© Jeff Stacey | Last updated: 20 March 2017
5A4. God’s nature expressed as power:
In grace, God gloriously demonstrated His powerful presence with the Israelites throughout their whole exodus journey, and as they invaded Canaan and settled there
5A4(title) God’s nature expressed as power
God’s first instructions to Moses introduced two principles about how He would fulfil His declared intentions. It would be by mighty acts of His power that He would deliver the Israelites from the Egyptians Ex 3:20a, 6:6. He would also be with Moses Ex 3:12a and empower him and Aaron to do some of these things Ex 4:12,15b,17,21a.
These declarations emphasized that He was going to take action as God Almighty (el shaddai). But even more significantly, He was declaring that the newly revealed meaning of His name “the LORD” (Yahweh) was even greater than “God Almighty”! Ex 6:2-3.
All of this was to be the ongoing accomplishing of His primary purpose. He would be making Himself known powerfully TO the Israelites as His own people by what He did for them Ex 6:7. God would also be making Himself known powerfully TO the Egyptians! Ex 6:1, 14:18.
5A4(sub-title) In grace, God gloriously demonstrated His powerful presence with the Israelites throughout their whole exodus journey, and as they invaded Canaan and settled there
5A4(a) In grace
In grace, God had UNCONDITIONALLY made His sovereign choice of Abraham and his chosen descendants, and established His UNCONDITIONAL Covenantal commitment to them [4A4, 4A8]. But the Israelites’ Patriarchs and their descendants had a chequered history as followers of God [4B28, 4B30]. Yet in continuing grace, God’s Covenantal faithfulness to the Israelites would be His compassionate basis for powerfully delivering them from Egypt, leading them on their exodus journey for 40 years, then to invade and settle in Canaan as He had promised Ex 2:23-24,25, 3:7,8.
5A4(b) God gloriously demonstrated His powerful presence with the Israelites throughout their whole exodus journey
When the Israelites were about to invade Canaan, Moses reminded them that their deliverance from Egypt was due to God’s Covenantal faithfulness and powerful presence with them Deut 4:37. Moses then summarised the blessings of God’s presence, His majestic glory and awesome voice throughout their extraordinary exodus journey of 40 years Deut 2:7, 5:24. All of this was in order to accomplish His primary purpose for the Israelites Deut 4:35.
5A4(c) God’s powerful presence would enable the Israelites to invade Canaan and settle there
The following outlines some of God’s major acts of power.
5A4(c) God’s power was demonstrated in bringing the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt
As He had declared to the Israelites, God did deliver them from their slavery in Egypt by mighty acts of His power. He brought ten terrible plagues upon the Egyptians Ex 7:14 – 11:10, 12:29-36. He commanded Moses how to give warnings TO Pharaoh before most of them and that He would make Himself known to Pharaoh THROUGH them Ex 7:17, 8:22, 9:14,15-16, 11:7. Some of the Egyptians and even Pharaoh did sometimes admit to knowing that these plagues were from God! Ex 8:19, 9:20,27, 10:16-17. The last of these plagues was the deaths of the firstborn of all the Egyptians’ sons and livestock Ex 12:29,30. Then in terror of God they urged the Israelites to leave quickly! Ex 12:31-32,33.
5A4(d) God’s powerful presence and glory were demonstrated by the pillar of cloud and fire
Further demonstrations of God’s power began immediately after the Israelites left Egypt. God was always with them in a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, constantly guiding them by its movements Ex 13:20-21,22, 40:36-37,38, Deut 1:32-33. Sometimes it directly indicated God’s awesome presence Lev 16:2, Num 11:24,25, 12:5a,10, Deut 31:14,15 or showed God’s glory Ex 40:34-35 even in judgment Ex 16:10,11-12, Num 16:42.
Along with God’s angel, at times the pillar of cloud was directly involved in protecting them Ex 14:19,20. THROUGH this evidence of the presence and power of God with the Israelites, He also became known TO other peoples and feared by them Num 14:13,14.
5A4(e) God’s power and glory were demonstrated by His miracles at the Red Sea
The first mention of God’s glory was when He declared that He would “gain glory through” the Egyptians at the Red Sea Ex 14:4a,17. It is highly significant that God’s intention was to be accomplishing His primary purpose by making Himself known TO and THROUGH the Egyptians Ex 14:4b,18. This was to be by a specific demonstration of His mighty power.
Having commanded Moses Ex 14:15-16 God parted the waters of the Red Sea to enable the Israelites to cross over on the dry seabed! Ex 14:21,22. When the Egyptians tried to follow Ex 14:23-24,25 He again commanded Moses, brought the waters back and drowned them all! Ex 14:26,27,28. The Egyptians briefly knew negatively that Yahweh was powerful when in terror they finally realised He was against them! Ex 14:25b. The whole Egyptian nation would also have known this about God whennews of it reached them.
