Daily Thoughts from Exodus: What Makes God Angry

Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.

And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”

The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”

Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made. (Exodus 32:15-35, ESV)

The consequences of idolatry are severe. Moses’ destruction of the tablets of stone is symbolic of the way the Israelites, with Aaron’s help, have destroyed the covenant. Moses’ anger reflects Yahweh’s anger.  Oh that our anger burned as hot in regards to idolatry, in our own lives and the lives of others.

Aaron attempts to deflect blame from himself but his explanation is ridiculous. The path to restoration from the sin is fully owning up to or confessing one’s guilt, not trying to minimize it. The other Levites, on the other hand, stand with Moses against the idolatry and slay those at Yahweh’s command who have been guilty. Yahweh sends a plague to slay the rest who were guilty. Moses is willing to sacrifice himself for the people, another example of his humility, but God wants justice for those to whom justice is due.

Nothing must stand in the way of our worship of the true and living God. No false representation of who He is must be allowed in our worship. He is the sovereign God whom we cannot control and He will be worshiped in truth only.  How dare we offer up what we call worship to a God as we have perceive He ought to be and expect anything less than His wrath.

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Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Our Opinion vs. God’s Opinion

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the 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.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:18-21, ESV)

God has used a powerful display before the people as He hands the 10 commandments to them, a supernatural display that can leave no one mistaking that God in His holiness and power is present. The last time they saw such a display of lightning and thunder it was accompanied with hail as Yahweh visited Egypt with a plague. But the people draw a wrong conclusion from this display. God is not here to kill them. Yes, perhaps they do need a mediator in Moses but Moses makes it clear that God is testing them. He is seeking to birth in them a holy fear, not a cringing one, a deep sense of His holiness and the seriousness of their relationship. The goal is that they will not sin.

God’s heart for us is that we will not sin. The apostle John reminds his readers of this in 1 John 2:1,2. He says:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (ESV)

To sin is to damage ourselves. God’s laws are not arbitrary. They are a protection for us. We have been made in His image and when we act in unrighteousness we act contrary to what is best for us personally and for others. God loves us and longs for us to walk in holiness and be whole and healthy spiritually. There is discipline that comes from Him for sin, a discipline that is added to the already destructive consequences of our unhealthy choices. Hence the fearsome display on Mt. Sinai. But even that discipline is an act of His love.

Harry Randall Truman (October 30, 1896 – May 18, 1980) was a resident of the U.S. state of Washington who lived on Mount St. Helens. He came to brief fame in the months preceding the volcano’s 1980 eruption after he stubbornly refused to leave his home despite evacuation orders, and he is presumed to have been killed in the eruption….Truman had already emerged as a “folk hero” for his resistance to the evacuation efforts prior to his death.  After his death, his friends and family, including his sister, Geraldine (Geri), reflected on his death. Geri commented, “He was a very opinionated person.” [From <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Randall_Truman> ]

We are very opinionated people, all of us, and often believe we know better than God what we should or shouldn’t do.  It costs us our lives.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Second Command addendum

“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (20:5, ESV).

God is a jealous husband. His wife, His people, cannot “hate” Him and not suffer consequences. God will see to it that the natural consequences of parents building false values into their children’s lives will continue to the fourth generation. This is not to say that He may not sovereignly save individuals from among those generations, but there is no promise that He will. When men reject the true image of God as sovereign in their lives, He exercises His sovereignty in judgment.

“…but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (20:6, ESV).

This is the promise to those who obey the second commandment. God will bless their generations with the grace to come to the knowledge of the true God. No amount of godly training alone can bring a person to Christ. Only God can turn hearts toward Himself. No idol of man’s making, no God fashioned in man’s image has such sovereign control.

Even if we don’t worship a fashioned likeness of God, we may still be operating with a purposely distorted image of Him. The Pharisees fashioned a God of rigid standards (true to an extent) that they believed they could keep and therefore expected certain rewards from Him. What false images of God have you constructed?

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: God Showing Off

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land. And they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field, and they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians, as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.’” Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh.

Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God. But which ones are to go?” Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.” But he said to them, “The LORD be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. No! Go, the men among you, and serve the LORD, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.” So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again. They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the LORD your God only to remove this death from me.” So he went out from Pharaoh and pleaded with the LORD. And the LORD turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea. Not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go.  (Exodus 10:1-20 ESV)

Up to this point the emphasis has been on Pharaoh coming to know who Yahweh is.  But now Yahweh tells Moses that He has hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that the full expression of His power and rescue might be known to Israel and the next generations of Israel.  Pharaoh is still in sight, of course, and Moses challenges him to humble himself before Yahweh.  Even Pharaoh’s advisors are urging him to let the “men” go and worship Yahweh, and Pharaoh seizes on this to try to limit Moses’ request for all the people to go into the wilderness to worship.

But when the locust plague comes, like God using a giant leaf-blower, wrangling all the locusts into one location, Egypt, Pharaoh’s tune changes and he begs Moses to end the plague with a promise of letting the people go.  But once the danger is gone, he recants his promise.  God has hardened his heart.  And God is surely also preventing Pharaoh from doing what we might expect such a powerful ruler to do, command his servants to slay Moses and Aaron.  Perhaps it is just enough fear of Moses as a holy man whose death could incur the wrath of his god that keeps Pharaoh from ridding himself of this snare of a man.

God does not always protect His servants in this way, as the martyrdom of many of His children can attest, even that of His own Son.  But as Jesus taught us, we are not to fear him who is able to destroy the body, but Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28).

My lawn in Texas was true to the Texas tradition in that it had the biggest weeds in the country.  One, which had grown to over 4 ft. tall, was sure to be a tough one to uproot. To my surprise, the root was extremely small, just barely dug in to the earth. There are many whose appearance, good or bad, betray but a shallow root, whose outward show is due to reveal no solidarity.

Not so God’s showiness.  His showiness is the Alps, Yosemite, the ocean, and the surest foundation of His judgment, which shows off His justice.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Resistance Is Futile

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, behold, the hand of the LORD will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the field, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die.”’” And the LORD set a time, saying, “Tomorrow the LORD will do this thing in the land.” And the next day the LORD did this thing. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one of the livestock of the people of Israel died. And Pharaoh sent, and behold, not one of the livestock of Israel was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw them in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. It shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt.” So they took soot from the kiln and stood before Pharaoh. And Moses threw it in the air, and it became boils breaking out in sores on man and beast. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils came upon the magicians and upon all the Egyptians. But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had spoken to Moses.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go. Behold, about this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter, for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home will die when the hail falls on them.”’” Then whoever feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses, but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the LORD left his slaves and his livestock in the field.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, so that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, on man and beast and every plant of the field, in the land of Egypt.” Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt. There was hail and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very heavy hail, such as had never been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel were, was there no hail.

Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, “This time I have sinned; the LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Plead with the LORD, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.” Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will stretch out my hands to the LORD. The thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, so that you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the LORD God.” (The flax and the barley were struck down, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. But the wheat and the emmer were not struck down, for they are late in coming up.) So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and stretched out his hands to the LORD, and the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain no longer poured upon the earth. But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people of Israel go, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses.  (Exodus 9 ESV)

The plagues are told in more rapid fashion now as Pharaoh is unwilling to submit to Yahweh.  The goddesses Hathor (depicted often with the head of a cow), Isis (goddess of healing) and Nut (goddess of the sky) could not prevent Yahweh’s work.  First “all” the livestock (“the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks”) would die from a plague.  Here, “all” cannot mean every single one, because after this the plague of hail kills beasts left in the field.  It likely means some or many of each kind of livestock died.

When Pharaoh disobeys, Yahweh sends boils and even his magicians are afflicted so that they cannot remain in Pharaoh’s presence.  After this Moses goes into more detail about the coming hailstorm plague.  He predicts its severity and even gives a suggestion that those who know this is coming can save themselves and their herds by bringing them under cover, which some do.  The hail destroys people, animals and the flax crop.  At this Pharaoh seems to repent and Moses stops the storm, but immediately Pharaoh hardens his heart.

