to get back to normal again. Tests will come but we want to allow God to have the victory in our lives.

 

One of my companions lived close to a Convention ground in Ireland when he was a boy, and that is where he and his family went for Sunday morning meetings. It was always interesting when preps began and the work started. Little by little, the place was ready, grass was mowed, the tent was put up, and seats were put in. Then the day came when Convention finished and the tent was taken down. He said there were very definite marks in the grass where the seats had been and maybe no grass at all where people put their feet. They would notice it every Sunday, but little by little, the marks were overgrown and all traces of the tent and the seats were gone. We want to maintain the impressions made here on our hearts and minds, but the world will come and try to erase those impressions.

 

My thoughts have been on those verses I read, and also the words of the hymn, “Could my yearning heart find rest and comfort in the things that soon must pass away?” I work in West Africa and in general, West Africa is not noted for upright government. There is a lot of corruption. In the 1990s, one particular corrupt dictatorship took over and this man, Sani Abacha, siphoned off a lot of money from the oil revenue to his own personal accounts. He was wicked and the people were really oppressed. There had been pressure on the government to return to democracy and an election was declared on a certain date. It was agreed that there would be five parties allowed to form and each group decided that Sani Abacha should carry the flag for their party so he could run for President under their banner, because they knew he would probably win.

 

I was working in Liberia at the time and had gone to the sawmill to get some timber for a couple of benches. The man who carried the timber for me was Nigerian and he said, “Do you know Sani Abacha is dead?” I remember thinking of Revelation 18:2, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen.” Verse 21, “And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, 'Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.'”

 

We hear of meteorites hitting the earth and leaving an impression, but something that is thrown into the sea just disappears and it is like it has never been. Everything in this world is going to be like that; it will all pass away. Those people had all their hopes in Sani Abacha and then he was gone. Wouldn’t it be terrible if we just built our hopes on things with no eternal value, that will one day pass away?

 

Jeremiah 29:11, “'For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,' saith the LORD, 'Thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.'” In another translation it reads, “The plans I have in mind for you are plans for your welfare, to give you a future and to give you hope.” God has planned for our welfare as we go out today, to give us a future and to give us hope. We are thankful that we have had little glimpses of it and we don’t want to lose them. When I was a boy, I thought that verse in Exodus 3:14 was very strange, “And God said unto Moses, 'I AM THAT I AM,' and He said, 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, "I AM hath sent me unto you."'” I understand a little better now. When Moses was here, God was the great I AM. When Samuel was here, God was the great I AM.  When Job was here, God was the great I AM. We have known great world leaders who did a good job but they are not the I AM; they are the I WAS because they cannot do anything for us now. God will not only help us to begin something, but He will help us to finish it when we allow Him.

 

I love the story of the Exodus. God doesn’t plan for days or for years; He plans for eternity. God told Abraham about the Exodus story 400 years before it happened. Genesis 15:13, “And He said unto Abram, 'Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them and they shall afflict them four hundred years.'” After Joseph died, conditions for the Children of Israel became more and more difficult in Egypt. It is a picture of our lives without God. Before he died, Joseph told his people, “When God visits you, He will bring you out of this country and when you go, bring my bones with you.”

 

I love that command to his family. I don’t think it matters very much where we die or are buried as long as we are in the will of God, but Joseph was leaving a memorial to the plan of God. Every generation would have been told that one day God would bring them out of Egypt. Life became more difficult and God was teaching them that there was no future in Egypt for them. There is no future for us in this world, either. What happens to us in this life is not so important, because this world is not our home.

 

When God spoke to Moses, Moses was not so ready to go, but it was God’s plan for him and God sent him eventually. Exodus 4:29, “And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel: And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel, and that He had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.”


So the story continues and Moses went to Pharaoh to ask him to let the Children of Israel go. Exodus 5:2, “And Pharaoh said, 'Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.'” I believe Pharaoh got to know God. I thought of part of a verse in Psalm 18, “And with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.” I believe that is exactly what happened to Pharaoh.

 

When Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh, he didn’t know that behind these two weak looking men was all the power of Heaven and earth. Maybe Moses and Aaron didn’t realise it themselves, but all the power of Heaven and earth was behind those men. There was a message on their lips and there was a message in their lives, “If you listen to the message we are bringing, you can be free, too.”

 

Exodus 12:11, “And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand and ye shall eat it in haste; it is the LORD’S passover.”  The people would be journeying, and it is a very clear picture of God’s work of salvation. They began to act upon what Moses and Aaron told them and it wasn’t too long before we read that the cloud and the fire were there. Exodus 13:21, “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night. He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.”

 

Exodus 14, the Children of Israel were journeying and they saw Pharaoh’s army coming behind them. The Red Sea was in front of them and they were afraid. Verse 13, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will shew to you today for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” God opened the sea and the people walked through on dry ground, but when the enemy tried to follow, it was destroyed. I Corinthians 10:2, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” To me, the cloud is a picture of the spirit of God, and the sea is like the water of baptism. We heard about baptism yesterday and we are always happy to see evidence that God is working before the baptism of water.

 

God was leading His people to the Promised Land. There is an expression, “The Lord is with you while you be with Him.” We are told in the Book of Numbers that the people were to move with the cloud when it lifted and when it settled, they were to camp there. God was teaching them that if they didn’t like the place where the cloud settled, they would be leaving God. When the cloud lifted, the people moved on and if some didn’t follow, God would be leaving them behind. God will be with you when you are with Him. I hope we will allow God to guide us and we will not set our affections on things of this world, but on things that are above and each step we take in 2017 will lead us closer to God.