Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Glory of God in Us

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting…Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy…Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest.

This Moses did; according to all that the LORD commanded him, so he did. In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected…Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. (Exodus 40, ESV)

Can you imagine getting up in the middle of the night in your encampment in the wilderness, walking outside your tent and seeing a burning fire in and around the Tabernacle, or during the day seeing a cloud emanating from it?  From the first day that the glory of Yahweh filled the Tabernacle there was powerful evidence that God was with His people in demonstrative form.  If the cloud was lifted off of the Tabernacle it was the signal that it was time to move and you packed up all your belongings and your tent, while the Levites attended to dismantling the Tabernacle and preparing it for transport.  Perhaps you hoped you could stay longer rather than shorter.

God showed in the way He displayed His glory in the Tabernacle that He really did want to dwell with His people and that His dwelling with them was not going to be a passive one.  He is always about pursuing the purpose of restoring His kingdom in this fallen world.  He went after a nation that He would use to be a witness to all nations of His greatness.  He is leading this nation through the wilderness after having judged Egypt for its wickedness and with a judgment for the nations of Canaan who have filled up their iniquity to the fullest (Genesis 15:16).

We are to pray daily for His kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10).  We are to move when He moves and stay when He stays as we look for opportunities to redeem the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).  We are the Tabernacle of God on earth today, His temple, His people, from whom He wants to demonstrate His glory.  People ought to see an evidence of His glory permeating our lives, fire and cloud.  The most obvious evidence of that glory, according to Jesus, will be our love for one another and for our neighbors (John 13:35).

How are we doing?

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Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Hidden, Glorious God

And all the craftsmen among the workmen made the tabernacle…These are the records of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the testimony, as they were recorded at the commandment of Moses, the responsibility of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the LORD commanded Moses; and with him was Oholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an engraver and designer and embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen.

All the gold that was used for the work, in all the construction of the sanctuary, the gold from the offering, was twenty-nine talents and 730 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary.

From the blue and purple and scarlet yarns they made finely woven garments, for ministering in the Holy Place. They made the holy garments for Aaron, as the LORD had commanded Moses. (Exodus 36:8-39:1, ESV)

This lengthy step-by-step description of how the Tabernacle was made shows that it indeed followed the instructions given to Moses based on the model Moses saw on the Mountain, the heavenly version of what was being built on earth (Exodus 25:40; Hebrews 8:5; 9:23-24). And God used these skilled craftsmen to accomplish the job. They must have felt very privileged to be included in this holy enterprise. No doubt craftsmen of cathedral projects have felt the same way. But are we supposed to be building such structures today?

It would seem in principle that it is not wrong to spend amazing amounts of the peoples’ money on such buildings as we long to honor God with everything we have and show Him to be glorious. But we have not been so instructed as Moses was to do such building. The church building we most frequently erect is decidedly not a temple or sanctuary, despite how much we use those terms. The people of God are the temple, not the building. We are the intersection of heaven and earth because the Holy Spirit indwells us. People meet God in us, not a building. The way into the Most Holy Place has been opened by Jesus and His sacrifice and we are living testimonies that the sacrifice availed for us.

We hope that in the building we erect for the purpose of meeting, if such a thing is deemed wise, people will meet the living God in us and the building itself will not be a deterrent to that.  If we can make it attractive or suggestive of the glory of God, and the Spirit so directs us to invest in that, we have freedom to do so.  But we must count the cost of such architecture and décor to make sure that it is not something that puts us in debt, prevents us from really ministering to the needs of our community, or even distracts from realizing that the people are the church, not the building.

If we think about how the Tabernacle functioned in ancient Israel, it did give a sense of how glorious the God of the universe is, though even in its beauty it could not approach that fully.  But it also created a mystery about God and how things functioned inside, hidden from all but the high priest.  It mostly communicated that you could not approach this holy God without following His precise instructions.  Humans are too intent on creating their own path to God, believing that we have that capability and that God is okay with that, even endorses it.  Just the opposite is true.

“If God had wished to overcome the obstinacy of the most hardened, He would have done so by revealing himself to them so plainly that they could not doubt the truth of his essence, as he will appear on the last day with such thunder and lightening and such convulsions of nature that the dead will rise up and the blindest will see him. This is not the way he wished to appear when he came in mildness because so many had shown themselves unworthy of his clemency that he wished to deprive them of the good they did not desire.  It was therefore not right that he should appear in a manner manifestly divine and absolutely capable of convincing everyone, but neither was it right that his coming should be so hidden that he could not be recognized by those who sincerely sought him. He wished to make himself perfectly recognizable to them.  Thus wishing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart and hidden from those who shun him with all their heart, he has qualified our knowledge of him by giving signs which can be seen by those who seek him and not by those who do not.  There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.” [Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 79-80]

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Abundant Giving and Receiving

Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded. Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution…Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded.”

Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the LORD’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments…as a freewill offering to the LORD.

Then Moses said to the people of Israel, “See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.”

And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work. And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, and said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the LORD has commanded us to do.” So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more. (Exodus 35:1-36:7, ESV)

To their credit the people of Israel gave generously to the construction of the Tabernacle. They gave both of their possessions and of their talents. And though everyone was encouraged to come and do the work, Bezalel was given authority over the whole project to oversee it and, presumably, to determine who did what and that the quality of their work was acceptable. If it was not and they could be taught, he would teach them, as would Oholiab. God’s Spirit was at work in the leaders and the workers, the givers and the doers.

This is the description of a community filled with the Spirit. They have a clear vision of what it is they are to do in order to serve the Lord. They have skillful leaders to guide them in the Spirit’s work. They have generous hearts towards the Lord’s work and towards each other. There is a unity of spirit that comes from the Holy Spirit reminiscent of this time in Israel’s history on journey to the promised land, or the infant church in Acts 2 as they met and cared for one another and served the Lord. It is what Paul describes in Ephesians 4, a maintaing of the unity of the Spirit and the gifted leaders helping the various members of the body to work to increase the growth of the Body of Christ.

Nothing here was forced. God told people to respond only out of a generous heart because He “loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). And their hearts stirred them, stirred them so much that they brought more than enough and had to be restrained.

Where are you contributing like this? Where has God moved your heart to give? May there be more than enough.

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38, ESV)

John MacArthur at Grace to You (gty.org) explains the imagery of this passage: The imagery Christ used in Luke—the idea of pouring blessing into our laps—comes from the ancient Middle Eastern grain market. People would go into the grain market to purchase, literally, a lap-full of grain. The loose material of their garments extended all the way to the ground and was belted at the waist with a sash. When they went into the grain market, they would simply pull up some of that garment, looping it through the sash to create a huge pocket. The grain would be dumped into the makeshift pouch, literally filling their laps (cf. Ruth 3:15).

God responds with abundance to those who give generously.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Jealousy

The LORD said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

“Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.

“You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.

“You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib, for in the month Abib you came out from Egypt. All that open the womb are mine, all your male livestock, the firstborn of cow and sheep. The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty-handed.

“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end. Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land, when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.

“You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover remain until the morning. The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

And the LORD said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:1-28, ESV)

Yahweh shows his “back” to Moses and confirms that He is going to go up with these people to the land of promise. He writes, on the stone tablets Moses’ has had fashioned, the ten commandments once again and rehearses who it is that Israel is entering into covenant with. He is the one who is compassionate and forgives, the only reason the Israelites are not destroyed.

But the covenant must be rehearsed, if only in a small representative fashion, as Yahweh notes several key aspects of how Israel must live before Him. And Yahweh makes the astonishing promise that if Israel observes His law foreign nations won’t even have a desire to attack and take the land Yahweh is going to give them.

Most of all they must know He is a jealous God. For us, this seems a potentially petty way to speak, making God seem self-centered. But He is the most properly self-centered being in the universe whose love is absolutely best for us and without Whom we are entirely lost. He loves us so much that He must warn us against falling for anyone else. Such falling for another will cause our ruin. No one else can fulfill our deepest needs or guide us more truly in the path of life.

Human jealousy can be like this, but it is most often not, coming not from a place of unselfish love but from a place of fear and desperation.   We are most often jealous because we feel we lack something we need and fearfully grab for it by any means necessary.  Like God, however, we might be jealous in the sense of knowing that we are best for someone else and yearn for their well-being without putting our well-being first, without falling apart if that person doesn’t see our worth the way we do.

Today, serve Him only. All of your needs are important to Him, but He is your biggest need.  If we are filled by Him nothing can destroy us.

The marital relationship may be the best way to help us understand the difference between sinful jealousy and righteous jealousy. I can be jealous over my relationship with my wife in a wrong way or in a right way. For example, if I feel resentment or anger merely because I see her talking to another man, that would be self-centered possessiveness and unreasonable domination—in other words, sinful jealousy. It would stem from my own selfishness or insecurity rather than from my commitment to her and to what is right.

