Chapter five of “The Story,” and we are covering chapters 19 – 40 of Exodus, with huge gaps (you have to look at the back of the book to find the range of scriptures).
In case you do not know “The Story” is a novelized version of the bible. One of the motives behind doing The Story is to get men involved and get them to make the presentation (If I seem to focus on men here, it is because I was, at the time of this writing, a co-leader of a mens’ bible study). The nice thing about this novelized version of the Bible is that there is no strict format, and you can give an overview, or focus on a particular aspect.
If you are familiar with this range of scripture then you know that it focuses on the rebellious nature of Israel, the establishment of the law, and the institution of temple worship.
Several times God has decreed that he would kill them all and start over with Moses, and yet Moses withstands God, and God relents.
We are expected to sit through at least one of the weekend sermons, and I went Saturday night. Pastor focused on something comparable to what I had written in some notes of mine, but he added one thing that caught my attention. When he said it I wrote, here is your answer!
“God rescued them, and then gave them the law.” Pastor Jeff Vines
Had it been the other way around the dynamics of everything would have changed.
Remember that famous soul-winning scripture:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone believing into Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 LITV
With that, we begin.
Exodus 19:4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
They should have clearly understood this metaphor, for God will talk to you in a language you understand.
Drowning in fears and struggling to understand what is going on around us, how rapidly our world can change for the better as someone gives us an encouraging word from the Lord, that allows us to see beyond ourselves. How the encouraging word is received has much to do with your frame of mind, and how much trust you place in God at the moment. Israel was not big on trust and most only seemed to have a historical relationship; so when God says, “I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” the reception may have been a cold one. If you read about the Exodus, from the edge of the Red Sea to the base of Mount Sinai, they have been whining to the tune of send us back.
I have a question for you.
If God spoke these words to you “I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself,” how would it change you?
What would it mean to know that God has been there the entire time, all the while working to fulfill a plan that is wild, great, and filled with Him?
Did God talk to them, or tell them through Moses, we can only assume. There were no loud, announcements directed to them from the mountain, only the law conveyed through Moses. Nonetheless, this message was conveyed to them; yet, watch how quickly they fall back to old patterns.
For God to say, “I brought you to myself” implies possession, or intentionality. If you read no further, you might be asking what was God’s intent?
God now demonstrates his heart by giving Israel 3 titles, but the titles are tied to an if/then statement.
- a special treasure
- a kingdom of priests
- a holy nation
These attributes were contingent upon them obeying his voice, and keeping his commandments, but is this how God saw them?
I know God knows the beginning and the end, and therefore knew what was coming; yet, he sees the ability in us, as if we lived up to our potential.
Did they do that, at any point?
Israel came with deep-set problems, none of which is clear if we merely decided to start our reading in the middle of this chapter of The Story, or chapter 19 of Exodus.
Rescued from Egypt in a most dramatic way, they have whined, complained, rebelled, and begged to be returned there.
How do you retrain a nation of people so accustomed to bondage?
How do you “save” someone that is so entrenched in his or her pain, and so accustomed to generations of traditions and practices that they do not want to step out of their comfort zone, even if it means a better life? Having spent a few years in recovery, I can tell you that you cannot fix anyone but you. Others must come to the realization that they are powerless over their own lives. Israel as slaves was certainly that, but something was not registering in their heads.
This paragraph makes me think of videos I have seen where dogs, that have been used as laboratory test animals and have only lived in cages all their life, are given the freedom to walk on soft grass, run, and eventually find a home. Many slink back to safety in the farthest corner of their cage, intimidated by the thought of freedom. How similar are we to this picture? Isn’t this Israel at its worst moment?
3 months into the wilderness finds them in front of “the mountain,” Mount Sinai. The mountain on which Moses saw the burning bush and God spoke out of it, laying out what the two of them were going to do.
Exodus 19:3 tells us that Moses went up into the mountain and there God said, “You shall say this to the house of Jacob, and tell it to the sons of Israel.” In a sense, these are one in the same, and yet for God to speak directly to the house of Jacob may be giving us a little insight into who has maintained the history of Israel.
