Fresh Humility

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”

4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.'” 6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb. Exodus 33:1-6

The Lord wouldn’t go directly with the Israelites but instead sent an angel to go before them. He rebuked them strongly for what they had done, and wanted them out of His sight. We do know, however, that God’s presence never left them because He is omnipresent.

An analogy might be if your child were to obstinately run off at a fair or carnival. You know exactly where he is at all times but you’re just far enough away to make the child think hard about what he had done. What will the child do? Read further.

Verse 5 would be better translated “Humble yourself before me and let me see your penitent heart.” In our illustration above, the child might just sit down right where he is and cry loudly for his parents. His crying is a humbling experience (on top of being afraid, lonely, and terrified).

(Obviously the analogy breaks down in today’s society where you really wouldn’t want to leave your child out of your sight in a large gathering like that).

What would it take for the Israelites to humble themselves before the Lord?

What does it take for us to be humble before the Lord?

Sometimes we get so full of ourselves that it’s difficult to humble ourselves. We think, like Mac Davis used to sing, “O Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way…”

The Israelites were about to learn humility the hard way.

Is our humility fresh or has it been a while since we humbled ourselves before God Almighty?

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The World Needs Our Prayers

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

31 So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”

33 The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”

35 And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made. Exodus 32:30-35

The Lord continued to keep His promise of leading the Israelites. They would be punished for their disobedience however.

We’re not sure what the plague was, but if it was anything like what He sent the Egyptians, the Hebrews would not enjoy it at all. If they had exhibited a bit more patience in waiting for Moses, they would not have had to endure this hardship. Did they learn their lesson? Probably not because they’re human and frail.

Moses did intercede on their behalf and the Lord spared some of His punishment.

It’s probably time to interceded on behalf of the country, the President, Israel, and quite frankly, the world. With the coronavirus being front and center in most news organizations, it’s difficult to turn our attention elsewhere. In fact, Pakistan and east Africa just experienced a plague (often together with the phrase “of Biblical proportions”) of locusts but not many people know about it.

Viruses, plagues, and the economy is about to crash.

We live in crazy times. What will the future even a month from not look like? It’s anybody’s guess.

God, however, has not left his place on the throne. He knows intimately what’s going on in every heart and mind. World events do not shock him for He is in the midst of it all.

Fear not, for God is still with us, among us, and in us. Find comfort in his love and grace today.

Pray that the Lord’s will be done in these perilous times.

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Swift Justice

25 Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. 26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.

27 Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.'” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.” Exodus 32:25-29

It’s interesting that out of all 12 tribes the Levites rallied to Moses when he called. Then they went through the people killing the people who probably led the rebellion, while the others slinked away. d Moses set the Levites apart because of their actions.

Were the Levites even involved in the revelry of the rest of the camp? It appears they weren’t. As keepers of the tabernacle, they were already set apart for the Lord’s work. By their actions and devotion, though, Moses asked God’s blessing on them.

In our minds, we see what the Levites did as barbaric and ruthless. We only have modern day society as a reference point. They were under a different justice system.

Those who were slaughtered were wicked people. Recall that only a few verses ago, the Lord was getting ready to slay the entire nation, so the vast majority of people (at least 97%) were spared.

Those deaths sent a very clear message through the camp: if you continue in your rebellion, you will see swift justice.

Swift justice is something we don’t see in our world. Not only that, but we see a great deal of injustices every day because of a broken system. We only see justice through our own eyes and not through perfect lenses.

There are injustices all around us if we care to look. Often, though, it’s too difficult to look because it might compel us to do something about it.

I’m not talking about being cut off in traffic type of injustice, but real heart-wrenching injustices: women and children being sex trafficked, slavery, child labor, and religious persecution to name a few. These compel us to dig in and fight them, but it takes work, time, and money.

In the end, though, they are worth the fight, because if we’re not fighting these horrific and unfair predicaments, who is?

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Aaron’s Hand in the Cookie Jar

21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”

22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘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.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” Exodus 32:22-24

That would be a funny story coming from a 6-year-old, but Aaron was at least 83! He really had no excuse but made something up on the fly.

In essence, he said, “they made me do it; I had no control over it.”

Aaron’s hand was caught in the cookie jar and he tried to blame it on the cookies tempting him!

Of course he had control over his actions; we all do (in a free society). We’re not forced to do anything we don’t want to. Aaron wasn’t forced to melt the Israelite’s gold and form it into a calf. If anything, he partnered with them to do it.

The application of this is fairly straight-forward: when you sin, don’t pass the buck and blame circumstances, people, or even the devil for your actions. Own it, ask forgiveness, and move on. Sometimes, though, we have a hard time at each of those actions.

But the Holy Spirit is still in us, drawing us closer as we walk each day. He wants us to walk closer but we often stray in little ways, and correct course soon after we realize we’re off.

Come close to God and He will come close to you. James 4:8

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Righteous Indignation or Angry Man?

15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.”

18 Moses replied:

“It is not the sound of victory,
it is not the sound of defeat;
it is the sound of singing that I hear.”

19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it. Exodus 32:15-20

Moses was about to find out for himself why the Lord was so angry at the Israelites. It was the very definition of righteous anger. Of course it certainly didn’t help that he had nothing to eat for 40 days!

You can just picture this 80-year-old going on a wild rampage, breaking their calf idol, burning it up, grinding it, and then tossing it into the water. To seal the deal, he made the Israelite drink the water.

What did they think would happen? That’s the problem, they didn’t believe he was coming back. It wouldn’t have made any difference if he hadn’t returned because they were still breaking God’s laws – in fact, several of them.

The Bible tells us to “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” Ephesians 4:26. It’s not the anger of road rage, a politician’s terrible law, or a son staying out too late. Those call for measured and controlled emotions.

There are situations, however, that warrant righteous indignation. Any time a gross injustice is perpetrated on innocent children is cause for righteous indignation. Taking the innocent unborn is another similar cause. authors tell us that “Good examples would be anger toward child abuse, pornography, racism, homosexual activity, abortion, and the like.” Jesus’ anger “was directed at sinful behaviors and unmistakable injustice.”

Like Moses, it’s okay to get angry, but it must be as that text said, “at sinful behaviors and unmistakable injustices.”

When someone upsets us, it’s easy to let our emotions  get the best of us. That’s why we need to decide beforehand what those injustices are that would rise to the level of righteous indignation.

Being able to make the right choice in this day and age will take a lot of stress out of your emotions.

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