People of Unbelief and Rebellion

I. Introduction

Today’s bible trivia question:  Why is our study book called the Book of Numbers? Slide3.JPG

The Book of Numbers is of great historical significance because the Lord ordered the first census of the Israelites.  Numbers chapters 1-10 have an awful lot of “begats” – that’s when most people, reading the bible in traditional sequence, get bogged down, or should I say begatted down – but the book of Numbers also gives us historical and genealogical record of the Israelites.

As the book of Numbers opens, the Israelites have been camped near Mount Sinai for more than a year.  Moses has brought all the laws and regulations recorded in the book of Leviticus, the tabernacle has been built, priests are busy doing priestly things.  The Israelites are well-equipped to be a new nation of God’s chosen people.  It is now time to move into Canaan and take the land.

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To prepare for Canaan, Moses and Aaron were told by God to take a census, number the men who were able to serve in the army, get the people organized by tribe.   This book is named for this census, or numbering of the people.  But the book of Numbers could just as well been named the Book of Grumpiness.  From the beginning of Numbers to the end, it tells the story of rebellion, unbelief, and grumblings.

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As the Israelite set out from the wilderness of Sinai on their journey to the Promised Land, silver trumpets were used to coordinate their stopping and going. God’s presence was always with them – a cloud of shade by day and a pillar of fire as their night light. They were literally guided one step at a time. Each time the cloud or pillar signaled a move, Moses prayed to God for guidance and victory, each time they were signaled to stop, he asked for God’s presence to rest with His people. No matter how many times they started or stopped, Moses would repeat these prayers. Let’s look at the end of Chapter 10:

Numbers 10:33-36, (Chronological Bible page 227, March 1)
So they departed from the mountain of the LORD on a journey of three days; and the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them for the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them.  And the cloud of the LORD was above them by day when they went out from the camp.  So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said: Rise up, O LORD! Let your enemies be scattered, And let those who hate You flee before You.”  And when it rested, he said: “Return, O LORD, To the many thousands of Israel.”

Moses feared and worshipped the Lord above everything else and put Him first in the life of the people.  The people of Israel?  Not so much.

Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, man has struggled to live by faith in the goodness of God and by the Word of God.  Instead, we continue to live by sight, trapped in our fleshly existence, blind to spiritual truth and spiritual reality.  In the book of Numbers, Israel has the promises of God regarding their existence and their land, plus the very presence of God in their midst.  But still they walk in rebellion and unbelief.  Today’s lesson will focus on four scenes from Numbers 11-16 that illustrate the depravity of the human heart.

Why do we study the Old Testament?  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10 that specifically this Book of Numbers is a warning to believers.  In 1 Corinthians 10:6, 10-11 Paul says:

Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted… nor complain and were destroyed by the destroyer.  Now all these things happened to them as examples and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

We are to note what God’s people did in the past and how their decisions affected their relationship with Him, in order to move forward with our own faith in the present. So, in looking at our passages for today, we are going to look at what NOT to do as God’s chosen people.  I’m reminded of some sage advice my grandfather gave to me.  He’d say, “Son, if you can’t be a good example, then do your best to be a horrible warning.”

II. #1 on the List of Things Not to Do: Grumble and Complain about God’s Blessings

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Let’s look at Numbers 11:1-2 (Chronological Bible page 228, March 2) –

Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the LORD burned among them, and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.  Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the LORD, the fire was quenched.

Did your parents ever same something like, “quit whining or I’ll give you something to whine about.”  That is exactly what the Lord did.  Whatever they were complaining about was so insignificant that it wasn’t even recorded.  The Lord send a warning of fire, and the people cried out to Moses and Moses interceded on their behalf.

What did the Israelite do in response?  The continued to complain. Numbers 11:4-6:

Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: Who will give us meat to eat?  We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and then garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!

Whaaaah.  All we have is this stupid manna.  When we are discontented with our current situation, we have troubles remembering how blessed we are.  The Israelites “forgot” they were in bondage and slavery in Egypt and only remembered the “flesh pleasing” things.

Though manna was miraculously provided and was healthy nourishment, they tired of this provision from the Lord and lusted for other things.

Numbers 11:10-11,13-15, page 228:

Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families; everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased.  So Moses said to the LORD, “Why have you afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you have laid the burden of these people on me? … Where am I to get meat to give all these people? For they weep all over me, saying “Give us meat that we may eat.” I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.  If you treat me like this, please kill me here and now- if I have found favor in your sight- and do not let me see my wretchedness!

The people were complaining and Moses was complaining about their complaining! “Just kill me now,” he tells the Lord. “This job is too hard!”  And yet Moses is humble and realizes that he is no better than they are!

