God’s Unassisted Bookkeeping

March 15, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Posted in Exodus | 4 Comments
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And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.

Exodus 32:31

Moses acknowledged the seriousness of the people’s sin, and he admitted that it was not just a vague general sin, but a specific breaking of God’s revealed law (“made them gods of gold”).

Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.

Exodus 32:32

He broaches the idea of forgiveness, but does not make excuses or rationalizations (“forgive their sin”), and he leaves this thought incomplete, because it is too amazing a thought that God would forgive sin, and because, really, what can we possibly offer as an exchange for God’s forgiveness? How can we “pay Him back?” Or bribe Him? We are bankrupt when it comes to righteousness.

Moses was forced to bring up the alternative: “if not…” And he then stated a desire to be judged with the people – to lose his own life. For all Moses knew, he could have been referring to eternal life. This reminds us of Paul’s statement in Romans 9:3: “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:”. As a missionary to the gentiles, Paul saw many converted, but his own people – the Jews – were for the most part rejecting the Gospel. He wished he could be accursed if it would mean salvation for Israel.

Moses referred, in Exodus 32:32, to “Thy book,” which lets us know that God keeps books. From the entirety of Scripture we can glean that God keeps at least four books: The Book of the Living; The Lamb’s Book of Life; a book of sins; and the Bible. (There is possibly also a book of works and rewards.)

This was a very pious and unselfish plea by Moses, and there is no reason to think he was not being sincere, but God set him straight:

And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.

Exodus 32:33

God is in charge of deciding who will and who will not be blotted out of His book. God also distinguished Moses’s relative innocence compared to the idolaters.

Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.

Exodus 32:34

God was telling him that it was time to get moving toward Canaan. Having the “Angel” lead the way was an invitation to see how people would react to having God’s presence somewhat removed from them. “The day” referred to a future time when God would allow the nation to be taken captive to Babylon. This was a yet-to-come judgment against the nation for its sin. Their immediate consequence was a plague.

And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.

Exodus 32:35

People probably got sick and some may have died. In this plague even the bystanders were affected – not just the active participants in the idolatrous revelry – because passive onlookers who fail to speak out against their nation’s sin are sinners, too – just as the spectators of a violent crime who did nothing to help the victim would be next in line for punishment after the perpetrators.

The Great Peradventure

February 18, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Posted in Biblical Greats, Exodus | 8 Comments
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Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.

Exodus 32:26

“The gate of the camp” was just as significant as the location where Moses had chosen to smash the tablets. It was the official dividing line between God’s “chosen people” and just “people.” These were people who had forfeited their claim to God’s special protection and in fact had “exposed themselves” (both literally and figuratively) to God’s judgment and wrath.

Do you remember hearing or reading about the legendary incident from the Alamo when Colonel Buck Travis is said to have drawn a line in the sand to see who wanted to stay and who wanted to leave? Moses did something similar here – and the Levites made a wise choice in front of everyone. Imagine Aaron’s shame as he walked from the people over to Moses.

And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.

Exodus 32:27

Moses used classic prophetic-command speech: “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel…” = “This is God’s idea, not just mine. Get your swords, go in and out, make inquiries about who wants to stick with the idolatry and who wants to repent. Kill the ones who won’t confess and repent.” This was an observance of the legal death penalty. It didn’t matter who – their neighbors, their friends, their own family members. It sounds barbaric to us, doesn’t it? I hope you don’t want to throw out your Bible and become a liberal at this point, although, sadly, many have. You’ll have to reject the truth to do it – and you’ll also have to blame God for protecting your soul about 3000 years before you were even born. Remember, these were enemy combatants in a war – the war for truth – and those that chose to take the side of idolatry by refusing to repent are the ones who were willing to send everyone to hell for the sake of a pathetic bull-god orgy – even after waking up with their hangovers. I’m glad we don’t have to kill the apostates and the pagans today as New Testament Christians, but it would be good for us to remember that the stakes are just as high, in a sense.

And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

Exodus 32:28

3000 executed criminals sounds like huge number, but that is just a fraction of the number that had been partying, because some of the guilty ones apparently repented and were spared.

For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.

Exodus 32:29

This gives more insight into how the fathers and male leaders were given an opportunity to repent and survive the Levite purge.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.

