WHO IS ON THE LORD’S SIDE?
The title of today’s message is taken from Exodus chapter 32 verse 26. A partial account of the entire passage is given below beginning at the first verse of chapter 32 of Exodus.
“Now, when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together unto Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that will go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said to them, ‘Break off the gold earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people broke off the gold earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with a graving tool, and made a molten calf. Then they said, ‘This is our god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.’” (NIV)
Moses took too long for the people’s liking. After all he was only in the presence of the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, and their time was the important consideration here. So, Aaron gives in to social pressures and instructs the people to take the gold earrings from off the ears of their wives, sons and daughters. There is significance in this. The ears of the people were open to rumour and conjecture, to the things of the flesh and not to the Spirit of God. They turned their ears over to the whispers of the flesh rather than to the sure word of the Spirit. And notice as well, the actions of the men affected their families. The abandonment of the faith by the men resulted in dire consequences for their wives, for their sons and for their daughters! Their actions would cause a famine of the hearing of the urgings of God for their wives, sons and daughters. “Let him who has an ear hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation). Is the same not so today? Are we giving over our hearing to the flesh rather than to the Spirit; giving over our hearing to man rather than to God?
When the people saw the golden calf they declared as one, “This is the god that brought us up out of Egypt.” And when Aaron saw how pleased the people were he declared a feast for the next day upon a hastily erected altar. Aaron was about to ask God to bless their wayward, fleshy religious worship. How often we decide things and then ask the Lord to bless our efforts rather than waiting “the forty days” for God’s word and direction. Oh, but Moses delayed, and we have work to do; let’s get on with it. GOD has “all the time in the world.” And while we check our wristwatches and tap our toes impatiently waiting, He is about His work and His timing is always perfect.
It is obvious that GOD has heard every word spoken down below. He recounts to Moses, verbatim, all that was murmured and spoken. He then adds, “the people have corrupted themselves,” and that “they have turned aside quickly,” and that they are a “stiff-necked people.” In spite of all that the LORD has accomplished in their sight their impatience has worn thin. In verse ten the LORD effectively says, ‘Leave me alone that in my anger I may consume them.” Moses then intervenes for the people. Where would we be had not someone, sometime, intervened on our behalf? Moses reminds the LORD that the nations roundabout would accuse the LORD of being able to bring the people out of Egypt only to slay them all upon these mountains. That would injure the glory of the name of the LORD. Further, in reply to the LORD’s statement that He was about to wipe the people all out and start anew with Moses, the prophet reminds the LORD of His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The scripture says that the LORD repented of what He was about to do. We need to be clear here. It’s not that the LORD changed His mind but rather by the fact that Moses interceded in prayer, this gave the LORD the legal ground to apply grace to His holy justice. (The same occurred when Abram interceded for Sodom.) There wasn’t given a ‘carte blanch’ – there were still dire consequences. Sodom was still destroyed and so too there were consequences here at the foot of the mountain.
In verse 26 we read the following: “Then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, ‘Whosoever is on the LORD’s side – come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.”
The previous verses detail all the excuses for his actions that Aaron gave to Moses. The pastor of the flock had failed the people. Before the ‘ink was even dried’ upon the tablets of the law, the law had been shattered as emphasized by Moses casting the tablets of the law of GOD at the feet of the rebellious. A few quotes follow.