It takes faith to accept God’s guidance and Israel’s faith wasn’t very strong. Among other things, mixed in among them during their journey were unbelievers that God had warned them about.  The Israelites listed to these unbelievers who convinced the Israelites that maybe God wasn’t all good, maybe God was withholding something good from them.  The people stopped appreciating their blessings and instead focused on what they didn’t have.

Even God’s people too easily forget what God has done and we grumble and complain about what we don’t have.  Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:14-16:

Do some things…. No wait, do a few things… no, Paul says…

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

Complaining is contagious. Discontentment is at the top of the slippery slope of sin. When we rebel against Him, God often gives us our own way, which can lead to our destruction.

Let’s continue in Numbers 11:31-33, page 229

Now a wind went out from the LORD, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground.  And the people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers), and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp.  But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague.

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The Lord gave them what they wanted, and it killed them.  Moses called the place “the graves of lust.”  It served as a reminder to the danger of asking for “my will be done” over “Thy will be done.”  In both Exodus and Deuteronomy, the Lord warned Israel that the way they treated the daily manna would be a test of their obedience to His Word.  By rejecting the manna, by rejecting the blessings, Israel really rejected the Lord and it was this rebellious attitude that invited the judgment of God.

III. #2 on the List of Things Not to Do: Tell God He’s Not the Boss of You

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Everyone in Israel knew that Moses, Aaron, and  Moses’ sister Miriam were God’s chosen servants, but that Moses was designated by God as the leader. This had been evident from before they were brought out of Egypt.  God had used Miriam to save Moses’ life and to lead women in worship.  Aaron was the older brother chosen to help Moses with Pharaoh and to serve as the first High Priest.  But Moses was the one to whom God spoke to and spoke through as the leader of Israel.   But even among spiritual leaders, the sin of envy is ever present.  “Envy” says, “that’s not fair! Why not me?” and it can affect anyone at any time

Numbers 12: 1-10 (Chronological Bible page 229, March 2).

Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman.  So they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it.  (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)

Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” So the three came out.  Then the LORD came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward.  Then He said,

“Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.  Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house.

I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?”

So the anger of the LORD was aroused against them, and He departed.  And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper.

Slide18.JPGDespite the Lord clearly talking to Moses, Miriam attempts to be the boss, and convinces Aaron to join her in this rebellion.  The Lord was angry and deals swiftly with her.  At this point Aaron begs Moses to intercede, and Moses cries out to the LORD, saying, “Please heal her, O God!”  So the LORD tells Moses to basically lock her outside the camp for a week and then the Lord will heal her.
God made it very clear that He was in control, God selects the leaders and the people were to respect their authority.  Rebelling against His appointed leaders is the same as rebelling against the Lord.

When you review the history of Israel and their journey from Egypt to Canaan, you see that every time they resisted the Lord’s selected authority, it caused them great trouble.  As the Lord sought to bring them through difficult situations and build their faith, they rebelled against His authority, blamed those He put in charge and made plans to return to Egypt.  No society can function without authority and submission.  God’s plan wasn’t just to free them from slavery but to establish Israel as a nation.

IV. #3 on the List of Things Not to Do: Doubt God’s Plan

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Israel had journeyed from Mount Sinai on their way to Canaan.  Just before they get to the Promised Land, Israel sent out spies to look over the land which they were to possess.

Numbers 13:1-3 (page 230, March 2):

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.  So Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran according to the command of the LORD, all of them men who were heads of the children of Israel.

Notice that the Lord’s promise: I am giving this land to the Israelites.  No conditions attached, it’s yours.  Moses selects twelve men to travel to Canaan to survey the land in Numbers 13:4-16, way too many names to read, but this is where we first meet Caleb.  Joshua we met earlier in Exodus 17 as one of Moses’s generals and Joshua also went up Mount Sinai with Moses in Exodus 24.

Moses sends the twelve spies to the land of Canaan on a reconnaissance mission.  You know, check out the schools, the cost of living, local museums, that sort of thing.  The spies are told to bring back evidence that this is indeed the land of milk and honey.  In Numbers 13:21-25,

So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin […]  When they reached the Valley of Eshcol, they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs.  […]  At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.

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Can you imagine a single cluster of grapes so large that two men have to carry it on a pole between them?  At the end of 40 days, the spies return to Moses and say in Numbers 13:26-29,

They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.

But…. You knew there was a “but,” didn’t you?

But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.

Caleb demonstrates his faith in God’s promises by saying in verse 30,

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

It’s ours.  What are we waiting for?