Exodus 32:30

You can see the heaviness that was on Moses the next day, but he knew the job was not finished. He still refused to sugarcoat their sin, because he knew there are consequences to even forgiven sin. In Exodus 32:30 the Holy Spirit has recorded the words of Moses – not as a prophetic revelation – but as a heavy sighing fumbling for the right word to describe what he knows he is going to have to attempt: atonement. “Peradventure.” What a terrifically descriptive word for the man who had been in the presence of this holy God – who knew His hatred for sin – but who also knew His mercy in response to confession and prayer. “I shall make;” “at one ment.” “Maybe I can somehow bring us back into loving fellowship with our God Who we’ve offended so greatly.” I hope you can hear that word “atonement” echoing all the way through the Old Testament into the New Testament and on into your life. I myself remember the estrangement from God – the horror of knowing He was completely beyond my sinful reach – when Jesus – the Rescuer – the Atoner – the AtoneMENT – brought me to Him!

In his bold but reverent intercession on behalf of the stiffnecked and idolatrous people of Israel (Exodus 39-12:4), Moses asked God to turn aside His holy and justifiable wrath, and to show mercy. Many centuries later Jesus Christ went even further and fully satisfied God’s justice and propitiated the wrath that we deserved on the Cross of Calvary. And He is still interceding for His people at the right hand of God’s throne even today (Romans 8:33-34). The majesty of such a loving and glorious Savior makes this world’s cares, concerns, amusements, and trials seem pretty small and insignificant, doesn’t it? I pray that we will live for Him all the days of our lives.

The Consequences of Partying Naked

January 27, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Posted in Exodus | 5 Comments
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And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?

Exodus 32:21

Notice how Moses correctly attributed blame to both the people (it was their idea) and Aaron (he did “bring the sin upon them”). Notice also the designation “sin” and the attribution of a degree: “so great a sin.” Idolatry is indeed a great sin.

Moses was so bold as he stood alone among riotous sinners because he had been in the presence of God. You and I, as Christians, will wilt in the face of resistance, ridicule, and the threat of reprisals if we try to stand for Christ in our own strength. But if we have been alone with God – hearing His Word – forsaking earthly distractions – we will be as bold as a lion.

And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.

Exodus 32:22

Aaron deferred to Moses (“my lord”), but then tried to blame-shift. God had told Moses “I have seen this people, they are stiff-necked.” Now Aaron tells Moses, “Thou knowest the people, they are set on mischief.” This did not fool Moses. He knew that God’s assessment trumped Aaron’s assessment.

For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.

Exodus 32:23-24

Aaron’s statement started off sounding like a confession, until he uttered the phrase, “out came this calf,” as if it’s something that “just happened.” The Bible had already told us what really happened:

And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Exodus 32:4

And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)

Exodus 32:25

This makes it sound like Aaron made them strip off their clothes, but I think it is really referring back to Aaron’s instructions to give him their earrings to make the calf-idol. Moses recognized the spiritual implications of their sin – they removed God’s protection by breaking the Covenant – and now, having foolishly pretended that the bull idol could lead them, they were conversely in a worse position: truly exposed to their enemies.

When the Word of God Crashes the Party

January 13, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Posted in Exodus | 7 Comments
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And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.

Exodus 32:15

Moses with the tablets

The two “tables” (tablets) were identical – five “Words” on each side. Written documents in that day were: (1) papyrus (not very durable); (2) leather skins; (3) clay tablets; or (4) chiseled in stone (only the most important documents). These were the only documents in existence actually inscribed by God Himself without any human agency. Imagine the value!

And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.

Exodus 32:16

The written Word of God is not a violation of Commandment No. 2 (against graven images). God is so associated with His Word that He allows us to have it “engraved.” This refutes the accusation (sometimes made by Roman Catholics and Pentecostals) that Baptists and other fundamental Christians who hold to the Bible as the sole standard of faith and practice are guilty of Bibliolatry.

And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.

Exodus 32:17

Joshua was familiar with the sound of war. This sounded like war, even though it wasn’t. It was the first “rock concert” involving God’s people, but this type of loud boisterous worship was common in pagan idolatry – which Moses recognized when he discerned the singing amidst the din of revelry:

And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.