In contrast, this horrendous event had a decisively positive impact on the Israelites Ex 14:31. By a visual manifestation of His sovereign power, God had made His nature much more fully known TO them. They acknowledged this by their song in praise Ex 15:1-18 including a reference to God being “awesome in glory” Ex 15:11. Several times they mentioned His power Ex 15:6,16 and strength Ex 15:2a,13b. This referred not only to what He had done in delivering them from the Egyptians Ex 15:1b,4-5,10 but also to what He would yet do in giving them possession of Canaan Ex 15:13a.
5A4(f) God’s powerful nature was overwhelmingly demonstrated at Mount Sinai
Three days later God’s presence came down dramatically upon the mountain Ex 19:16a,18. Moses led the Israelites out to it and they heard God speak to him Ex 19:17,19. This glorious expression of God’s presence continued for 7 days, as Moses went up the mountain and God called to him Ex 24:15-16,17. It then continued for a further 40 days, as God met with Moses Ex 24:18.
It was all an overwhelming demonstration of God’s powerful presence TO the Israelites Ex 19:16b, 20:18-19. The purpose was to prepare and test their hearts Ex 19:9, 20:20 so that they would honour God only Ex 20:22-23 and obey His Covenantal Law code. This is how He would make Himself known THROUGH them Ex 19:5-6.
5A4(g) God’s power demonstrated in providing for the Israelites through 40 years of desert wanderings
The Israelites left Egypt so hastily at night that they had to carry with them the yeast-less dough of their half-made bread! Ex 12:39
There were up to two million Israelites and others, adults and children, along with their large flocks and herds Ex 12:37-38. Their exodus journey to Canaan was to be mostly through rugged, waterless desert. God repeatedly tested their faith in Him and their obedience to Him Ex 20:20, Deut 8:2, 13:3.
5A4(g)(i) Provision of water
After miraculously crossing the Red Sea and before reaching Mt Sinai, the Israelites had travelled three days into the desert and found no water Ex 15:22. At Marah the water was undrinkable so they complained to Moses Ex 15:23-24. He prayed and God showed him how miraculously he could make the water drinkable Ex 15:25a. God then stated His purpose in doing this Ex 15:25b,26. Next He brought them to an abundant water supply at Elim Ex 15:27.
But a similar water shortage soon occurred and again they grumbled to Moses Ex 17:1,2a,3. He told them they were now testing God! Ex 17:2b,7. Moses cried to God who again told him how miraculously he could supply water Ex 17:4,5,6.
Towards the end of the Israelites’ 40 year journey there was a further crisis and complaining over lack of water and food Num 20:2-3,4-5. Moses again sought God and He gloriously responded Num 20:6,7-8. But this time Moses himself expressed his frustration by angrily again striking the Rock of Horeb twice instead of speaking to it as God had commanded Num 20:9-10,11a. Water again flowed miraculously Num 20:11b. But God passed a severe judgment upon Moses for doing it in the wrong way Num 20:12.
This emphasised that God’s primary purpose was behind all of His miraculous provisions. They were to be revered as holy and sacred events Num 20:13. God making Himself known THROUGH expressions of His own all-powerful nature.
5A4(g)(ii) Provision of food
About six weeks into their journey from Egypt, the Israelites complained bitterly to Moses and Aaron about their lack of food (EX 15:22 – 17:7) fearing they would starve Ex 16:1-2,3. God rebuked them by spectacularly showing the glory of His presence TO them in the cloud that had gone ahead of them Ex 16:7,10. Again God confirmed His intention in visibly manifesting His glory. It was to make Himself known TO the Israelites Ex 16:6,12b. God told Moses that He would miraculously provide food for them, although this too would involve testing of their obedience to Him Ex 16:4. God then brought quails for meat and manna as bread for them to eat Ex 16:13-14,15.
Despite further disobedience and grumbling Ex 16:20,27-28, Num 11:4,5-6 God provided this manna as food for them for all the 40 years of their journey Ex 16:35. He also commanded that some of the manna be preserved in a jar as a witness to future generations of His provision Ex 16:33.
5A4(g)(iii) God’s provision never failed
Finally Moses was able to declare that God’s provision had never failed Deut 2:7, 29:5-6a. God had consistently demonstrated His power TO them by His ability to provide food and water for them. Again He stated His primary purpose in all of this provision Deut 29:6b.