The other 10 spies begin to spread a false report out of fear.  The land isn’t good anyway and we can’t move in.  They’re asking for 1st and last month’s rent in advance.  The people doubt God’s plan out of fear.

Which brings us to a question.  Where is your faith?  Is it in God’s promises, or is it your own eyes?  Let’s same your name is John Ruiz, you’re a boxer from the USA, and your opponent on December 7, 2005 is Nikolai Valuev, nicknamed “the Beast from the East.”

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Nikolai is 7’ 2” and weighs 323 pounds.  You look at him like one of the giants from Canaan and you feel like you have zero chance.  You are like a grasshopper in his eyes, and worse, you look like a grasshopper in your own eyes, too.

John Ruiz wasn’t afraid to take the fight to Nikolai.  In that way, he was like Caleb.  I love what John Ruiz said the night before the fight, “I plan on taking the fight to him.  His head is the size of a Volkswagen.  I can’t miss.”

Twelve spies went into the Promised Land. Ten saw obstacles, and two saw opportunities.  It’s a matter of perspective, and it’s the difference between fear and faith. Ten spies looked up and saw giants, Joshua and Caleb looked up and saw God.  And what did the people do?

They freaked out.

In chapter 14 it says they wept all night, then complained against Moses and Aaron. They cried out, “We are going to die!  It would have been better if we had died in Egypt, or in the wilderness.”  And then they started planning to select a new leader and go back to Egypt.

Fortunately, God’s selected leaders stood up to speak in verse 5:

Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.

But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land.  If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’  Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”

And what was the people’s response? Were they supportive?  Humbled?  Agreeable?  No, verse 10:

And all the congregation said to stone them with stones.

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After hearing the criticism, the doubts, the fears, Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the Lord and prayed for them.   Joshua and Caleb try to encourage the multitude and inspire their faith. “The Lord will do it,” they proclaim. “The Lord is with us!”  But no, fear and rebellion ran deep.

Then the Lord spoke, verse 11

… “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?  I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”

Once again Moses prays,

And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying,  ‘The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’  Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”

Moses appeals to the Lord based on the Lord’s attributes, reputation, and character.  Moses fights his battles from his knees.
And so, the Lord determined that they would wander in the wilderness until all this faithless generation perished, those 20 years and older, except Caleb and Joshua. Only these two would be able to enter the Promised Land. Why? Because Joshua and Caleb followed the Lord with complete faith and trust.

This story tells the story of many of our lives. It was God’s plan that the children of Israel should go straight into the land He had promised them, the land of Canaan, but the people would not. We can put difficulties between ourselves and God like the people of Israel or put God in between ourselves and our difficulties like Joshua and Caleb. The Lord wanted them to enter the Promised Land, but their fear and unbelief kept them out. Their faith failed. They doubted God’s plan.

Is your fear keeping you from all that God has for you? Fear can paralyze even the bravest of hearts. Joshua and Caleb weren’t blind to the giants in their lives.  They just remembered God’s promise, and God was bigger than any giant.

V. Conclusion

God demonstrated His goodness, grace, and mercy by choosing Abraham and His descendants as His own special people, rescuing them from Egypt and leading them to the Promise Land. And yet, Israel’s response to God’s favor reflects the proud, stubborn, rebellious heart of all humanity.  People haven’t changed in thousands of years.  We continually question whether God is good and whether God keeps his promises.

In our lesson today, we have learned that indeed, if one cannot be a good example than one can be a horrible warning.  To stay on the path of the righteous, to walk in the way of the Lord, avoid these horrible warnings:

• Grumble and Complain about God’s Blessings
• Tell God He’s Not the Boss of You
• Doubt God’s Plan

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Or if you want to walk in the way of the Lord, do the opposite –

• Give Thanks and Praise
• Submit to God’s Love
• Trust in the Lord’s Promises

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To God be the Glory.  Amen.

The God People Want

I.      Introduction

So this week’s lesson finds God’s people in the wilderness worshipping a golden calf. If you’ve been reading along in the chronological bible, you might wonder how we have strayed so far from God’s plan for us in the Garden of Eden. What was God’s plan for Israel?

  • God’s plan: Garden of Eden
  • Israel’s plan: Desert

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II.      Background

But God is faithful and continually rescues us from our own choices.

After Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden because of their sin, we then read about the sons of Adam and how they continually chose sin. God literally washed away their sins in the age of Noah, bringing a flood, but even Noah’s children and grandchildren strayed from God’s plan.

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Then we get to Abraham, Adam’s 17th generation grandson. The Lord told Abraham in Genesis 15:3-18 that Abraham’s descendants would be more numerous than stars in the sky, but first, due to man’s choices, they would live as captives in a foreign land for 400 years before God would rescue them, deliver them, punish their captors, and return Israel to the land of Canaan.

