“THIS IS YOUR GOD"...3500 years ago around this time of the year, the Bible records God’s chosen people attempting to control their destiny by worshipping The Almighty on their own terms. Instead of celebrating the fact that they were created in God’s image, and thus destined to change the world through Him, they created a “stand-in” image of God to rally their nation forward and obtain the Promised Land of their dreams.
Perhaps they were caught up in the fervor and excitement of “godly” zeal and didn’t take time to fully consider what they were doing. Dramatically rescued at midnight from Egyptian slavery, they had crossed the Red Sea on dry land with a wall of water on their right, and on their left, then witnessed Pharoah’s entire army lying dead on the shore. Later when they became thirsty in the middle of the dry, barren desert, God provided an oasis of twelve water springs with seventy palm trees. When they were hungry, He literally rained down quail and manna. When they became discouraged questioning “Is the Lord among us or not?”, God revealed His presence when He instructed Moses “…strike the rock and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” Exodus 17:6. It was there they overcame an enemy attack through the uplifted hands of Moses, as God directed. “Moses built an altar and called it ‘The Lord is my Banner.’ He said ‘For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord. The Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.’” Exodus 17:15-16.
Clearly, they understood God as THE GOD: Almighty, Omnipotent, and Omniscient. At their next stop in the Desert of Sinai, where there camped in front of Mount Sinai, they were physically introduced to God Himself at the foot of the mountain. The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Exodus 19:9.
Then God spoke the Ten Commandments. “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’ The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites this: You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold. Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.’” Exodus 20:18-24.
We need to stop here and pay attention to the phrase “I have spoken to you from heaven.” Yes, the God of heaven was on earth at Mount Sinai and spoke to His people. He is still speaking to us today through His words.
Moses went back up the mountain again to meet with God to mediate the covenant. “To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.” Exodus 24:17-18.
"Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, 'Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' Aaron said to them, 'Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.' Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, 'This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.' Now 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.' So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play." Exodus 32:1-6
God’s chosen people had become impatient and fearful that things wouldn’t work out to their benefit. So they created a manageable image of Almighty God--one that didn’t provoke fear and trembling, but bolstered their ego and desire to be in some control of the situation. They attempted to follow His earlier instructions in Exodus 20:18-24, by stating that the image they made was an effigy of God Himself, and they would make an altar before Him to indicate that and would offer burnt offerings as He commanded. So now His name would be honored, and as He promised, “I will come to you and bless you.”
For many of us Christians, putting this all together like this is shocking, in more ways than one. It all sounds eerily familiar. So we need to pay close attention to the rest of the lesson.
"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, 'Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’ The Lord said to Moses, 'I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.'” Exodus 32:7-9
At this point, it was painfully obvious that someone had to intervene. While he was on the Holy Mountain with the Lord, Moses entreated the Lord, saying, "“Why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 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. 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.’ Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened." Exodus 32:11-14
If God has one faithful intercessor, He will allow him to stand in place of many others. His covenant remains faithful to many even when they are not faithful to Him. This is the image of Jesus Christ, only Begotten Son of God, our faithful and true intercessor. Hebrews 7:23-28 explains further. “Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant. Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”
When Moses came down the mountain with the Ten Commandments that God had given Israel, what he saw stopped him dead in his tracks. "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. 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 32:19-20
"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. So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, 'Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.’ That day, 3,000 people died because of their recklessness. 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.
Sadly, the initiation of the covenant relationship between God and Israel began years of agonizing accounting as the nation continued to do things their way, while still calling Him Lord. Israel split into two kingdoms over who would lead their country after King Solomon died. King Jeroboam I of the Northern Kingdom of Israel commissioned two golden calves for His sanctuaries of worship in Bethel and Dan, to serve as the Lord’s attendants. The kingdom lasted a little over 200 years before they were conquered by their ancient nemesis, Assyria. The southern kingdom known as Judah, lasted 350 years before Jerusalem fell and most inhabitants were taken into Babylonian exile.
July 15 on our 2022 calendar marks the 16th day of Gods 4th month and the creation of the Golden Calf. July 16 marks the 17th day on God’s calendar, the traditional date of the Ten Commandments destruction by Moses, which led to the fall of Jerusalem around the same calendar date 700 years later. Known biblically as the Fast of the 4th month, it is referred to in Zechariah 8:19, with a message of hope for God’s kingdom renewal on earth, despite man’s unfaithfulness. “This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”
Our lesson ends today by repeating the beginning paragraph. “3500 years ago around this time of the year, the Bible records God’s chosen people attempting to control their destiny by worshipping The Almighty on their own terms. Instead of celebrating the fact that they were created in God’s image, and thus destined to change the world through Him, they created a “stand-in” image of God to rally their nation forward and obtain the Promised Land of their dreams.”
"THIS IS YOUR GOD."