Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the foregoing messages we considered the breaking of the law and the principle of the golden-calf idol. Now we shall go on to see how Moses dealt with the idol and with the idolaters.
Moses was not the first to know that the children of Israel were practicing idolatry at the foot of the mountain. It was God who told Moses about this: “And Jehovah spoke to Moses, Go! Get down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves” (v. 7). God specifically told Moses that the people had corrupted themselves.
Do you believe that there are groups of Christians on earth today who have not corrupted themselves? The elements used by the enemy of God to corrupt Christians are the idols. Idols are corrupting factors. Nothing corrupts us more than idols. Whatever you love more than God is an idol, and that thing corrupts you. Once you have been corrupted by an idol, many sinful things will come in. If we love a certain thing more than God, that will become a factor of our corruption. This will be followed by sins. Therefore, we need to be careful not to corrupt ourselves by having idols, by having things that we love more than God.
Concerning the idolatrous people, the Lord went on to tell Moses, “They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them; they have made for themselves a molten calf, and have bowed themselves down to it and have sacrificed to it; and they said, This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (v. 8). The children of Israel had been under God’s dealings and training for approximately a year. They had seen many miracles performed by God. It is difficult to believe that they could have so quickly turned aside from God’s way.
What is the situation of today’s Christians regarding God’s way? Christians have the Bible, but very few take God’s way. Instead, many have turned aside by making a golden calf and worshipping it.
According to verse 9, the Lord also said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.” This means that the people were stubborn and were not willing to be subdued or convinced to have a change. Not only was their neck stiff, but their entire being was unbending. This is also the condition of many Christians today. Who can subdue those Christians who are worshipping a golden calf? Who can convince them to act otherwise? If you try to speak to them, they may condemn you as being heretical.
In verse 10 the Lord went on to say, “And now, let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make you into a great nation.” This word indicates that God was considering that He would wipe out the children of Israel. He certainly would not have spoken this way to Moses to threaten him. The Lord surely meant what He said. He was thinking of preserving Moses and his family and of making of Moses a nation to fulfill His purpose and to fulfill His promise to the forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In 32:11-13 we have Moses’ petition for the idolatrous people. Verse 11 says, “And Moses appeased the face of Jehovah his God, and he said, O Jehovah, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a strong hand?” The Hebrew word rendered “appeased” means to mollify, entreat the favor of. The literal meaning is to make the face of anyone sweet or pleasant. God had an angry expression on His face, and Moses was trying to appease God’s face, to make His face happy. Moses was trying to cause God to be in favor of the idolatrous people. This was Moses’ petition.
It seems that Moses was not tempted by God’s word about making him into a great nation. The Lord was saying that the people were hopeless, that He would consume them, and that He would make of Moses a great nation. If I had been there, I probably would have been tempted by this situation. It would be easy for us to say, “Amen, Lord. Whatever You say, Lord,” humbling ourselves somewhat. However, Moses did not give in to this kind of thought. Instead, he appeased God’s angry face for the favor of the idolatrous people.
In verse 7 the Lord said to Moses that the people were his people and that he had brought them out of the land of Egypt. But in verse 11 Moses asked the Lord, “Why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a strong hand?” Here Moses seems to be saying, “Lord, You say that these are my people and that I brought them out of Egypt. But, Lord, this is Your people, not mine. You brought them out of the land of Egypt, not I. I did not have the strength to do that.” Moses was a true mediator, an ancient attorney, as he made his petition to God.
Then Moses continued, “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, With evil intent He has brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from Your fierce anger and repent concerning this evil toward Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Yourself, and You spoke to them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your seed, and they shall possess it forever” (vv. 12-13). Moses told the Lord that if He consumed His people, the Egyptians would slander Him. It was necessary for the Lord to take care of His name and not to allow Himself to be slandered by the Egyptians.
After saying this, Moses urged the Lord to repent, and then he reminded Him of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Moses had a strong ground on which to pray. He stood upon God’s faithful word, the unchanging promise, that He had given to Moses’ forefathers as a covenant. Moses seemed to be saying, “Lord, if You consume this people, You will break Your word. You will break the covenant You made with our forefathers. Not only would You give ground to the Egyptians to slander You, but You would act contrary to Yourself. You are the faithful God, and You cannot swallow Your words.”
Verse 14 indicates that Moses’ appeal was effective: “And Jehovah repented concerning the evil which He spoke of doing to His people.” We would never expect God to repent. But Moses was a very able petitioner. He was able to convince God that He should repent. Therefore, God changed His mind and decided not to consume the people. The expression in the Lord’s face changed from one of anger to one of pleasantness.
If we had been Moses, we would have acted differently. Once we heard words of anger spoken by the Lord, we might have run down to the bottom of the mountain to deal with the idolatrous people. But before Moses came down, he appeased the Lord. He settled the case in the heavenly lawcourt. Only then did he come down to deal with the idol and the idolaters.
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