God’s stiff-necked people!
Scripture reading for January 30: Exodus 32-34
Exodus 32:9 “And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
The nation of Israel quickly turned away from their commitment to obey God alone. When Moses was on the mountain in the cloud and fire for 40 days, 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. From them Aaron fashioned a golden calf as the god that led them from Egypt. They made hasty plans for a festival, built an altar and sacrificed. They bowed down to the calf-god made by Aaron and God’s anger and jealousy was aroused!
God told Moses about the idolatry and His plans to destroy them. God’s verdict–“They are a stiff-necked people.” (Exodus 34:14) God had just written the tablets on which He emphasized with two commands His 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 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. 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 were told to strap on swords and execute those who participated in the idolatry, even if it was their brother, friend or neighbor! (Exodus 33:27-28) Three thousand were executed that day. Sin is deadly, particularly idolatry! God was jealous because Israel was His Bride! The Messiah, God Son, would be born through her.
What forms does idolatry take in our culture today? Why are God’s people sometimes characterized as stiff-necked?’ What does the Levites using their swords to kill the idolater tell you about our response?