Not a Tame God

September 18, 2022 ()

Bible Text: Exodus 4:1-26 |


Not a Tame God | Exodus 4:1-26
Brian Hedges | September 18, 2022

Let me invite you to turn in Scripture to Exodus 4. We’re going to be looking together in Exodus 4:1-26.

Many of us have a great appreciation for the writings of C.S. Lewis, and perhaps you’ve read either C.S. Lewis’s nonfiction or maybe, if nothing else, you’ve read the Narnian Chronicles, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and some of the others.

I think one of the things that is so helpful about the writings of Lewis is how he presents us with the reality of God, who God is—not who we want him to be, but who he actually is.

Of course, he illustrates this very well in The Chronicles of Narnia. You may remember the statement of Mr. Beaver towards the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where he said that “Aslan is not a tame lion.” Of course, earlier in the story he had said to one of the children that “Aslan is good, but he isn’t safe.” He’s not a tame lion.

What Lewis was teaching there in his fiction, using this Christ figure of Aslan, he also taught very clearly in his books. In one of his books he says this, and I read this to kind of set the stage for everything we’re considering this morning. Lewis said,

"If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts here are, in the long run, hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, so our case is hopeless again. We cannot do without it and we cannot do with it. God is the only comfort; he is also the supreme terror; the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves his enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again."

You can see how Lewis brings two things together there: the goodness of God, but also the terrifying majesty of a God who is this good, who is absolutely good, and how that would strike us as sinners when we are not conformed to that goodness.

It was just that kind of an encounter with the absolute goodness, the terrifying holiness of God, that Moses had in Exodus 3. You remember we looked at this last week, if you were here with us. Moses experienced this theophany, the burning bush, the angel of the Lord, and the Lord himself speaking to him from this burning blush, a flame in this bush that burned but the bush was not consumed. God revealed himself to Moses; he revealed his name: “I Am who I Am. I am the God who is.” He gave Moses this commission, this task, this calling, that Moses was to go to Pharaoh in Egypt and demand that he set the people of Israel free. “Let my people go, that they may worship me.”

Moses, of course, immediately responded by asking, “Who am I? Who am I, that I should do this?” And the Lord simply said, “I will be with you.” Then he asks, “Who are you? If I am to go and tell the people of Israel that God has spoken to me, who am I to say that you are? What is your name?” God revealed himself as the great I Am.

This morning we’re picking up in Exodus 4, which really continues this conversation between God and Moses, where Moses continues to raise objections to the task that God has set for him. We’re going to look not at all of chapter 4, but at a good portion of Exodus 4.

As we study this chapter this morning, I think you will see that our God is not a tame God. He is good, but he is not safe. He appears to Moses in his terrifying holiness, his majesty, and his revelation of himself in this chapter is such that we should feel awe before him. We should tremble in his presence even as we draw near to him as our only ally.

So, Exodus 4, and we’re going to be looking at verses 1-17, and then verses 21-26. Rather than reading it all at once I’m just going to read it as we work through the message. What I want to show you this morning are four truths about this God that we worship.

1. The God of Terrifying but Transforming Power

I want you to see that this is the God of terrifying but transforming power. You see this in verses 1-9. Moses raises another objection to this calling in verse 1. “Then Moses answered, ‘But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, “The Lord did not appear to you.”’”

We have to remember, of course, that the Lord did not appear to everyone every day. God had been essentially silent for 400 years. Moses wasn’t expecting this, Moses wasn’t looking for this, but he has this encounter with God in the wilderness. Now, as he is sent to go to the people of Israel and then also to Pharaoh in Egypt, he raises this objection. “They’re not going to believe me! If I go tell them that God spoke to me, they’re not going to listen. They’re not going to believe me.”

I want you to see how God responds to Moses. He responds by giving Moses a series of signs, and they are signs both for Moses himself and also signs that he will be able to perform to corroborate, to authenticate, the word that he is to deliver. Look at verse 2.

The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” [This was probably just an ordinary shepherd’s staff, a rod.] And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it.

You see why this is terrifying power! God takes something ordinary, a shepherd’s staff, and as Moses throws it to the ground it becomes something dangerous, a serpent, probably a cobra. Of course, serpents had great significance in Egypt. This is evident when you even look at the icons of Egypt, the headdresses of the Pharaohs that resemble the head of a cobra, and many other symbols. God here is showing that he has power over the gods of Egypt, he has power to take also that which is ordinary, a shepherd’s staff, and do something extraordinary with it. But this is terrifying to Moses, and he runs.

