Then Moses turned again to the Lord and said, "O Lord, why hast thou done evil to this people? Why didst thou ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he has done evil to this people, and thou hast not delivered thy people at all." But the Lord said to Moses, "Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, yea, with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land."
And God said to Moses, "I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they dwelt as sojourners. Moreover I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold in bondage and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the people of Israel, 'I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment, and I will take you for my people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord."
I would like to help you believe in your heart this morning that: The omnipotence of God means reverence, recompense, and refuge, for his covenant people.
If you belong to that covenant people my prayer for you is that this message will
- deepen your sense of reverence for God,
- increase your confidence that all the enemies of righteousness will be justly recompensed by God (vengeance belongs to God not to us!),
- and encourage you to rest in the refuge of God's protecting power in times of distress.
If you don't belong to God's covenant people, my prayer for you is that when you hear some of the benefits of belonging to an omnipotent God, you will bow and accept the terms of his covenant, namely, obedient faith in Jesus Christ.
The Context of Exodus 5—6
Let's begin by looking at the context of Exodus chapters 5 and 6. Moses and Aaron accepted God's command to go down to Egypt and to tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go. But Pharaoh responds in 5:2, "Who is the LORD, that I should heed his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover I will not let Israel go."
Instead of letting the Israelites go Pharaoh made their bondage more severe. He forced them to make as many bricks as before, but gave them no straw. They had to find their own.
So the foremen of the Israelite work crews came to Moses and Aaron and accused them of putting a sword in Pharaoh's hand to kill them (5:21). Moses in turn cries out to God in 5:22, "O LORD, why hast thou done evil to this people? Why didst thou ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he has done evil to this people, and thou hast not delivered thy people at all."
God responds in Exodus 6:1, "Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, yea, with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land."
A Lesson in Passing
There is a lesson for us here that we should note in passing. Often when God is about to bring a glad experience into your life, he let's it be preceded by a very discouraging setback. The burden of bondage in Egypt became heaviest just before the great day of liberation. There are good reasons why God does things this way, but we'll save that for another message. I just wanted you to see this in passing so that, if you are discouraged this morning, you will hold on to God until he stretches out his "strong hand."
Why God Reminds Moses of God's Names
Now in Exodus 6:2–8 God gives Moses the assurance he needs that God has the ability and intention to deliver his people from the hands of Pharaoh. First he reminds Moses of his name revealed back in Exodus 3:14. Verse 2: I am YAHWEH! Verse 6: I am YAHWEH! Verse 8: I am YAHWEH! In other words, remember that I AM WHO I AM. I have not ceased to be God because little Pharaoh is huffing and puffing about your command. I AM WHO I AM. I do not change. You will be delivered.
Then in verse 3 God reminds Moses of another name. He says, "I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as GOD ALMIGHTY, but by my name YAHWEH I did not make myself known to them." Why did God say this to Moses? How does this encourage Moses that God's promised deliverance is really in the offing?
It seems that God's point was something like this: "The name YAHWEH is a greater name than the name GOD ALMIGHTY. I did not reveal the full meaning of my name YAHWEH to Abraham. Only recently have I made known to you the meaning of my name YAHWEH. This is a special privilege that your forefathers never had. But look at what name I did reveal to them—GOD ALMIGHTY! With a name like that before them, they should have been filled with confidence in me. How much more, then, should you, since you've been given the fuller revelation of my character in the name YAHWEH!" If Israel learned the first-grade lesson that their God is GOD ALMIGHTY, then surely now, after the second-grade lesson that God is I AM WHO I AM, they will be all the more courageous.
Then in verse 4 God reminds Moses that what he did for Abraham as GOD ALMIGHTY was establish his covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan. In other words God says, "If as GOD ALMIGHTY I made a solemn agreement with your fathers to give them the promised land, then how much more, now that you know me as YAHWEH, can you have confidence that I will deliver this people and fulfill my covenant promise to bring them into the land of Canaan!" Together the names GOD ALMIGHTY and YAHWEH—I AM WHO I AM—should give Moses all the assurance he needs to press on with the mission God has given him in Egypt.