Exodus 32:18

You can meditate on this passage of Scripture and judge for yourself how loud and boisterous Christian worship music ought to be. I would submit that it ought not to be mistaken – even from afar – for carnal syncretistic worship – a combination of worshiping the performer while ostensibly worshiping God.

There is a certain irony or at least poignancy in Joshua’s mistaken assertion that a battle was going on, because there WAS in fact a battle going on – a battle between Truth and falsehood – between the real and the fake – between God and Satan the counterfeiter. Because of Moses’s anger, you can see that he grasped this:

And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

Exodus 32:19

Moses had plead with God to turn from His anger, but now he saw with his own eyes, and heard with his own ears, and he too expressed righteous anger, breaking these unique, precious tablets in view of all the people “beneath the mount.” This was the exact same spot where the people verbally agreed to be bound by God’s gracious covenant. They broke the Covenant figuratively; Moses demonstrated it literally. We speak of breaking God’s law – but it is God’s law that will break the sinner – just as jumping upward off a roof temporarily seems to break the law of gravity, but ultimately breaks the jumper.

And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.

Exodus 32:20

This describes a longer process than just one verse makes it sound like, but Moses wanted to utterly desecrate this false idol.

The Personality of God

December 9, 2015 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Exodus | 6 Comments
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Shortly after the exodus from Egypt the Israelites became panicky and dissatisfied, and reminded Moses that they had previously told him to leave them alone so they could go back and side with their slavemasters against the God Who wanted to set them free.

Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.

Exodus 14:12

In Chapter 32, as Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai, and God sees the people’s shameful idolatry around the golden calf, God tells Moses to leave HIM alone so that He can deal with them according to their sin.

Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.

Exodus 32:10

This is pointed mockery by God, as He suggests allowing the people to do what their actions indicate that they really want: to deal with Him without an intercessor (in their case Moses, but also foreshadowing Christ’s role as Intercessor). However, God’s suggestion is also a thinly veiled invitation to Moses to decline to “leave God alone.” It is obvious that God is giving Moses the opportunity to stay and intercede on behalf of the people – which he does.

Moses’s beseeching and pleading by appealing to God’s past deeds, glory, promises, and Word were successful.

And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

Exodus 32:14

Moses “changed God’s mind” in a sense, although God’s perfect will was still being sovereignly worked out in this apparent reversal. The Bible describes this scenario a number of times when various servants of His intercede in prayer in response to His stated intention to bring wrath and judgment. However, none of these scenarios ever describe what is known as “Open Theism.” Open Theism is a technical heresy intended to: (1) make God seem actively involved in human affairs, as opposed to fatalistically predetermining all events, and then passively watching them happen; and (2) justify God’s alleged failure to overrule evil in the world.

God does not need this help. He is immanent as well as transcendent, and the existence of evil in the world is not a “failure” on the part of God, although He does choose to allow it. Augustine argued that evil is not a “thing,” but simply the absence – in varying degrees – of good. An analogy is the sense in which darkness is not a “thing” in opposition to light, but rather the absence of light. In other words, Augustine posited that God is good and that evil is a privation of good.

That’s certainly one way to think of it, but another way to think of it is that God is a person, and not a force. This reminds us that, even if we must attribute responsibility to Him when evil happens, He still can draw a straight line with a crooked stick. He doesn’t just know the future – He also has already made choices about the future and is already there “eternally” in the “future.” In other words, there’s no real “future” to Him. Omniscience requires no surprises – no “new” or “acquired” information or knowledge – because “omni” means “all,” “everything,” not a “figuring out,” or deciding upon, possible alternatives.

The underlying motivation for Open Theism is a desire to say that we have pure free will – that we are not being “controlled” by God. What this ignores is that everyone is being controlled – under either system. You are either controlled by yourself or by one greater. If the “one greater” is God – the loving, gracious, merciful, true, and right God, Who is a real “person” – then why would we even want to suggest that we should be “free” from Him and beholden to our own choices?

The Intercessory Prayer of Moses

November 18, 2015 at 11:42 am | Posted in Exodus | 9 Comments
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Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.