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Joseph, through the actions of his jealous brothers, is sold into slavery to the Egyptians, but God brings him through the pit, the prison, the palace, and makes him Pharaoh’s prime minister, second in command. Through famine, Abraham’s family relocates to Egypt. Over the next 400 years, they lived with Pharaoh’s blessing and grew from 70 people of Abraham’s family to a nation of several million people.

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But eventually Joseph dies. The Egyptians forget what Joseph and the Israelites have done for them. Pharaoh enslaves the people of Israel. The people cry out to God for salvation.

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God answers. God raises up a deliverer, Moses, to fulfill the promise God made to Abraham, to bring His people back to the land of Canaan after 400 years. To save His people, God provide amazing miracles. Turning a staff into a serpent, bringing the plagues to Egypt, turning the Nile into blood, parting of the Red Sea. God will do anything to deliver His people.

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The walk from Egypt to Canaan isn’t far. From Cairo to Jerusalem is about 300 miles. At 20 miles a day, should take about 2 weeks to walk there. Or an hour and 20 minutes if you fly Turkish Air. But due to Israel’s unbelief and rebellion, instead of 2 weeks to cross the wilderness, it takes 40 years. Not one man stopped to ask for directions. I just wonder how long it took for one of the wives to say to their husband, “Seriously? You’re not going to pull over and ask for directions?”

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The rest of Israel’s children weren’t any better. “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? I wanna go home!” Instead of acting in faith and trust, instead of being grateful for their freedom, Israel whined, complained. They blamed God and Moses for their circumstances. They even threated to turn this car around right now and go back to Egypt and live in slavery again.

As we read along in our Chronological bible, this is what’s happened this week –

  • Saturday – Tuesday: God frees the Israelites from slavery after the ten plagues
  • Wednesday: God provides their daily needs, mana and quail, on the journey
  • Thursday: God establishes the Ten Commandments and other parameters for being a free people
  • Friday: God makes a Covenant with Moses which is accepted by the Israelites
  • Saturday: God gives plans for the Ark of the Covenant, the Table, Lampstand, Tabernacle; all items that will point Israel to worship the One True God, Jehovah. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  • Sunday (today): God is very specific on the elements, craftsmanship, and reverence for the Tabernacle, worship and observing the Sabbath.

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Today’s lesson will actually cover tomorrow’s daily scripture reading. Some of you have asked me how the lessons line up with the reading, so I make this list for this week. Sometimes our lessons will be based on what we just read the previous week, sometimes the lessons will be for the same weekend, and sometimes it will be the day after or even the week after bible study. Don’t let that discombobulate you.

During this week, all of God’s directions, promises, blessings are communicated to the people in specific ways. God spoke to Moses on the mountain, and the people below could hear thunder, see lightening and even smoke coming from the mountain.

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And it becomes a regular pattern. Moses goes up the mountain to talk to God. Moses goes down from the mount to talk to the people. Moses goes up the mountain, comes down the mountain. He goes up the mountain…

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III.      The God People Want

Where is Moses? Why didn’t he come down from the mountain? And that brings us to today’s bible study of Exodus 32. Moses went up the mountain to talk to God. The expectation of the people was that Moses would come back at a specific time. They expected God to do something on their schedule. But Moses is still on the mountain.

This is the same mountain where they had seen fire and smoke, thunder and lightning. They knew God was at work on the mountain in a significant way and been delivering messages, guidance, instructions for a tabernacle and an ark.

They also knew that Moses had a connection with God that was unique and powerful. They had seen this first-hand as they crossed the Red Sea and received water and manna from heaven. They were standing where they were, at the foot of the Mountain, because of the leadership of Moses under the guidance and authority of God.

Not that I am ever impatient when waiting on the Lord.

God to me: Me to God:
Psalm 46:10a Psalm 83:1
“Be still, and know that I am God.” “O God, do not remain silent.”

What was God doing? Exodus 31:18 –

When He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.

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After all the instructions for building a temple, the ark, the commandments, God write Moses a personal letter. With God’s own finger. From our perspective, maybe not as big as parting the red sea, but God stepped out of heaven to take action in our world and created a miracle and engraved the Ten Commandments into stone.

The fingers of God have been at work since the beginning of creation. We saw it in the Creation Era. And now the finger of God has given us solid instructions in stone on how to live as a covenant people in the Patriarch Era. And Moses was holding that personal letter of stone. Moses was intimate with God; God spoke to Moses in a unique, personal, intense, and extraordinary way.