Exodus 19:10 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes “Moses was told to consecrate the people. This meant getting them physically and spiritually ready to meet God. The people were to set themselves apart from sin and even ordinary daily routine in order to dedicate themselves to God. The act of washing and preparing served to get their minds and hearts ready. When we meet God for worship, we should set aside the cares and preoccupations of everyday life. Use your time of physical preparation to get your mind ready to meet God.” (LASB)
In my mind, I have come to see consecration as a setting apart. I tend to think that this was meant to be a lifetime commitment.
Friday 5/23/14, trying to wake up this morning, Chuck Swindoll is on the radio. It seems he said, “We find God’s mercy in his judgment.”
Because I believe that God is a God of mercy, then that aspect of his character must show up here in Exodus 19 as well. Yet, what is the dominant theme? Law, as a child the law had everything to do with punishment, and I never saw a merciful God in any of it. Where is the draw in that?
We are not dogs, but if you have spent any time around a dog that was untrained then you have experienced how miserable that can be. A simple example – you have been invited to a friend’s house for a barbecue. You are wearing your comfortable pants and favorite shirt when out comes their new 80-pound dog with its muddy paws, and it will not stop jumping up on you, and no one seems to be able to control it. I think we can agree that most of the time behavior like this is inconvenient at best, and this dog needs some training because it is out of control.
Another example: and I used this with one of the guys from our study group, is a blended family; one in which you remarry and there is an existing child, with established behaviors and patterns. What are the possibilities here? In one scenario, the stepchild could tell you, you will never be my parent (I had that happen to me.) Let us assume that you eventually have a child of your own with this spouse. With your own child, you can begin from day one instilling your values and beliefs (hopefully they are good ones.) Alternatively, you can, with the stepchild, as with the 80-pound dog that is out of control, establish boundaries and “laws” to enforce them, so that everyone gets along reasonably well. By the way, you may set up boundaries as the step-parent, and they might even be honored, but that does not mean that those you exercise authority over will love you.
God tries to retrain Israel.
“I am the LORD your God. I brought you out of Egypt. That is the land where you were slaves. (Exodus 20:2)
I hate when Pastors say this, but I am going to try it out anyway. I think what God is saying here is: Let us establish something from the beginning; there is nothing out here but me! I am the one that brought you out of slavery, out of Egypt.
Here come the commandments, narrowed down to ten. In them is the foundation for much elaboration.
Exodus 20:1 NIV: And God spoke all these words –
- “Do not put any other gods in place of me. (Exodus 20:3) “Do not make statues of gods that look like anything in the sky or on the earth or in the waters. (Exodus 20:4)
- Do not bow down to them or worship them. I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. I punish the children for the sin of their parents. I punish the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who hate me. (Exodus 20:5) But for all time to come I show love to all those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:6)
- “Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will find guilty anyone who misuses his name. (Exodus 20:7)
- “Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy. (Exo_20:8) Do all of your work in six days. (Exodus 20:9) But the seventh day is a Sabbath in honor of the LORD your God. Do not do any work on that day. The same command applies to your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and your animals. It also applies to any outsiders who live in your cities. (Exodus 20:10) In six days I made the heavens and the earth. I made the oceans and everything in them. But I rested on the seventh day. So I blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:11)
- “Respect your father and your mother, and you will live a long time in the land I am giving you. (Exodus 20:12)
- “Do not murder. (Exodus 20:13)
- “Be faithful in marriage. (Exodus 20:14)
- “Do not steal. (Exodus 20:15)
- “Do not accuse anyone falsely. (Exodus 20:16)
- “Do not long for (covet, envy after) anything that belongs to your neighbor. Do not long for your neighbor’s house, wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey (Porsche or Lexus.)” (Exodus 20:17)
God defined these laws in detail. This goes on until chapter 24 of Exodus. This must have taken days for Moses to write this all down.
Not only were the laws laid out, but God also defined the temple that was to be built for him. Is that what they started doing? No, they built a temple to Moloch and roasted their children to this unknown god. (a god, made of gold, in complete opposition to what God had told them.)
God calls Moses back into the mountain for 40 days. What does Israel do? Give up, rapidly reverting to old ways that have not been defined for us. Oh sure, we have seen their ability to whine, and such, what comes next is beyond comprehension.