Today I want us to focus our attention on the name GOD ALMIGHTY. What does it mean? The Hebrew behind the English GOD ALMIGHTY is "El Shaddai." But there is a great deal of disagreement among scholars as to what this word Shaddai means. My own opinion is that the translation ALMIGHTY captures the essence of the word. Job 37:23 leads me this way, "The ALMIGHTY—we cannot find him; he is great in power." There may be other aspects of the meaning of El Shaddai, but the idea of power seems central.
Three Things God's Omnipotence Implies About God
The name ALMIGHTY implies that God has all the might he needs to do anything he wants to do. This view of God is confirmed over and over again in Scripture. We call it the omnipotence of God. Omnipotent and almighty mean virtually the same thing. In particular there are three things that God's omnipotence implies about himself.
1. He Cannot Be Stopped from Accomplishing His Purposes
First, the omnipotence of God implies that he cannot be stopped from doing what he purposes to do. Daniel 4:35 says, "The Most High does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand." If God purposes with all his heart to do a thing, it simply cannot be stopped by any power in the universe.
2. He Does Whatever He Pleases
Second, the omnipotence of God implies that he does whatever he pleases. Psalm 115:3, says "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases." In Isaiah 46:9–10 God says, "I am God and there is none like me . . . saying 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose'." GOD ALMIGHTY is not like us. He can do whatever he pleases. Ultimately the only thing that determines what God will accomplish and what he won't is his own will. This is what it means to be almighty or omnipotent.
3. His Power Is Superior to All Other Powers
Third, the omnipotence of God implies that his power is superior to all other powers. During the Summer Olympics one of the camera maneuvers taught me something about the greatness of God. The opening and closing ceremonies were thrilling to most of the people who saw them. The sheer magnitude of the crowds and fireworks and music were a once-in-a-lifetime experience of bigness and grandeur.
Those of us who watched it on television could feel some of the thrill when the camera was high enough to take in the whole great sweep of the coliseum. But then something strange happened. The camera continued to recede into the sky where it was perched in the helicopter, and the coliseum became smaller and smaller until it was just a blurry dot on the ground.
As I watched that happen I was filled with joy in the greatness of God. I said to myself, "Look how thrilled we are with a coliseum full of color and sound. Look how we stand in wonder. Look how we shout and clap and feel excitement at the splendor of it all. But look again from God's perspective. Compared to his power and splendor, it's a blurry dot on the ground."
God puts on a minor display of his strength and splendor every morning as he brings the sun up over the horizon—865,000 miles thick, 1.3 million times heavier than the earth, blazing on its cool edges at one million degrees Centigrade! Every morning has its opening ceremonies to thrill us with the power and the glory of God and fill us with hope that one day we will enter a land where all the wonders that have inspired us on this little earth will be like blurry dots in comparison with the magnificence of God's eternal closing ceremonies.
And every night God puts out a little puppet show of his majesty in the sky, with Perseus and Andromeda and Hercules and Orion and Leo the Lion and Draco the Dragon sporting about in the local galaxy 100,000 light years across.
"Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge." And what they teach so forcefully is that God is infinite in power. Nothing that has ever awed you can compare to him. He is GOD ALMIGHTY! Nothing can stay his hand. He does whatever he pleases. He is the Potter and the universe is his clay.
The Name God Almighty Means Three Things for Us
That's what God's omnipotence implies about himself. Now I want to focus on what the name GOD ALMIGHTY means for us. I summed it up at the beginning like this: The omnipotence of God means reverence, recompense, and refuge for his covenant people. So now let's take these promises one at a time.
First, the omnipotence of God means reverence. In Job 40:2 the Lord said to Job, "Shall a faultfinder contend with the ALMIGHTY?" The fact that God is almighty means that we may not contend with him. He may perplex us and we may question him in lowliness for understanding, but not for indictment. We may not accuse our Maker. When we try, we set ourselves or some court of appeals above God, and that is a horrendous sin against the deity of God. As St. Paul says, "Shall what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me thus?' Has the potter no right over the clay to do with it as he pleases?" (Romans 9:20–21).
But reverence is a foreign emotion to fallen human beings. Most people do not have any experience of reverence. Wherever God is considered a pal or a sidekick or a grandfather or the religious drug of the uneducated, he cannot be revered. There are many affections you can feel for a little God, but reverence is not one of them.
