When I left for college, I knew that finding a church was going to be a crucial thing. One campus church had a service on Thursday nights in an auditorium. A group of us decided to go the first week we were there. I walked in to the giant room where the only lights were coming from the stage. I could see the students raising their hands and singing to God with such passion and abandon. I hadn’t ever really experienced that kind of holy energy before. It was captivating!
So it began. I would go to church on Thursday and Sunday, as well as join a Small Group. Pretty much all of my friends went to church, so I was completely surrounded. There was no way I could forget God. But it was a choice to go through college that way. Things could have been different if I didn’t make the effort to keep myself close to God.
Living life with a bunch of Christians, through tough times and good, was a constant reminder of God’s awesomeness. We prayed boldly for each other, we did missions trips together, we supported those in and outside the family of God in order to be a light to the world. We worshipped wildly and brought God’s Kingdom down to our little campus. It was an amazing time.
As I read through these chapters in Exodus, I was reminded of how important it is to set aside time for worship and remembering God and all that he has done. The Israelites, unfortunately, missed the mark here, and teach us crucial lesson for us today.
S – Scripture: Exodus 30-32
- 30:6 – ” Place the incense altar just outside the inner curtain that shields the Ark of the Covenant, in front of the Ark’s cover–the place of atonement–that covers the tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant. I will meet with you there.”
- 30:10 – “Once a year Aaron must purify the altar by smearing its horns with blood from the offering made to purify the people from their sin. This will be a regular, annual event from generation to generation, for this is the LORD’s most holy altar.”
- 30:15-16 – “When this offering is given to the LORD to purify your lives, making you right with him, the rich must not give more than the specified amount, and the poor must not give less. Receive this ransom money from the Israelites, and use it for the care of the Tabernacle. It will bring the Israelites to the LORD’s attention, and it will purify your lives.”
- 30:21 – “They must always wash their hands and feet, or they will die. This is a permanent law for Aaron and his descendants, to be observed from generation to generation.”
- 30:29 – “Consecrate them to make them absolutely holy. After this, whatever touches them will also become holy.”
- 30:32 – “It must never be used to anoint anyone else, and you must never make any blend like it for yourselves. It is holy, and you must treat it as holy.”
- 30:37 – “Never use this formula to make this incense for yourselves. It is reserved for the LORD, and you must treat it as holy.”
- 31:3 – “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts.”
- 31:13 – “Tell the people of Israel: ‘Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.”
- 32:1 – “When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. ‘Come on,’ they said, ‘make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.'”
- 32:4 – “Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, ‘O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!'”
- 32:8 – “How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live! They have melted down gold and made a calf, and they have bowed down and sacrificed to it. They are saying, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”
- 32:11-12 – “But Moses tried to pacify the LORD his God. ‘O LORD!’ he said. ‘Why are you so angry with your own people whom you brought from the land of Egypt with such great power and such a strong hand? Why let the Egyptians say, ‘Their God rescued them with the evil intention of slaughtering them in the mountains and wiping them from the face of the earth’? Turn away from your fierce anger. Change your mind about this terrible disaster you have threatened against your people!'”
- 32:14 – “So the LORD changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.”
- 32:16 – “These tablets were God’s work; the words on them were written by God himself.”
- 32:22-23 – “‘Don’t get so upset, my lord,’ Aaron replied. ‘You yourself know how evil these people are. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.'”
- 32:25 – “Moses saw that Aaron had let the people get completely out of control, much to the amusement of their enemies.”
- 32:26 – “So he stood at the entrance to the camp and shouted, ‘All of you who are on the LORD’s side, come here and join me.’ And all the Levites gathered around him.”
- 32:31-32 – “So Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘Oh, what a terrible sin these people have committed. They have made gods of gold for themselves. But now, if you will only forgive their sin–but if not, erase my name from the record you have written!'”
O – Observation:
- Places, objects, incense, and oils were being set apart as holy. Anything that touched them would also become holy.
- People were being set apart with special gifts, directed by the Holy Spirit.
- Blood had to be spilled, offerings made, hands and feet cleansed with water, and a ransom of money had to be paid in order for the forgiveness of sins. This had to occur daily, weekly, and yearly!
- A reminder for obeying the Sabbath is given. This is meant to be a day of complete rest so they wouldn’t forget the Lord and his holiness.
- We, as humans, can be quick to forget what God has done. So when we don’t see God working, or we feel like he is distant, or it’s taking too long, we begin to take things into our own hands. This leads to idolatry and pride in our own strength and provision.
- Aaron had a moment of doubt or confusion or weakness. Instead of bolstering the Israelite’s faith in God, he made the golden calf that led to their idolatry. Then, he tries to cast the blame off of himself and onto the people. (This reminds me of Adam in the Garden of Eden.)