So, Moses was still on the mountain and the people were down below in the wilderness. We know from Exodus 24 that Moses was up on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights. Before the 40 days were over, the people became impatient that God wasn’t following the expected timetable. The people has become impatient with God.

If you’ve been a Christian a long time, this has probably happened to you. You have a difficult decision to make or a need for an answered prayer. You pray and you study, and God answers. The next time you have a difficult decision or a need for an answered prayer, you pray and you study…

Nothing but silence. Stillness. Quietness. God is not responding the way you expect. God is still on His mountain, and all you hear is the silence.

And the people of Israel waited for Moses and in Exodus 32:1,

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

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Sometime before the 40 days were up, the impatience of the people reared its ugly head. Notice how it says, “as for this Moses.” Not, “I hope that man who led us out of Egypt is ok.” It’s “this Moses. Yeah, I know we saw the fire on the mountain and heard the thunder, but hey. Now it’s this Moses.” What has he done for us lately?

The people “gathered together;” God is too slow, let’s take action. And they didn’t ask Aaron, they demanded, “Come and make us a god.” Exodus 32:2,

And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool and made a molded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

Slide15.JPGWhere did they get all this gold? Exodus 3:21-22 as Moses was getting ready to lead them out of Egypt, God says,

I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor and the woman who lives in her house, articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and you will put them on your sons and daughters. Thus you will plunder the Egyptians.”

In order to prepare the Israelites for the journey through the wilderness, the Lord provided everything they needed, and the gold had come from their captors. The Lord has provided these blessings to the people, and the people used these blessings to fashion an idol and blaspheme the Lord.

The people wanted a man-made god. A god that they would have to pick up and carry. A convenient god, there when they need it. One that they could see and feel, perhaps rub it for luck. And lest we think the Israelites are idiots, that’s exactly what we the people crave today. A convenient god, there to fulfill our wishes. A god who has eyes, but cannot see, like Adam and Eve who didn’t want God to see them in their nakedness and sin. A god who appears strong, a mighty bull, but in reality lacks power, unable to punish our sins. A god who is here before us but demands nothing of us. In other words, a god who doesn’t interfere with our lives.

The people want a god that allows them to express themselves sexually, immorally, and without restraint or judgment. A god who only appears powerful.

Not even Christians are immune to this. Many Christians are only familiar with a couple of verse – God makes all things good, God has plans to prosper you, Jesus is the way, the truth and the light. Truth is, though, is that God is far more complex than that. Last month when we studied Job, we studied how God can lift his hand of protection, and God has a purpose for everything, including suffering.

Truth is, not every verse found in the bible can be embroidered on a pillow. Certainly not Judges 19:29,

When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.

Or Psalm 38:7,

For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease, and there is no soundness in my flesh.

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And yet, we just skip over uncomfortable verses because we want to believe our God is only a God of love and mercy, but not a God of wrath and justice. And yet we cannot truly understand His love and mercy without also understanding God’s wrath and justice and how he saved us from our sins.

Aaron was the brother of Moses, a leader of the people, the first priest of the Israelites. And on his first day of the job has already broken the first three commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,” and “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Three strikes, you’re out.

Exodus 32:5,

So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.” Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

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Now this is a god the people like. So the people rose up to eat, drink, and party.

How long did it take for the people to go from following God out of Egypt to making a false idol and partying? Less than 40 days, barely a month.

Did God notice? Our God sees everything.   Our God is not the God we want Him to be. Our God is the God who is.

IV.      The God Who Is

Exodus 32:7-10,

And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ” And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now, therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”

God did indeed notice, and God’s holy response to sin is wrath. In barely a month, after all that God had done for His people, they had forsaken God’s commands.

The people are described as “stiff-necked”. It’s two Hebrew words, qasheh `oreph (קָשֶׁה עֹרֶף). It’s literally “hard of neck,” a phrase all-too-familiar to the Israelite. They used an ox for plowing, and the plowman used one hand to guide the plow, and the other hand held an “ox goad,” a light pole with an iron spike on the end of it. He would use the ox goad to tap the ox on the neck to turn it. If an ox was hard to control or it was stubborn, it was “hard of neck.” In scripture, this means the “stiff-necked” people were stubborn and non-responsive to God’s guidance. Oh yes, God knew these people. And He knows you and me. God’s response to sin is not to destroy the calf, but to destroy the idol worshipper.