The people saw that Moses took a long time to come down from the mountain. So, they gathered an angry mob around Aaron, and they said to him, “Come. Make us a god that will lead us.
This fellow Moses brought us up out of Egypt. But we don’t know what has happened to him.” (Exodus 32:1 NIrV)
The book of Acts records Stephen, standing before the high council, giving this testimony.
“To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not what is become of him. (Acts 7:39-40 KJV)
The Life Application New Testament Commentary helps to define what Stephen spoke of: “The Israelites’ worship of the golden calf was the beginning of a downward spiral. At times they returned to God, but far more often they were running after the gods of the evil nations surrounding them. This quote from Amos (Amo_5:25-27) supports Stephen’s accusation that Israel had a history of idol worship. Molech and Rephan were planetary divinities. Molech was an Ammonite deity associated with child sacrifice, while Rephan was a god “borrowed” from Egypt. Both became popular options for Israel’s idolatry as her history progressed.
Acts 7:42-43 NIV But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon, and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: “‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel? 43: You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.
Apparently, the depth of perversion involved with Moloch was held in denial.
The Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary gives us this: “The Talmud, the Jewish commentary on the OT, calls the rebellion involving the golden calf “that unspeakable deed.” The rabbis did not want to talk about it, forbidding a translation of the account in the vernacular for the synagogue services. The Jewish religious leaders wanted to bury the incident, but Stephen wanted to dig it back up.”
How about a little more definition. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia tells us: “In the Levitical ordinances delivered to the Israelites by Moses there are stern prohibitions of Molech-worship (Lev_18:21; Lev_20:2-5). Parallel to these prohibitions, although the name of the god is not mentioned, are those of the Deuteronomic Code where the abominations of the Canaanites are forbidden, and the burning of their sons and daughters in the fire (to Molech) is condemned as the climax of their wickedness (Deu_12:31; Deu_18:10-13).
Vincent’s Word Studies explain the Tabernacle of Moloch – The portable tent-temple of the god, to be carried in procession. Moloch was an Ammonite idol to whom children were sacrificed. According to Rabbinical tradition, his image was hollow, heated from below, with the head of an ox and outstretched arms, into which children were laid, their cries being stifled by the beating of drums.
Remphan – The texts vary between Remphan, Rephan, and Romphan. It is supposed to be the Coptic name for Saturn, to which the Arabs, Egyptians, and Phoenicians paid divine honors.
If I was to try to explain how all this shows God’s love it would be difficult. It looks like God is attempting to retrain a nation, and only a few are getting it.
Do we find this theme in the New Testament?
Yes, as Jesus challenged the Pharisees by throwing the law back in their faces, laws they were breaking as they accused Jesus’ disciples of sabotaging others.
Ephesians, chapters 5 and 6 are really a retelling of the law but from a different angle. An example from the Message reads like this.
“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG)
Exactly, find that love and live in it; let it motivate you.
Did Aaron get it?
If we look at his life overall, we would have to say yes, but he had some bad moments.
It is possible that everything that happens from chapter 25 to 32 is all taking place on the mountain, as Moses stands in God’s presence. If not, then Aaron and all the people have agreed to volumes of regulations, only to do none of it. (This is a generalization, something you see throughout scripture.)
What happens with Aaron is difficult, because we are given the impression that it is a mob, and the mob has the potential for violence. We should understand that the world is going to come against us, forcing us to take a stand or fold like a house of cards, and it seems like Aaron folded. I cannot help but think about our prime example now, and that is Syria. I get pictures that people send out showing how Christians (again to the Muslims that are fighting there, it could mean anyone not of the Islamic faith, a generalization) are being tortured, raped, hung in the streets, whipped mercilessly, impaled with poles, and beheaded. What you do not see, very often, is those that fold and give in to the pressure. It is difficult to judge how others react, especially when we do not know how we will react on that day.
I have already pointed out, in detail, what Aaron made for the mob that day. No one seems to notice how precisely it was made, and why did Aaron know how to make such a thing, but remember that Israel lived for 400 years under the rule and tradition of Egypt.
What bothers me about Aaron is that when confronted by Moses, he lied in saying I threw the gold in, but the calf popped out.
They knew what was right in God’s eyes.
