Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Exodus 31 & 32 - Craftsmanship, Sabbath Day, and a Golden Calf

LINK: Exodus 31 & 32


BACKGROUND


Exodus 31


Before you get lost in the details of these chapters never let it get far from your mind that all these tabernacle details were given in order to have a place for God's glory to dwell and His servants to minister to Him there. Think about it: God's glory would dwell there! WOW (Exodus 25:8, 45-46; 29:44-46). 


The craftsmen were commissioned to make the sacred garments, oil, and incense. Bezalel and Oholiab and others were skilled craftsman by divine gift (31:3, 6). This is why  "Craftsmanship" is often put on Spiritual Gifts lists even though it is not listed as a spiritual gift in any of the gift lists in the New Testament (Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12). We will talk more about evaluating your gifts in the New Testament; but if you cannot wait, here is the Spiritual Gifts Test I use when I teach on the subject.


In the middle of His instructions, God reminded them of the holiness of the Sabbath day and the seriousness of keeping it. They were to labor for six days, but they were to have complete rest on the seventh day. Traditionally, the Sabbath is from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. 


Exodus 32


Remember when the people promised to obey God (19:8; 24:3, 7; 20:19)? Well here is the crushing chapter where they renege on their promise to God (Deuteronomy 5:28-29) and commit a "great sin" (32:21, 30-31). I always shake my head when I read what Aaron said in response to Moses, "I said to them, 'Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.' So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf."  

Say what? That is pretty wimpy leadership if you ask me. Aaron did not turn to God but let the impatient people call the shots! Then he blamed the people. 


God's people had already seen God's judgments on Egypt in the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of food and water, and the pillar of cloud and fire. They had forty days and nights of waiting until Moses got down from the mountain, and they broke the first, second, and seventh commandments in one fell swoop! They exchanged the glory of God for an image of an animal (Psalm 106:19-23; Romans 1:22-27). 


If not for the intercession of Moses, even Aaron would have been destroyed (Deuteronomy 9:20). Some people get hung up on the fact that God "changed His mind" (NASB), "relented" (NIV), or "repented" (KJV) as if Moses were in charge of the situation and not God. A little insight into the meaning of this Hebrew word nāḥam might be helpful: 
The KJV translates the Niphal of nḥm “repent” thirty-eight times. The majority of these instances refer to God’s repentance, not man’s. The word most frequently employed to indicate man’s repentance is šûb (q.v.), meaning “to turn” (from sin to God). Unlike man, who under the conviction of sin feels genuine remorse and sorrow, God is free from sin. Yet the Scriptures inform us that God repents (Gen 6:6–7: Ex 32:14; Jud 2:18; I Sam 15:11 et al.), i.e. he relents or changes his dealings with men according to his sovereign purposes. On the surface, such language seems inconsistent, if not contradictory, with certain passages which affirm God’s immutability: “God is not a man … that he should repent” (I Sam 15:29 contra v. I I); “The lord has sworn and will not change his mind” (Ps 110:4). When nāḥam is used of God, however, the expression is anthropopathic and there is not ultimate tension. From man’s limited, earthly, finite perspective it only appears that God’s purposes have changed. Thus the ot states that God “repented” of the judgments or “evil” which he had planned to carry out (I Chr 21:15; Jer 18:8; 26:3, 19; Amos 7:3, 6; Jon 3:10). Certainly Jer 18:7–10 is a striking reminder that from God’s perspective, most prophecy (excluding messianic predictions) is conditional upon the response of men. In this regard, A. J. Heschel (The Prophets, p. 194) has said, “No word is God’s final word. Judgment, far from being absolute, is conditional. A change in man’s conduct brings about a change in God’s judgment.”  
Harris, R. L., Harris, R. L., Archer, G. L., & Waltke, B. K. (1999, c1980). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) (571). Chicago: Moody Press.
God knew what the ultimate outcome of this interaction with Moses would be. I believe it was a test of Moses' remembrance of God's promise to Israel, his love for the people God had chosen, and Moses' comprehension that God's reputation was at stake. The "bottom line" message is that all the nations of the earth would know that God was above all other gods. Destroying Israel was not in God's plan, but God wanted to test Moses to make sure he understood this. Moses passed the test, and I do not have any problem with God's actions in this passage. 


REFLECTION


WOW! There is so much to chew on here. I want to reflect on the importance of intercession on the part of God's people in the whole scheme of things. I want to reflect on obedience and remembering the promises of God when I am tempted to sin while waiting (I gave a message on "Waiting" for a women's retreat once, and this passage really spoke to me.).  I also want to meditate on what it means to stand strong as a leader when the people I am leading want to do things that are not according to God's plan. I can identify with Aaron. I can be a wimpy leader at times.  


All that said, God led me to another reflection that seems like such a small part of these two chapters.  I was struck at how God interrupted his teaching on the tabernacle details to reiterate the importance of the Sabbath rest. The purpose was to remind them that He was the LORD who sanctified them.  Were the people waiting for Moses back at the camp practicing this? If they were, surely they were just going through the motions. If they practiced the five Sabbath rests during those forty days and nights and remembered the LORD, would they have resorted to a golden calf to meet their needs? I would hope not!  I am convinced that sin results from us taking our eyes off of God.  I think they had lost their focus. The Sabbath was meant to refocus them. 


We try to do Sabbath rests as a family on a regular basis (sometimes with the whole Sabbath ceremony), but it is not always possible from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday being that we are not living in a Jewish culture and activities abound on Saturdays!  So, we each have individual ones. When I first started writing for the Bible Book Club, my Sabbath day of rest was from sunset Sunday to sunset Monday. It was my rest day from fitness workouts too, and I scheduled no appointments or ministry on that day. 

2014 Update: Here is something I wrote just the other day about REST!

Back then, my rest Monday was followed by a bunch of twenty to thirty-somethings invading our home for our weekly "Jesus Community" on Tuesday night.  That Tuesday, heavy things came out of the time, and I was glad that I had rested during the day. When the last person left at 10:10 p.m., I needed to process the evening because something did not sit right, and I was up until 1:20 am.  


Now, I work Monday - Wednesday, so I try to have a 24-hour rest period sometime between Wednesday evening and Sunday evening. But lately, I have not been consistent, and this latest read through of the Bible in 2017 (the fourth cycle of three-year Bible Book Club), I feel I need to make this happen! I believe we are not bound by Old Testament law, but I do believe that if God had to rest on the seventh day from all He had created, it is certainly a good example for all His people to follow!


APPLICATION


Do you fit a day of rest into your week? You are no longer under the Law, but the principle is there. We are not superheroes, and God wants us to take time to rejuvenate and remember Him!


Also, Aaron's wimpy leadership really convicted me. I had something happen last night where I should have stood up and been a leader rather than a follower of the crowd. I need to have wisdom in how to handle a sticky situation.  Oh dear, always growing!


PRAYER


Thank You for rest. Refuel us for the challenges that You have for us, LORD. Help us hear Your voice and lead us. Amen. 
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