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Bible Study: Recognizing God’s character

NASHVILLE (BP) — This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, Lifeway publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week’s Bible study is adapted from the Bible Studies For Life curriculum.

Bible Passage: Exodus 34:1-9

Discussion Questions:

  • What’s something that would be totally out of character for you to do?

Food for Thought by Richard Blackaby:

I believe God speaks to people. But over the years I have challenged numerous people who declared God told them something that was in fact unbiblical. How would you respond if your friend claimed that God told him he didn’t have to forgive someone who had offended him? What would you say if a colleague asserted that God told her it was OK to abort her unborn baby?

God is holy and loving. As a result, God will never say or do anything that is unholy or unloving. He would never call us to do something unholy or unloving. When people say that God told them to do something that’s contrary to His nature, we can be confident that they have not heard from God. He always speaks in ways that are consistent with His character. He makes no exceptions. God never speaks out of character.

We hear in Exodus 34 the very words of God about His faithfulness and unchanging character. And with that, we gain the confidence to trust Him and what He says. This is one of the most encouraging and inspiring passages in the Old Testament. The Israelites had forsaken God after He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt. While Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving God’s commandments, the people made an idol of a golden calf and worshiped it (Exodus 32: 1-6). As a result, Moses became enraged and threw the stone tablets to the ground, breaking them and symbolically breaking the covenant the people had made with God (v. 19).

Then Moses unleashed the Levites who killed 3,000 Israelites as punishment for their sins (v. 28). God told Moses He would send an angel with them into Canaan, but He Himself would not go (33: 2-3). God explained that, should He accompany the sinful people for even a single moment, they would be destroyed (v. 5). Moses understood, however, that if God did not go with them, then the people had no future (v. 15). Their only hope was that holy God would forgive their sins and renew His covenant with them.

That’s why Exodus 34 is so encouraging. God condescended to re-enter a covenant with His wayward people. In initially establishing this covenant, God had provided the tablets (31:18), but this time Moses was instructed to carve them. Perhaps this represented the peoples’ need to participate in drawing near to God to renew the covenant. God would write on the tablets what He had written previously.

When God met with Moses, He declared His name “the Lord” or Yahweh. This was God’s sacred, covenant name. God had earlier explained this name to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). It was the holiest, most revered name of God used by His people. It signified God’s eternal existence. To disclose your name was to reveal your character. By sharing His name with Moses, God was inviting Moses to know Him. It was an awesome invitation! The only way for people to know God is for Him to reveal Himself to them.

For us to recognize God’s voice when He speaks, we must understand His character. When God speaks, He does so out of a heart of compassion, grace and faithful love. His desire is for us to know Him and to walk obediently with Him, so that we may experience His blessing. We should never fear a word from God. His words will always reflect His character, just as He revealed it to Moses so many centuries ago.

People are quick to give advice and even imply they speak for God. But if what we hear doesn’t reflect the character of God, it isn’t worth listening to. Let’s know well the character of the One whom we serve!

Bible Studies for Life

Bible Studies for Life connects the Bible to life for adults, students and kids. Bible Studies for Life helps individuals and groups know God’s Word through trustworthy content, creates biblical community through engaging and conversational group studies, and helps people engage the culture missionally by unpacking what the Bible says about real-life issues. More information can be found at biblestudiesforlife.com.

    About the Author

  • Staff/Lifeway Christian Resources