I’m not a dancer. Around the age of 20 I enjoyed the wonderful experience of performing in several musicals. When the dancing started my primary responsibility was to stand still and let the pretty girls take the spotlight. Occasionally I got to move too, although mostly that was simply to get me out of the way. But through the hours of rehearsals I learned a few things.
A dance tells a story. No matter how chaotic the stage appears, the movements were designed with a purpose.
It’s all about movement. Sometimes the movement is toward each other. Other times it’s a movement away.
Everyone one has a role. It might not be difficult, but it’s important. Just ask left shark!
It has a destination. There’s a precise feeling it seeks to produce. An exact point on the stage to conclude. A dramatic pose to capture.
As I prepared this week’s sermon from the book of Exodus I noticed four movements in God’s interaction with us. Sometimes it’s his move, sometimes it’s ours. The goal is always that we end up at the same place.I see these four movements recurring throughout God’s interaction with humanity. I’ll give a couple of illustrations below.
Move 1: God Graciously & Lovingly Moves Toward Us
- EXODUS: God hears the cries of the Hebrews in slavery and in response He calls Moses and sends the plagues on Egypt. Nothing about this particular group of slaves made them more worthy of rescue than others. They couldn’t demand God’s rescue. God chose to hear them and rescue them, out of His grace.
- PENTECOST: Dies on a cross and rises from the dead, graciously defeating death for us.
- US: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.“ Romans 5:8
Move 2: We Respond by Faith Toward God
- EXODUS: The Hebrews responded to God’s promise of rescue by following his instructions to paint their doorways with lamb’s blood. Perhaps an even greater demonstration of faith is when they walked between the walls of water. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t be nervous as you imagined the water collapsing on top of you. Although the Hebrews walked through the water, no one could realistically claim that they had saved themselves. They simply responded out of faith toward God.
- PENTECOST: After initial skepticism the apostles respond to Jesus’ resurrection with faith. Many Christian apologists point to their willingness to die for their faith as one of the strongest “proofs” of the reality of Christ’s resurrection. Perhaps no greater statement of faith exist than Thomas’ exclamation as his skepticism cracked, “My Lord and my God!”
- US: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8.
Move 3: We Lovingly Obey God
- EXODUS: The specific text for this sermon was Exodus 19-20 and the giving of the 10 Commandments. However, I chose to emphasise the larger setting within which the commands were given than the specific instructions given. I did this because we often label this section of the Pentateuch “law” like it’s a bad thing. This would no doubt puzzle the Israelites who were grateful for the laws God gave them. In fact, Deuteronomy 7:9 refers to God’s law as a “covenant of love”. Israel’s obedience to God was a loving response to a loving God. Remember also that Psalm 119 is basically a love song to their covenant with God.
- PENTECOST: The end of Luke’s Gospel Jesus explains to his disciples the implications of his death and resurrection. He then instructs them to remain in Jerusalem. This may not seem like a big deal, but Jerusalem represented a hostile environment for these disciples. The same people who killed Jesus would surely kill them if they felt a need and an ability to get away with it. Home and safety for the apostles was Galilee. Galilee was where their families lived and where they had travelled with Jesus for three years. But Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem… and they obeyed because they loved and trusted him.
- US: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” 2 John 1:6
Move 4: God Moves Into Our Neighbourhood
- EXODUS: Chapters 25-30 and 36-39 contain very detailed instructions about the design and construction of the tabernacle. To our modern eyes we might question the relevance of this passage for us. But these chapters are important because Israel is preparing a place for God to dwell. He will not be their distant God ensconced upon a heavenly throne looking down upon them. He will be their God visibly living among them. I love how the book of Exodus concludes, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.” Ex. 40:34, 38.
- PENTECOST: As the apostles and other disciples waited in Jerusalem as Jesus had instructed them, God delivered the power he had promised them. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” He empowered them for the mission he had given them. Immediately Peter and the others begin sharing the Good News of Jesus. God was with them.
- US: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
I know I’ve written a lot here, but I hope you can at least take away this thought: God always makes the first move toward us. We can’t compel Him to move. We can’t move on our own. God graciously initiates. How we respond determines the remaining movements of the dance.
Have you experienced these movements in your life?
I wrote a similar post from a slightly different perspective last year titled “God Initiates”. You can read it HERE.