It’s life, it’s living, it’s surviving
Birds have nests, bears have dens, horses have barns
Fetuses have wombs, girls have doll houses, boys have tree houses
Campers in tents, college students in dorms, travelers in motels
Caring, protecting, resting—
Hut, apartment, mansion
Bread baking, soup bubbling, drink fizzing
Gathering, nourishing, flourishing
Love making, kindness doing, peace keeping
Family, friends, guests—welcome at the table
Pillar of cloud by day, pillar of fire by night, ark of the covenant
Father of light, Protector of souls, Provider of needs
Tabernacle, holiest of holies, divine manifestation
Glory beyond description, holiness beyond explanation, presence beyond expectation
Nations, tribes, peoples—welcome at the table
Life Application Questions
Common sense, spiritual sense and yes, it is the tradition of our people. Different tasks assigned and accepted, according to differing abilities. The strategy makes good sense. Holiness accentuates our work.
The gifting of God, caused by God, granted by God, placed by God, Potter to the clay, Artisan to the raw materials, this too is the Master’s hand creating wonders. During the events set out in Exodus 36 God is busy with the people. Drafted Tabernacle plans are provided. We stand in wonder as again the Creator creates (Genesis 1:1).
Opening words from Tabernacle construction days: “So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded” (Exodus 36:1 emphasis added). The sanctuary, the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting is not being constructed based on the design of humanity. The design work is directly delivered from Heaven’s court.
Led by Moses, God’s people were to follow God’s construction instructions. This was true for both the participants as well as for donors who brought gifts of construction materials (Exodus 36:3-7).
As you observe that God is the Giver of the skills needed to construct the Tent of Meeting, be sure to check out the entire historical account. Grasping the details can be a challenging but rewarding project.
Finally, if you think matching task to talent is a concept taught throughout Scripture, you are correct. Disciples have a strong and vibrant spiritual heritage documented in both testaments. Check out the theme of matching talents to tasks, in an apostle’s words to the churches (Romans 12:3-8).
Life Application Questions
Does God always call disciples to particular tasks?
Are there tasks, which some might call secular projects, for which you feel God has given you specific talents?
When God wants to accomplish a task, he provides the gifted people to get it done. Bezalel’s skills might have looked like a natural ability; however, the text tells us that they were supernatural gifts. The Spirit of God “filled” Bezalel (and his son Oholiab), giving himthe necessary knowledge and skills to complete the Tabernacle according to the blueprints God had revealed to Moses.
I doubt that Bezalel just woke up one day in the wilderness with a brand-new skill set. God had certainly providentially worked by His Spirit in Bezalel’s life to prepare him for this task. Energized by the Spirit, Bezalel’s experiences and skills came together in completing this great project to the glory of God.
“Convergence” is the term we use when natural giftings and interests, work experience and learned skills, life lessons, and heart’s desire all come together in some calling. The Holy Spirit is the only one who orchestrates convergence, as we liven in dependence on Him.
Convergence can be very powerful. It can also be very illusive. Rarely does it happen as soon as we would like. And there are many things which can derail it (fear, sin, selfishness, etc.).
God provided gifted men to build the Tabernacle. What is God building today?
Today God is building the Church--not a physical building but rather a people who belong to Jesus. Just like God provided Bezalel and his son to build the Tabernacle in the OT, so God provides gifted people today to build the Church: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers...” (Ephesians 4:11).
Let’s finish the sentence. Why does Christ provide gifted people to the church? “...to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built upuntil we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13).
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers don’t build the Church by themselves. They equip others. Everyone has a part to play.
This brings us back to Bezalel, because the same was true of him. Bezalel and his son didn’t build the Tabernacle by themselves. They had another gift, and that was the ability to teach others. “And he has given both him(Bezalel)and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others” (Exodus 35:34).
It’s great to have and use a Spirit-energized gift. It may even be better to have the gift of equipping others to do what the Spirit has gifted you to do.
The pandemic brought to light our nature to hoard things. Paper goods flew off store shelves. Facial tissues, toilet paper, and paper towels were lining the shelves of people’s storage closets. Reality TV has capitalized on people who hoard and the difficult consequences of hoarding. The Israelites and Christ-followers have the equal opportunity to see why God has filled their lives with certain things, the temptation to hoard these gifts, and how we can offer them in worshipful obedience to the King of Kings. Why do people hoard certain things? What kinds of things do people hoard instead of offering them to God and why?
