Last week our lesson was from a sad time for the children of Israel, they made a golden calf and worshipped it as god. It was for good reason God almost destroyed them and started over, but thanks to Moses the Israelites were spared. Amazingly they were more than just spared, God still called them His people.
Today’s lesson is “God and His Sinful People” and we thank you so much for joining us. As much as we don’t like it there is something familiar to us in the children of Israel. We can see a bit of our own stubbornness and foolishness. Sinful though we be, God still allows us to be His people. This is incredible, don’t ever take it for granted.
Romans 5:8 reminds us of this truth. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This verse is amazing, allow the first two words to hold your attention. “But God” we are lost, “but God.” We are stuck in our sinful state, “but God” God showed His love to us. He showed us His love by allowing Christ to die for us.
We have lots in common with the children of Israel and God loves us and demonstrates His love to us despite who we were. The next move is up to us, while there is life, we have the chance to choose Him. God was ready to destroy the Israelites and start over, He didn’t, and they also had more time. But remember their time and our time is not endless. That is why today is such an important day, we don’t know if we have tomorrow. But we know God has what we need, now it is up to us to respond to His great love and receive the reconciliation offered through Jesus Christ.
The Israelites and us, we are sinful people, but both of us have a God who is rich in mercy and that is what we focus on, His greatness. Let’s do that together as Bible teacher J Mark shares with us the rest of the lesson about God and His Sinful People.
As we study the life of Israel at the time when God gave the law to Moses, we find that they departed from the will of God, from the truth. Because of this, God needed to deal with them according to their sin. Moses said they had sinned a great sin when they created the golden calf and worshipped it.
Part of their worship of the golden calf included adultery and fornication, sexual immorality. As a result of their sin, God brought severe judgment on the people. The Levites went through the camp slaughtering the offenders. Three thousand people died as a result of God’s divine wrath. Furthermore, God sent a plague among them. It was a horrible experience that resulted from man trying to use his own methods to worship God!
But God did not abandon His people. When Moses prayed for them, God forgave them. After their sin He told Moses to get ready to go on. There is a great lesson here for us because we too make foolish decisions and make sinful choices. We cannot spend all our time looking back in regret. We must correct the past as best we can and move on to greater opportunities. This is what God said to Moses.
The people of Israel could do little about the past except to seek the forgiveness of God. Before them was the future with all its possibilities. God took certain actions regarding the people of Israel to equip them for the future before them. God’s actions are recorded in Exodus 33:1-6.
1. And the LORD said unto Moses, Depart and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I swore unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it:
2. And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite:
3. Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiff-necked people: lest I consume thee in the way.
4. And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments.
5. For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiff-necked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore, now put off thy ornaments from thee, that may know what to do unto thee.
6. And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.
In the conversation God had with Moses He took several ACTIONS which affected Israel’s relations with Him.
In The First Action
God Ratified the Promise.
After the punishment for their sin, God said to Moses, “Depart and go from here.” Moses received a directive from the LORD in ratifying the promise: go from here. You must travel on. Go from here, “you and the people which you have brought out of the land of Egypt.” Leave behind the sin and the suffering of this experience and move on.
He gave them a definition. They had come from Egypt and were going to the land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the life of Israel God was constantly reminded them of what He had promised. Those reminders were to give them confidence for what was ahead. So, in this particular incident he ratified the promise. This directive to go forward and this definition that they had come from Egypt, assured them they were on their way to the land that He had promised.
I learned some valuable lessons from this. First, God is merciful. Even in judgment His desire is that we might seek Him in repentance. In addition, we learn by this action that God can be trusted. I’m so grateful we can trust Him. We cannot trust the word of man, but we can trust the Word of God. By ratifying the promise to Israel God made it clear that He can be trusted.
In The Second Action
God Specified the Procedure
He said, “I will send an angel before you.” Follow the angel. There was a bit of change here because the LORD said “I’m not going among you anymore. If I were to go among you, I would consume you because you are stiff necked people.” Imagine the feeling of lostness the people must have had. “God will not go with us!” But God wasn’t abandoning them.
That is beautiful, isn’t it? The LORD didn’t abandon His people. He specified the procedure; they were to follow the angel. He promised that when they arrived in the Promised Land, He would make it available to them by driving out the Canaanite, Amorite, Hittite, Perizzite, Hivite and the Jebusite. These were all heathen people of the land. But they would need to do as He told them. They must follow the angel who was going before them, showing the way.
He provided angelic leadership to guide them to that fertile, fruitful land. To experience God’s richness, we must do what He says just as He says it. There can be no compromise on our part. Any departure from His will must be dealt with as sin and taken care of in that way. But God took this action for His people and specified the procedure. He said, “I will send an angel before you.” Praise the LORD!
Then in the third action
God Nullified the Punishment.
When the people of Israel heard what God had said about them, and what He would necessarily need to do if He were among them, they were sorrowful. They mourned because of the evil tidings which they heard. There was no rejoicing in this consequence of their sin, and God looked upon them and saw their sorrow and nullified their punishment.
They were still a stiff-necked people. And God needed to separate from them because their sin barred His presence among them. The holy God cannot dwell in the midst of sinful people. Yet He was willing to take them on their way to the land of promise.
They took off their symbols of joy and walked in sorrow, yet God understood their hearts and did not pass the severity of the judgment. He did not consume them as He would have needed to do had He been among them. They sorrowed for their sin. And God saw it. That is a beautiful picture of sincere, genuine repentance.
To avoid the punishment of the divine God we also must mourn for our sins. We cannot go blindly on in our sin because God has spoken with clarity, with judgment, and with justice. But He is willing to take the same actions toward us that He took toward Israel. He is willing to forgive.
Let me show these actions to you again. He ratified the promise. He reassured the people of His promise on the basis of what He had said to their forefathers. Then He specified the procedure. He showed them how they would need to go and what they would need to do in order to continue to go on toward the land of promise. Then He nullified the punishment they deserved because He saw that they were sorry for their sin. In their sorrow God saw what He could do for them.
You and I can take courage from ancient Israel because the God that dealt with them in their time deals with us today in our time. We too are a sinful people, but we can come to Him and find in Him forgiveness and peace. He still nullifies the punishment when He sees that we are sorrowful. I’m so glad to tell you that through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary forgiveness is possible for us. Rejoice in the actions God has taken on our behalf. Is He real to you? Have you found peace with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ?
What a great promise to end today’s teaching with. We can experience forgiveness for our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, after our sin is dealt with then we are reconciled to God. We are no longer guilty before Him. This is the best thing that ever happened! The whole world needs to hear about this! And it is up to us to share this message and we pray that you will do that this week.
Before you go, let me give you some information about how you can contact us. We would love to hear from you. The best way is via email. Our email is [email protected]. If you don’t have email, not a problem, you could write to us, our address is Hope for Today, Box 3, Breezewood, Pennsylvania 15533. Or you can connect with us on our website. Our website is Heraldsofhope.org. On our website you can listen to our other programs and find helpful resources, so please look around while you are there. Again, the website is heraldsofhope.org.
Thank you so much for being with us. We look forward to next week and hope you will join us for more teaching from Exodus. And just because it is such a profound verse, I leave you with this verse I shared at the beginning Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Truly incredible, live in that truth this week.
*This episode is an exposition of Exodus 33:1-6 by J. Otis Yoder, re-recorded by J. Mark Horst, with an opening and closing by Arlin Horst.