Friday, September 19, 2008

Who is this King of Glory? Part 1

In the book of Exodus God raises up Moses to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt. After Moses returns from "running away" from God and goes back to Egypt to be a mouthpiece of God before Pharoah, God intsructs Moses that Pharoah will not listen to him. So God sends plagues over and over again to the Egyptians until finally they are able to leave. As they are leaving and the sea has been split for them to cross, Pharoah changes his mind and sends an army out to get the Jews to return. The Jews manage a quick escape and God crashes the ocean on top of the army killing them so that they are no more.

So here are the Jews out in the desert wandering around going to the promised land. They have no real expectation of being able to return to Egypt. If they went back, who knows what would have been done to them. So here they are wandering in the desert and Moses goes up to the top of the mountain to be with God. Moses is up there for a long time and all of the people down below have serious doubts about this Moses guy already and figure that he died or just was not going to come back.

So doing what most people do when they have no sense of direction, feeling totally lost and vulnerable they go to worship other gods. It was actually some golden calf that most historians believe the Jews knew about because of the calf worship that took place in Egypt at that time. This was obviously not thought through too much because (1) you are in the middle of nowhere and can't expect to stay there and live for very long and (2) it would make more sense to just move on and hope that maybe this God will give you some kind of direction about what to do.

I think the modern equivalant to that would be like God moving us somewhere as a group with a really sketchy leader who messed up a lot and after following this guy out somewhere, he leaves to go somewhere to talk to "someone" over and over and everytime he leaves some wierd weather stuff happens. The weather stuff lasts for a while and we figure he's dead so we go next door to Mcdonald's to cope with the situation. We really don't know what we are going to do other than eat Big Macs to forget all the stuff. It never crosses our minds how much damage we are doing to ourselves or what we will do when we run out of money. We may eat and be full but eventually we are going to be stuck at some random Mcdonald's with nowhere to go. (And when the sketchy leader does actually return he finds that we wasted all the gas money on a combo meal. And...we are still stuck at Mcdonald's.)

Moses does return and finds the people worshipping this golden calf and gets pretty upset about it because he knows how up the creek they are. Moses goes back up to the mountain to "make atonement", which I interpret to mean that he pleaded with God.

God  then promises to only repay the guilt parties involved in this whole thing and then sends a plague on everybody as a curse. Everyone is not having the best of time and then God spokes to Moses.

"Then the LORD said to Moses, "Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way."
When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. For the LORD had said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites, 'You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.' " So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.

Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the "tent of meeting." Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses. Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

Moses said to the LORD, "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." The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?"

And the LORD said to Moses, "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name." Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory." And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen." (Exodus 33 ESV)

God is dealing with these people in a way that it would be really scary to be them.

The LORD said to Moses, "Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, 'To your offspring I will give it.' I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people." (Exodus 33:1-3 ESV)

God is basically telling them that He is going to fulfill His obligations but that they themselves are kind of on their own. So here they are out in the wilderness really unsure about what is going to happen to them. They can't go home to Egypt and the future looks uncertain for them as well.

So the Jews are moving about in the desert with this God that they are just starting to get to know and are very bewildered, afraid and totally uncertain about what is going to happen to them. They cannot return to where they were and they really cannot hope to move forward in success. In the Jewish mind, if God did not tell people that He was going with them it basically meant that they were pretty much up the creek. And not up the creek in the sense that they would have a couple of difficulties along the way. It was kind of like God was going to let them get the crap beat out of them in the wilderness. God was basically saying to Moses: "I am so angry that I will destroy you because of what you are doing if I stay near you guys. I am going to go ahead of you to this land I promised to your family and when you guys gets there everything will be ready to go. By the way, the whole desert trip there will be terrible. That whole thing about me protecting you from wild animals and giving you food and water, that is going to stop. You guys are so hard-headed and this little experience should help you out."

So here are the Jews, with nowhere to go back to and a hard road ahead of them interacting with a very strange Being that they totally do not understand.  This story is much like our experiences with God. This God somehow enters our life and calls us to leave behind what we once knew in a life of sin. We struggle to make sense of this experience yearning to go back to what we once knew but know that things will be worse for us if we do (see Hebrews 6). We will be slaves where we were but we don't know what to make of what is going on. We are going through the desert and are not yet in the Promised Land. We are learning to interact with God and are learning what it means to be His people. And when we mess up, God disciplines us.

"It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
(Hebrews 12: 7-11, ESV)

God may discipline us for a short while, but even in doing so He never leaves us or forsakes us. What will be the fate of the Jews? Stay tuned for Part 2.

No comments:

Post a Comment