You know the story of Exodus.
God sent Moses to deliver the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery. He sent the plagues on Egypt because of Pharaoh’s rebellion, and parted the Red Sea allowing the Israelites to cross on dry land. He provided water and food for Israel in the desert, and led them toward the promised land as a pillar of cloud in the day, and a pillar of fire by night.
If any doubter were going to pick an ideal time in history to live in order to see things that would cause them to believe and trust in God, you’d think the time of the Exodus would be a great one.
You’d think … but you may not be correct.
See, the Israelites had witnessed all these things with their own two eyes. They’d tasted the manna, they’d knelt down and felt the dry sediment at the Red Sea. The water coming from the rock in the desert was sweet, and the presence of the pillars of cloud and fire were as comforting as they were magnificent.
But Israel was quick to forget.
Exodus 32 will mess you up – not only because it reveals the sinister side of human nature, but also because it reveals the great love we should have for fallen people.
Exodus 32 reveals the end of Moses forty-day pow-wow with God on the top of Mount Sinai.
Forty days of his being gone was all it took for the Israelites to lose their faith in Yahweh who’d done so much for them only to begin looking for something else to worship. They’d approached Moses’ brother and spokesman Aaron with their concern basically saying, “Make us gods to follow! Moses is gone!”
And Aaron dropped the ball in a big way.
He had the people gather their gold together and melt it down. Then he crafted a golden calf for them to worship as god, and worship they did. They threw a party with the calf at the center the likes of which Israel had never thrown. If glow sticks and lasers had been invented before 1500 BC, I’m sure Israel would have broken them out at this point.
Here are the very people Yahweh had done so much for and delivered so many times throwing a party of praise around an idol, giving it credit for delivering them out of Egypt, at the foot of the very mountain on which the presence of the real God rested and shown like “consuming fire” at the top. I don’t know about you, but if I were going to worship an idol (and I’m not), I don’t think I’d do it at the foot of the mountain that has a huge, supernatural fire going on at the top that is supposed to be the presence of God.
Of course God took notice of this:
Exodus 32:7-147 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’9 “I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”11 But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people.13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.'”14 Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.(NIV)
So God Himself was about to destroy them, but Moses interceded on their behalf and God relented, then Moses made his way down the mountain.
Coming to the bottom of the mountain, Moses witnessed the scene. Can you imagine the look on his face when he saw what was going on? Sure, God had told him about it, but he hadn’t seen it yet. Can you feel what he felt at this point?
The Bible says “his anger burned” (v. 19). I have a feeling that’s an understatement. Obviously, Moses wasn’t happy. He threw down the stone tablets God had given him breaking them, melted the golden calf down before grinding it to powder, then mixed the powder with water, and made the Israelites drink it. He then put out a call to all those who’d remained faithful to God, and instructed them to take out their swords and strike down the rebellious. Entire families were killed, and about 3,000 died that day (not nearly as many as would have died if Moses hadn’t interceded on the people’s behalf earlier).
Now comes the part that will mess you up:
Exodus 32:30-32 30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin– but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (NIV)
Moses said to God – the One inhabiting this all-consuming fire at the top of the mountain – “I know the people have sinned. I know they’d turned their back on You … but please forgive them, and if you’re not willing then go ahead and send me to hell too.”
We hear a lot of stories about a person laying down their life for another, but do we ever hear about someone laying down their eternity for another?
Are you ever willing? Am I ever willing?
The apostle Paul was the same way:
1 I speak the truth in Christ– I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit–
2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race,
Again, are you ever willing? Am I?
Here’s the challenge for you and for me today – to love those outside of Christ this much … to be willing to let go of your place in heaven, so that they can have it.
That’s the example we’ve been given, and that willingness is indicative of true, delivering love.
The bar couldn’t be set any higher, could it?
Obviously this goes right to the heart. Perhaps they (Moses and Paul and Jesus) got it and we are thinking, “Surly ‘laying down your life,’ doesn’t mean laying down your life like that!” Does it? If I am willing to die for others, I am willing to do everything between where I am an death for them. Jesus was. He touched lepers, ate with sinners and even let a “sinner woman” wash his feet with her tears and dry his feet with her hair (Lk 7:36ff). He didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1ff), and he was willing to drink from the jar of a Samaritan woman (John 4). How am I doing? How are you doing?
Jesus certainly was, wasn’t he?
yeah, human nature juxtaposed with God’s grace has often baffled me, Aaron built this calf but he was still kept as the high priest when all was said and done but in modern times the equivalent falling would doom someone to a destitute life, but God restores fallen leaders time after time, and so often I heard “the church is just one generation from apostasy” but apparently it’s just 40 days
Thanks for the comment, G. You still planning on coming to the CMU Workshop? I spoke to your buddy Macky – I think he’ll be there. Thanks for hooking me up with him 🙂
Well done. Very insightful.