Israel’s Idolatry, Exodus 32:1-24

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’” –Exodus 32:1

While Moses spends forty days and nights on Mt. Sinai receiving the tabernacle building instructions and tablets of the covenant from God, the Israelites’ impatience becomes their undoing. Instead of waiting for God to fill the tabernacle with His glory, Israel falls into idolatry again, even though they witnessed the invisible God in action. With Moses’ absence, Aaron caves to public pressure. Instead of turning to God for help and warning the people, he gratifies their sinful hearts’ desire by making a golden calf in place of God.

So the people fall back into idol worship—which still lingered in their hearts from their captivity in Egypt—before indulging in immorality. Psalm 106:19-23 says Israel exchanged the glory of the true and living God for the image of an animal, acting like the heathen nations around them (Rom. 1:22-27).

Righteous anger kicks in when Moses sees their revelry. Perhaps his action of throwing the tablets down symbolizes the people’s sin of breaking God’s covenant. Aaron later offers a lame excuse, blaming the people (vv. 22-24). But God doesn’t buy it. He would have killed Aaron in His anger if weren’t for Moses’ intercession (Deut. 9:20).

The Great Test (vv. 7-14)

God’s character doesn’t change, but He does respond to His people’s confessions and prayers.

Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “In leadership, the difficult experiences with our people either make us or break us, and Moses was about to be tested. God called Israel ‘your people whom you brought out of Egypt,’ as though the Lord were abandoning the nation to Moses, but Moses soon reminded Him that they were His people and that He had delivered them. Furthermore, God had made a covenant with their forefathers to bless them, multiply them, and give them their land (Gen. 12:1-3). Moses intended to hold God to His word, and that’s what God wanted him to do.”

Next, God takes a different approach with Moses: He offers to make a new nation out of Moses’ descendants after wiping out Israel. But Moses love for his people—as stubborn and sinful as they were—trumps. Moses isn’t focused on himself or his future. Rather, his utmost desire is to glorify God and watch Him fulfill His promises.

Evidently, Moses spends the next 40 days and nights interceding for the people before taking disciplinary action (Duet. 9:18). Although God had every right to be angry with Israel, Moses persuades Him to not destroy Israel. Wiersbe observes: “In writing this account, Moses used human terms to describe divine actions, which is why he wrote in verse 14 that God ‘repented’ (KJV). The Hebrew word means ‘to grieve, to be sorry’ (Gen. 6:6; 1 Sam. 15:29) and describes God’s change of approach in dealing with His people (Jer. 18:1-12; 19; 26).

Reflect

Idolatry happens when we seek to replace the unseen God with something that can be seen, usually something physically oriented. We must guard against trying to shape God to our liking for the convenience of obeying or ignoring. Faith is the underlying issue of idolatry since “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1).

Aaron had been helpful to Moses with his speaking skills. But without his brother’s leadership, Aaron yielded to public pressure. God gives various abilities and weaves them together for His use. But a strength/ability can also become a weakness if one isn’t careful. As in Aaron’s case, the skills that make a good team player can sometimes also make a poor leader. Most of us have more of the follower than leader in us. Only God deserves our complete devotion. If a leader teaches or acts against God’s Word, we must stand firm, even if it means standing alone. Yet we’re really not alone. God promises to never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).

Lastly, instead of referring to the Mosaic covenant—ratified about one month prior—Moses appeals to God on the Abrahamic Covenant. For the provisional law couldn’t save or change human hearts where sin roots. Rather, the Mosaic Covenant showed human hearts’ depravity and condemned sin based on the righteousness of men. While the old covenant gave no assurance for forgiveness of sins, the new covenant is based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Therefore, we can have complete confidence in His forgiveness.

I’m so thankful that God doesn’t leave us in our mess! If you want to probe further into how God can revive and change a sinful heart, the following podcast from my pastor, Cliff Purcell, does a great job in addressing how the Holy Spirit wants to breathe new life into one’s heart. You may find his podcast here: A Chance of Flurries. . . Next week, we’ll look at how seriously God took Israel’s flagrant sin. Have a great week!

Spirit-Filled Spirit Guild, Exodus 31:1-11; 35:30-35

Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.” -Exodus 35:30-35

(Source: yearinthebible.com)

Bezalel and Oholiab—with very unique names—were chosen by God. These two men were commanded to make unique engravings and designs with materials like yarn, linen, wood and gems. They were also to teach others their craft in designing the tabernacle furniture, furnishings, accessories and priestly garments, all according to the pattern God gave Moses.

How could just two men carry off such a huge task? God gave them wisdom, understanding, and knowledge for leadership and artistic craftsmanship through the filling of His Spirit.