“Thus says the Lord God of Israel” — “What Moses now did was not done merely in the heat of a pious zeal, but by a divine influence and direction; and therefore can be no warrant to others to imitate his example, who cannot pretend to the same authority, and who are placed in circumstances entirely different from those in which he and the Israelites were placed. “Slay every man his brother, and every man his companion” — Moses being, under God, their chief ruler, at God’s command, passed this extraordinary sentence upon the offenders, without the common process in courts of judicature, requiring the sons of Levi to go armed into the camp, and cut off the most notorious and obstinate offenders, without regard to kindred, friendship, or any other distinction whatever. And there was no fear of their killing the innocent in this case, because Moses had called to himself all that were on God’s side. These, either by resorting to him, or by retiring to their tents, were separated from the guilty, who were impudently walking about in the camp, trusting to their numbers. It may be observed further here, that, besides the authority of the command of Moses to the Levites, a peculiar impulse from God must have actuated them in this business, otherwise it is very improbable that they should have obeyed so readily, or have dared to attack so many; and a peculiar consciousness of guilt and terror must have fallen on the people, to have caused such a multitude to submit to be slain without making any resistance.” 1
“Never did any wise man make a more frivolous and foolish excuse than that of Aaron. We must never be drawn into sin by any thing man can say or do to us; for men can but tempt us to sin, they cannot force us. The approach of Moses turned the dancing into trembling. They were exposed to shame by their sin. The course Moses took to roll away this reproach, was, not by concealing the sin, or putting any false colour upon it, but by punishing it. The Levites were to slay the ringleaders in this wickedness; yet none were executed but those who openly stood forth. Those are marked for ruin who persist in sin: those who in the morning were shouting and dancing, before night were dying. Such sudden changes do the judgments of the Lord sometimes make with sinners that are secure and jovial in their sin.” 2
“The tribe of Levi, Moses’ own tribe, now distinguished itself by immediately returning to its allegiance and obeying the call to fight on the side of Yahweh. We need not doubt that the 3,000 who were slain were those who persisted in resisting Moses. The spirit of the narrative forbids us to conceive that the act of the Levites was anything like an indiscriminate massacre. An amnesty had first been offered to all by the words: “Who is on the Lord’s side?” Those who were forward to draw the sword were directed not to spare their closest relations or friends; but this must plainly have been with an understood qualification as regards the conduct of those who were to be slain.” 3
Justice is justice. There still was a price to pay for disobedience. Scripture puts it this way, “Whatsoever a man sows, so shall he reap.” (Gal. 6:7) The failure of Aaron was immense. The failure of the men of the camp was likewise astounding. The pastor was swayed by fleshy opinion. The pastor ran ahead of GOD’s timing to the destruction of many. The men failed their families. They submitted the ears of their wives, their sons and their daughters to the whispers of the occult. All of this and more, aptly portrayed by the turning over of their earrings to the abomination that was the golden calf. “Who is on the LORD’s side?” Decision time! Verses 27-28:
“And he said unto them, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.’ And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand.”
The law had been broken, shattered, and a price was required.
BRING US HOME PAUL!
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made us free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
There were those at the foot of the mountain that were “condemned in the flesh.” There are those today, who, depend upon their flesh, and will likewise be condemned. However, as with those that ran to Moses, “Whosoever is on the LORD’s side – come to me,” if we likewise run to Jesus, the condemnation passes over us. It passes from us to Him. He carried it all to the cross. And by His work we need never work in our flesh again for He has given us His Spirit. The law of sin and death no longer is ours to bear – for He has born it, fulfilled it, in our stead! It is now SIN that has been condemned! And it was condemned in the flesh of Him. And now we can live and not die because of His righteousness that covers us. So now, while many were condemned at the foot of the mountain, many have such condemnation removed, forever from us at the foot of the cross. There is a wonderful segue linking Exodus 32:28 with Acts 9:11-15.
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
Jonathan Cahn put it this way.
“You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. This is the ordinance of the Feast of Shavuot, which takes place seven weeks, or fifty days, after the Passover. The rabbis calculated out and discovered that this was the same time that Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Law. Thus Shavuot became the day that commemorated the giving of the Law. Over a thousand years after the giving of the Law, Messiah’s disciples were together in Jerusalem and the Spirit of God came upon them. It was the day that the new covenant was empowered by God’s Spirit. It all happened on the Hebrew feast of Shavuot. When the rabbis of the Greek world had to come up with a Greek name for this Hebrew holy day, they called it The Feast of the Fiftieth Day or in Greek, Pentecost. This means that the Spirit of God was given to believers on the same day that the Law of God was given to Israel. The old covenant and the new covenant are joined together. They were both inaugurated on the SAME DAY. And so on the day the Law was given, judgment happened. People perished. And the number of those who perished, the ancient Hebrew records, was ‘about three thousand.’ And on the day the Spirit was given, Salvation happened – eternal life. And the number who came to new life, the ancient Greek records, was ‘about three thousand.’ So three thousand died and, centuries later, three thousand came to life on the same exact holy day. And the apostle Paul writes, “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” The Law can tell us the will of God, but only the Spirit can give us the power to live it. Therefore, live by the Spirit of God and you fulfill the will of God for your life.”4
Amazing, is it not?
ONE FINAL THOUGHT
I was somewhat amused at how Aaron framed his answer to Moses concerning his making of the golden calf. He says in Exodus 32 verse 24 the following.
“And I said unto them, ‘Whosoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, there came out this calf.” So Aaron, you’re telling us you simply threw handfuls of gold earrings into the fire, turned around, and when you next looked there was this golden calf standing there!
A few verses before, verse 20 gives another fascinating account.
“And he [Moses] took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and sprinkled it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink it.”
Scientifically speaking, gold is chemically inert, meaning it won’t break down during digestion. “Most likely edible gold won’t be absorbed from the digestive system into the bloodstream, and therefore it will pass through the body and eliminated as waste.” It is recorded in Mark 7 verses 14-16:
“And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, ‘Hearken every one of you unto me and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him that can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man has ears to hear let him hear.”
