Generous God, you provide for my needs and inspire worthy desires. Today, create in me a fresh desire for you.
Read Exodus 32:25 – 33:6
25 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. 26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.
27 Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 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.”
30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”
31 So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”
33 The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”
35 And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.
33 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’” 6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectBe honest with God as you meet him in his Word today.
The further a people moves away from God, the worse things get. Without fear of God or the life-giving restraints of his Word, idol worship had led to the people running wild (v 25), and Aaron had allowed it to happen. Godly leaders stand for what is right, not what is popular. And it’s now that we see something of the cost of holiness. In a shocking and brutal scene, the Levites respond to Moses’ call (v 26) and inflict God’s judgment (vs 27,28). But still, the sin outweighed the judgment, and possibly some of those who had sinned still remained, so God sent a plague on the people the next day (v 35).
It’s in moments and passages like these that we can gain greater clarity on the seriousness and awfulness of sin, idolatry in particular. It isn’t something that can be excused or rationalized (vs 30,31). Romans states clearly what wages sin earns us: death (Romans 6:23).
An inconvenient and uncomfortable truth for many. Although hard to read, it’s good for us not to rush through passages such as these, to consider our own sin before God and to reflect on the incredible gift of forgiveness we’ve been given through Jesus – by sheer grace, not effort nor merit of our own (see Ephesians 2:8; Romans 5:17).
Martin Luther wrote that we need to ‘beat the gospel’ into our heads continually. Why not repeat to yourself throughout the day, ‘it is by grace I have been saved’?
Lord, what a reminder I have received today: you take sin seriously! I so easily settle down comfortably with sin in my life. Forgive me, dear Lord.
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