God gives His people a variety of abilities. Don’t look down on your skills if you’re not a leader like Moses, or have a theological education. It took tremendous community effort in building the tabernacle. Likewise, churches today need this same kind of mentoring and working together for essential services. What abilities and skills has God gifted you with? How could you use these abilities to serve God and others?

Confession: I stole . . . uh borrowed . . . the title of my post from my pastor’s sermon three weeks ago. (I didn’t think he’d mind!) Pastor Cliff is currently teaching a series about the Holy Spirit. He gave a really interesting message about Bezalel and Oholiab that I’d like to share. You can find (and listen to) his podcast here: Spirit-Filled Spirit Guild. Have a wonderful week!

Consecration of the Priests (Part 2), Exodus 29; 30:22-33

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” –Hebrews 9:24-26

In order to set the high priest and his sons apart for service, God commanded that they participate in a public consecration ceremony that lasted a week. During this time, the priests had to remain in the tabernacle precincts. My last post summarized the first two stages of this ceremony. Below are the following five stages.

  • The priests were anointed (Ex. 29:7, 21; Lev. 8:10-12, 30). In the Old Testament, God granted priests, prophets, and kings His Holy Spirit for empowerment and service (Luke 4:17-19; Isa. 61:1-3). A special oil was used only to anoint the priests, tabernacle and its furnishings. Moses poured the oil over Aaron’s head. The oil flowed down his beard—covering his breastplate and stones that represent Israel’s tribes—displaying a beautiful picture of unity in the Lord (Ps. 133:2).

(Source: chongsoonkim.blogspot.com)
Under the new covenant, the Holy Spirit’s anointing isn’t reserved just for priests, prophets, and kings. Those who have placed their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior have also received an anointing of God’s Spirit (1 John 2:20, 27; 2 Cor. 1:21-22). The Holy Spirit is the “down payment” of future glory. He has both anointed and sealed us by His Spirit.

  • The priests were forgiven (Ex. 29:10-14).

    Jesus Christ is our sin offering. We find forgiveness in Him alone (Isa. 53:4-6, 12; Matt. 26:28; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; Rev. 1:5-6).

    To atone for the priests’ sins, they had to sacrifice a slain bull (Lev. 4; 8:14-17). This sin offering was to be repeated daily for a week (Ex. 29:36-37) to cleanse not only themselves, but also to sanctify the altar where the priests would minister.

  • The priests were completely dedicated to God (Ex. 29:15-18; Lev. 8:18-21). God expected the high priest and his associates to fully devote themselves to their work of ministry. Total dedication to the Lord is depicted when the animal is completely given to Him during the burnt offering sacrifice (Lev. 1). Likewise, Jesus held nothing back in both His ministry before the cross and becoming our sacrifice on the cross.
  • The priests were marked by the blood (Ex. 29:19-22; Lev. 8:22-24). Warren Wiersbe (Be Delivered) writes: “At this point in the ordination ceremony, we would have expected Moses to offer a trespass offering (Lev. 5), but instead, he offered a ram as a peace offering, “the ram of consecration” (Ex. 29:22). The Hebrew word means “filling” because the priests’ hands were filled with bread and meat.” Moses not only sprinkled the blood—along with the anointing oil—on Aaron, his sons, and the altar, but also marked each man with some blood on the right thumb, right big toe, and right earlobe as a reminder to the following: Listen to God’s Word; carry out God’s work; and follow God’s way. As the blood speaks of sacrifice, the priests became “living sacrifices” in their service of the Lord (Rom. 12:1).
  • The priests were fed (Ex. 29:22-28, 31-34; Lev. 8:25-29). As part of the priests’ payment for serving at the altar, pieces from some of the offerings—along with special harvest tithes—were given to them. However, they were to eat in the tabernacle precincts and view these gifts as holy sacrifices. The priests’ hands were filled from the “food basket” (Ex. 29:2-3) and from the altar (vv. 22-28). Then the priests would wave these gifts toward the altar in devotion to God. Lastly, they shared this food in a fellowship meal (vv. 31-34). The priests would never lack for nourishment if they faithfully encouraged Israel to obey God and taught His Word. Sadly—in later years—some of the priests lost sight of God and His commands as they consumed the best for themselves (1 Sam. 2:12-17; Mal. 1:6-14).

Upon completion of their ordination ceremony, the priests immediately entered into ministry with no allotted vacation or sick days. Their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly schedule were charted in the law that God gave Moses on Mount Sinai. Every day would start with sacrificing a lamb as a burnt offering. This signified the people’s total dedication to God. The day also ended with offering another lamb as a burnt offering. Wiersbe observes: “That’s a good example for us to follow, opening and closing the day with surrender to the Lord. . . . The flour and wine [given as a meal offering] represented the results of the people’s labor in the fields and the vineyards. Symbolically, they were presenting the fruit of their toil to God and thanking Him for the strength to work and for food to eat (Deut. 8:6-18). The wine poured out was a picture of their lives poured out in His service (Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6, NIV).”