God has a purpose for the things we carry. We find our Israelite friends carrying a bounty of pilfered Egyptian booty. “The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing; …so they plundered the Egyptians.” (Exodus 12:35-36) The Israelites had carried all their Egyptian bounty through the Sea to the Desert of Shur and through the Desert of Sin to Mount Sinai. God had them carrying this bounty for a reason. Have you come out of a land of bondage carrying a weight of “things”? God has a purpose for the things Christ-followers carry, just like the Israelites’ experiences. For the Israelites, “…everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the tent of meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments.” (Exodus 35:21) What prompted them to bring their offerings? Was it fear of Yahweh’s anger over the golden calf incident? Obedience, even in the midst of conflicting reasons, is still worship. Why do I obey God and what offerings do I bring as part of my worship?
God has called us to step out in faith and bring our offerings to Him without hoarding our resources. The Israelites could have hoarded their Egyptian plunder for the proverbial, “rainy day”. They could have looked at their past experience and chosen to conserve their skills, strength, and energy, just in case they would be needed in the future journey to the Promised Land. They were professional grumblers and could have grumbled the whole time that they spun the goat hair. They had seen what hoarding God’s manna provision had gained them, so perhaps they were ready to be obedient and worship through their offerings. They chose to bring their offerings that they had carried out of their bondage with willing hearts and hands. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past: See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up: Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in a wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19) What former things did the Israelites need to forget? What new things was God doing in His relationship to His people? Why do you choose to bring your offering of money, skills, or time? Are you reserving your “things” for an uncertain future? What do you need to forget and leave in the past? So you can say with Paul, “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith. I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” (Philippians 2:17) What will you offer the King?
The sun cannot compare to the glory of Your love
There is no shadow in Your Presence
No mortal man should dare to stand before Your throne
Before the Holy One of heaven
I bring an offering of worship to my King
No one on earth deserves the praises that I sing
Jesus, may you receive the honor that You’re due
O Lord, I bring an offering to You.
(from Offering by Paul Baloche)
Growing up in a farming community, I recall vividly how the neighbors came together every fall to "put in" the crops. The men and boys worked hard all-day harvesting, and the women were equally diligent preparing the delicious meals for their hard-working husbands and sons. It truly “took a village," as the saying goes.
It was perhaps more evident when men and women, boys and girls from the nearby Amish communities did a barn-raising. In both settings, those who were able gave their time, money or gifts in kind, and skills for the benefit of all.
When have you seen or been involved in such a cooperative venture?
So, think for a moment about the setting in which Yahweh commanded the Israelites not only to build a Tabernacle, but to provide the materials to do so.
From what you have, take an offering for the Lord. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the Lord an offering of gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather]; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breast piece. (vv. 5-9)
They are in a desert. They had previously given enough gold to make a calf to worship. Did they bring acacia wood, dyed ram skins and olive oil with them? How are they transporting everything? God continued to provide for them in a way that is nothing short of miraculous.
How did God provide for you or your family in a circumstance that you thought was almost hopeless?
Of course, this miracle-working God could have provided the tabernacle without the gifts or the work of the people. Yet He chose to fund his work through the willing gifts of His people (“Everyone who is willing to bring to the Lord an offering …,” v. 5) and to have the work done by the people he had especially gifted (“All who are skilled among you are to come and make everything …,” v. 10.)
How much more meaningful it is when you have had a part in giving or building the work that God has ordered. God planned it this way because his people need to learn to be a giving and serving people. Paul echoes his idea in 2 Corinthians 9:7: :So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Have you been tested in difficult times, so you felt you were unable to give? If you’ve lost the joy of giving, ask God to help you make it a priority to share what he has given you.
In the last 15 months at WLGBC we have seen a great outpouring of our gold and silver, food, and products for the benefit of the WL family and the community. We are, indeed, a giving people. And not only does our ministry benefit from the fruit of generous giving and serving, but each of us also find joy in such opportunities to give and serve.
Praise God for his provision for WL and its ministries and ask him to show us how to trust him so we can do even more.
jbd & gmd
Exodus 39:1-43 (cf. 28:1-43)
Richly colored priestly garments—paper-thin gold interwoven:
Spectacular! Holy to the Lord.
Chains of pure gold—attached with shiny golden rings:
Superb! Holy to the Lord.