Exodus 32:10

This is an example of anthropopathism. In Exodus 15 we learned about anthropomorphism (“man-form”), where human physical characteristics are used to describe God. Anthropopathism is derived from anthropos, meaning “man,” and “pathism,” referring to feelings or emotions. For example, “pathology” is the study of disease – or why people “feel” bad. Sympathy is feeling bad for someone. Empathy is feeling bad with someone. Someone who is “pathetic” is someone for whom we feel sorry. Anthropopathism is attributing human feelings to something (or in this case Someone) who is not human. It does not mean that God is faking His anger, but, unlike us, He is sovereignly and omnipotently in control of it. His feelings or emotions are real, but they are decreed by Him. They are controlled by Him. And they are exhibited in a way that lets us (finite beings) understand His attributes.

God also seems to be testing Moses in Exodus 32:10, telling him that He is mad at the people, and that He is going to demonstrate His anger and wrath, while at the same time making it clear that He is not mad at Moses. It is as if He is telling Moses to move aside while He deals with the people, and that He will start over by a making a new nation from the seed of Moses. God is not lying when He does this because He is not practicing deceit, but He is giving Moses a chance to demonstrate his own humility and faith – which, in fact, Moses does:

And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?

Exodus 32:11

A casual, out of context, glance would make it seem like Moses was disrespectfully questioning God, or just being obtuse, asking a dumb question. But what was really going on was that Moses was praying a prayer of intercession. He asked God to do something in a rather bold way, but he recognized this, and he tempered it with a formal Hebrew way of reasoning.

When you were in high school, you probably didn’t say to your father, “Dad, you’re wrong for not letting me drive the car!” At least not if you were thinking rationally. You probably said something more like, “Why would a kind, gracious man like yourself refuse something harmless and kind to a responsible and careful lad like myself?” So, even though it looks like Moses was questioning God’s wisdom, God really received this as a respectful and reverent prayer, with solid reasoning included, as Moses tried to induce God to have mercy. By reading closely, we can find some principles to emulate in our own intercessory prayers:

1. Moses appealed to God’s great past deeds on behalf of these people: “…why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?” As if he said, “Lord, you have gone to great lengths to redeem them, even though they don’t appear to appreciate it.”

2. He appealed to God’s glory

Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.

Exodus 32:12

As if saying, “The Egyptians (and the world) are watching. It’s going to look to them like You couldn’t finish what you started, or like You were playing a cruel trick in bringing them out of a bad condition, getting their hopes up, and then destroying them.” Moses asked God to “repent of evil,” but it’s not the same thing for Him that it is for us. The “evil” that Moses referred to was not moral evil. It was catastrophic consequences. The word “repent” here is the idea of “relenting” – of reconsidering what He’s thinking about doing. He respectfully asked God to “change His mind,” also reminding Him of the fact that they are “Thy people.”

3. He reminded God of His Own promises.

Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.

Exodus 32:13

For God to start over with Moses would pose a difficulty in making it seem like God was breaking His promise to Abraham, so Moses asked God to keep His side of the Covenant for Abraham’s sake, and, more importantly, for His Own name’s sake. This is not a “prayer-trick” to get God to do what we want. It is a God-ordained feature of prayer and one that pleases Him. He is far more interested in His Own glory than in our desires, comfort, or even needs.

Prayer is not really about getting God to change His mind; it’s about re-centering us on His will, His glory, His name, and His purposes. Some people think this whole exchange between God and Moses is just a set-up – just play-acting arranged by God – and, in an attempt to rescue the doctrine of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty, they say that Moses’s prayer was basically useless – that God was going to do what He was going to do anyway. If you say, no, prayer really works, Moses really did “get” God to hold back His wrath, then someone might say you are guilty of something called “Open Theism.”

Open Theism is a technical heresy that states either: (1) God does not and cannot know the future because, although He can know all the possible outcomes of free will choices, He still can not know what “free will agents” will choose; or (2) God has the power to know the future, but has chosen to limit His own knowledge so that His relationship with His creatures can be more “real” vis-à-vis reciprocal love.

It is not necessary to resort to Open Theism in order to believe in the omniscience of God and the real effects of Moses’s prayer. God simply chooses prayer (and even changing His Own mind, which is infinite and eternal) as the means to accomplish His perfect sovereign will and plans.

