SCRIPTURE: Exodus 31-32
God specially gifted certain people with the necessary skills to make the items for the tabernacle. He wanted their work to be artistic, creative, and beautiful. The work was done by God's Spirit through the hands of men. God works that way a lot, and it's a beautiful thing.
The Sabbath was a special sign of the covenant between God and Israel, and profaning it was punishable by death.
Back in chapter 24, God had promised to give Moses tablets of stone with the law engraved on it and called him up onto the mountain. God has been explaining the tabernacle, etc. (all that's in chapters 25-31) during the 40 days that Moses has been on the mountain with Him.
Meanwhile . . . back at the camp . . . the people were getting impatient. Aaron made a golden calf and instructed the people to worship it as the god who brought them out of Egypt. This was a throwback to religion in Egypt where cattle were sacred. Maybe Aaron was making the calf as a representation of God rather than as a different god. Regardless, Aaron and the people were quick to turn aside from the true God who had miraculously delivered them from Egypt.
God declared them to be an obstinate people and planned to destroy them. He offered to make a nation out of Moses instead. But Moses interceded for Israel (again) based on three things (1) God had chosen Israel Himself (v 11); (2) God's name must be vindicated (v 12); and (3) God won't be able to keep His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob if He destroys Israel (v 13). Moses had an opportunity here for making his own name great, but he chose to honor God's name instead.
When Moses reached the camp and saw the sin, he was enraged and threw down the stone tablet, shattering it. He held Aaron responsible for making the calf, but Aaron lied and made excuses. Moses called together all who wanted to be faithful to the true God and instructed them to kill all those who didn't.
Then Moses went back to the LORD to try to make atonement for the people. But God said He will punish those who sinned against Him.
Isn't it amazing how quickly we can turn away from God and into sin? Sometimes I think, "I wouldn't do that," but in reality, my heart can very quickly go from worshiping God to sinning against Him. And God is very much justified in His wrath toward me and my sin! I need a mediator between me and God to make atonement for me! Thank you, Jesus!
I appreciate how Moses was more concerned about protecting God's name than gaining glory for himself. He appealed to God's own character and promises when pleading for mercy for the people.
Do I want to see God honored more than I want honor for myself?
Do I guard myself to avoid sinning against God? Or am I quick to follow along when others make sin look like a good idea?
Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways. According to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord. (Psalm 25:4-7 NIV)