Then in verse 4, “But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Put out your hand and catch it by the tail . . . that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.’” While God is speaking, Moses puts out his hand, catches the serpent by the tail, and it becomes a staff in his hand once again. From now on, this staff will be called the staff of God, because Moses has now consecrated this to God.

That’s the first sign, and it shows God’s power, which is both scary and also transforming power.

The second sign is given in verses 6-7. “Again, the Lord said to him, ‘Put your hand inside your cloak.’ And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow.” Leprosy; it would have been some kind of a skin disease, perhaps Hansen’s disease or something like it, one of the most feared diseases in the ancient world. That’s evident when you read the book of Leviticus and you see all of the laws governing leprosy and uncleanness. This would have rendered Moses ceremonially unclean and unsafe to be around. Again, this is a terrifying thing. He suddenly has this disease in his body, simply from putting his hand inside his cloak.

But then in verse 7 God says, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” He puts the leprous hand back inside his cloak, and when he takes it out again, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. Once again, God’s power is transforming. He can take that which is diseased and he can make it whole. But it’s also terrifying, because he actually made the clean hand leprous first.

God says in verse 8, “If they will not believe you . . . or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign.” Then he gives one more in verse 9. “If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

The Nile River was at the center of life in Egypt, essential for their agriculture, for their livelihood. The Nile was worshiped as a god by the Egyptians. This will become a symbol to Egypt later on, as Moses performs this sign before Pharaoh and his magicians, and it’s essentially showing God’s triumph and God’s victory over the false gods of Egypt. But this is a sign that Moses actually does not perform here, in this moment when God gives it to him; rather, Moses is simply to believe that this will take place. He has to accept this one by faith that if the time comes where a third sign is necessary, if he will do this, if he will pour the water from the Nile on the ground, it will become like blood.

What’s going on in this passage? Moses here is encountering God in his power. He is receiving a demonstration of the power of God, which is meant to corroborate and authenticate the word of God. We have to remember that the Lord’s signs in Scripture are always given with a special purpose. One commentator says they are always meaningful illustrations, not just clever tricks. These signs were given to show Moses that God has this transforming power, power that can take the ordinary and do something supernatural with it, power that can both make sick and make well again, power that can conquer the false gods, the false deities of Egypt.

I love the way Alec Motyer puts it in his wonderful commentary on Exodus. (By the way, if you are looking to read a commentary along with this series, this is the one I’d recommend.) Motyer says,

"The Lord is Lord of power to transform (2-5), to renew (6-7), and to conquer (8-9). Obedience is the channel through which all this power flows. [Now get this.] In terms of resources, what Moses had in his hand looked pathetically inadequate, but the Lord could make it more than sufficient. In terms of fitness for the task, Moses was the source of his own contagion (the leprosy), but the Lord could make the foul not only clean, but the source of cleanness. In terms of opposition, Moses against the superpower looked like a foregone disaster, but the Lord was more than a match for the enemy. Moses acting alone had no hope of taking on the might of Egypt, but when he obeyed the word of God he mobilized the power and resources of God and the expected outcome was totally transformed."

This God of terrifying yet transforming power! You might wonder what is the application of that for us today. We don’t generally see signs of this nature. I don’t think Scripture encourages us to really seek for those kinds of signs, though sometimes people do. I’m not saying that God could never perform a sign.

In fact, I remember well a story that a mentor of mine told years ago. This was a man who was a pastor, he was a preacher, he was actually the pastor who, when he was probably in his early 70s, was the pastor of the church that called for my ordination, a little church in Brownfield, Texas. I remember him telling me that when he was a very young man, he was not a Christian, he did not believe in God, one day he was with his buddies. I think they were playing poker or gambling or something like that, and he was essentially mocking God. He said, “I’m going to throw a quarter up in the air, and if that quarter lands on its edge, then I’ll believe that there’s a God.” He threw the quarter up in the air, the quarter came down and landed on its edge. And he didn’t believe.

You see, signs don’t compel faith. The word of God is what compels faith. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." It was only as this brother later really began to understand and embrace God’s grace revealed in the gospel that he began to walk with God, and did so for many years.

I think the exhortation this morning is not to look for signs, but rather, walk in faith and trust God’s word. If we’re looking for transformation, the main place to look for it is through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is God’s transforming work through his Spirit in our hearts and lives that is the greatest authentication of the reality of who God is and the reality of his word. His Spirit accompanies his word to change us, to transform us.

God is a God of power, terrifying yet transforming power.