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

Isaiah 46:9-10

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

Psalm 90:1-4

Corrupt Curving off Course

November 3, 2015 at 11:06 am | Posted in Exodus | 7 Comments
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And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:

Exodus 32:7

God was not disowning the people, nor putting the blame for their behavior on Moses, but He was distancing Himself from their behavior. He was angry with them, not with Moses. They were acting like the children of men, not the children of God, and God made that clear in His description of them as He spoke to Moses.

Unlike Pharaoh, whose heart, we were told, was specifically hardened by God, these people had corrupted “themselves.” God is no less sovereignly in control here, but He is giving us a glimpse into His feelings about this affair – which will become even more obvious.

They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Exodus 32:8

“Turning aside from the way” is a key phrase because it reminds us that Jesus is the Way and He is a way. God led these people in one direction, and here they had “turned” from following Him. They did not view their movement as a “U-turn” – although they had tried to do that before in wanting to go go back to Egypt – but you don’t have to do a complete 180 to displease God. Any direction other than “His Way” is a path that leads to destruction. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the way that little kids need to keep their eyes on Dad so they don’t wander off in a dangerous crowd of people.

And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:

Exodus 32:9

“I have seen” is another example of anthropomorphism. “Stiffnecked” is what we would call “hard-headed” or stubborn. In an agrarian society, the neck is a better example of stubbornness than the head because of the way farm animals will balk at turning, or the way people who carried things on their heads or shoulders all day would feel at night. As Christians, we need to be keeping our necks loose – looking up to God in prayer and faith, looking down at the Bible, and looking around at others who might need help.

Syncretism and Sexual Sin

October 7, 2015 at 12:43 pm | Posted in Exodus | 6 Comments
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And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the Lord.

Exodus 32:5

Aaron, pressured by the people and doubtful concerning the return of Moses, tried to straddle the fence. He built an altar before the golden bull, but he proclaimed that the next day’s worship activity would be a feast “to the Lord.” This is called “syncretism:” attempting to combine the worship of Yahweh with false gods. It is nothing less than idolatry. In God’s eyes it is exactly the same in terms of its sinfulness. It is the spiritual equivalent of adultery. Aaron’s attempt to lessen its offensiveness to God is analagous to a husband defending his adultery by saying, “At least I didn’t dump my wife; I just two-timed her.”

The next verse explains the reason for the altar.

And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

Exodus 32:6

Sacrifices were necessary to make the false worship seem legitimate. False worship will often have an element of truth in it. But the second half of the verse – “to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” – reveals the real selfishness at work in this show of “sacrifice.” When people make idols or construct false ideas of God, they are not trying to be accurate, and just falling accidentally into error. No, they are fashioning a god to please themselves. What would a young bull care if they wanted to get drunk, gorge themselves at a party, and have an orgy?

“To drink” denotes alcohol and “rose up to play” is probably (although not definitely) a euphemism for sex. Most commentators think the phrase has a sexual connotation not because the Hebrew word always means that. Hebrew language in the Bible tends to be modest, preferring euphemisms when possible (like saying that Adam “knew” Eve), but usually the context clarifies it. Here it doesn’t make it crystal clear. The word translated as “play” could be dancing, fighting, roughhousing, lesser forms of debauchery, or general partying. One of the reasons for the traditional belief that it here connotes sexual partying is that, in other instances when people engaged in this type of pagan worship it did involve drunken sex parties. In fact, that was one of the most prominent features of pagan worship, and, tragically, the people who worshiped the golden bull were almost surely imitating that.

The worship of Yahweh (conveniently just described for us in the details of the Tabernacle in the chapters preceding Chapter 32) was more somber, serious, holy, modest, and chaste. It was focused not on the flesh – although it did involve having an enjoyable meal – but rather on serving the Lord. Christian worship should likewise be spiritual, not carnal. This is one of the early instances in Scripture where this is highlighted for us. Worship of the real God is distinct from the worship of pagan idols, and the distinction should be obvious to a lost world, because our God is real, not an invented excuse to party like it’s 1999 (or in this case 1499 BC).

Why We Can, and Cannot, Have Nice Things

September 21, 2015 at 3:52 pm | Posted in Exodus | 9 Comments
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And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship.