5A4(h) The Israelites judged by God for their lack of trust in His power
Although the first generation of Israelites had seen God’s power and glory they still repeatedly disobeyed Him Num 14:22. God forgave them once more Num 14:20 but pronounced judgment upon them Num 14:23. Yet even as He did so, He revealed an enormous further truth about His glory. It was not confined to just the Pillar of Cloud or the Tent of Meeting/Tabernacle, but was everywhere! Num 14:21b. That is, His glory was expressing His own nature worldwide.
5A4(j) God’s power demonstrated by many battles won in reaching and invading Canaan
Although the Israelites left Egypt “ready for battle” Ex 13:18b God deliberately led them away from the Philistine country to avoid any war Ex 13:17,18a. Then at the Red Sea God had miraculously delivered them from the Egyptian army without any battle Ex 14:28.
The Israelite army numbered over 600,000 men! Num 1:45-46, 26:51. After crossing the Red Sea they fought and won many battles with various opponents as they travelled to Canaan and invaded it. But it was God whose power enabled them to win these battles Josh 10:42. Their victories were as follows.
5A4(j)(i) Victories under Moses and Joshua as leaders, east of the Jordan
Even before reaching Mt Sinai, God gave the Israelites a great victory over the Amalekites Ex 17:8-9,10,13-14. Moses’ role had been simply to keep the “staff of God” held high throughout the battle Ex 17:9b,10b-11,12. Moses later acknowledged that this victory had been by a miraculous act of God’s power Ex 17:15-16.
After being at Mt Sinai for about 11 months Ex 19:1, Num 10:11a, the Israelites set out in full battle formation Num 10:14-28. They were led by the pillar of cloud Num 10:11b,12,34 and the Ark of the Covenant Num 10:33. Whenever they began these marches, Moses would call out his “war-cry” to God Num 10:35.
But they later refused to invade Canaan as God commanded Num 14:1-2,3-4,10a after hearing conflicting reports about the Canaanites Num 13:26-33, 14:6-9. So God threatened to destroy them! Num 14:11-12. But Moses appealed to God for mercy on the basis of upholding God’s reputation of power Num 14:13,14,15-16,17. God relented Num 14:20 but with adverse consequences for all the adults Num 14:21-22,23,26-28,29-30,31.
God then told the Israelites to turn and go back the way they had come Num 14:25 and that they would wander for 40 years in the desert! Num 14:32-33,34,35, Deut 2:1. But the Israelites then decided to invade Canaan after all! Num 14:40. Moses confronted and warned them against this because “the LORD is not with you” Num 14:41-42,43. Yet they went ahead and were defeated Num 14:44-45, Deut 1:43,44,45. This highlighted the fact that it was only by God’s presence and power, on the basis of obeying His commands, that the Israelite army was able to be victorious in battle.
Finally God commanded them to again turn north towards Canaan Deut 2:2-3 and this time they obeyed Deut 2:8. They reached the border of the Canaanite tribes and God demonstrated His power. He repeatedly commanded the Israelites to attack and enabled them to defeat the Canaanite kings and peoples. Then to invade, plunder and take possession of their lands, as follows:
# Sihon king of the Amorites Num 21:21-31
# Jazer and its surrounding settlements Num 21:32
# Og king of Bashan Num 21:33-35
5A4(j)(ii) Victories under Joshua after Moses’ death, west of the Jordan
# Jericho Joshua 5:13 – 6:27
# Ai Joshua 8:1-29
# Five Amorite kings Joshua 10:16-28
# Southern cities Joshua 10:29-43
# Northern cities Joshua 11:1-23
All of these victories were described as “given” or “delivered” by God Joshua 6:2,16, 8:1,7, 10:19,30,32, 11:6,8. This was stated as the reason for their victories Joshua 10:42. So God had demonstrated His power repeatedly THROUGH these complete, miraculous Israelite victories over strong opponents.
5A4(k) Moses’ summary of God’s acts of power
Moses’ final addresses to the Israelites included a summary of God’s mighty acts in bringing them out of Egypt and into Canaan Deut 4:37,38. Their purpose was clear. By them God was making Himself known TO the Israelites Deut 4:35. He intended THROUGH them to make Himself known TO other peoples Deut 4:6b,7-8. But this would depend on the Israelites’ careful obedience to His commands Deut 4:5-6a and remembering all the powerful things they had seen Him do for them Deut 4:9.
1. I have not included any references here to the intense fire and smoke on Mt Sinai Ex 19:18, 24:17. That does not seem to have been the same as the “pillar” of fire and cloud that accompanied the Israelites on their journey. Instead it was a glorious expression of God’s presence when He came to speak to Moses Ex 19:19, 24:15-16,18 and confirm to the people Moses’ leadership authority over them Ex 19:8,9,16,20-21,22,24, 20:18-19,20-21, 24:3.(Return to reading).