The chapters which remain to be considered in this series conclude the main division of Exodus which we have entitled
THE TEACHINGS OF JEHOVAH AND THE WILL OF GOD, 19. 1 to 40. 38
Parts of this have already engaged our attention in the two papers preceding this one. Let us now read carefully chapters 32 to 40 and then seek to learn some of its lessons.
The Rebellion against Divine Command, 32. 1-6. Outwardly the people belonged to God, but true relationship and allegiance is a matter of the heart. The first sign of re-bellion was seen in their
Impatience. “And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods”, v. 1 R.v. Beware of interpreting God’s delays as denials (see James 5. 11). Patient waiting and the perfect will are closely linked in God’s purpose. Impatience was soon followed by
Ingratitude. They said “for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him’, v. 1 R.v. It is not the leader but the Lord who claims attention and gratitude. Hebrews 12. 1-2 directs attention from the heroes of chapter 11 to “Jesus the author and perfecter’ of faith, R.v. Aaron’s reaction to this crisis was possibly that of
Indiscretion. "Break off the golden earrings, … and bring them unto me”, v. 2. Perhaps in an attempt to restrain their frenzy,, he asked for that which they prized dearly; this act of compromise met with an unexpected response for “all the people brake off the golden earrings … and brought them unto Aaron”, v. 3. In his dilemma, Aaron received them at their hand, and made a molten calf whence followed the cry of
Infidelity. The people said “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt”, v. 4. By act-ing in this way they became guilty of
Idolatry. In their minds, Jehovah was not replaced by the calf, but He was worshipped under the form of an image, vv. 5,6. To this was added a feast and an altar, and the whole affair assumed the atmosphere of an idolatrous worship. Turning from true worship, they plunged into
Sensuality. See how “the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play”, v. 6. An idolatrous orgy marked the final act of rebellion in a people redeemed from Egypt’s bondage. In days of religious compromise, let us beware of replacing reality by imagery, and tolerance by acquiescence.
The Rebuke of Divine Anger, 32. 7 to 33. 23. Here we note
The Demands of Divine Justice, 32. 10. Moses’ intercession for the people was based upon (i) God’s relationship with His people. In verse 7 the Lord spoke to Moses of “thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt”; in verse 11 Moses responds by asking “Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth”. Despite failure and sin, they were still God’s own people. (ii) God’s deliverance of His people. It was God who “with great power, and a mighty hand”, v. 11, had delivered the people from Egypt; Moses was but the instrument to do His will, (iii) God’s promise to His people. Moses repeats God’s promise to “Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed”, v. 13. Although moved by pity for the people, Moses’ supreme concern was for the glory of God. True intercession is always for the glory of God first, and then for the good of man.
The Display of Divine Mercy, 32. 14. “And the Lord re-pented of the evil which he said he would do unto his people”, R.v. This repentance does not indicate an error or weakness on God’s part. When God repents He changes, not His eternal purposes, but the course of events leading to the object of His plan, because of the change of heart in His people.
The Discharge of Divine Wrath, 32. 15-35. Note here (i) The tables of stone broken, v. 19. “Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount”, (ii) The calf of gold burned, v. 20. “And he took the calf … and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder”, (iii) The camp of Israel blessed, v. 29. “For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, … that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day”; “And the Lord smote the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made”, v. 35 r.v. Only as sin is ruthlessly exposed and dealt with, can an individual or community experience God’s blessing, (iv) The presence of the Lord besought, 33. 15. Moses said “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence”; “And he said, Shew me, I pray thee, thy glory’, 33. 18 R.v. The Lord had said that because of Israel’s sin, He would not presence Himself in their midst, lest they be consumed. Consequently, Moses pitched the tent outside the camp, v. 7. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tent; then all the people rose up and worshipped, every man at his tent door, v. 10. Moses then besought the Lord’s presence and a revelation of His glory, vv. 13-23. Are our own hearts, and the assemblies of which we form a part, experiencing the presence, power and glory of the Lord?
