What You’ve Missed…
* God gives the Israelites a couple of construction projects, providing some pretty detailed blueprints for them. Incredibly detailed, actually. We’re talkin’ like almost OCD level here.
* God trumps Trump, stating a lot of the stuff to be built needs to be made out of gold, or covered in gold or made out of gold AND covered in gold, which begs the question: Is it really possible to have too much bling?
Daily Reading: Exodus 32-34
So our buddy Moses has been spending some time up on a mountain, talking with God, learning some basic rules for healthy community living, and he’s been up there for awhile. He’s been up there about 40 days actually, and the Israelites are getting a little restless. They go to Aaron saying, “Come on! Make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know about this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:1)
I can imagine the local Hebrew stand-up comedian (and I’m imagining a Jerry Seinfeld slightly-high-pitched-voice here) saying, “And what is the deal with Moses? I mean, have you seen this guy? Me neither! That’s the problem! What could he possibly be doing up there? We haven’t invented skiing yet. And rock climbing isn’t really a hobby or sport since we’re still doing it to survive. What is going on up there?”
Now, I try pretty hard to see the people in these stories as human and relatable. But I’m really struggling on this one. They wanted a god who would lead them!!? What do they think God’s been doing this whole time!!? He’s given them food from heaven! He’s provided clean water in the middle of the desert! They heard God speak from a thundering cloud! He has LITERALLY led them day by day and night by night. What are these people talking about!?
I don’t get it.
So, they pool together a lot of gold and Aaron melts it down, forming it into a giant gold statue of a calf for them to worship. (Remember, this is the guy God chose to be His mouthpiece for all of Israel.) As they’re worshiping, God tells Moses He is going to destroy the Hebrews (except for Moses who He will bless) for being stubborn and rebellious. But Moses asks God to change His mind, to remember His promise to give them the promised land, making them a great nation. And get this…it works! “So the LORD changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.” (Exodus 32:14)
So God doesn’t destroy His people. He has mercy on them. But Moses is pretty dinged up that they’d turn away from God so easily. In fact, he doesn’t just give them a pretty heavy scolding, but melts down the calf idol, grounds the gold into powder and makes the people drink it. I would imagine that would take some serious time and effort, and that a person would have to be pretty angry to see that undertaking through to the end. I’m pretty sure after about fifteen minutes of grounding gold into powder I’d get pretty tired, convince myself it was overkill and follow it all up with a solid nap.
However, suffering a little yelling and some basic hazing-as-punishment isn’t enough to get the Israelites off the hook. Moses is serious about letting the world know God means what He says when He refers to Himself as the One True God, and that He is the only one to be worshiped. How serious is he about communicating this point? He’s this serious:
“Moses stood at the entrance to the camp and shouted, ‘All of you who are on the LORD’s side, come here and join me.’ All the Levites gathered around him. Moses told them, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel says: Each of you, take your swords and go back and forth from one end of the camp to the other. Kill everyone – even your brothers, friends, and neighbors.’ The Levites obeyed Moses’ command, and about 3,000 people died that day.” (Exodus 32:26-28)
That. Is. Intense. I can’t even begin to imagine having to kill my family or friends. That’s just…that’s no joke. When I read this, my jaw hit the floor, and I just sat for a minute, stunned, not knowing how to respond. I might have even drooled in a little in my stupor. If a stranger had been walking by at that moment and taken a second look at me, I’m sure they’d be wondering where my caretaker was and why they left this poor, helpless man all alone, sitting in a puddle of his own drool.
Think about it. These were people who probably earlier in the day were laughing with their brothers. Or maybe some young dudes were being taught how to make tents by their fathers. Or maybe a group of buddies just found out their best friend got engaged. And then later they’re told they have to kill the people they just shared these good times with because of different beliefs. That would be tough for anyone…no matter how much religious fervor or passion had been worked up. This is people attacking people they love, because they chose obedience to God above everything else. That is a seriously high level of dedication to and faith in God.
I’m still not sure fully what to make of this story other than God seems to be incredibly serious about the things He says, like worshiping Him and Him alone. I’m starting to think He doesn’t just say things half-heartedly. Which is a good thing. Scary, but good.