The breastplate—twelve iridescent jewels set in four rows:
ruby, topaz, beryl // turquoise, sapphire, emerald
jacinth, agate, amethyst // chrysolite, onyx, jasper
Sparkling! Holy to the Lord.
Embroidered with the finest linen—turbans, sashes, waistbands:
Splendid! Holy to the Lord.
Hems adorned with golden bells, images of pomegranates:
Stunning! Holy to the Lord.
Gemstones set in gold filigree—engraved with the names of the twelve tribes:
Significant! Holy to the Lord.
All this, the exquisite detail of the Master Designer:
Scintillating! Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.
Against the backdrop of a barren desert . . .
not only was the tabernacle a splendid representation of God’s glory,
so also the appearance of the priestly representatives of the great “I am.”
That was the Chosen People then. This is the “Chosen People” now:
“Like living stones, you are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 2:5)
Life Application Questions
Exodus 37:1 – 38:31
Bezalel’s work in building the traveling tent—the Tent of Meeting—the Tabernacle, is detailed in Exodus 37-38. The Tabernacle was a packable, transportable, spiritually significant meeting place. God was Designer and Architect. If you’ve been reading the passages laid out by the Preaching Team for this series, perhaps you recall that the detailed construction story opened in chapter 25.
For us as thoughtful disciples of Jesus and readers of sacred Scripture we want to ask: Is there spiritual value in the Tabernacle’s construction details?
Before making your reply please hover over Bezalel’s divinely provided instructions. God through Moses provided exacting details. We know that today’s disciples do not typically travel about the land with similar portable buildings, opting instead for fixed properties. Likewise, we do not have a divinely designated spiritual structure (as a Temple), for meeting with God.
No instructions about rooms, decorations or arks flow over the lips of Jesus or any of his appointed/called/sent leaders. Unfortunately, in spite of this awareness disciples regularly comment, “We’re going to church,” treating a building as if it were the abode of God (Acts 7:47-49).
Simply said, we value fixed or portable church-buildings, only insofar as they assist us in lifting up the Christ (John 12:32).
Buildings which are architecturally attractive, solidly functional or grotesque meeting houses, rise as statements of faith. They communicate our spiritual vision of God—there is theology in architecture.
How does Exodus 37-38 inform your discipleship?
It is fair to ask: As you look around our buildings and properties, or of any congregation with which you are familiar, what spiritual messages are communicated?
Do the words of Jesus found in John 4:24 provide any insight on the subject of buildings, tents or other places of connecting with God?
What do we put on the outside to represent what is on the inside? As summer rolls into view, many flowers are being tended in people’s yards. Their grass is being mowed and the outside of their homes appear to breathe a sigh of relief that winter’s last gasp is over. The clothes of summer replace the heavy coats of a Midwest winter. How we dress ourselves and our homes says something about who we are, whether we like that or not. How the Israelites dressed the tabernacle and how the priests were dressed said something about who God was to His people, as well as the nations that they would encounter.
God is wrapped in righteousness and holiness and He has designed a plan for His people to be in a relationship with Him. He has always drawn near to His people. For the worshipper at the tabernacle, it was complicated for the people to draw near. There was only one entrance to the enclosure of the tabernacle, therefore only one way to get to the altar of God. The priest could have clothed himself in the correct garments, but he could not have entered the tabernacle from any other entrance, no matter what he was wearing. We, likewise, cannot clothe ourselves in our own righteousness, wrap ourselves in garments of religious rituals, or wear a mask of rule keeping, and expect these outer garments to save our souls. When God puts up a fence and assigns the way in, nobody has the authority to question it or change it. Jesus was the only door (John 10:9), and the only way to God (John 14:6). Jesus righteousness is the only garment we need to put on. God has come to tabernacle with us through Jesus. What does God’s “tabernacle with you” mean to you?
The priests had specific garments that defined their duties and their position. They carried the whole nation’s sins and atonement to the Holy of Holies wearing the correct garments and entering through the one way. I can come into God’s presence wearing my pajamas and having entered through the one way, I have immediate access to the God of the tabernacle. Just like the outsides of houses and people get their “garments” refined for summer, approaching God requires a submission of our outsides to be changed by God’s power in our souls. Every spiritual need of the Jewish people was met in the provision of the tabernacle and in Jesus Christ, we have everything we need. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
Living a life that is characterized by who I am in Christ is difficult for me. I often don a garment of my own good works to prove that I am worthy of being part of God’s family. Like the houses clothed in summer flowers, I want to add to my salvation, a scarf of busyness and religious productivity that will demonstrate that I have cultivated my relationship with Jesus. I am called to cast off this external clothing. I need to believe and live like God has already given me what I need. Jesus' death on the cross has released us from donning the priestly robes and our own efforts at self-righteousness, Jesus sacrifice is enough and it needs to be our “enough”.
