The saga of the golden calf ends on a tragic note as the LORD sent a plague upon the people because of their sin. However, Exodus 33 opens with a beautiful reminder that even though the Israelites had failed, God is faithful to keep His promises and that His word remains true. Therefore, even though the Israelites experienced moral failure at the base of Mount Sinai, it was time to move on and march forward into the Promised Land under the blessing of God.
Moses interceded on behalf of the Israelites, and his prayer turned the heart of God. However, that didn’t mean that the Israelites didn’t have to face consequences for their sin. On the contrary, their sin brought death and other severe results. So as we look at the closing story of the Golden Calf, we are going to focus on three different people and their responses to God’s judgment: Aaron and his pitiful excuses, the sons of Levi and their willingness to serve the Lord at great personal cost, and Moses and his heart of sincere love and compassion for the Israelites.
Prayer is powerful. Prayer moves the heart of God. And prayer is often overlooked and rushed through in our modern, crazy life. However, as we find ourselves in a season of slowness due to COVID-19, we have the opportunity to grow our prayer life and learn from one of the greatest intercessors in biblical history, a man who not only prayed big prayers but moved God’s heart and saved an entire people from destruction.
The intent of this study through Exodus was to observe and learn about leadership and how God shapes His leaders. There have been many side trails and other topics we’ve explored as we’ve gone through the Scriptures; however, the goal has remained the same. And today, we’re going to see what godly leadership does not look like. We’re going to examine a leader who had no fear of God and who used his power to lead the people to death. That leader was Aaron.
Moses was with God on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights. During that time, he received from God all the laws and commands the new nation of Israel was to follow, and instructions on how to build a physical dwelling for the LORD their God. God also told Moses the men He had chosen to build the house and where to find them. Now, as we near the end of Exodus 31, the LORD gives Moses one final command for the Israelites.
Last week, we learned that God gives us the materials we need for the work He sets before us, and that we are called to build with what we’ve been given. Now, as we move forward in Exodus, we will see that God not only provides the resources to accomplish His plan but also partners and helps to get the job done. So let’s dive into Exodus 31.
Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai with God. For the Israelites, it felt like a silent period, but God was speaking volumes to Moses. The next six chapters of Scripture cover all that God spoke to Moses. Instructions about building the sanctuary, alter, Ark of the Covenant, and more were given. We are not going to dive in depth into all the details God gave Moses, but there is one thing that stands out to me in this portion of Scripture: how often gold is mentioned in the building of God’s holy abode.
“Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.”
Moses was called into the darkness. He waited for six days. Six days of nothing but darkness, nothing but waiting for God to show up. But oh, how the wait was worth it!
There’s a common saying out there “seeing is believing.” But there are a few characters in Exodus that defy this catchy idiom. Remember the story of the Golden Calf from your Sunday school days? While we’re not at that point in our study of Exodus yet, there is a very interesting little passage here in Exodus 24 that directly connects with that well known story of Israel’s quick abandonment of God. Do you remember who the key players of the Golden Calf incident were? Aaron and the elders of Israel. Well, those same key players were part of an amazing experience a month before the Golden Calf drama.
“Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.”
Do you feel like you’re in uncharted territory? Does the future seem uncertain and hazy? While this is a somewhat new era for our country and our world, it’s not new to the history of the world. Many nations faced turmoil and uncertainty. In fact, in our study of Exodus, the Israelites are at the beginning of an unknown future. They had left behind all that they had previously known and were walking forward into uncharted territory. But God gave them a promise. And as we look back through the lens of history, we know that God kept His promise. Therefore, we can walk forward into an unknown future because we have a known God. And we can have confidence because the same God who went before the Israelites goes before us.
But what was God’s promise to the Israelites?
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