Momentary Anger turns to Statutes of Grace | Aaron | Israelites

Momentary Anger turns to Statutes of Grace

My Parshah Journal Paul Ikonen 18 February 2011 Portion: Ki Tissa Exodus 30:11-34:35 We begin this portion with God requiring a census of the people and an offering to be given for the service of the Tent of Meeting. God says that by doing this there will be no plague and that it will act as atonement for their lives. Those men numbered in the census twenty years and up were commanded also to give a half shekel, commentators I’ve read suggest this was an enlisting into the army of Israel, perhaps the plague spoken of was the swarm of other nations and the chance of being vulnerable to their attack. The half shekel tax is also a transition from the previous free-will offering of Exodus 25:1-9. Next we see more furnishings of the Tent of Meeting: a bronze basin for ritual washing, anointing oil used to set certain objects (along with the priests) apart as holy unto God, and holy incense prepared specifically for service in the Tent of Meeting. We see as we did in the last portion that the people were not absent from the construction but intricate participants, we hear of the perfumers who had the skill necessary to make the combinations for the anointing oil and incense. Starting in chapter thirty-one we learn the story of Bezalel, a man called by name by God who has been “filled with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.” (Ex 31:3-5) And God says it is not just Bezalel that He has blessed but that He has given to all men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you. God never throws out arbitrary rules; from the beginning God’s yoke has not been heavy but light. The commandments of God are partnerships with God and the tasks of that partnership are given in such a way that they can be accomplished.

God gives another command; He says that the workweek is long and hard and that at the end of the week there should be time for rest. It is so important to Him that He considers it a sign between He and His people throughout the generations and that by participating in it with Him, we are becoming sanctified. This was so serious to Him that if the people did not keep the Sabbath they would be put to death. These are hard words but they are words from God and we are honored to receive them. At this moment it reads that God finished speaking to Moses and that the words were written on two stone tablets by the finger of God. It would be nice to end here but the Bible is a book that speaks not only of the triumphs of God’s people but also their failures. At this time we leave Mt. Sinai and return to camp with Aaron, the High Priest, in charge. The people become restless at the length of time Moses has been gone and decided to take matters into their own hands. The people request Aaron to make them gods who will go before them. The Bible does not record any internal struggle within Aaron, it immediately tells of Aaron giving instruction on how they would create their new god. It was made out of the gold earrings of the people and Aaron took them and fashioned it and presented it to the people and what is worse he gave it the credit that the True God of Israel deserved. He said to the people “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” and later “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” (Ex 32:4-5) Aaron used the unique, ineffable name, reserved for God alone, how terrible this moment must have been for God. The scene returns to Mount Sinai and God is grieved by His knowledge of the people’s rebellion. Go back to “your” people, God says, whom “you” brought out of Egypt. God is so enraged that His plan is to consume them and make a new nation out of Moses. To which Moses appeals to God’s honor, he says of the Egyptians “why let them say, ‘with evil intent did He bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’”? Moses reminds God of His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, to make their offspring prosper and to give them land. At the mention of the promise the LORD relented from bringing disaster.

Moses returned to the camp from the Mountain with Joshua and when he saw the calf and the people dancing he threw the tablets and broke them. He went straight for the calf and burned it and ground it into power and gave it with water for the people to drink. Aaron is confronted, to which he tells a story of the people giving him their gold earrings, him throwing it into the fire and (instead of the truth, him fashioning the calf) out came this calf. When Aaron finished speaking Moses called to the people all who considered themselves on the LORD’S side, to which the Levites came, and Moses told them to arm themselves with swords and kill brother, companion and neighbor, 1,000 Israelites fell that day. Soon after this God also sends a plague because of the people’s sin. The next selection to text is a personal favorite of mine, it is an interaction between Moses and God and you can see the transition from momentary anger to statues of grace on the part of God. Moses is brutally honest with his emotions as he replies to God’s statement that He will not be going along with the people because He is afraid His anger will break out against them. Moses returns to God and intercedes for the people, he says:

“You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” This is such a beautiful appeal to God for His presence to continue to dwell with Israel, and God’s response? “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” I love Moses response, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here…is it not in your going with us that we are distinct, as Your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” The people are landless, they are nomads, a traveling nation. If God abandons them they will lose everything. God recognizes this spirit in Moses and

confirms His Presence being with the people but that appears not to be enough for Moses because he than asks God to “show me Your glory”. And God agrees. Because no one can see God and live, God strikes a deal with Moses; God will hide Moses in a cleft of a rock, will cover him with His Hand, and will pass by. As He passes take away His Hand and Moses will be allowed to see God’s back. But first, the tablets are rewritten. This time Moses is told to cut the tablets from the rock, perhaps to make them worth more so he doesn’t throw them. So Moses prepares the tablets and appears before God, he is hidden against the mountain and the LORD descends in a thick cloud and proclaims His name, the LORD. At this time God goes off script a bit, He takes time to bless His people, He says: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” And Moses drops to his face and worships the Almighty God. God now renews the covenant and promises more grace, grace upon grace, to His people. He promises to “do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing I will do with you.” Conditions are then laid out; the first obviously is not to make yourself any gods of cast metal. They are also commanded to keep the Passover. To redeem their firstborn, observe the Sabbath and to observe the three pilgrimage feasts (here they are called Weeks, Firstfruits, Ingathering). They must not mix leaven with any blood offering or allow the Passover sacrifice to remain until morning. They must bring the best of the firstfruits of the ground before the LORD and

they must not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk. It is interesting to note that this time it is not God’s finger who writes on the tablets, God commands Moses to write them down. The final part of the portion is quite mysterious, so instead of commenting on it I will just attach it to the end, may the reader ponder what happens to the soul when we are obedient and give ourselves completely to the Almighty. “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the LORD had given him on Mount Sinai. When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the LORD’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD.”

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