But, on the other hand, if I see some man actually trying to alienate my wife’s affections and seduce her, then I have reason to be righteously jealous. God gave her to me to be my wife. Her body is mine just as my body is hers. I have the exclusive right to enjoy her fully, and for someone else to assume that right would be a violation of God’s holy standards. I am zealous for the exclusiveness and purity of our marriage, and that is a righteous jealousy. Jehovah feels the same way about His relationship with His “wife.” There is no selfishness in His jealousy. It is the appropriate expression of His holiness. [https://bible.org/seriespage/21-jealous-god]

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Face of God

The LORD said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’” Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33, ESV)

Moses intercedes again on behalf of the people and Yahweh listens to him because Moses has favor with God. God has been speaking face to face with Moses (though the fact that Moses asks to see God’s face tells us that this is an expression of the close contact he had with Yahweh, not a literal face to face talk). Moses has used a tent to interact with Yahweh and he goes there again to present his case to God for going up with them rather than just sending an angel.

Interestingly, the tent was for anyone who sought Yahweh to meet with Him, presumable via Moses intercession.  Joshua would stay in the tent seeking Yahweh even after Moses left.  This is a model for us in our prayer.  But now Moses goes to intercede on behalf of the people and himself.

The people are in proper mourning about their misbehavior and rebellion and when Moses gets the answer he wanted he seeks to trade on his favor with Yahweh to see Yahweh’s face. Yahweh says no, I believe, because what Moses is really asking is to see all of Yahweh’s glory, which would likely kill the human being who experiences it, overwhelming the bodily system in ways it could not recover from. But Yahweh shows him His “back” or a form of His glory that Moses can handle, and declares His glory, His character, as Moses experiences this vision of God.

What do we care about enough to beseech God’s throne the way Moses did? And are we in such favor with God that He would grant it?

Never give up prayer, and should you find dryness and difficulty, persevere in it for this very reason.  God often desires to see what love your soul has, and love is not tried by ease and satisfaction.  (John of the Cross)

God is still on His throne, we’re still on His footstool, and there’s only a knee’s distance between.  Cold prayers, like cold suitors, are seldom effective in their aims. (Jim Elliott)

As St. Augustine says, God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.  Knowing this is the essence of prayer.  The posture our body and the words we use have no significance in themselves and are only pleasing to God as they express the feelings of the heart.  For it is the heart that prays, it is to the voice of the heart that God listens to, and it is the heart that he answers. You ask me what this voice of the heart is. It is love which is the voice of the heart. Love God and you will always be speaking to Him.  The seed of love is growth in prayer. If you do not understand that, you have never yet either loved or prayed. Ask God to open your heart and kindle in it a spark of his love, and then you will begin to understand what praying means. (Jean-Nicholas Grou, Devotional Classics)

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.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Your Advocate

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, 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 Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people. (Exodus 32:1-14, ESV)

Yahweh tells Moses that the people have “turned aside quickly” and for certain it did not take long for them to go back on their word to Yahweh that they would do all He told them to do. How could they think that this was in any way the right thing to do. Aaron is too complicit in their request, though he tries to put a positive spin on things by saying there will be a feast to Yahweh.

The calf is a symbol of fecundity or fertility and many believe that the “play” that they engaged in was sexual in nature, a way of recreating or replaying God’s fertilizing of the earth. Yahweh is ready to destroy them for this stiff-necked rebellion, but Moses saves their skin by appealing to God’s covenant with their forefathers. It appears that Yahweh is testing Moses here to see how he will respond. Does he love this people or is he willing to let God make a great nation of him. Of course God knows what is in Moses’ heart but it is important for Moses to see what he will choose in this situation, and he chooses well.

It is important to see the hardness of our own hearts and to appeal to God for softening of them. We have an interceder on our side, as well, Jesus Christ the righteous one (1 John 2:2; Hebrews 7:25).  Satan accuses us day and night before our God (Revelation 12:10).  But we’re told that Jesus always lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34).  What do you suppose Jesus is saying to His Father on our behalf?  Would that he could say what he said about Job, that there is no one like him, blameless and upright, who fears God and shuns evil (Job 1:8).  But even if not, Jesus paid the price for us with his blood and he will let no one snatch us out of his hand (John 10:28).

Jesus sought me when a stranger,

Wandering from the fold of God;

He, to rescue me from danger,

Interposed His precious blood.

(second verse of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing by Robert Robinson, 1757)