SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- While Moses was conversing with God on the mountain, he left Joshua and Aaron to watch over the Israelites. When he finds out that the Israelites had constructed and started to worship idols while he was away, Moses becomes extremely angry.
- As we saw in last weekend's reading, Aaron played a big part in setting up the idol worship. However, when confronted about the idolatry that developed under his watch, he lies and tells Moses that he only agreed to take part in it because of immense pressure from the Israelites, and that the golden calf magically appeared in the fire.
- As the Israelites are partying and running wild, Moses asks everyone who is still committed to God to come to him. The Levites, which are Israelites who share certain ancestors, are the main followers who indicate their commitment to Moses' mission.
- Moses then instructs these loyal followers to murder thousands of other Israelites who are partaking in revelry and idol worship.
- Once the dust and emotion settles, Moses goes back up to the mountain to ask God if he can make a sacrifice, or "atonement," for the sins his people committed. God responds by telling Moses that he cannot, because each person is responsible for -- and must suffer the consequence of -- his own sin.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- Aaron's dishonesty about his involvement in idol worship only made the situation worse. When we are confronted about wrongdoing that we have committed, we need to be honest.
- Two parts of this story seem particularly harsh:
- Moses instructing "loyal" Israelites to murder their not-so-loyal counterparts. By today's standards this seems unreasonable, but back then each individual was held responsible for their own sin. Because they had revolted against God by worshipping an idol, and were unrepentant, the consequences of their sin was death. In fact, we still deserve death for our sins, but God sent Jesus to serve as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin so that we do not have to suffer the ultimate consequence of our sins (see Romans 6:23).
- Similarly, it doesn't seem very loving of God to reject Moses' offer of a single sacrifice to cover the sins of many people. But, again, death is what we all deserve, and God was setting the stage for what Jesus did to have that much more significance: if God had allowed Moses to make a sacrifice to cover the sins of many, there would be no need for Jesus, as Jesus' primary purpose was to serve as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of everyone who follows him.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- Is there a situation in which you're currently being dishonest? Decide today to do the right thing and tell the truth about what has happened. Ask God to guide you as you figure out the next steps to take.
- Without Jesus serving as the ultimate sacrifice, there would be no way to escape death, as we have all sinned and deserve death as our ultimate punishment. Because of Jesus, however, we can choose to accept God's offer of abundant life now and eternal life later. Take time today to thank God for making this possible.