2. The God Who Is Not Limited by Our Limitations

The second thing I want you to see is that he is the God who is not limited by our limitations. We see that in verses 10-17.

Moses is still resistant. Look at verse 10. “But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’” Some scholars think that perhaps Moses had a lisp or some other kind of speech impediment. But notice God’s response in verse 11.

“Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.’”

Before, God had told him, “I will be with you”; now, “I will be with your mouth. I will teach you what you shall speak.”

Moses objects again in verse 13. “But he said, ‘Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.’”

Then notice verse 14. “Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, ‘Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.’”

Moses felt his inadequacies. “I’m not eloquent. I’m not able. I don’t have the gifts. I don’t know what to do. I can’t do this, Lord!” In his inadequacies, God shows that he is completely sufficient. He is the God who is not limited by our limitations.

Notice what God does in response. God doesn’t take away the speech impediment, if that’s what he had. He does not promise that Moses will suddenly have the gift of eloquence. He simply asserts that he is the Creator, the Lord, who has made man’s mouth and makes him mute or deaf and seeing or blind. He says, “It’s me. I am the Lord, and I will be with your mouth.” Then he supplies him with a helper in his brother, Aaron.

This is so different from the message that we are most likely to receive from the world, from our surrounding culture. When we feel inadequate in the world, the world always says, “Look inside, deep into yourself, and you will find what you need.” That’s not what God says. God doesn’t say look inside. He says, “Look up. Look to me.”

You even have this in that animated adaptation of the story of the exodus, The Prince of Egypt. There are things about that film that I appreciate. I’ve mentioned it before in this series. But the theme song from the movie gets it completely wrong. Do you remember the lyrics?

There can be miracles when you believe;
Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill.
Who knows what miracles you can achieve
When you believe?
Somehow you will, you will
When you believe.

There’s no reference to God. The object of faith in that song is either oneself or maybe faith itself, but not really looking to God. But in Scripture, it’s exactly the opposite of that. It’s not, “Look within,” it’s not, “Look to yourself.” It’s not that if you look hard enough, deep enough inside yourself you will find the resources you need to do what God has called you to do. Instead, we say with the apostle Paul, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (in 2 Corinthians 2), and the answer is given in the next chapter. “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.”

The message of the Bible is not, “Look inside,” but, “Look to God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and trust in him.” We can do all things through him who strengthens us.

So, brothers and sisters, whatever you’re facing in life this morning, don’t look to yourself, look to God, the God who is not limited by our limitations.

3. The God Who Doesn’t Fit Our Theological Boxes

There’s a third lesson for us here that we see in verses 21-23. I’m going to skip verses 18-20, which are essentially transition verses, as Moses goes back to his father-in-law, Jethro, and prepares to go to Egypt. But in verses 21-23 we learn that God is the God who doesn’t fit into our theological boxes. God gives another word to Moses, another revelation of his will and of the message that Moses is to deliver, but there’s more detail now, and details about God that make us scratch our heads in wonder.

Verse 21: “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.’ If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.”’”

These are words of both promise and warning and threat, as God tells Moses what is going to take place. In the language that God uses here we see two sides to God’s character. We see that he is the God of intense, passionate, fiery love for his children; and also that he is a God of mysterious, inscrutable sovereignty.

Look, first of all, at verses 22-23 and God’s passionate love. It’s the first time in Scripture where the language of sonship is used in relationship to Israel. “Thus says the Lord, ‘Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, let my son go, that he may serve me.’” This is important, because it introduces a theme that will get picked up in the Bible and used again and again and again, the theme of God’s people, and then God’s kings as God’s son. Read Psalm 89, read the story of the Davidic covenant in 2 Samuel 7 and how God chooses the son of David to be his son. Of course, it’s pointing us forward to the ultimate Son, the true Son of David, the Messianic king, the heir of God, Jesus Christ himself, who is the firstborn of many brothers. But here is the first time that this language is used.

It shows us that God, in his concern for his people, is concerned not just as a king for his ruler but as a father for his children. In fact, many images of God are used in Scripture that describe God’s love. He’s also described sometimes as a husband, as a lover, and that’s why he is a jealous God. His love is so strong that he will do whatever it takes to rescue and cleanse and purify his people. He is a God of intense, passionate, fiery love.

He's also a God of mysterious, inscrutable sovereignty. You see that in verse 21, where the Lord says regarding Pharaoh, “But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.”

On one level, God here is just telling Moses what is going to take place. “Moses, you’re going to go to Pharaoh, but he’s not going to listen. He’s not going to let my people go.” He’s clueing Moses in one what’s going to take place.

