Welcome to Bethel! We are starting a new series based on the Apostles’ Creed. We will begin by reflecting on Exodus 3:1-15 and Romans 8:1-17, Our Eternal Papa. In Exodus, God reveals himself to Moses as “I Am Who I Am,” a powerful statement about who God is, but God reveals more of himself in the following generations until we come to Paul in Romans 8 where we are given a picture of God as our Father, a personal God that comes to us in relationship
Our Eternal Papa
Exodus 3:1-15; Romans 8:1-17
January 09, 2022
his morning we’re beginning a new series based on the Apostle’s Creed. We will reflect on the three persons of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the work of the Spirit. We will be using the Bible and the Heidelberg Catechism to guide us in understanding this beloved Creed that unites churches from many different traditions and ethnic backgrounds into something much bigger than denominations and cultural groups by reminding us that Jesus’ body is much greater than our human limitations on understanding who God is and who we are as followers of Jesus.
The Apostle’s Creed is the shortest of the three creeds we have embraced as Reformed churches. The very first established creed that was accepted throughout the church as a whole was the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed was established by the ecumenical church in 325 A.D. The first recorded copy of the Apostles Creed appears about 340 A.D. It was not written by the apostles, though there is one church legend that each of the apostles contributed one statement about God and the church and that became the Apostle’s Creed. It is an early creed, a simplified statement of the basics of the Christian faith and is representative of apostolic teaching. It was often used in the early church as a confession of faith during baptisms.
The creed begins, “I believe in God, the Father, Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” Moses’ meeting with God in the wilderness while he was watching over his father-in-law’s sheep reveals a powerful God who cares about his people and who comes to his people in their distress. Israel has been made slaves to Egypt and Egypt is a cruel slave master. Just before God meets Moses, we read, “The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So, God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.” Now God connects with Moses, calling Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery into a land flowing with milk and honey.
Moses has his doubts, asking,“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Moses may doubt himself, but he grew up in the palace of Pharoah, trained and educated in the ways of Egypt, trained to lead. God had been at work already at Moses’ birth, arranging for Pharoah’s daughter to find him in the river and adopt him as her own child, giving us hints at the creed’s confession of God being almighty. It also points us to how God is providing for his people long before they even realize it. The Catechism talks about how God provides in question and answer 27, “The almighty and ever present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty—all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.” We follow an almighty God, the one who has all power in his hand. There’s a great divide between God and his creatures; any power the creatures have comes from God and is miniscule compared to God’s.
When Moses asks what he should call God when he goes to the Israelites with God’s message, God tells him, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” In Biblical Hebrew there is no past, present, or future tense, so as one Hebrew scholar wrote, God is telling Moses, “I was who I was, I am who I am, and I will be who I will be,” indicating his power and eternity, that there is no one who is like Yahweh, like God. This is why the Catechism introduces us to God the Father in question and answer 26 by pointing to his timelessness, “the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them, who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence.”
Moses does finally go to Pharaoh and there is this God battle between Pharaoh’s magicians and Moses where Moses’ God, Yahweh, “I Am” reveals his power over all Egypt’s gods, showing his power is infinitely greater than Pharaoh’s gods’ power. God gathers his people together and leads them safely into freedom from one of the most powerful nations in the world at that time, showing his mighty power over all gods and peoples. This is one of the main images of God in the Old Testament: Yahweh is creator, almighty, God of gods, and yet there are glimpses of God as more than simply almighty; we get glimpses that God is relationship focused. In Hosea, we see God comparing his relationship with Israel as a husband who marries an unfaithful wife, we also get father references to God in Jeremiah 31:9, “They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son.” Isaiah 64:8 also uses the image of God as Father, “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay; you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
Israel’s relationship with God grows deeper, and over the centuries God reveals more and more about himself to his people. We call this progressive revelation; we know much more about who God is than Israel did in Biblical times, especially the Old Testament times, because of the gift of the Bible. It’s in the New Testament that we get a fuller picture of God as our Father, beginning with Jesus’ teachings, especially the invitation when we pray to God to call God, “Our Father who is in heaven…”
Then we come to Paul and Romans 8, a powerful chapter on who God is. It comes right after Paul’s been talking about our struggle with sin, confessing that even he does things he doesn’t want to do because they’re sins, and the things he wants to do, he doesn’t, sinning against God by failing to be who he’s called by God to be. We can all relate to Paul’s confession because we all too often find ourselves in exactly the same place. Paul knows he can’t place his hope for salvation in himself, he needs God, so he reminds us that Jesus came to be a sin offering so we have forgiveness from our sins and are made right with God the Father. Jesus sends us the Spirit who governs our minds and lives in us, bringing peace and life, affirming that we are God’s chosen adopted children, that God is our father.
As our Father, God does the father things; God provides for us, as we heard in the Catechism, all things come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand. God our father provides for our souls by giving us the Bible so that we can know God as father, but we also learn who we are as his chosen beloved ones. As a father, God protects us through the Holy Spirit from the power of Satan and evil. This doesn’t mean that horrible things don’t happen. God, through Jesus lets us know that he understands our pain and joins us in our pain and suffering by becoming human in Jesus, who goes to the cross and takes the punishment for our sin, and through the Holy Spirit’s presence who is within us, experiencing our pain and suffering and bringing our cries to God.
Our father disciplines us, not our favourite father thing, but God uses discipline to form us into who he has created us to be, he also allows the consequences of our actions and choices to play out, he doesn’t protect us from our own actions; this teaches us wisdom. God, as our father, challenges us to live up to his family name. God does this through Jesus’ teaching and preaching.
When we listen to what Jesus taught us about who we are called to be, when we hear Paul’s instructions on what it means to follow Jesus, we’re challenged to take good hard looks at who we are and how we carry our father’s name through life, how we’re witnesses to who God is as our father. I remember my own father, when I left home to strike out on my own, he told me, “Son, I don’t have a lot to give you, but I’ve worked hard all my life to keep our family name honourable, this is what I give you, a name you can be proud of; as you go, make sure that you keep it good for your kids.” That’s what God our father calls us to do as well.