“.. you must never make idols of silver or gold to worship in place of me. (Exodus 20:23 CEV)
Aaron responded to Moses angry questioning with,
Moses asked Aaron, “What did these people do to harm you? Why did you make them sin in this terrible way?” Aaron answered: Don’t be angry with me. You know as well as I do that they are determined to do evil. (Exodus 32:21-22 CEV)
God told Moses on the mountain that he was going to kill them all (another generalization,) but Moses interceded for the people and God relented from his anger. Now it seems as though Moses is operating on his own compulsion. Perhaps, having heard the heart of God when it comes to idol worship, he understands that it has to be purged completely.
Watch what he does.
Moses knew that the people were out of control and that it was Aaron’s fault. And now they had made fools of themselves in front of their enemies. So Moses stood at the gate of the camp and shouted, “Everyone who is on the LORD’s side come over here!” Then the men of the Levi tribe gathered around Moses, and he said to them, “The LORD God of Israel commands you to strap on your swords and go through the camp, killing your relatives, your friends, and your neighbors.” The men of the Levi tribe followed his orders, and that day they killed about three thousand men. (Exodus 32:25-28 CEV)
What is peculiar about this is that Aaron is a Levite also. We are talking about Moses’ close families having to do the cleanup work here. This also put Aaron to the test, as you were the one that complied with their request. Look at this next verse.
Moses said to them, “You obeyed the LORD and did what was right, and so you will serve as his priests for the people of Israel. It was hard for you to kill your own sons and brothers, but the LORD has blessed you and made you his priests today.” (Exodus 32:29 CEV)
Do you sometimes feel like you missed something? Where did God command him to do that? Yet, Moses attributes what was said to the Lord.
Yeah, it was hard, who would think otherwise, a psychopath?
Is the potential for punishment over?
The next day Moses told the people, “This is a terrible thing you have done. But I will go back to the LORD to see if I can do something to keep this sin from being held against you.” Moses returned to the LORD and said, “The people have committed a terrible sin. They have made a gold idol to be their god. But I beg you to forgive them. If you don’t, please wipe my name out of your book.” The LORD replied, “I will wipe out of my book the name of everyone who has sinned against me. Now take my people to the place I told you about, and my angel will lead you. But when the time comes, I will punish them for this sin.” So the LORD punished the people of Israel with a terrible disease for talking Aaron into making the gold idol. (Exodus 32:30-35 CEV)
In chapter 33 God refuses to continue the journey with them. What does that look like?
For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the sons of Israel, ‘You are an obstinate people; should I go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you. Now, therefore, put off your ornaments from you, that I may know what I shall do with you.'” (Exodus 33:5 NASB)
The people knew what effect God’s presence had on Moses, he shined, but what they saw that was most obvious to them was the cloud by day and the pillar of fire in the sky at night.
Moses once again withstood God on behalf of the people.
Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ “Now, therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. “For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” The LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” (Exodus 33:12-17 NASB)
Chapter 5 ends with Israel contributing to, and the Levites building the large but movable tent of meeting.
Moses went in and out before God, and it had a profound effect upon him, he glowed.
We too go in and out before God, and what effect does it have upon us?
I have known the lord for years and spent many hours before his face, and I have never knowingly glowed.
The Apostle explained what my heart wishes to convey quite nicely, so I give you that.
2 Corinthians 3:6-18 MKJV 6: who also has made us able ministers of the new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit makes alive. 7: But if the ministry of death, having been engraved in letters in stone was with glory (so that the sons of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses because of the glory of his face), which was being done away; 8: shall not the ministry of the Spirit be with more glory? 9: For if the ministry of condemnation is glorious, much more does the ministry of righteousness exceed in glory. 10: For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11: For if that which has been done away was glorious, much more that which remains is glorious. 12: Then since we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech. 13: And we are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of the thing being done away. 14: (But their thoughts were blinded; for until the present the same veil remains on the reading of the old covenant, not taken away.) But this veil has been done away in Christ. 15: But until this day, when Moses is read, the veil is on their heart. 16: But whenever it turns to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. 17: And the Lord is that Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18: But we all, with our face having been unveiled, having beheld the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are being changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord Spirit.
Give your heart to him and he will change your life.