In chapter 4 God gives Moses instructions about the types and ways of guilt offerings. Here in chapter 5 God gives some instruction and examples of unintentional sins and the guilt offering required for them.
It’s funny how much our world changes. We live in a culture where even most Christians don’t take repentance seriously unless there are consequences that drastically affect them. We sin daily, and we talk about having a relationship with God and our prayer life, but how often does our prayer life consist of a list of demands to make our life more enjoyable and “better”? How often are we so worried about our own “problems” and wants that we completely ignore the directions and instructions that YHWH puts in our life?
Sin, both intentional and unintentional, becomes so commonplace in our lives that we begin to not even recognize that we have sin that we need forgiveness from. Yet God takes even minor, unintentional sins (like touching a dead body or swearing thoughtlessly) seriously. Do we take time daily to come before God daily for repentance, or do we see YHWH as our buddy, buddy?
I know that i fall into that struggle, and that it is something that i need to be doing daily, yet it is something that i rarely do. Maybe it’s time for me to change that… Lord, you know me, my comings and goings, my desires and actions. YHWH I want to be obedient and not carry all of these sins around with me. YHWH forgive me and help me to turn away from…
Well, here is where it all hits the fan! The people are tired of waiting for Moses to return from the mountain. He has been there for 40 days and nights. They are growing impatient with Moses and God taking their time, and they decide to do something about it. So what do they do? They decide to make their own god! They convince Aaron to make them a god so that they can worship it. Aaron makes them a golden calf and the people begin to worship it!
I have been trying to understand this. I really have been. I try to make it a point to understand the situations that the Israelites are going through. I know that these are people just like you and i. I can usually get some sort of grasp on some of the insane things that the Israelites do and make some sort of sense of it, but this one absolutely takes the cake!
God has done all of these amazing things for and with the people of Israel. He has rescued them from Egypt. He has done miracles and wonders to the Egyptians absolutely destroying their nation. He brought them across the Red Sea. He made water come out of the rock. He even appeared in a cloud to the people and the leaders saw Him. He spoke His 10 commandments out loud to them; the second of which was not to make for themselves a graven image! They even agreed! Yet here they are. Moses has returned to the mountain, and is gone for only 40 days. Now here they are doing one of the most foolish and insane things they could possibly do.
I try to imagine myself in the situation. I try to picture it and try to process what is going on in their minds, and i just don’t get it. I mean, i can kind of get it. When you are in that emotional high and you need a release… you need to release it some how, i can understand needing to be able to worship. But wow! I mean really!?! WOW! I think that that’s all I can say about that situation.
I look at YHWH’s response, and i am in no way surprised that He wants to destroy them all and start over. My real amazement is in Moses response. He sticks up for them and hold’s God’s fury at bay, but he also doesn’t really know what’s going on the time. Once he finds out… it becomes a bloodbath. What is a man of God to do?
Well, things changed as a result of God’s referendum to Pharaoh alright. God said, “Let my go!” Pharaoh said, “What? You want me to do what with your people? …you want me to make their work harder? OK, I can arrange that.”
Wow, this overarching concept and idea feels very familiar for some reason. The LORD gives a command to do something. In obedience it is carried out. Life gets harder, not easier as a result of the obedience. You would think that when the God of the universe instructs you to take a stand and obediently place yourself at risk before everyone, He would come through when you expect him to. But, that’s not necessarily how He works. Taking that step of faith sometimes means getting your toes run over by a steamroller.
The question is, knowing that that is the case, are we willing to be obedient? Are we willing to step out in faith? Are we being obedient to get something out of it, or is our obedience because He is LORD of our life? Can He trust us to obey even when it means more trouble for ourselves?
That’s a difficult problem for most of us Americans. Many times our outlook is; “What’s in it for me?” If we aren’t getting something out of it, we aren’t willing to put anything into it. God doesn’t work that way though. He’s not a direct “If…then…” God. “If you do this for Me, then I will do that for you.” If that’s what you are looking for in a god, then you are looking in the wrong place. Yes, God will bless you amazingly and abundantly when you obey Him. Yes, you will find peace in your life. Yes, you can trust Him, but you cannot count on Him to do what you want Him to do, or even anywhere close to when you want Him to do it. He works on His terms not ours. However, we are still responsible for obeying Him. The benefits will be amazing, but so will the troubles.
So what’s the LORD calling YOU to be obedient to today?
What would you do if God spoke to you on a personal level? How would you respond if God came to you, speaking to you through a burning bush that was never consumed? MercyMe in their song I can Only Imagine poses these questions;
Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence,
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing Halelluja,
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine!
So what does Moses do in this situation? Well, he says, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say?…” In spite of seeing the Glory of God and coming into His presence, Moses doubts and makes excuses! Here he is speaking to God, and all he can do is give reasons why he can’t do what God is telling him he will do! Moses says, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent… for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” God’s response? “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”
So God comes to Moses in a piece of His glory, and all Moses can do is make excuses? I’m not surprised that God’s anger burned against him! I think mine would too.