But it introduces a theme in Exodus about Pharaoh and the hardening of his heart. In some ways this is a tease for what will come later when we get to chapter 7 and explore this more thoroughly. What does this mean? How do we put this together, that Pharaoh hardens his own heart, as Scripture says, but also that God hardens his heart? I think we safely say that Pharaoh is not a robot. When we read the story, it’s clear that he is obstinate, that he is wicked, that he is rebellious, and that again and again and again, in the face of overwhelming evidence of the power and the majesty of God, he still rebels and refuses to hear God’s word.

But there is mystery here, and I will just read to you this passage from Romans 9, where the accent falls on God’s sovereignty in judgment. Romans 9:17: “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh [it’s quoting Exodus 9:16], ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then, he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’” Notice Paul’s response in verse 20. “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”

That’s one of those passages of Scripture that we’re not very comfortable with. I think what happens is that many people, when they come to the Bible, they come with a system in their mind, a theological system that privileges one aspect of the character of God revealed in Scripture. Sometimes we want to say, “Oh, my God would not behave that way! My God would not do something like that, because I serve a God of love!” All we do is emphasize the love and the mercy and the goodness of God.

Yes, of course God is loving and just and good and merciful, infinitely so, but that doesn’t screen out these other aspects of God’s character. He’s also sovereign; he is just; he is holy. He holds absolute sway over the affairs of men. We must not pit these two things against each other. We must let the God of the Bible be who the God of the Bible is, and let our theology arise out of a reading of Scripture.

Practically, I think what this means is that you and I must read our Bibles for ourselves, not take our theology secondhand. Don’t just take it from me. Don’t just take it from your pastor, your preacher. Don’t just take it from your favorite books, whether it’s a John Piper or an R.C. Sproul or anybody else. As helpful as those are, let your theology come from the text of Scripture, where God reveals himself. God shows us who he is, and the only way to see it is to read the Bible regularly—a book at a time, a chapter at a time. Read, and as you read, keep your eyes peeled and ask questions. “What is this teaching me about God?” Be sure that you’re worshiping the true God, not just a god that you’ve put together piecemeal from different things you’ve heard and said and read, but not from the Bible.

He is the God who does not fit our theological boxes; he bursts our categories.

4. The God Who Shocks Our Sensibilities and Shatters Our Assumptions

That leads right to the last point, and maybe this one is the most astonishing of all, that he is the God who shocks our sensibilities and shatters our assumptions about him. You see this in verses 24-26.

“At a lodging place on the way [on the way to Egypt] the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet with it and said, ‘Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!’ So he let him alone. It was then that she said, ‘A bridegroom of blood,’ because of the circumcision.”

I told you it would shock your sensibilities! This is one of those passages that Old Testament scholar Dale Ralph Davis calls one of the "nasties” of the Old Testament. We squirm when we read something like that; it makes us uncomfortable.

There are all kinds of interpretive issues and difficulties with the text. I won’t get into those, but I think the main point is pretty straightforward, and it all has to do with the covenant that God had made with Abraham in Genesis 17, where God required circumcision for every male child in the family of Abraham and in the people of Israel. God had said, “This is the seal of the covenant, the sign of the covenant; you must circumcise the males, and any male that is not circumcised will be cut off from my people.”

It seems clear that, whatever it is that happened to Moses, here he is on his way to Egypt—this is what’s so astounding—he’s on his way to Egypt, he’s finally obeying God, God’s revealed himself to him, God’s appeared to him, God is giving him this commission; but now God wants to kill him! It just astounds us. What in the world is going on?

I think the issue is that it was clear to Moses, it was clear to his wife, Zipporah, that they had not fulfilled their covenant obligations. God required circumcision, and here is Moses, who is about to be the mediator between God and the people. He will be the mouthpiece of God. He will be God’s prophet, God’s spokesman, but he has not himself been obedient to what God has required. God will not let him continue without obedience. So, somehow or another, the Lord meets him and seeks to put him to death.

We don’t know whether that was a physical ailment—was he sick? Did he have a seizure? Some people think maybe it was like the physical assailant of Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestled with the angel all night long. But whatever the situation, however we understand it, what is clear is that when Zipporah circumcised their son and threw the foreskin at Moses’ feet and said, “You are a bridegroom of blood to me,” at that moment, that’s when Moses was released.

It shows us that this God is a God who doesn’t fit our categories, he shocks our sensibilities, he shatters our assumptions. As Davis says, “This is a God who destroys our false impressions of him.”