Isaiah says, "The lord of hosts . . . let him be your fear, and let him be your dread." (8:13). Reverence is the combination of admiration and fear, awe and dread, wonder and terror. It's an emotion that we were made to experience. And in its absence we create motion pictures and take vacations which do their best to provide a substitute. We long to be awe-struck. We long for some friendly terror and some joyful dread. And the only way we will ever experience it is to know the Lord as GOD ALMIGHTY, the omnipotent.
Second, the omnipotence of God means recompense—a recompense of wrath upon those who do not believe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:8). John describes a scene in the book of Revelation of a white horse with a rider who is called Faithful and True. His eyes are like a flame of fire, he is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is the Word of God. The armies of heaven are in his train. "From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the ALMIGHTY" (Revelation 19:15).
If God is almighty, one thing is for sure—no one who resists him can succeed. The arrogant and the unbelieving may seem for a while to prosper. But, as Psalm 73 discovers, there comes a speedy end: "Truly thou dost set them in slippery places; thou dost make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors." It is utter folly and madness to disobey the Almighty. He cannot be tricked, thwarted, or defeated. And he has appointed a day when his Son will tread the wine press of the fury of his wrath, because he is GOD ALMIGHTY.
Third, the omnipotence of God means refuge. The opposite of recompense for those who have refused the terms of God's treaty is refuge for those who have accepted. Psalm 91:1–2, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the ALMIGHTY, will say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust'."
Has it ever hit home to you what it means to say, "My God, who loves me and gave himself for me, is almighty"? It means that if you take your place under the shadow of the ALMIGHTY, you are protected by omnipotence. There is infinite and unending security in the almightiness of God.
The Shadow of the Almighty
It was not a slip up in 1958 when Elizabeth Elliot gave to "the life and testament" of her slain husband the title, SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY. Jim Elliot and four other missionaries to the Aucas were killed on January 8, 1956. In 1949 when Jim Elliot was a college student, he wrote the words that have become the motto of many of our young people at Bethlehem: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
Around the world the death of Jim Elliot and his four friends was called a nightmare of tragedy. But Elizabeth Elliot wrote, "The world did not recognize the truth of the second clause in Jim Elliot's credo: 'He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose'." She called her book SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY from Psalm 91:1 because she was utterly convinced that the refuge of the people of God is not a refuge from suffering and death but a refuge from final and ultimate defeat. He who saves his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for the sake of the gospel will save it—because the Lord is GOD ALMIGHTY.
God did not exercise his omnipotence to deliver Jesus from the cross. Nor will he exercise it to deliver you and me from tribulation. If we have the faith and single-mindedness and courage of Jim Elliott, we might find ourselves saying with the apostle Paul, "For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God—the almighty God!—in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Joy, Freedom, Power, and Obedience
The omnipotence of God means eternal, unshakable refuge in the everlasting glory of God no matter what happens on this earth. And that confidence is the power of radical obedience to the call of God. Is there anything more freeing, more thrilling, or more strengthening than the truth that GOD ALMIGHTY is your refuge—all day every day in all the ordinary and extraordinary experiences of life! Nothing but what he ordains for your good befalls you. And afterward he will receive you to glory!
If we believed this, if we really let this truth of God's omnipotence get hold of us, what a difference it would make in our personal lives and in our ministry as a church! How humble and powerful we would become for the saving purposes of God! Paul speaks of "the immeasurable greatness of God's power in us who believe." Arthur Mathews describes the secret of one of the revivals in northern India like this: It was owing to "three renewed human wills that by faith linked themselves as with hooks of steel to the omnipotent will of God . . . yearning, pleading, crying and agonizing over the church in India and the myriads of lost souls."
The omnipotence of God means refuge for the people of God. And when you really believe that your refuge is the omnipotence of GOD ALMIGHTY, there is a joy and a freedom and a power that spills over in a life of radical obedience to the Jesus Christ.
The omnipotence of God means reverence, recompense, and refuge for his covenant people. I invite you to accept the terms of his covenant of grace: turn from sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the omnipotence of GOD ALMIGHTY will be the reverence of your soul, the recompense of your enemies, and the refuge of your life—forever.