Moses knew this was coming.  “I know that you do not yet fear Yahweh Elohim,” he says.  Yahweh says through Moses, “for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”  God’s plans and purposes involve every living being on earth and even the most powerful among us is not exempt from God’s will.  If we submit to His will we are rescued, but if we resist we are punished.  Once again in these plagues God shows His favor to those who know Him.

Acts 7:51 – “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Protection from God’s Judgment

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.’” And they did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt. The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself to Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. Or else, if you will not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants and your people, and into your houses. And the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand. But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. Thus I will put a division between my people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall happen.”’” And the LORD did so. There came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and into his servants’ houses. Throughout all the land of Egypt the land was ruined by the swarms of flies. 

Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” But Moses said, “It would not be right to do so, for the offerings we shall sacrifice to the LORD our God are an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice offerings abominable to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us? We must go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as he tells us.” So Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you must not go very far away. Plead for me.” Then Moses said, “Behold, I am going out from you and I will plead with the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, tomorrow. Only let not Pharaoh cheat again by not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD. And the LORD did as Moses asked, and removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go.  (Exodus 8:16-32 ESV)

Geb was the Egyptian god over the dust of the earth and Khepri was the god of creation and rebirth, whose head was represented as the head of a fly.  Yahweh was showing that none of Egypt’s gods was His equal and it becomes apparent to Pharaoh’s magicians that this is the case when they cannot in any way duplicate Moses’ calling up of the gnats from the dust of the earth.  Despite trying to warn him Pharaoh hardens his heart yet again, forcing Moses to call up swarms of flies, giving further evidence of Yahweh’s favor on Israel by keeping them free of the plague.

Pharaoh tries to bargain with Yahweh and keep the people in the land but Moses not only shows the logistical problems with that but the obedience problem with that.  Yahweh has told them to do this.  Though Pharaoh indicates he won’t go back on his word this time, he does.  The plagues will be ramped up.

When God brings judgment on our foes He knows how to protect us in the midst of that judgment.  This is very important for understanding His outpouring of judgment yet future as depicted in Revelation.  Believers will likely feel the impact of those judgments indirectly, but they will be protected by God from the actual judgments, as Israel was in Egypt.  We don’t need to fear the judgments poured out by God.  We need to trust Him to take care of us during them.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Don’t Delay

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague all your country with frogs. The Nile shall swarm with frogs that shall come up into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed and into the houses of your servants and your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls. The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your servants.”’”  And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the canals and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt!’” So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. But the magicians did the same by their secret arts and made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.

Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Plead with the LORD to take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” Moses said to Pharaoh, “Be pleased to command me when I am to plead for you and for your servants and for your people, that the frogs be cut off from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.” And he said, “Tomorrow.” Moses said, “Be it as you say, so that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God. The frogs shall go away from you and your houses and your servants and your people. They shall be left only in the Nile.” So Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to the LORD about the frogs, as he had agreed with Pharaoh. And the LORD did according to the word of Moses. The frogs died out in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields. And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.  (Exodus 8:1-15 ESV)

Heqet…is an Egyptian goddess of fertility…represented in the form of a frog. To the Egyptians, the frog was an ancient symbol of fertility, related to the annual flooding of the Nile. (Wikipedia).  Who was God, Yahweh or Heqet?  Though the magicians of Egypt were able in a small way to duplicate Moses’ and Aaron’s calling up of frogs from the waters, Pharaoh obviously believed that their power was greater than his magicians and so he agreed to release the people to go worship Yahweh if Moses would remove the frogs.  He had had too much of his frog goddess.

Moses asks Pharaoh to set the time, and it is amazing that he chooses to wait a day, but Moses wants it to be clear that nothing happens to these frogs except at Yahweh’s command.  But once there is relief Pharaoh reneges on his promise, even as God predicted he would.  Pharaoh’s people suffer because of his hard heart, a common problem even to this day among leadership.

What are you putting off for a day?  What “respite” are you getting that hardens your heart to dealing with the problems  in your life?  Who is lord of your life, you or Yahweh?  You cannot duplicate the power of God.  Ask someone to pray for you that God’s power would release you from what you are putting off and then look for how He gives you His respite.

 

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”  I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

(2 Corinthians 6:2)