Shortly after the Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt, they arrived at Mt Sinai (aka Mt Horeb), where Moses met with God to learn how his people should live.
When the people grew concerned at Moses' long absence, his brother Aaron was convinced to build a golden idol, in the shape of a calf (probably an idol design familiar from their time in Egypt). Aaron built an altar to the golden calf and told the people the calf was the god who brought them out of Egypt.
This action was one of blatant disobedience to the second of the ten commandments, which God had spoken from the mountain in the hearing of all the people [Exodus 20:18] about a month and a half earlier [Exodus 24:15-18]:
"You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall no bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God." [Exodus 20:4-5a]When God told Moses to go down the mountain because his people had become corrupt, "Moses sought the favour of the LORD his God" (32:11). He went down to the people, and made them drink a bitter cup: water sprinkled with gold dust from their idol. Moses then punished them more severely, resulting in the deaths of several thousand. But then once more Moses offered to intercede for his people with the LORD, telling them, "perhaps I can make atonement for your sin" (32:30).
Moses' mediation with the LORD on behalf of the Israelites on this and other occasions marks him as a type of Messiah, a forerunner to Jesus Christ, who mediated the forgiveness of all people through his death on the cross.
The LORD himself punished the people with a plague. But his final punishment was the worst of the four punishments recorded in this passage. God told Moses he would not go up to the promised land with the Israelites, for he might destroy them on the way. Once again, sin had become a barrier to fellowship with God.
God warned Moses, "I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way" (Exodus 33:3). Some days, I feel deserted by God; often I can identify a particular stiff-necked decision that has led to this separation. But God has promised to dwell by his Holy Spirit in the heart of every Christian, so - intellectually - I know he hasn't really left me.
Today has been hot and quiet. The kids have spent most of the day doing self-designed craft all over the dinner table, playing with their toys, watching TV, playing on the Wii and swimming in the neighbour's pool. I have likewise had a rather lazy day, spent reading book excerpts via the internet on my phone in the air conditioned lounge room. Despite the children's good behaviour and general self-sufficiency, I've felt mildly annoyed all day.
I wanted to get my Bible study done early, but I let a problem with internet connectivity on my laptop delay me, and it's only now, after the kids are all in bed asleep, that I am meditating on God's word. I'm feeling relaxed and completely calm for the first time today, because I'm finally getting to spend time communicating with my Maker.
As I said, some days, I feel like God has left me. But often, that feeling of unsettled irritation comes because I haven't sought God out in the first place.
> What sin are you stiff-necked about? What sin in your life is a barrier to your fellowship with God?
Why do I love and worship Jesus?
I love Jesus because he promised, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back to take you to be with me that you may also be where I am" [John 14:3]. I'm looking forward to being with Jesus 24/7.
I apologise for putting other things first in my life.
Please forgive me.
Help me to remember you are with me always.
Tomorrow's reading: Psalm 14:1-7.