What do you add to God’s “enough”? “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)
If you've ever had a house built, you understand how important it is that every detail—and there arethousands of them--must be followed to the letter. From the foundation to the roof, from the floors to the faucets, everything must be exact. It's not only the measurements that matter, but the component parts of each product must be made of the right quality or the end result won't be pleasing or lasting. If the cement used in the foundation has too much sand or water, you can be sure it won't support the beams, walls, doors, and windows set on top of it. Or if the walls aren't plum—well, you get the picture.
Did you ever have a house built? What did you learn from that experience?
After the house is finished, it must be furnished! The decisions never end. But it's worth all the time and effort to be sure it's exactly what you want.
So, I don't think you're in the least bit surprised that when God instructed Moses to build “a sanctuary for me that I may dwell among them,” (25:8), he was as particular and exact about his house and its furnishings as described in these two chapters. For example, in chapter 25:23-25, he gives instructions for the table that will hold the Ark of the Covenant. “Then make a table of acacia wood, 36 inches long, 18 inches wide, and 27 inches high. Overlay it with pure gold and run a gold molding around the edge. Decorate it with a 3-inch borderall around and run a gold molding along the border” (NLT).
What do you think about the requirements God made for his house?
It was always God's intent to live among his people. It began in Genesis with Adam and Eve in the Garden. Now (in Exodus), he's going to dwell in a mobile place, a tabernacle, followed by an opulent and permanent temple that Solomon would build (see 1 Kings 5-8). Both the tabernacle and temple were to be symbolic, but visible dwellings of God. There is great symbolism in the tabernacle and temple as precursors of Jesus who came to make “his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). In the original language the term is “pitched his tent,” an allusion to the OT tabernacle, where God dwelled among Israel.
Where does God live today?
Ever since the Day of Pentecost, God has been building his Church. It's not made with human hands, but it is a living, growing body of believers. The tabernacle and temple are gone, but God, the Holy Spirit, is still living among his people, and by his grace, you and I are that dwelling place.
What kind of "temple" are you building for Jesus to live in?
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). And what’s more, the ministry of the high priest who offered the annual sacrifice in the tabernacle gives us a clear picture of another high priest who has to come to offer a final sacrifice.
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)
How should the realization that Jesus lives in his people, the Church, affect our worship and conduct? jbd & gmd
1 Corinthians 10:1-22
The Apostle Paul would have agreed that “those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it” (Winston Churchill, 1948).
The Corinthian church was struggling with the lusts of the flesh: in particular, idolatry, immorality, and grumbling. So Paul reaches back to what had happened to the Israelites, who like the Corinthians, struggled with similar issues. The caution is, the Corinthians could end up repeating history.
Miraculously, the Israelites had come through the parting of the Red Sea. They were obviously privileged and in favor with God who saw fit to rescue them from their years of slavery in Egypt. Wonderful!
Yet, after witnessing this amazing miracle, they engaged in idolatry – worship of the golden calf. They engaged in immorality with the Moabites in worship of their god Baal. They had been “passed over” from the judgment of the death angel, and they had been fed with manna - food from heaven, yet they grumbled. Unbelievable!
The lesson from history: the favored status of the Israelites did not exempt them from responsibility for their actions. God judged them, and in one day 23,000 died. God sent venomous snakes to kill them. Actually, all of them died in the wilderness prior to their offspring entering the land of promise. Ouch!
Jumping ahead many centuries, God was not going to exempt the church in Corinth from responsibility for their actions either. The Corinthians had let down their guard as had the Israelites. God’s judgment on the Israelites was a warning to the Corinthians not to become complacent in their freedom in Christ. No, they could not do anything they wanted.
Paul says to take heed when we think we are strong so that we do not fall. He offers hope in verse 13, with the promise that God will make a way of escape and will not allow us to be tempted above that which the Lord would strengthen us to resist. However, verse 14 makes clear that it’s up to us to flee any form of idolatry.