- What and how we worship (when we call ourselves Christians) is a representative of who God himself is. If people see us valuing something more than God, it makes it seem like it’s okay to do. It shows that God isn’t really All-Powerful, All-Knowing, and Wonderful. It shows that he isn’t enough to fulfill our needs. It appears that all you have to do is say a little prayer and then go off and do whatever you want. God will forgive you anyway, right? Far from it!
- When our worship goes to someone or something else, it diminishes the power of the Cross. If I do this, I’m saying that I need something more and that I can get it myself. Those things never last. But when I come to God, broken, weak, and surrendered, he is all that I need, forever.
- Moses prayed boldly for the forgiveness of his people, and moved God away from his anger against the Israelites. His argument was: How would it look if the God who had done miraculous things to get his people out of Egypt, turned on them and destroyed them?
- God’s glory (and sharing it) is important. He can take the weakest in faith and power, and raise them up. In doing so, his glory is shown throughout the world.
- The people had to make a choice on who to serve: God, or the Golden Calf. Those that chose the latter, perished. We always have the choice.
A – Application:
I am reminded of a story in Luke, about a woman who believed that all she needed to be healed, was to touch Jesus:
“A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped. ‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, ‘Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.’ When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. ‘Daughter,’ he said to her, ‘your faith has made you well. Go in peace.'” Luke 8:43-48
Jesus was anointed and set apart as holy. Just like the alter in the Tabernacle, anything that touched him, would also become healed and holy. What amazing faith!
Another story that came to mind was a parable that Jesus told:
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” Matthew 13:44-46
The woman had nothing left to lose. She had tried it on her own, and nothing made her better. The man in the field and the merchant sold everything they had for the Kingdom of Heaven. They became poor in the sight of the world, but rich in the glory of God’s Kingdom.
I want that kind of faith! I want that to inspire my worship. How powerful is Jesus’ holiness in my life? How valuable is the Kingdom of Heaven to me? Am I willing to give up my pride, need for instant gratification, my accolades and accomplishments, my wealth and possessions, in order to bring glory to God and enter his Kingdom? Is waiting worth it? Is the Kingdom worth the struggle and the wait?
I can roll my eyes and get frustrated with the Israelites, but how often is that me? How often do I doubt God’s work in my life and change my focus to an idol, in order to try to take back some control or explain why something happened, instead of letting God do his thing? How many times have I lost patience with God for taking too long to let something happen? Or allowed me to suffer for too long? How often do I grumble when I don’t get my expectations met? How is it that I can claim to have such a strong faith, yet doubt God just as strongly? What idols do I hold in my life currently?
If I’m honest, I’m struggling with these things daily. I am constantly questioning God’s timing and goodness. But when I stop, rest, and remember all that he has done so far, I can refocus my worship on him. And it is a sweet and beautiful time of peace.
We are called to live differently.
We are set apart as holy. The power that Jesus carried in him, is now in us.
Our ransom was paid by the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
How and who or what we worship matters. It shows our trust in the Greatest and Mightiest God when we worship him in the good times and bad.
The Sabbath is still necessary today. We need reminders for who God is. We need to practice gratitude for all that he has done for us.
How we live and worship either represents God’s glory, or not. When I give my worship to something else, I’m saying that God’s timing, provision, and power are not enough for me. Idols never last.
When everything is stripped away of this life, God will be the only constant.
I’ve been there, where God has been the only thing left. It was a vulnerable place to be. But it was a place where God did his best and most powerful work. As much as I fought for control, I was left to rely only on the holiness and healing of Jesus Christ. Nothing else worked.
I desperately want to stay in that frame of mind, even as God is answering some long-lost prayers of mine. I never want to lose focus on God’s power and provision in my life. In the seasons of thriving and of drought, I want God’s glory proclaimed by my worship. Idols don’t last, God does.
I asked a lot of questions today. How did you answer them? What spoke most to you in this scripture or discussion? Take a little time for reflection. Ask God to speak to you specifically in regards to your potential idols or worship. He is so gracious and forgiving. He longs for you to seek him like the treasure in the field. He wants your focus to be back on him so that he can bless you and take care of you. Take one small step today towards him and see what happens.
P – Prayer:
Lord, I confess that I have been just like the Israelites. Sometimes my faith is dependent on how I feel or when things are going right. I confess that I start taking control and restrict my surrender when things aren’t going as fast as I think they should go.
You have made promises to me. Thank you! Help me to be patient in your timing. Keep teaching me and preparing my heart for when those promises are fulfilled. I want to look back and say that it was all you. I want to glorify you with my life. I want others to come closer to you because of my testimony. Strengthen my resolve. Help me to see any idols that I have set up and bring them crashing down. You are all I want!
I pray for those reading this today, Father, that you would speak directly into their lives. Reveal any idols and bring them closer to you. Help them to choose you in the bad times and remember you in the good times. You are so good, all of the time. Amen.