Old Testament Passages Good for Everyone to Know, Part 4

Old Testament Passages Good for Everyone to Know, Part 4

Old Testament Passages Good for Everyone to Know, Part 4
by Doug Jacoby

Moses has ascended the mountain in order to receive the Law. Whereas the Law was intended to make Israel holy, and provide a way to connect with God and celebrate their faith, the reality down below—at the foot of Sinai—was an ugly contrast. The people have fashioned a golden calf—and are worshipping it! Exodus 32 displays—in living color—both the fickleness of God's people and the robust heart of Moses (see v.32).

“... Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”
The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin" (Exod 32:31-34).

What can we learn?
Aaron, who was supposed to serve as Israel's holy and faithful high priest, displays appallingly weak leadership, giving in to the people's desire to become like the world. Moses is justifiably angry. We learn from Deut 9:20 that Aaron would have died without his brother’s intercession. (Prayer is powerful!)
The patterns of history tend to repeat themselves. The golden calf incident of Exodus 32 is fully realized—doubly so—in 1 Kings 12:28!
Moses doesn’t want to move forward without his people—out of genuine concern. In Exodus 32 this great man of faith offers to exchange his soul for the salvation of his people.
Despite God's foreknowledge (32:10, 14, 34), there is no "once saved, always saved" (v.33). In contrast to the tenets of Reform Theology, it is indeed possible for one’s name to be expunged from the book of life—that is, to lose one’s salvation. See Psalm 69:28; Phil 4:3; Rev 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12,15; 21:27. The Lord assures Moses that each person’s decisions determine whether he or she will be added to or removed from the Book of Life.
Yahweh ominously declares that the people’s punishment may be delayed, but justice cannot be avoided. At first blush it appears Moses’ intercession has "softened" Yahweh, changing the way his discipline and promises would play out. Yet the passage indicates that Yahweh did not exonerate the people of Israel, who still had to face the consequences of their poor choices.
The are consequences: three punishments come upon the people of Israel: the sword (v.27), the plague (v.35), and exclusion from the Promised Land (Num 14:30).

NT connections:
In addition to eating and drinking, the people of Israel engaged in sexual acts (32:6). The same word is rendered “sexual play” in Genesis 26:8. The apostle Paul points to this event and three other sinful relapses in order to warn Christians not to be overconfident (1 Cor 10:1-13).
In Rom 9:3 Paul contemplates a similar exchange: his soul for theirs (the Jews'). Both offers would be rejected, on the basis of the truths in passages like Ezek 18:1-32. No one can be saved through another’s representation. We are not made right with God through parents, godparents, praying to “saints," church affiliation, or mystic optimism about our standing with God. Our individual and personal obedience determines our destiny.

Questions for thought:
What about the modern church? Is there a big idol in our midst? Are we putting our trust in gold, slavishly emulating the trendy, or living for the things of this world?
Considering the attitudes of Moses and Paul (Exod 32:32 and Rom 9:3), could I contemplate such an exchange? Do I know anyone with such a loving heart?
Further study in Exodus:
10 Commandments—podcast series (10 lessons)
Exodus: Night of Redemption—book
Israel: A community of radical counter-culture—podcast + notes
Next: a striking passage from Leviticus 10.