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And Moses is still up on the mountain, Exodus 32:11-14,

Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

Moses’ prayer is not bargaining, it’s intercession. He prays for the people. Verse 11 says Moses “pleaded” and the Hebrew word is חָלָה châlâh and very difficult to translate. Often used to indicate illness or wounded, these are various translations –

  • NASB – Entreated
  • NIV – Sought
  • NLT – Pacify
  • ESV – Implored
  • KJV – Besought
  • HCSB – Interceded

So Moses interceded in prayer for his people. Moses is considered a “type of Christ,” something I didn’t really understand until I spent some time with that phrase. The bible itself defines what “type of Christ” means, but there are 4 different words used,

  1. typos “type” (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 10:6,11);
  2. skia “shadow” (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5; 10:1);
  3. hypodeigma “copy” (Hebrews 8:5; 9:23); and
  4. sémeion “sign” (Matthew 12:39).

Some Old Testament stories are shadows of prophecy and truth yet to come about our Savior. Moses is considered a “type of Christ,” and as special as Moses was with his relationship with God, Moses himself says a greater prophet will arise. Moses delivered the people from Egypt, but Christ will deliver the people from our sin. And so Moses intercedes on behalf of his people, pleading for their lives. And prayer changes God’s mind.

That always amazed me, that prayer can change the mind of God. But Moses was a high priest, a type of Christ! Well you know what? So are you. And so am I, and all believers. We are the priesthood of Christ, we are to show the light of Christ within us. 1 Peter 2:9 says,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

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James 5:16 says

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

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It amazes me that the God of the Universe loves my prayers and God acts on those prayers.

But the caveat is that it’s the effective prayer of a righteous person. Righteous in Jesus Christ, asking for things that are in God’s will… and I probably resemble Aaron more than I’d like to admit, more than I resemble Moses or Christ. After pleading to God, Moses finally goes back down the mountain, and in Exodus 32:21-24,

And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this person do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people that they are prone to evil. For they said to me, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”

So Moses pleads for his people. Aaron says, “those people are evil. Me, I just threw a bunch of gold in the fire. Whoa, look, a cow came out.”

V.      Conclusion

While we are called to be a royal priesthood, sin is always crouching at our door. We must be vigilant, on guard, and patiently waiting on the Lord.

Remember this?

  • God’s plan: Garden of Eden
  • Our plan: Desert

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Let’s update this photo for today’s world.

  • God’s plan: Heaven
  • Our plan: golden calf

Slide30.JPGThe god people want is a god that tolerates everything the golden calf stood for. Immorality. Selfishness. Irreverence. Impatience. Rejection of God’s teaching so that they can mold a god that is less judgmental and more tolerant of their lifestyle. A god that only appears powerful but cannot see any wrongdoing. A god that answers every sin with, “God just wants me to be happy.”

But we can’t make God into something. God is who He is. He is fire, He is wrath, He is mercy, He is love. He is faithful, He is mighty, He is strong, He is power, He is God of all the ages, He is the truth, He is the light out of the darkness, He is Holy, He is Holy, He is Holy. The beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord and who God truly is, and not a golden calf representing our desire to eat, drink, and party.

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After we leave this classroom, after we leave this church, and we return to the world and the worldly ways, don’t let the world tell you who God is. Study the bible, put on the whole armor of God, and let God tell you who He is.

To God be the Glory. Amen.

Confrontation

I.      Introduction

Good morning, everyone.  Our lesson for this week is from Exodus 7, but I sort of felt the lesson this week should be on Exodus 14 where Moses parts the Red Sea.  Or maybe Genesis 7 about Noah and the Great Flood.  Or maybe we’re all worn out from talking about floodwaters.

Slide2The last time I taught seems so long ago now, even though it’s only been 3 weeks.  It was an appropriate lesson for what was about to come; the lesson was from Psalm 141 about how God is our protector, both from our seven deadly sins within, but also from dangers without, both seen and unseen.  Psalm 141:8 said,

But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge – do not give me over to death.

I firmly believe that the Lord is our great protector.  He is our Rock.  He is where our help comes from.  And every one of us in this room is testimony to God’s protection.  God spoke to each of us individually through our trials.  To some, He provided comfort in the darkest, windiest rain and flood.  To others, He encouraged us to live beyond our comfort, to love one another as Christ loved us.  In our most extraordinary times, God speaks to us.

Would anybody like to share what they learned from God this week?

II.      Adopted Children of God

Today we are in Exodus 7 and we are going to look at the subject of confrontation, first between Pharaoh and Moses, but then between God and us.  Let’s start by opening our bibles to Exodus 7:1-7.  Ok, I was supposed to hear pages turning.  Here’s today’s scripture –

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.  You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land.  But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.  When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments.  The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.”  So Moses and Aaron did it; as the Lord commanded them, thus they did.  Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

Let’s look at a couple of themes in Exodus 7.  The first thing is who we are in Christ.  When we move from nonbelief to belief, we also change our family tree.  As nonbelievers, we are children of Satan and do not even know it.  In John 8:44, Jesus says to the Jews,Slide6

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.

