What about now, in these days? Our mainstream “churches” follow practices even though we know that some of these are expressly forbidden in the Bible.
Exodus 24:9-10, 17-18
Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity … 17 The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18 So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
Exodus 32:1, 3-4
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him”… 3 So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a moulded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
Exodus 24 tells us that the Elders of Israel saw an amazing sight on mount Sanai - they had a unique and glorious revelation. It was clear, it was awesome and it was fearful. Indeed, God’s promise in Exodus 19:6 was: “5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. They had witnessed the reality of God with their own eyes, they had experienced His deliverance at the Red Sea and they had received His promise for the future. Despite all of this, not long after in chapter 32, when they felt that Moses’s return from the mountain was overdue, we find Aaron it seems, colluding with the wishes of the people to make a replacement god. They made their own image and corrupted their way before the Lord.
There are two things that I want to talk about from this story. The first is that we must wait for the Lord – to do something without him will bring disaster. The second is the danger of forgetting. We can forget even the most powerful experiences, or things that the Lord has taught us and in so doing build other altars or cry for more signs of God’s deliverance or His presence with us.
Although the Moses story seems a far-off thing it really represents doesn’t it, a repeating pattern for those who declare that they are God’s people – in the bible and through History? A deliverance or revival comes and people’s lives are changed but they fail to remember that the source of it all was the Lord – they quickly forsake His directions and build their own practices and rituals, especially in successive generations. Jesus constantly took issue with the way in which the Jewish leaders misinterpreted and misdirected God’s intentions. They created for the people a God who was a hard taskmaster, who favoured the elite and despised the poor, with little compassion or mercy. No wonder the prophets had declared that God hated their religious practices and even their worship singing, and when Jesus came along, He was hated by the leaders but the common people “heard Him gladly”. The light of the gospel and promise of a nation of priests was a remote memory.
What about now, in these days? Our mainstream “churches” follow practices even though we know that some of these are expressly forbidden in the Bible. (Building images, calling people “Father”, appointing priests when there is only one, lauding it over each other, creating man-made hierarchies, forgetting that “he who wants to lead must become as a little child”, professionalizing worship, making the leaders and “the organization” more important than the flock, creating man-made traditions and worship structures that artificially separate people from the Lord, and indulging in politics. Trying to be “relevant” in the world instead of being obedient to the Lord that called them).
I knew someone once - a senior manager who I got on well with. He told me that his son had gone to a Christian summer camp and come back a completely different person. He set off in pursuit of the experience that his son had, had and started attending church. Before long they found out who he was and invited him to a meeting about “how to make the church relevant in today’s society” – having been prompted that my friend was there, the chair (a senior cleric), introduced him to the assembled meeting and invited his comments. My friend commented to me that here he was – someone seeking the reality of knowing God – and apparently their best answer was to ask him to help them make the church “relevant” today.
The Bible talks about men trying to build things without having any regard to the original designer. Crucially there is almost no mention at all about seeking the Lord – seeking the Lord until He is found when we cannot mistake Him. The bible says: “and I will be found of you when you search for me with all of your heart” and “He that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him” and “Seek the lord whilst He may be found call on Him while He is near”. Instead we miss a step, forgetting that all of the heroes of faith had their struggles until they met the Lord for themselves. They had to wait for His timing, for His revelation, for His appearance NOT HE THEIRS.
The Israelites and their leaders abandoned waiting for Moses – they decided on the timescale (and the Lord’s revelation) before its fulfilment; they followed their own wisdom and leaders and corrupted their way… “Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it”. After Moses came down the mountain to find the results of the people of God’s failure to wait for him, he interceded for the people and dealt with their sin and new tablets were written.
But the complaints of the people reoccurred as soon as there was trouble. Their anxious, self-centred hearts seemed to easily overtake the fear of the Lord even with His presence actually in the camp. They constantly need reassurances with signs and delivering miracles – even nearly to the point of total disaster. The Lord keeps saying “If they see my glory and my deliverance they will understand, follow me, accept Moses, be My people and be My glory” – BUT it never happens and the offer to be a nation of priests and missionaries is never fulfilled or realized (yet).
In the New Testament Jesus refuses to give the sign that the Jews want (despite the miracles and signs and wonders that accompany Him everywhere). The Jewish leaders were looking for something else; but Jesus said that no sign would be given except that of the prophet Jonah (as dead inside the belly of a fish for 3 days). Isaiah says “The Lord Himself shall give you a sign behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” – Jesus was the sign – He fulfilled it all but they didn’t want to see it. Apparently today we are no different, people constantly clamour for a sign – a new sign, a new word, barely before the last one has finished being spoken! With so many “words” available but so little power evident, we can’t help but wonder what amount of waiting on the Lord has in fact been done?
For practically all of the prophets in the bible they were despised, not believed, cast out, considered cranks, (were admittedly often a bit odd), and suffered all kinds of sanctions for the word that they were bringing. There was a massive cost to speaking “the word from the Lord” and what about this – it was a word that “God’s People” did not want to hear. Is this the pattern with today’s prophesies or has it become a “taught skill” and a “desirable Christian asset”?
So, back with Moses and the Israelites would we be any different than they? Jesus said in one of His stories “If they will not believe Moses and the prophets then they will not believe even if someone rises from the dead to tell them”. Despite all that is said and the patience of the Lord in bringing His word to us, at the end of the Bible in Revelation 3 (Laodicea) we still have a church that can’t see even its own faults and where apparently the Lord is on the OUTSIDE of the church appealing to individuals to let him in. This is despite what Hebrews 12:18-29 says about the difference between the Israelites in the wilderness and us – It is vital that we listen to the message that it carries:
18 For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel
25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.
May God bless and enrich your life
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