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.
What things in your life draw you away from God? Pray for the strength and will to let go of each one as you come to him now.
Have you ever heard someone say, ‘You know, they just don’t preach about sin anymore!’ It sounds like a highly spiritual thing to say and it makes me want to respond with a hearty, Amen! My hunch, however, is that such people probably mean someone else’s sin, not their own. Our reading today gives us two examples of what it really means to confront sin, neither of which is very pleasant.
The first reaction is that of Moses. No doubt he’s more than a little disgusted to see the people ‘running wild’ and ‘out of control’ (v 25). Even so, his response may seem overly harsh (vs 26–29). Or is it? It’s true that Moses puts an end to the sinful behavior; perhaps the three thousand were the instigators or those who refused to stop (v 28). The point is, however, that sin can’t be tolerated; it must be decisively removed.1 Is that your first response to the sin in your life?
The second reaction is that of God. When our children were young and misbehaved, they could handle a scolding or ‘time out in the naughty chair’, but when they saw in my face that I was so frustrated I just wanted them to go away, they melted into tears. That’s what happens to the Israelites; when they realize their sin has broken the relationship with God they are distressed and mournful (33:4). Purging sin is painful but necessary and we need people who are willing to hold us accountable when we stray. Repairing the damage to our relationship with God, however, is a much harder task. Moses realizes this and intervenes a second time for the people (vs 30–32). Fortunately, God also realizes this, which is why centuries later he would make a decisive atonement on the cross.
What things draw you closer to God? Pray that these things will more and more become your heart’s desire.
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.
1 Matt 5:29,30