Unless our words and deeds are bringing glory to God through Jesus Christ, then our words and deeds reflect the ill wishes of the devil.  Even when we are trying to do good, we are taking away from the glory that should be given to God.  We are opposed to God.

But when we accept that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, we become adopted children.  Galatians 4:7 says,Slide7

Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

We are either sons of the devil or sons of God.  We are either slaves to sin or bondservants of Christ.  And when we look at Exodus 7 again, this is what the Lord told Moses:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh.

Maybe I misunderstood the word “God”?  The Hebrew word is Elohiym.  The same word can be used to speak of our Creator, the supreme God.  Nope, I didn’t misunderstand.  God either told Moses that Moses was God or that Moses was like a god.

Don’t’ be shy.  We are ambassadors for Christ, and God, through the Holy Spirit dwells within us.  When we speak to nonbelievers, there is no reason to be afraid, for we are adopted children of God.  And when He is for us, who can be against us?

I love that song by Matthew West called, “Hello My Name is”.  It starts off, “Hello my name is regret, I’m pretty sure we have met.”  And, “Hello my name is defeat, I know you recognize me.”

Oh, these are the voices. Oh, these are the lies
And I have believed them for the very last time

Hello, my name is child of the one true King
I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, I have been set free
“Amazing Grace” is the song I sing
Hello, my name is child of the one true King

The world may try to bring us down, but we are children of God.  Hello, my name is child of the one true King.  There is no reason to ever back down from our faith because God is our protector and God is our father.

The song goes on,

Whoa oh ah oh ah oh oh
Whoa oh ah oh ah oh oh
Whoa oh ah oh ah oh oh

But try as I might I have no idea of the theological significance of this part of the song.  Or why somebody might thing the phrase, “child of the one true king” could possibly be improved by adding, “Whoa oh ah oh ah oh oh.”

III.      Hardened Hearts

But if one is not a “child of the one true king,” then one is a nonbeliever and a child of the devil.  Literally every one of us is at one point in our lives because of our fallen nature.  And every nonbeliever will have to make a choice to accept or reject Christ.

Nonbelievers do not think this is a choice they have to make, of course.  They may say their truth lies elsewhere or they are following a different path.  But that’s the same thing as rejecting Jesus.  If you do not follow Him, you are rejecting Him.

Let’s go back and look at today’s scripture, Exodus 7,

But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.  When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments.  The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.”

I notice several things to unpack from this.  Let’s start with “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.”  When I first read this, I thought, “dang that’s cruel, Pharaoh never had a chance if God is hardening his heart.”

But that’s not the whole picture.  God revealed Himself to many rulers over the centuries, and like everybody else, Pharaoh had the choice whether to follow God or not.  Several kings saw God’s hand at work, like in Daniel 6.  King Darius was sort of tricked by his advisors into issuing a decree that required Daniel to be thrown into the lion’s den.  Darius was very fond of Daniel, but the king could not break his own decree.  Daniel 6:16-20,

So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.  Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den.  When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

Darius certainly recognized God’s providence.  I think Pharaoh did, too, but unlike Darius, Pharaoh believed he was a god.  And the Egyptians had their own gods, and I believed Pharaoh thought he could win any battle with Jehovah God.

God still hardens hearts today.  On one hand, God doesn’t wish for anyone to perish but to have everlasting life.  But it is a choice we make.  And if the choice is truly ours to make, then some will choose not to accept the free gift, either through willful disobedience, through ignorance, or through selfish desires.

God makes it clear to everyone, believers and nonbelievers, that He is God.  Romans 1:18-20,Slide15

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

And if one continually rejects this truth, Romans 1:28-32 goes on to say,

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

In other words, God hardens their hearts.  When we are sharing the gospel, that’s our sole job, to share the gospel.  We are not responsible for what someone chooses to believe.  And we have to aware that there are some people that have practiced the art of rejection so long and so well that they will never receive free gifts offered to them.

IV.      Judgments and Wrath

We just looked at Romans 1, but let’s put it side by side with Exodus 7 for a second:

Exodus 7:4-5 Romans 1:18-19
When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

In Exodus, “I will stretch out my hand” and bring “great judgements.”  In Romans, “the wrath of God is revealed.”  The wrath of God is a demonstration of His power.  Where have we seen the wrath of God lately?  How about Hurricane Harvey?

