Your God

A. E. Long, Nutley

Part 2 of 2 of the series My People

It follows that the Lord is the God of those whom He calls "my people". "My people" and "your God" are complementary truths, the two sides of the same coin. When He purposed to bring the Israelites out of Egypt and into Canaan, God told Moses, "I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God", Exod. 6. 7. When they were delivered from Pharaoh they sang, "The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God", Exod. 15. 2. Hosea spoke of this time when they would eventually be restored to God's favour; He will say to them, "Thou art my people", and they shall say, "Thou art my God", Hos. 2. 23.

The Children of Israel. In the priestly blessing pronounced upon Israel, God said, "they (Aaron and his sons) shall put my name upon the children of Israel", Num. 6. 27. Subject to their obedience to His commandments, they would be called by His Name, "all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord", Deut. 28. 10. In response to Solomon's dedicatory prayer, God said, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear", 2 Chron. 7. 14. His Name upon them validated them as "my people". His honour was bound up with them, as when Israel fled from, and were smitten by, the men of Ai, and Joshua feared for the effect that it would have upon the Canaanites concerning God's Name; "what wilt thou do unto thy great name?", Josh. 7. 9. Samuel said, "the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people", 1 Sam. 12. 22. "My people" and "your God" are inextricably bound up together.

Moses, Thomas, Paul, Daniel. At the burning bush, God revealed Himself to Moses for the first time as a personal God, "I am the God of thy Father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob", Exod. 3.6. Not only did this show that they still existed, though not in the flesh, since "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living", Matt. 22.32, but also that He regarded Himself as a God in personal relation to each of them. Thomas, invited by the Risen Lord to see and handle His wounds, could only reply, "My Lord and my God", John 20. 28. Paul, writing from His own experience of the Lord's dealings, could write to the Philippians, "My God shall supply all your need", Phil. 4. 19. Daniel could tell Darius, "My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths", Dan. 6. 22.

Mary Magdalene. In His resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene, the Lord told her, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God", John 20. 17. "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" is also "God our Father", Eph. 1.3,2. Since we "are all of one" with Christ, He "is not ashamed to call (us) brethren", Heb. 2. 11; it is a oneness of grace, in which He is supreme, Rom. 8. 29. Because He "is not ashamed to call (us) brethren", then "God is not ashamed to be called (our) God", Heb. 11. 16. He recognizes and honours by His Name the oneness between Christ and His "brethren".

Daniel's Three Friends. Alone among "the seed royal and ... the nobles" exiled in Babylon, Daniel and his three friends kept faith with their God. That faith was soon to be tried; in the case of the three, in the "burning fiery furnace" which Nebuchadnezzar had devised for any who would not "fall down and worship" the golden image that he had set up. This they refused to do, "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us ... and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king". But they were realists; they believed that God was "able", but recognized that He might not do so. Either way, they refused to conform, Dan. 3. 16-18. They were thereupon consigned to the flames "bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments", v. 21. To the king's astonishment, a fourth person was to be seen in the flames: "four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt", v. 25. At the king's command, the three exiles emerged from the furnace, "nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them", w. 26-27. But a fourth had shared their ordeal. God's promise through Isaiah had been realized for them, "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee", Isa. 43. 2.

Daniel. This man was not involved in the fiery trial, although certainly he also would not have conformed to the king's decree by paying homage to the king's image. His trial was to come later, and he was to meet it alone. Envious of the exalted position of Daniel in the state of Medo-Persia, one hundred and twenty princes and Daniel's two co-presidents conspired against him to bring about his downfall. They failed to find occasion against him "concerning the kingdom ... forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him". They knew him to be a man of prayer, because he made no secret of his devotions to God. So they persuaded Darius to prohibit prayer for thirty days save of Darius himself, under penalty of being cast into the den of lions. Unwittingly, Darius signed the decree and Daniel was made aware of the plot against his life. He would not, however, countenance prayer to an earthly deity, although he knew what the consequences would be. It made no difference to his prayer habit, for "when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and ... kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime", Dan. 6. 10. His enemies "found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God", v. 11. They had the evidence they sought and accused Daniel before Darius, vv. 12-13. The king was caught in their net, and despite his efforts to spare Daniel he was obliged to implement his decree. So Daniel was "cast... into the den of lions", v. 16. Darius sought to comfort Daniel with "Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee". v. 16. After a sleepless night Darius was not so confident when he went at dawn to the pit. He addressed Daniel, "is thy God ... able to deliver thee from the lions?". God was, and did, as Daniel's reply showed, "my God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me", v. 22. Note the number of times in this passage that God is described as "my", "his", "thy".

Joshua. When Joshua "waxed old and striken in age", he gave to the people a summary of their history from the time of Abraham up to their possession of Canaan, Josh. 24. 1-13. He exhorted them to "serve (the Lord) in sincerity ... and put away the gods which your fathers served ... and serve ye the Lord". He challenged them to "choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served ... or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord", vv. 14-15. The people answered, "we (will) also serve the Lord; for he is our God", v. 18. They overlooked the implications of the Lord being "our God". Joshua's reply was to the point, "Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins", v. 19. Yet they maintained "we will serve the Lord ... The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey", vv. 21, 24. They did so while Joshua lived, and the elders who outlived him, v. 31, but thereafter lapsed, so that an angel of the Lord reproached them, "ye have not obeyed my voice; why have ye done this?", Jud. 2. 2.

A Jealous and Faithful God. The Lord our God is both holy and jealous, so those who bear His Name must also be holy, "ye shall be holy; for I am holy ... ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy", Lev. 11. 44-45; cf. 1 Pet. 1. 15-16. He is also a "jealous God". In that we are His "peculiar treasure", that is, an enclosure for His exclusive use, He will not tolerate any trespass upon His preserve. Hence the Decalogue said, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me ... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God", Exod. 20. 3-5. Later, Moses told the people, "thou shalt worship no other god; for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God", 34. 14. The statement in Hebrews 12. 29, "our God is a consuming fire", is a quotation from Deuteronomy 4. 24, "For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even jealous God", and fire speaking of His jealousy.

In the context of God's choice of Israel to be a special people unto Himself, God asserted His faithfulness to the covenant, "know ... that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him ... to a thousand generations", 7. 9. Better still, "this God is our God for ever and ever", Psa. 48. 14.