Exodus 31:1-5

One of the key differences between the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and the New Testament is that, under the Old Testament, certain people were periodically “anointed” or “filled” with the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit permanently indwells born-again believers from the moment of salvation.

Bezalel, who seems to have been in charge of the construction of the Tabernacle, had certain talents – which are gifts from God – but not necessarily the same as the New Testament “gifts of the Spirit,” such as administration or evangelism or preaching and teaching or mercy or giving. Basically, Bezalel got an “upgrade” to his talents for working with gold and silver and bronze and metals and stone and wood, so that the work of the Tabernacle and its furnishings would be excellent, and would have a supernatural level of beauty, durability, and function.

Exodus Chapter 32 features one of the climactic moments of the Book of Exodus, and possibly even the climax of the narrative that runs through the entire “Hexateuch” (Genesis – Joshua). The events recorded here constitute a key moment in redemptive history. The Old Covenant (which was then still a very new covenant) had just been given, confirmed, ratified, accepted, and sealed with blood. Moses had gone back up Mount Sinai to get the specifications for the Tabernacle and for Tabernacle worship. We know he was up there for 40 days, but, during that time, the people did not know how long he would be gone, and they were worried. They still lacked faith, despite everything they had experienced, seen, and heard.

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

Exodus 32:1

What if, while Moses was away, they came under attack like they had from the Amalekites? Had Moses abandoned them or died? Had Yahweh left them here? (His presence could not be seen in the pillars of fire and cloud anymore at this point, because He was with Moses on the mountain.) They still had manna and water, but who was going to lead them now?

Exodus 32:1 says that “the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron.” Aaron was supposed to be in charge while Moses was away, and it is possible they did this in order to oppose him or coerce him. It is also possible they simply plead or demanded, but, either way, Aaron still felt the pressure of the crowd. He was older than Moses, but had been with Moses, and was known as a priest, so it was natural that they would seek his leadership or his endorsement upon their desires. Besides, who doesn’t like a “leader” that can be controlled by his people, rather than one who answers only to God?

The people said to Aaron, “Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.” What kind of “gods” have to be “made?” And it wasn’t, strictly speaking, “this Moses” who had brought them out of Egypt. It was really Moses’s God Who had done it. Maybe they wanted some help from the Egyptian gods, or maybe just something that they could see and touch to represent Yahweh for them. This was a definite violation of the 2nd Word, and probably the 1st, too.

And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Exodus 32:2-4

They asked for a “graving” tool, despite the specific language which warned them and forbade them from making “graven” images! The “calf” was supposed to be the image of a young bull, which was a cultic god in Egypt, but which also would have been representative of their idea of what a powerful god should be like – a god that could drive out their enemies in the promised land. When the people said, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt,” this was an instance of either outright lying, self-deceit, or a syncretisitc attempt to remake Yahweh into the images of another religion. What tragic, rebellious, disobedient, shameful, and sinful thinking!

Have Mine Own Way

January 6, 2011 at 9:47 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Hosea, Uncategorized | 10 Comments
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When King Solomon died his kingdom became divided. Two of the twelve tribes, led by Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, became the southern kingdom of Judah. The other ten tribes, ruled over by Jeroboam, became the northern kingdom of Israel (also known as Ephraim).

Jeroboam did not want his subjects going to the southern kingdom so they could worship in Jerusalem. Therefore, he found a way to entice them to stay. He placed golden calves for the people to worship, and allowed pagan fertility rites and prostitution to be practiced in the northern places of worship. It seems almost unthinkable that a race of people who had almost been rejected by God because of the worship of a golden calf (see Exodus 32), would back-slide into such evil again.

Hosea the prophet was one of only a very few voices crying out against such wickedness.

For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place.

Hosea 4:16

He also warned the southern kingdom not to follow their example.

Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.

Hosea 4:17

What a sad day it is when the Lord’s people turn back to that from which they have already been delivered. Many of us have been rescued from the idolatry of this world by loving Christian friends. We must not make the mistake of presuming upon God’s grace, however. There may come a time when the Lord says to your friends, “Let him alone.” One of the harshest disciplines that God may give to His children is to let them have their own way.


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