Reflect

The priests’ first obligation was to minister to God. What does this mean for God’s people today? Who has been anointed with the Holy Spirit today? What is gained from this anointing? What does it mean for believers to present their bodies as a living and holy sacrifice (Rom. 12:1)?

Consecration of the Priests (Part 1), Exodus 29:1-37; 30:22-33

“It comes as a shock to some people to learn that Jesus did not die to make us happy; He died to make sinners holy. ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ was a frequent command to the Jews and it’s repeated in 1 Peter 1:15-16 for believers today. . . .” – Warren Wiersbe, Be Delivered

My last post explored the purpose of the priesthood and the High Priest. We learned that the priesthood with the sacrificial system was temporary. Through the priests and their work, God planned to prepare all people for the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ, God in flesh. Jesus, our great high priest, is superior to the Old Testament priests. Like the high priest, He mediates between God and us. But unlike the high priest who could only go before God once yearly, Christ is always available to hear our prayers and intercedes for us as our representative at the Father’s right hand. As a human, Jesus experienced a full range of temptations, but never sinned. He sympathizes with us in our weakness and assures us of God’s forgiveness and help when facing temptation.

It would be easy to gloss over this next section, “Consecration of the Priests”. But through a consistent study of the Old Testament, we’re given a deeper understanding and appreciation of the New Testament. When I read Wiersbe’s quote (below) I wonder if this truth gets muted in some of our churches where the main focus is on entertainment.

Jesus did not die to make us happy; He died to make sinners holy.”

This certainly isn’t a popular teaching. Many probably question: “Why would I want to follow God if He’s not for my happiness?” The truth is, however, God is for our joy and happiness. But being perfectly holy, He hates sin. Yes, He also loves the sinner, thankfully! But if we’re not cleansed from our sin, we won’t be living with Him for eternity (Rom. 6:23). God also knows that deep joy can only be ours when we are free from being entangled in sin. So He disciplines those He loves.

Joy is a by-product of living in God’s presence and is not dependent on our circumstances.

It would be wrong if I don’t finish Wiersbe’s quote before moving on: “The first step toward happiness is holiness. If we’re right with God, then we can start being right with others and with the circumstances of life that trouble us. If you aim for happiness, you’ll miss it, but if you aim for holiness, you’ll also find happiness in the Lord.”

Consecration of the Priests

To set the high priest and his sons apart as God’s servants, God commanded that they participate in a public consecration service. Wiersbe writes of at least seven stages in this service.

  • The priests were washed (Ex. 29:4; Lev. 8:6). The Bible depicts sin with the following terms: disease (Isa. 1:4-6), darkness (1 John 1:5-10), drowning (Ps. 130:1-4), and even death (Eph. 2:1, 5; John 5:24), but frequently it’s pictured as dirt and defilement (Isa. 1:16, 18; Jer. 4:14; 2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 9:14; James 1:21; 4:8). Complete cleansing from the Lord was symbolized when Aaron and his sons were washed all over. Likewise, those who have placed their trust in Christ have also experienced this inward cleansing from the Lord (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
  • The priests were clothed (Ex. 29:5-6, 8-9, 29-30; Lev. 8:7-9, 13). God instructed the priests to wear specific garments. Moses clothed his brother Aaron and his sons with linen tunics and bonnets. They dared not minister in the tabernacle without their official “uniforms”. Scripture likens the wearing of garments to the character and life of the believer. We are to put aside filthy garments of the old life and put on the beautiful “garments of grace” the Lord provides (Eph. 4:17-32; Col. 3:1-15). When Christ died on the cross He purchased a robe of righteousness for us (Isa. 61:10; 2 Cor. 5:17, 21).

I’ll conclude with the remaining stages of this consecration service in my next post.

Reflect

It’s always easier (and more comfortable) to point out sin in others. But God tells us “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6). We can never achieve righteousness by our own efforts and standards. However, when we ask God with honesty and sincerity to save us from our sins, He will do it (1 John 1:9). For “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God, (2 Cor. 5:21).  Although Jesus followed His Father’s call, He willingly laid down His life. Why? “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Christ went all out so we could be clothed in a robe of righteousness and have eternal life.

What an awesome privilege to live in a time when Jesus Christ reigns not only as King over sin and death, but also serves as our Mediator and High Priest! God’s mercy toward us is not to be taken lightly. Philippians 2:12 tells us to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. In context, this verse is an exhortation to unity, but I think it also refers to being careful in how we live and what we believe. . . . Have a great week!