“A stiff-necked people”

Scripture reading for January 30: Exodus 32-34

In our reading today, the nation of Israel quickly turned away from their commitment to obey God alone.  Moses was on the mountain in the cloud and fire for 40 days.  He was receiving the tablets with the 10 Words from the Lord.  The people came to Aaron, who was left in charge and asked for gods who would lead them.  Aaron gave in quickly and asked for gold earrings and ornaments.  The people gave freely and soon Aaron had fashioned a golden calf as the god that led the people from Egypt.  They made hasty plans for a festival, built an altar and sacrificed.  They bowed down to the calf-god  made by Aaron. God’s anger and jealousy was aroused!

God spoke to Moses about the idolatry and told him to leave Him alone so He could destroy them.  (Exodus 32:8-10)  God’s verdict–“They are a stiff-necked people.”  Stubborness is as the evil of idolatry and rebellion is as the sin of divination.  (1st Samuel 15:23)  Sin leads to death!  God is jealous!  (Exodus 34:14)  God had just written the tablets on which he emphasized with two commands the order to have no gods before Him and to make no idols.  (Exodus 20:3-6)  Moses smashed the tablets in holy anger indicating the breaking of God’s Word by the very people who had sworn to obey!  (Exodus 32:19; Exodus 24:3)

Moses, however did pray and intercede with God, asking Him to spare the people.  He asked on the basis of God’s reputation and promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Moses was well aware of the Covenant and God’s promises!  These were precious promises that caused these patriarchs to live by faith and walk by faith.  God listened but judgment still fell on those who sinned.

Moses called for those on the Lord’s side and the Levites stepped up.  They had to strap on swords and execute those who participated in the idolatry, even if it was their brother, friend or neighbor!   (Exodus 33:27-2)  Three thousand were executed that day.  Sin is deadly, particularly idolatry!  God is jealous! Israel was His Bride!  From her would come His Son, the Messiah!

The lessons for us today are plain.  This loving and compassionate God (Exodus 34:6-7) will not tolerate idolatry and sexual immorality.  These nearly always occur together because they are closely related.  Lying goes with them, too. Note Aaron’s response about just throwing the gold into the fire and an idol coming out!  We are all born into idolatry.  The “self” or “Big I” is our first and biggest idol!  We are stiff-necked because we don’t want to get rid of this idol and truly worship God.  The sword represents a slaying of the flesh!  The flesh must be crucified!  Idolatry is a work of the flesh.  (Galatians 6:19-20)  The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God brings conviction which can lead us to repent and forsake idolatry!  We must walk by the Spirit and allow His fruit to grow in our lives.

Bow your neck today in reverence and prayer to the merciful and compassionate Lord who paid to free us from the sin of idolatry.  No more stiff-necks among the people of God!  Jesus is interceding for us like Moses of old.  Instead of smashing the tablets, He kept them fully for us and shed His blood to cleans us from sin and death!  What a Savior!

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