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.

GotAnswers.org 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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Interceding for a Nation!

11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.'” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. Exodus 32:11-14

Moses pled with God to withhold His judgement. Was it that Moses was so persuasive that God relented, or was something else going on here?

We do know that God never changes. Obviously God was going to keep His covenant with Israel. Moses’ intercession on behalf of the sinful Israelites is commendable. He loved His people and would rather the Lord not wipe them out!

The Lord had no intention of destroying them now. Rather, He was displaying His anger towards them in a way that Moses would understand. Moses would ultimately have to deal with them face to face, so he would know firsthand of the Lord’s righteous anger.

We’re seeing rumblings of something happening in the spiritual world that parallels what is happening in the physical world. We all know the impact this Coronavirus is having on society, but what about the spiritual world.

It’s interesting to see political leaders search and scramble for viable solutions. They supposedly have access to the best of the best physicians, immunologists, and epidemiologists in the world. Laboratories are working overtime to come up with a vaccine and cure.

Some politicians initially asked for the prayers of the people, but those requests were criticized and mocked relentlessly. Now churches are closed and “meeting” online every week. The mayor of New York city even said that perhaps there should be a permanent ban on churches meeting together.

That certainly sounds to me like a spiritual war going on all around us, doesn’t it?

Except, very few are noticing it. Like Moses, he was oblivious to what was happening nearby.

But like Moses, it’s time for us to intercede on behalf of our nation, wherever you are when you read this. The war is real even if we can’t see the enemy.

Pray for the raging war around us.

Pray that eyes would be opened to the reality of that unseen war.

Pray that hearts will be drawn to Jesus in the midst of this seemingly hopeless scenario.

Pray that you will have peace in the midst of so much turmoil.

”The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

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Oh, So Patient

7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” Exodus 32:7-10

It’s not often that the Lord’s anger burned against a people, and it this case it was the very people He would lead into the Promised Land. Anytime during Moses’ 40 days on Mount Sinai, the Lord could have interrupted their one-on-one to let Moses know what was happening below. Of course He knew they would sin and turn away. He even knew the extent to which they would do it – by sacrificing idols – breaking at least two of the commandments He just gave to Moses.

Think about this: the Lord was willing to destroy the entire nation of Israel and build it up again through Moses because of their disobedience. It had taken roughly 900 years to build the nation from eight people who survived the Great Flood to where it was now. God was willing to forego that because of their insolence.

That tells me that God is not in a hurry to do anything. Think of all the grief He had to put up with just in the initial part of the wilderness. He went to bat for Egypt during their captivity.

The suffering you’re experiencing now is not new to God. What we’re facing as a world did not catch God off guard.

He is infinitely patient.

He was patient with you; and he’s patient with me. He’s patient with the nations of the world and has outlasted the most evil people who’ve ever lived.

And of course He has not in the least forgotten their deeds and wicked ways.

No one can predict what will happen in these tumultuous times, but we can rest assured the God is still reigning supreme. We certainly do not understand His ways or His methods, but we’re not supposed to.

We simply need to trust in the One we cannot see to usher us through the calamity we also cannot see.

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The Festival of the Golden Calf

5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Exodus 32:5-6

Aaron started down the wrong path by gathering all the gold, melting it and fashioning it into a calf. He tried to correct the error by saying there would be festival to Jehovah the next day. By then it was too late.

As one commentary said, “You can take the Israelites out of Egypt, but it’s not so easy to get Egypt out of the Israelites!”

The Israelites had learned about all the animal worship in Egypt, and this was just a continuation of that.

But they don’t stop there. After the idol worship, they ate, drank, and pretty much had engaged in sensualistic behaviors too graphic to describe.

So, essentially they went down a wrong path and continued down that path without correcting course. Moses, prompted by Jehovah Himself, will have something to say about it in short order.

Once again, the people went from worship to debauchery fairly quickly. At a certain point “mob behavior” took over and there was no turning back.

But the point is that they strayed off course without correcting early. Had someone – anyone – spoken up about where it was headed, the outcry to the Lord would not have been great.

Course corrections are a part of life. The earlier we spot them, the easier they become to return to the straight and narrow.

In Alaska, my pastor taught me that “sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay.”

I can’t argue with it, can you?

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We Thought We Knew Aaron

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.”

2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” Exodus 32:1-4

Moses had been on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. The people went to Moses’ brother to ask him what they should do because Moses had been gone for so long. Aaron’s response is quite remarkable actually: he was aiding and abetting their idolatry. It was even worse than that; he was showing them how to do it. Obviously he had done it before because he knew exactly what to do.

How was it possible for him to literally be on the same mountain with the Lord Almighty one day and shortly after lead the Hebrews into worshipping a golden calf? Did he feel pressure from the masses? Did he agree with them that something probably happened to Moses? If so, would that make a difference at all?

It’s hard to figure Aaron out. He went from mountain top experience to the valley very quickly.

Recall that Elijah had a similar experience after all the prophets of Baal were killed and he ran away from Ahab and Jezebel. (1 Kings 18-19).

If we’re not careful, we can have similar experiences.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8.

Satan will do what he can to destroy you.

When you’re at your highest with the Lord is when you’re most vulnerable. Never forget that. It seems like just the opposite is true, that there’s no way that anything bad or wrong could happen.

Again, Peter writes:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8.

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