We have experienced the patience of God as believers, but the example of purity and God’s response to sin are clear: Be careful, lest you fall. God’s delay in punishment isn’t because all is unnoticed. Verse 22 asks, Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? If we think we can resist in our own strength, be warned: “It is dangerous to play with sin and tempt God.” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Wise.)
Life Application Questions
Preparation— Did you remember to bring stone tablets? Before you arrive in the Presence, are you even thinking of stone tablets?
“Stone tablets? No, I can clearly say it never occurred to me,” one disciple replied.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke’” (Exodus 34:1).
Personally, I have at times sought soul-silence before addressing the LORD. I have done so with an awareness that spiritual contact is no cheap ticket. However, I never included stone tablets in those moments of preparation. Just imagining, your experience is similar to my own.
Audience— Access to the Sovereign is a high and holy privilege. However, Moses received a direct instruction before an audience, an invitation calling him to approach the Holy One. He appears before the One we know as the Father—Creator, Sustainer, Life-giver, the One Who brings justice to all (Exodus 34:7 and Isaiah 6).
“The Lord said to Moses… ‘Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain’” (Exodus 34:2-3)
Task— Afterwards, Moses has a task. The account reads, “And he [Moses] wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments” (Exodus 34:28b).
God stood near to Moses during those days on Mt. Sinai and we have brief glimpses of the experience. Moses’ times with God included both information as well as preparation. Leadership’s challenges will soon dominate his life.
His task will carry him into Pharaoh’s presence. Moses will be directed in the challenges of establishing as a nation, this wandering mass of humanity. The task takes a lifetime and even then, it will not be completed but littered with regrets, obstinate obstacles, compromising challenges and foolishness.
Today, are there specific words of spiritual preparation which apply to appearing before God?
What is comparable to being in the Presence?
As a song of reflection consider Love Ran Red, by Chris Tomlin, 2014. Available as video, lyrics and chords on YouTube as well as other sites.
The rule in my home growing up was that, if you got spanked at school (which still happened in the 70’s), you got spanked at home. When my Mom found out that I had been disciplined at school (which happened more than once!), she would say, “Wait until your father comes home.” Those were long, unhappy hours of waiting and wondering “What is Dad going to do?” In fact, the dreadful anticipation of what Dad might do was often worse than the reality.
Now go back to the Israelites camped out at Mount Sinai. They had sinned against Yahweh by lasciviously worshipping a pagan god. Moses had averted their complete destruction by interceding for them. But then at the beginning of Exodus 33 God told Moses to go on and lead the people to Canaan “…but I will not go with you” (33.3). This was the worst possible news.
In response, Moses made one of the best decisions of his life by refusing to go anywhere. He wasn’t about to try and lead the Israelites without God.
So, the whole nation just waited and wondered, “What is Yahweh going to do with us? What’s going to happen to us?” They took off all their jewelry and finery. When Moses went to talk with God, they all stood at the entrances to their tents and watched and prayed, waiting and wondering.
We’re not sure how long this excruciating waiting lasted. Eventually, Moses worked up the courage to make a speech to Yahweh about it. Here’s my paraphrase...
“God, these are your people, not mine. I’m not going anywhere unless you go with me. You said that I have found favor in your eyes. Now please go with us.” (For the real thing read 33:12-17).
God replied, “I will do the very thing you have asked...” YES! What a relief! The dreadful waiting and wondering was over.
The question is, why did God agree to go with the people?
God tells Moses, “…because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Moses found favor with God and, as a result, all the people whom Moses represented enjoyed the benefit of God’s presence.
Does this sound familiar? It should.
On two occasions during the life of Jesus, God spoke audibly from heaven, declaring his pleasure in His Son Jesus (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). Jesus found favor in God’s sight, in a much more complete and perfect way than Moses did. As a result of Christ’s perfect obedience to the Father, all those who are “in Christ” enjoy the full benefit of God’s presence in their lives. Through faith in Jesus, we become “co-heirs” with Him, inheriting what he deserves for his obedience. Our whole hope is wrapped up in Jesus having found favor in God’s sight.
Moses’ life was a shadow of the reality which is found in Jesus.
Now the challenge is to live up to this grace and calling which we have received. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us today.
The prodigal life is often reflected in the way people live and also characterized the lives of the Israelites. “You can still be living in your home and have departed for a distant country. You can play the role of the “good son” with a heart that roams in the twilight beyond good and evil. You can even show up to church every week with a voracious appetite for idols. Not all prodigals need a passport,” stated James Smith in, On the Road With Saint Augustine. Why are we and the Israelites so prone to wander?