The Renewal of Divine Covenant, ch. 34. There are Conditions Imposed, w. 1-9. To renew the covenant, for-feited by the people’s idolatry, Moses must return to the summit of Sinai, hew out two tables of stone, and on this occasion he must journey there completely alone. Previously the tables were the work of God, as was the writing, 32. 16, and Moses had the companionship of Aaron, Hur, and the elders for part of the way, 24. 9-11. Even when sin is forgiven, something is always lost, for the pathway must be wholly retraced to the point of departure and failure.
Note also that there are
Claims involved, vv. 10-28. For the enjoyment of His promises and privileges, God demanded of His people
(i) undivided allegiance; personally, v. 12, “Take heed to thyself’: collectively, "lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare”: sacrificially, "ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: for thou shalt worship no other god”, vv. 13,14. God still demands personal and collective obedience and allegiance to Himself as the only pathway to blessing. Nothing can replace obedience to His will.
(ii) uncompromising associations. There must be no com-promise with the inhabitants of the land in
social relationships, v. 15, “and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice";
conjugal relationships, v. 16, lest “thou take of their daugh-ters unto thy sons”. Intermarriage would inevitably lead to idolatry;
ceremonial relationships, vv. 18-27. The three great festivals were annual national thanksgivings for mercies received, both natural and miraculous. The first was bound up with the commencement of harvest and the deliverance from Egypt. The second drew attention to the completion of the grain harvest and the passage through the Red Sea. The third brought them to the climax of harvest and vintage and the mercies of the wilderness. Consider carefully and prayer-fully the friends you make, the partners you choose, and the activities in which you engage. Make sure to take God into your calculations and decisions, for apart from Him all else is unimportant.
The closing paragraph of chapter 34 leads to
Confidence Inspired, vv. 29-35. For the significance of this passage read 2 Corinthians 3. 7-18. The glory of the Lord, experienced by Moses on receiving the law, was now reflected in his face, v. 29, and expressed in the authority of his words. Great experiences of secret communion with God always result in fresh power for service and influence on others. In 2 Corinthians 3. 13 Paul relates that when Moses had done speaking with them he “put a vail over his face” that the people might not see the passing of the glory which they had seen in his face. By contrast, the ministration of Christ and of His grace, is not condemnation as in the days of the law, but righteousness; it is permanent, so that Christ lifts an unveiled face upon men, with a glory which has no waning and does not pass away.
The Requirements of Divine Pattern, 35. 1 to 40. 33.
This appears as a recapitulation of previous chapters, relating to the furniture and fittings of the tabernacle. This should not be regarded as mere repetition, but as an emphasis upon the supreme importance of God’s requirements and the claims upon His people. Only that which was done from the heart, 35. 21, was acceptable to God, and only that which was according to the divine pattern had any value in His plan. It is not duty but delight in giving that cheers the heart of God. All shared in the work of giving, the rich rulers giving precious stones, spice and oil; the worshipping women at the door of the tent surrendered their precious mirrors, and those that spun skilfully with their hands presented materials of blue, purple, scarlet and fine-twined linen. In this spirit of selfless devotion and implicit obedience, it is not surprising to find that there was more than enough, and the people were restrained from bringing, 36. 6. When God’s people are stirred in their hearts, there is never a lack of money or means.
The Reward for Divine Obedience, 40. 34-38. Firstly, they knew
The Presence of the Lord. The occasion was when “Moses finished the work”, v. 33. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle, v. 34. No building erected for the worship and work of God, however beautiful, is complete until the glory of the presence of God is experienced within its walls. The New Testament truth is “where two or three are gathered together in my name (the divine pattern), there am I in the midst of them'* (the divine presence), Matt. 18. 20.
In the second place, the people had
The Promise of the Lord, He would be their Guide, for “when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys”, v. 36. He would also be their Guard "For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and there was fire therein by night, in the sight of ail the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys”, v. 38 R.v. If in all our ways we acknowledge Him, He will direct our paths. In the changing circumstances of life, may we pray continually, “Great Deliverer, be Thou still our strength and shield".
End of the series.
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