And the people of Florida, of course, are living a repeat of this with Hurricane Irma.  Atheists, nonbelievers, Christians, all look at the same thing and see something completely different.  Atheist and nonbelievers say, “if God exists, why does He allow this to happen?  Is God small and powerless to stop it?  Is God vindictive and mean?  Or doesn’t this prove God doesn’t exist?”  Their hearts are hardened.

Christians look at the storm and know that our God who can create a storm that big is bigger than the storm He created.  I can either fear the created storm, or I can trust in the God who can direct the wind and waves.

Romans 1:18 says the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness.  I am not about to point fingers at any particular demonstration of God’s wrath and say it is for a particular ungodliness.  No, I see God’s hand at work in so very different ways, either as demonstration of His power, or giving us an opportunity to trust Him, and I have to say that most of what I read about Houston and Texas and the nation throughout this crisis has been so very, very positive.  We really do have it within us to love one another, and when we love one another, we have incredible joy in the love of our fellow man, and it’s just a shame that it takes such destruction before we’re all willing to get out of our comfort zone and help one another.

But it also tells me, like it says in Romans 1:18, that the wrath of God has been revealed against ungodliness and unrighteousness.  God has made it evident.

God’s wrath against Pharaoh was very specific.  I watched that Charles Heston movie about the Ten Commandments and remember the 10 plagues very vividly.  They were frogs and locusts and, um, bad traffic, and um… oh, the river turned to blood.  And there was something about cows maybe…

But I’ve found through this week’s study that the 10 plagues were very specific, and Pharaoh knew exactly what was happening.  God was demonstrating His power against the puny gods of the Egyptians.  Here are the 10 Plagues –

  1. Plague #1: Water Turned to Blood.  There were 3 different gods associated with the Nile:
    1. Khnum, Guardian of the river’s source
    2. Hapi, Spirit of the Nile
    3. Osiris, who’s bloodstream was the Nile
  2. Plague #2, Frogs:
    1. Hapi and
    2. Heqt, Frog Goddesses to Egypt, both related to fertility
  3. Plague #3, Lice:
    1. Seb, the earth god of Egypt
  4. Plague #4, Flies:
    1. Uatchit, the fly god of Egypt
  5. Plague #5, Disease on cattle:
    1. Ptah
    2. Mnevis
    3. Hathor, and
    4. Amon, Egyptian gods associated with bulls and cows.
  6. Plague #6, Boils: Sekhmet, Egyptian god of epidemics, and Ser
  7. Plague #7, Hail:
    1. Nut, Egyptian sky goddess.
    2. Isis & Seth, Egyptian agriculture deities.
    3. Shu, Egyptian god of the atmosphere.
  8. Plague #8, Locusts
    1. Serapia, Egyptian deity protector from locusts
  9. Plague #9, Darkness
    1. Re, Amon-Re, Aten, Atum, Horus – Egyptian sun gods
    2. Thoth – Egyptian moon god
  10. Plague #10, Death of each Firstborn
    1. This plague was a judgment on all of Egypt’s gods, including Pharaoh himself. In Exodus 1, Pharaoh had killed the sons Of Israel. Now the Lord kills the firstborn sons Of the Egyptians.

The plagues were not random that afflicted the Egyptians.  God was demonstrating to Pharaoh that God is God, and Pharaoh was not.  As Romans 1 and Exodus 7 says,

Exodus 7:4-5 Romans 1:18-19
When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

The wrath of God is revealed.  Pharaoh thought he could win a battle with Jehovah God.  But Pharaoh never realized because his heart was hard that he was never in a battle.  There is God’s will or God’s wrath.  Choose.

V.      Conclusion

God demonstrates His power in so many ways, from small coincidences to displaying His awesome power.  But for those who love Him, there is no fear.  Our God is bigger than any storm.

I am so proud of our city, and how we pulled together, from supplies to boats to rescues, it rekindled my faith in man’s potential to be good.  But mostly it showed me that whatever little god I’ve put in front of me to worship, like cars or houses or money or time, God is bigger, and God alone deserves to be worshiped.  Romans 8:20,

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For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

I hope and pray that each one of us realized something about God’s power this week.  The power we saw this last week pales next to the wrath yet to come during the end times, the Seven Bowls of Wrath listed in Revelation 16.   We cannot win a confrontation with God.  He is God, and we are not.

And I hope also that we all realize that each one of us can have this same power living within us.  If you haven’t yet accepted Jesus Christ as Lord, it’s time to realize that you are either growing in faith, or our hearts are being hardened.  One cannot win a confrontation with God, but with faith, we can move mountains and we can survive hurricanes.

To God be the glory.  Amen.