Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Life Of A Believer - Don't Call That Thing "Yahweh"!

After three months of wilderness living, the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai. On third day of being camped at the base of the mountain, this congregation had what was probably the greatest church service ever recorded. It started in the morning with thunder and lightning, a thick cloud of dark smoke at the top of the mountain, and the loud sounding of a trumpet coming from the cloud. When they heard the sound, Moses brought the people out of the camp to the base of the mountain. At the base of the mountain, the Israelites could see God’s glory in the cloud like fire! Then the trumpet started to sound louder and louder while the mountain began to shake. Soon the trumpet sound was almost earsplitting!

After all of that, Moses would speak to God in front of the Israelites, and God would answer him audibly! Can you imagine the amount of respect the Israelites had for Moses, watching him carry a conversation with God like that? Finally, God spoke to the entire congregation and personally gave them the ten commandments. After that, He called Moses up to the top of the mountain and began an intense, 40-day session - teaching Moses all about ceremonial and civil laws and the correct ways to worship Him.

One would think this event would foster the fear of God in the Israelites, right? Wrong! Around a month later, the Israelites disregarded everything God had said to them! As a group, they came to Aaron and demanded, “Make us a god that will lead us. This fellow Moses brought us up out of Egypt. But we don't know what has happened to him.” Understand this, they didn’t come to Aaron because they lacked the knowledge of how to make an idol. They picked Aaron because he was in charge and they wanted him to validate what they were about to do.

Aaron gave in! He told them to bring their earrings, melted them down and formed a golden calf This wasn’t a bull, it was a statue of a baby cow. These people traded and turned their backs on the God who thundered - Whose glory was still on the mountain as a fire and smoke - and declared this concerning that golden baby cow, “Israel, here is your god who brought you up out of Egypt.” As if that weren’t brassy enough, Aaron declared the following day to be a feast to worship this calf; listen to how he announced it. “Tomorrow will be a feast day in the Yahweh’s honor.” He called this gold statue of a baby cow “Yahweh”!

Well, obviously God wasn’t thrilled with these people. He cut His session with Moses short and sent him back down to deal with this situation. By the time Moses returned, the people were involved with far more than idol worship. Aaron never confronted them about their sin, so they spiraled down deeper and deeper. When Moses walked into the camp, they were involved in some of the most perverted, most lewd acts humanity is capable of. Can you imagine what Aaron must’ve felt when Moses walked up to him and sarcastically asked, “What did these people do to you? How did they make you lead them into such terrible sin?”

Moses tried to get these people under control again, but they refused. So, with the help of the Levite tribe, Moses put three thousand of the most unrepentant of them to death. After that, the rest realized they were wrong and entered into serious repentance.

Hebrews 10:1-7 “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’”

Why would Paul have to warn us not to follow their example? Why would he have to warn the New Testament church to avoid immorality and idol-worship? It’s not like we would ever set up a gold statue in our churches to worship, right? This terrible incident must still apply to us on this side of the cross, otherwise Paul wouldn’t have brought it up!

Remember, these examples are natural pictures of our spiritual walk. So if we’re going to learn the right lessons from this story we have to get to the heart of the issue. These people didn’t really like having an encounter with an uncontrollable God. We know they didn’t because, after God appeared to them and gave them the ten commandments, they begged Moses to meet with Him alone. They were terrified of God telling them what to do. At their earliest opportunity, they made their own god - something they could lead around and control - and called it Yahweh. That’s the heart of the issue: they created their own religious system, one that gave them all the “freedom” they could ever ask for, and they called that system God.

We’ve done the same thing in our churches! We’ve taken God’s crystal clear commands and His absolute authority to govern His church the way He wants, and exchanged it for a new system. Now we don’t confront sinning brothers about their sin. Now we don’t preach the grace that can change and empower us, we preach grace that enables us to stay in sin. Now we don’t allow God the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself in His church - for fear of offending....who? The believers who are too proud to be extravagant and undignified in worship? The sinners we’ve tricked into attending our services? Why have so many churches struggled to be tolerant and inclusive, only to become exclusive toward the God whose name they carry?

Too many churches have fallen into this wishy-washy, fake grace, feel-good, church-growth system. It’s time we turn back to the One Who first appeared to us. It’s time to realize this: while we’ve been calling this system that we made “Yahweh”, we’ve had our backs to the real glory and presence of the true God. We need to turn around and embrace His way of doing things once again.

No comments:

Post a Comment