God has remained the same. His covenant ways and His love are steadfast, they never waver. God is true to his character, He is perfect in His love and righteousness. “God never permits His people to sin successfully.” (Charles Spurgeon) If God is immutable (unchanging), then it is my prodigal ways that lead my feet on a prodigal path. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8) How have you see this principle of reaping and sowing played out in the lives of people in scripture, in our culture, and in your own life? God was not going to ignore the golden calf and He will not ignore our rebellious hearts, either. “…our ancestors…were all baptized into Moses in the cloud…they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ…nevertheless, God was not pleased with them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as an example to keep us from setting our hearts on evil…so, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (I Corinthians 10:1-12)
We are all prodigal possibilities. When our emotions become our god, they can lead us away. Fear, sadness, anger, loneliness, seeking to assuage my emotional pain, can quickly become my golden calf. Impatient waiting on God’s answers can be that first step on a path to find the “answer” in my own way: and my god substitute rears its golden head. The Israelite’s’ fears drove them to say to Aaron, “…make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses…we don’t know what has happened to him.” (Genesis 32:23) When have you tired of waiting on God? How did you respond?
“Moses saw that the people were running wild…” (Exodus 32:25) He knew God’s character and he knew God would respond to their sinful rebellion. Moses was angry with the people (Exodus 32:19,22), but it was an anger tempered with love, which is anguish. How many of you have felt the “anguish” of loving a prodigal? You can put yourself in Moses’s sandals and understand his anguish over the rebellious path that they were embarking on. My own prodigal ways of bowing to the “idols” of life are often as foolish as the Israelite’s golden calf. “I remember…my wanderings, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet…I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail…it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:19-25). Is there anywhere in your life that God looks at you and sees your heart, “running wild?” What “golden calf” have you adopted in your prodigal path that you need to melt down and “wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord”? How will you remember God’s unfailing compassions?
How long has it been since you broke a promise? Did you say, "I will never do that again!"; sign a contract, or commit to do a job? When you made it, you sincerely meant to keep your word. But, for whatever reason and much too soon—deliberately or innocently—you broke that promise. Now you're in over your head and you need someone to intercede for you.
Who do you call when you need a mediator?
We forget, as Israel did, that God has a purpose in the testing of his people. “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:20). Unfortunately, the Israelites did forget over and over again throughout their history. And God recorded their broken promises for all to read. Back in their early experience at Mt. Sinai, as we read in today’s Scripture passage, they wait for Moses to return from his second meeting with Yahweh, and they forget their promise of just a few days earlier, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do" (19:8). And they actually create and worship an idol.
How long are you willing to wait for God to answer before you break a promise or turn to a "god" of your own making?
We are likely to harshly judge Aaron and the people for this unholy blot on their history. But wait! How many times have you and I made a commitment similar to Israel’s? “We will do what you say, God.” Whether in a public confession or in your private prayer closet, haven’t you made such a commitment—perhaps several times? And what has been the result? Without question, God has allowed you to be tested on that commitment—usually, pretty quickly, too.
We are often so impatient with God or others that we decide to take things into our own hands. The other half of this tragic story reveals Moses at his very best. God was so angry at the idolatry of his chosen people, his “special possession,” that he threatened to wipe them out completely. He even offers to make Moses the leader of a brand-new nation to be God’s people. Wow! Think of that! Not many men could resist that offer. But in a face-to-face meeting, Moses negotiates with God.
The New Living Bible commentary on this passage notes:
Moses exhibits astounding unselfishness and commitment to the Israelites. He could have agreed with God—let's scrap these people and start fresh. Instead, he presents a compelling argument to God (32:11-12) and asks God to spare his chosen people. . . . Moses reminds God that the Israelites are "his own people" and that if he decimated the Israelites it would look to others like God had reneged on his promises. . . and if God were to break this covenant, he would be acting against his own nature.
Would you be as bold before God as Moses was?
You and I often feel inadequate to approach God on the behalf of another. And we are, apart from the help of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26). The amazing truth is that as believers we can approach God's throne boldly because we are covered with the blood of Christ. Not only that but the writer of Hebrews says, "This high priest [Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same testings we do. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God" (Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT).
Has God put someone in your life who needs your intercession or for whom you can humbly and boldly "negotiate" with God? Or are you the one who needs Moses to go to God for you? wjbd & gmd