I think it’s one of the only ways that we can know that we really worship the true and the living God: if we encounter this God in Scripture and we recognize that there are things about this God that are not things we would have made up. You wouldn’t make this up! Nobody would make this up. This isn’t going to go in the next Exodus movie. They’re not going to do that. But it’s in the Bible, and it’s here for a reason: it’s here to teach us something about God, that he is a God who cares about obedience. He cares about the precise details of our lives.

There’s a story from one of the Puritan pastors, named Richard Rogers. The Puritans in their day, when they were called Puritans, that was derogatory, because they were so puritanical, right? They wanted to purify the worship in their church. They were also called “Precisionists” because they were so exacting in the details of their walk with God, in the same way that Methodists were called Methodists because they were so methodical in their obedience and in their self-discipline. We lose the sense of the meaning of those original terms.

But Richard Rogers the precisionist is one day kind of chided by the lord of a nearby manor, and he said, “Why are you so precise, Rogers?”

Rogers said, “Oh sir, I serve a precise God.”

Why is God so precise? Why does he care about obedience? I think the answer is because he loves us, not with an indifferent love but with a passionate, fiery zeal for our holiness.

C.S. Lewis, once again, got it right. Let me read you this quote, and then we’ll draw to a close. This is from his book The Problem of Pain, where he talked about how many of us would rather have a grandfather in heaven, a senile benevolence, rather than a Father in heaven. Then Lewis says,

"It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms. With our friends, our lovers, our children we are exacting, and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes. If God is love, he is by definition something more than mere kindness, and it appears from all the records that though he has often rebuked us and condemned us, he has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense."

It's because he loves us that much that he pursues our holiness, he pursues our obedience, and he will chasten his children and discipline them when they stray.

Ask yourself this morning, is the God you worship the God of the Bible? Is he the God who sometimes shocks you, a God whose self-revelation shatters your assumptions about what he must be like?

You know, the greatest demonstration of this God’s character, this God of terrifying, transforming power; this God who doesn’t fit in our boxes; this God who is unlimited and almighty; this God of both sovereignty and love—the greatest demonstration of his character is at the cross, where another firstborn Son, through an act that requires his blood, will appease the wrath of God against his people.

In a passage we may easily read over and miss, the apostle Paul actually takes the image of circumcision and applies it to Christ, describing the cross in terms of circumcision, a covenant sign of cleansing, a bloody event. He does this in Colossians 2:11, where he says, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” When you read the passage in context, it’s very clear he’s talking about the cross.

Something happened there. Something happened on the cross, where Jesus experienced something in that moment, in that event, that averted the judgment of God, where he absorbed that judgment in our place. It shows us that while our God is a God who requires obedience, obedience to the covenant, he is also the God who provides that obedience in the person of Jesus, because Jesus is the ultimate covenant keeper. He is the one who lived the life we should have lived and would not, and he is the one who has died that atoning death in our place, covering our sins, so that we can say, as we sang this morning, “What can wash away my sins? / Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

But because of his blood we are cleansed, we are forgiven, and God’s transforming power through his Spirit is at work in our hearts and in our lives to make us instruments, ordinary that we are, that can be fit for God’s use; to take we, who are unclean with the leprosy of sin, and to cleanse us and heal us and make us new. This is the God we worship; this is the God revealed in Scripture; this is the God revealed in and through Jesus Christ. Look to him this morning. Let’s pray together.

Almighty and gracious God, this passage is a passage that in some ways takes our breath away, as it reveals to us your holy character, your passionate love, your mysterious sovereignty; as it reveals you to us in ways that we would not invent and that we could only comprehend through the ministry of your Spirit to our hearts. In this moment, we just bow our heads and our hearts to submit ourselves to this word, to thank you that, sinners though we are, you have sought us out; to thank you that you love us, and you love us so much that you seek our holiness, you seek our obedience, you seek our transformation; and to thank you that you have loved us to the point of giving your Son, Jesus Christ, to be the propitiation for our sins.

As we come to the Lord’s table this morning, we come in recognition of both our great need for grace, need for forgiveness, need for your sanctifying work in our lives; and also the great privilege that is given to us, that we can be in friendship with you, that we can be welcomed to the throne of grace, that we can be received into your family, into your fellowship. So Lord, help us in these moments to prepare our hearts through confession and repentance and by taking hope in the rich, abundant grace that is given to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Draw near to us, Lord, as we draw near to you. We pray this in Jesus’ name and for his sake, amen.