Today’s Bible reading: Exodus 32-33:23; Matthew 26:69-27:14; Psalm 33:1-11; Proverbs 8:33-36
According to Exodus 24:18 Moses spent 40 days and nights on Mt. Sinai getting instructions from God. While he was away the people became impatient as we see today in Exodus 32.
Apparently they felt that Moses had died or got lost or, for whatever reason, wasn’t coming back. So they lost faith in the God who brought them out of Egypt and had shown them miracle after miracle. Isn’t that the way we are still today? I know it is easy for me to forget that I have a god who created me, who loves me, and who has great things in store for me. I often slip into the mindset that the trouble I am facing at any given moment is overwhelming. Or I find that God isn’t answering my prayers according to my own self-mandated schedule and I take matters into my own hands like the Israelites did in our reading today.
Notice that the people take their concern to Aaron which seems like a reasonable thing to do since Moses is not available. However, it turns out that Aaron is a very poor leader. Rather than assessing the situation and teaching the people to be patient, he simply agrees with them and comes up with a “solution” to appease them. Leaders need to be able to set the right course by seeing the bigger picture, even if that means disappointing some people (or even all the people). Aaron makes a huge mistake because he is not a strong leader. He gives in to popular opinion rather staying on God’s course.
Possibly the people considered this golden calf to be an “extension” of the Lord (Exodus 32:5). But God doesn’t need us to add anything to Him. He is complete as He is and His word is complete and perfect. We see similar behavior today where people declare that their sinful behavior “is okay with God”. We rationalize our sin by stating that God is okay with it but that is not true. God isn’t okay with it not because He is stubborn or mean but because He made us and knows what is best for us. We don’t. He knows we are only hurting ourselves and He cares for us too much to allow us to continue to do that.
Aaron didn’t understand the severe nature of his sin (Exodus 32:21). Not only that but he tries to extricate himself from all wrong doing by blaming the people and crediting the golden calf to a miracle from God. This is another tactic we use to justify our sin. We attribute it to God.
Back in Exodus 20:22 we saw that the penalty for worshiping a false god is death. So now God destroys 3,000 people in the camp. Evidently these were the worst offenders. God was trying to create a holy people so He had to remove those who would get in the way of that happening.
In Exodus 33 God states that He is still going to give the people the land He had promised them. God will not break His promise despite the sin of the people who had broken their promise to always follow Him. This is an example of God’s perfect character. How many of us would be willing to keep a promise to someone who has offended us terribly? I suspect we would be inclined to forget the promise and break off the relationship. But not God. He created us for fellowship with Him and He will keep up His end of the bargain to make that happen.
We also see in Exodus 33 a bit of a revival. The people are aware of their mistake and demonstrate a repentant desire to have a relationship with God. We all make mistakes. God knows that. He doesn’t expect perfection. But His goal for us is to grow into mature people with high moral character… people who will acknowledge their mistakes, learn from them, and grow (change) because of them. A couple of my favorite quotes come to mind:
- To admit you are wrong is to declare that you are wiser than you were before
- The amount of a person’s maturity is inversely proportional to the amount of time it takes him to apologize
We read the of the famous incident of Peter denying knowing Jesus 3 times in Matthew 26 today. Notice how Peter’s denials get stronger each time he is questioned. By the third time he is vehemently denying knowing Jesus. I usually find that the more guilty a person is the more likely they are to use strong, even profane, language. Obviously, and understandably, Peter was scared for his own life. But unlike Judas, Peter’s betrayal of Jesus will lead to restoration. Judas was sorry as we read in Matthew 27:3-4. But his regret did not lead to repentance as it did for Peter who would go on to help spread the word about Jesus to the world (we’ll read about that in Acts and in Peter’s New Testament letters). Judas apparently never recognized Jesus for who He really was (God in human flesh) because He was only sorry for betraying an “innocent man” (Matthew 27:4).
Despite being just 4 verses long, Matthew 27:11-14 contains a lot of great and interesting information. At this point Jesus has been beaten and now stands before Pilate, a Roman governor of this region who is known historically to hate the Jews. The Jewish religious leaders, who already decided they wanted Jesus dead, had apparently told the Roman authorities that Jesus was a threat to their empire because He was going around calling Himself a king. But Pilate, looks at Jesus and thinks “How can this man be king of the Jews?”. In fact his question to Jesus (Matthew 27:11) was probably made out of disbelief of what he had been told by the religious leaders.
In His defense Jesus simply agrees with Pilate. At this point Jesus has apparently decided to allow God’s will to be fulfilled. He would probably have talked His way out of this situation by saying something to Pilate like “Do I look like I am a threat to Rome?”. But it was not God’s will for Jesus to go free. It was God’s will, since the Garden of Eden, for Jesus to come down from heaven to earth in a human body and die to offer humanity a way to heaven that would otherwise be closed due to our sin. Simply put… Jesus was born to die. Going to the cross was not appealing to Jesus’s human side. But He knew that it was God’s will and that doing so would be for the benefit of you and me.
I find Matthew 27:14 to be very interesting. Jesus basically said nothing in His own defense to Pilate’s “great amazement”. I think it takes more strength to not defend oneself against baseless charges. When someone knows the truth is it really important to argue with people who clearly don’t have the facts and don’t want to know the facts? Obviously there was more going on here as described in the previous paragraph. But in similar situations I think it is better not to argue with someone. If there is an open door to discuss (as opposed to argue) then we can do so. But if another person already has their mind made up then why bother? Nothing you can say will change their mind anyway. Walking away from such a situation takes more maturity and character than engaging in a useless debate.
Psalm 33 tells us that we should sing praises to God. Singing is one of the many ways we worship God. This Psalm also tells us why we are to praise Him (verse 4-7): He is truthful, trustworthy, just, good, loving. He is all powerful having created the entire universe. Finally verses 10-11 reminds us that God is more powerful than we are: His plans will be carried out. There is nothing we can do to out smart God or deter His plan for humanity from unfolding. That in itself is worthy of praise.
Proverbs 8 concludes today with the final words from “wisdom”. Following wise advice leads to blessing and joy. We should always be looking for wise instruction and examples (Proverbs 8:34). Notice that verses 35-36 indicate that wisdom can be “found” or not. To find something we must be looking for it. Wisdom does not fall into our lap. We are not born with it. We must seek it out and act upon it when we find it. If we fail to find it we end up hurting ourselves.
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