CUP HALF FULL OR EMPTY?
After God admonished Israel for the golden calf, he gave them some promise. He would provide an angel to clear the way to the promised land. But he assumed some distance to protect this rebellious people from his judgment.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it: And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite: Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way. And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments. Exodus 33:1-4
The late Dr. Ben David Lew published a bible that featured the Lord’s words in red in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. I do this here to illustrate his words also.
Notice that the people have a great promise, and they only hear the warning against their stubbornness. It is as if they know they intend to rebel, and expect cursing instead of blessing. At least they believe that God will keep his promises now. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom at least. But they would not have God’s presence on their journey. What a way to go to school!
I find people willing to join a ministry, yet reluctant to commit to any actual participation. They will begin the journey, and then panic at the edge of the Red Sea. They will believe the evil report, and make plans to be rebellious. They can hear the warnings, and yet resign themselves to their doom because they know the evil in their own hearts. We know that we can not proceed on the strength of our own works.
Do we still harbor our secret sins, even knowing that God sees our hearts? And somewhere in this heart I know he will have a lesson plan waiting for that adventure too. God has provided our need in lesson plans that will repair our weakness. Oh man, school is not out forever!
Indeed, these people have the beginning of wisdom (fear of God), because they knew not to wear their ornaments. The Lord soon told them not to wear these jewelry items. They had taken a step closer. Moses now asked God to step closer too.
And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people. Exodus 33:12-13
Moses again intercedes for the people in spite of their sin that has so angered God. He also asks God to go with the people into the promised land.
And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name. Exodus 33:15-17
While he is asking such great favors, Moses gets a little bold and asks for something more than anyone has asked of God before or since.
And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. Exodus 33:18-20
And so Moses saw a glimpse of the Lord’s back, as seeing his face would be too much for a man to survive.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.
And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount.
And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. Exodus 34:5-7
This red text is again the Lord himself quoted here. It is interesting to see that he calls himself both merciful and yet a judge of the guilty. There is peace for the repentant, but not for ongoing sin. We must turn from our errors to find grace.
And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee. Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Exodus 34:10-14
Association with the enemy will draw us into their errors. Today idolatry is not always in the form of statues of false gods though. We worship fame, fortune, and the body as well. We must worship the creator, not the creation.
Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods. Exodus 34:15-16
Have we seen men and women giving worship to beautiful people? Some take fandom to the point of idolatry. Lavish praise is a warning of misguided worship. But we can acknowledge the goodness being created in a person by the creator. Those who receive praise should consider if it is honoring God, and not the mortal who is only righteous by grace.
The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt. All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male. But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty. Exodus 34:18-20
The first fruit is devoted to the Lord as an offering, or tithe. In the agricultural economy the first born livestock is offered. They might offer a lamb for the valuable donkey, but if not redeemed, that colt was to be killed. The children were devoted to the Lord’s service too. There was no place in the law for slacking on that which belongs to God.
Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest. And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end. Thrice in the year shall all your menchildren appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD thy God thrice in the year. Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning. The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk. Exodus 34:21-26
The rest of the Law was repeated and confirmed. Victory over their enemies was conditional on their obedience.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. Exodus 34:27-28
This time Moses must write the words himself, where the original tablets were written by God. Those tablets were broken when Moses found the law being broken even before he was able to deliver it to the people.
And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him in mount Sinai. And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. But when Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
This discussion of the veil is revisited in the New Testament by Paul.
Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. 2 Corinthians 3:2-16
Now we are epistles, or letters. We are a living bible of flesh, his words written in our hearts. We are not super men, but depend on God as our source and strength. Now the Word is a living spirit, not just dead words of law. The law kills by judgment, but the spirit gives life by mercy and grace. But if that dead law was powerful to make Moses radiantly glow, how much more powerful is the Living Word and Spirit of God? The past law was glorious, but the power of loving mercy is incomparable. In that day, the people could not understand or behold the brilliant glory of this revelation. Because of his spirit living in you, now you are able to behold the wonder of this good news. Now you too have seen just a shadow of the light of God’s appearance. The Jews still only see through a veil, but will one day be restored to their Messiah and see him clearly.