We understand that it’s what comes out of the heart via the mouth that defiles us. But it is interesting about this sprinkling of gold upon the drinking water that is of interest. The golden calf was ground up into powder after being burned and then sprinkled on the water. Being inert it would pass though the body without being absorbed. In passing through the body it would eventually exit as so much dung. This reminds me of the ultimate destiny of the false priestess Jezebel. After she was thrown from the tower window and smashed upon the stony ground, the dogs ate her body leaving only the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet. Scripture is quite descriptive concerning her final repose. Her body would be scattered in so many piles of dog dung about the wilderness. Such was the pronounced judgment upon this priestess of false idols. A similar picture is given for us here. The golden idol would eventually find its way into the latrines of Israel. So much for the “god who brought us out of Egypt.”
I doubt very much if Moses had all the people line up to take a drink of golden water. The powdered gold was probably simply mixed with a water source that the people used for their drinking. Some of the gold may have sunk to the bottom but much would have been pulverized enough to float about to be consumed.
Let us serve the Living God! Let us walk by His Spirit. Let us cast off all the idols in our lives. Let us seek Him with gladness and let us wait patiently for His word and leading. Let us pray for each other and hold up our leaders, encouraging them to seek His word and to listen to His leading. May His voice thunder from the hill tops, and whisper in our hearts. Amen.
1 Joseph Benson’s commentary on the Old Testament.
2 Mathew Henry’s concise commentary
3 Barnes notes on the Bible
4 Jonathan Cahn Book of Mysteries day # 110
Holy God, on this first Monday of November, we thank you for the wonderful fall colours all around us and the beauty of your creation in this season of transition.
We praise you for the wonder of the rhythms of how your creation works. For the reminders of your presence and your unfathomable imagination in the way that you have designed the universe.
We are overwhelmed by your greatness and even more amazed that despite the awesomeness of the cosmos, you still know and love each one of us by name.
Lord of all creation,
We give you praise and thanks.
Holy God, we remember in these days following the festivities of Halloween, that our places of business will turn their attention fully on the coming Christmas season, not so as to celebrate the coming of the Saviour of the world, but to manipulate the masses into buying their products.
We pray, dear Lord, for strength to keep our focus firmly on you and you alone in these coming days. Help us to find places of solitude where we can hear your voice through the noise of constant advertising and Christmas mayhem.
We pray to you, the God of unlimited imagination, for ways to show our friends and family that we love them at Christmastime by giving them gifts that bring life to your world as opposed to feeding corporate greed.
Lord of all creation,
We give you praise and thanks.
Holy God, all is not well in this world.
There are wars and rumours of wars all over the world.
There is famine, sickness, disease, and death.
Human trafficking is still on the rise all over the planet, especially in preparation for the coming Olympic games.
There are men, women and children in sweat shops all over the world working in unsafe conditions for meager wages so as to provide us with cheap clothing and useless stuff.
And here in our own country we have scandal. Politicians who value power over truth. Media who loves selling papers and TV time over telling the real story. And people who are allowing themselves to be redefined as taxpayers as opposed to citizens.
Lord of all creation,
We give you praise and thanks.
Lord of unlimited imagination,
Help us to imagine a new way to live.
A new way to shop.
A new way to think.
A new way to view the world.
A new way to love.
We pray that you’ll constantly remind us that you are with us and will never leave us.
Lord of all creation,
We give you praise and thanks.
(The above portion is a pre-advent prayer borrowed from Dion Oxford. He worked with the Salvation Army in Toronto for many years helping people on the streets. You can find him online.)
Let us remember our brothers and sisters among us, to hold their needs high toward the throne of heaven. Let us continue to remember Christina in her time of sorrow and loss. Let us remember Theresa and Larry as they rally about to offer support and comfort. We continue to pray for Gidget that You dear LORD come along side and grant her comfort and assurance that You are there. Help her gain safe access to HGH so that her testing can be performed. We claim healing for her brain and for her eyesight to be established in Your Divine order. We pray for Ellie as she continues to deal with severe back and arm issues. We hold up our children and young people of our community as they face unchartered waters in their daily routines. Cover them with Your protection; clothe them with a canopy of care; shelter them under Thy wings oh LORD. Circle the community of Ohsweken with your protection and grant our leaders wisdom in dealing with the flair up of Covid-19. We bless Thee O LORD, for you truly are worthy. Keep us, this little flock, safe and secure within Your Sheepfold; guard the door, and grant us Your Peace. As we approach the season of Advent let us too draw nigh unto You. And as we celebrate Your coming as a babe in Bethlehem – The Word made flesh, let us too celebrate Your soon coming as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the great Lion of the tribe of Israel, The One who was, and is, and is to come – The Lord God Almighty. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.