It’s easy to turn around and be shocked and confused by how Moses could act this way. It’s easy to blame Moses for his reaction, but don’t we do the same thing? Doesn’t God come to us day after day? Don’t we have the ability to meet and talk with God as a man talks with his friend? Doesn’t God talk to us daily through His Word, the Bible, and His Holy Spirit? And how do we respond? “Oh, those commands don’t apply to me.” “That’s old testament law and doesn’t apply today.” “That’s just my imagination / conscience and not God trying to tell me something.” “If i go and talk to that person about God, they will just think that i’m a Bible thumper.” “Oh, I’ll let someone else do that.” “I know God wants me to love everyone, and tell them that He loves them, but i just don’t like them and i need to show them God’s love before i can tell them. So i need to wait until his Holy Spirit works in my heart and changes how i feel about them and towards them before i go and talk to them.”
So what are your excuses? I’ve already told you some of mine. What excuses and idols are you putting before God as “reasons” why you can’t do what He calls you to do?
Joseph is more than 37 years old at this point. He was sold into slavery at the age of 18. He has lived more of his life in Egypt than he ever did in Canaan. Now, for the first time in 19 or more years he comes face to face with his brothers. They sold him into slavery because of his dreams and their jealousy of him and their father’s love for him.
Now, here they are bowing on their faces before him. After more than 19 years, Joseph has the opportunity to exact his revenge. He could arrest them, imprison them, and sell them into slavery, or worse. He could mock them, laugh at them and let them starve to death. He could reveal himself and simply threaten their lives. So what does he do?
Joseph decides to test them. He wants to know if they are the same jealous, angry, bitter men that they were when he was a child. He wants to know if there is remorse or if there is humility and love. He wants to know if they care more about themselves, or if they care about their family. So he accuses them of being spies, questions them, and puts them for a short stay in prison. Then he tells them that in order to be released or to get more grain they need to bring their youngest brother Benjamin back to Egypt with them. Meanwhile, he took Simeon and held him until the other brothers returned with Benjamin.
The brothers return home and tell Jacob, their father, what happened in Egypt. Jacob is upset and as time goes by they begin to run out of grain again. The brothers know that they can’t return to Egypt empty handed, so Reuben takes responsibility for Benjamin placing Benjamin’s fate on his own sons heads.
Are there situations that occurred a lifetime ago that you are still bitter and angry about? Do you have anger and unforgiveness towards someone that did something to you, or have you forgiven and moved on. It’s not a question of whether there is someone who hurt you. I don’t think that there is a person over the age of 20 who does not have emotional scars from something someone said or did to them. The question is, what are you doing about it? Joseph tested his brothers to see if they were still angry and bitter towards him and his brother Benjamin, but at the same time, God was testing Joseph to see if he still held anger and hostility towards his brothers.
When (not if) you are tested, how will you respond? Have you allowed anger and bitterness to take root in your life. I know that this is something that i am struggling with, and that i am in the process of trying to deal with. What about you?
So Joseph does what he has learned to do. First he answers the question that Pharaoh poses to him. What does this mean? Then, without being asked and it appears without even a pause he answers the question that results from his answer. He starts out be telling Pharaoh what his dreams mean. There will be seven years of great abundance followed by seven years of great famine. Then he tells Pharaoh what needs to be done to prepare for and respond to the coming famine. One fifth of the produce of the land during the abundance needs to be stored away for the famine time.
As a result, Pharaoh sees God’s hand and blessing on Joseph and places him over the entire nation of Egypt. Joseph was 30 years old at this time. He spent almost half of his life as a slave in Egypt, and most of that time was spent in prison. But the whole time, God had a purpose for him. He wasn’t doing nothing and watching his life waste away. He wasn’t stuck with no hope and no future. God had a purpose for him, and this was that purpose!
God was preparing Joseph to not only excel, but to become the second in command of Egypt; to provide leadership and wisdom to prepare the people and nations for the coming blessings and famine; to save not just lives, but nations from perishing in the flood of famine that would hit for seven years. God had a plan, and that plan had a name. It simply took a life of disappointment and overcoming to prepare Joseph for that purpose… a purpose that was revealed and a change that was laid out, all in 1 day.
How do we see our lives? I know that i struggle sometimes trying to see how and why my life has turned out as it has. I have seen people pass and surpass me in life, and i wonder, ” Why do they get blessed, and it seems like i don’t?” Why do i so often feel rejected and pushed away by God. I know that that’s not really the case and that God has a plan for me as well, but i can’t help feeling sometimes that i have been abandoned and left to rot in prison for some unknown reason. I know it’s not really like that, but that’s how it feels sometimes. Ultimately though, I know that I have a hope, and that God has a plan. That it’s not really about me. It’s about Him, and i have to make sure that i don’t get myself in the way.
So what is your struggle?
John J. Camiolo Jr.