GOLDEN CALF... MANNA...THE CLOUD, FIRE, ... THE WATER... THE PRIESTHOOD...
In the midst of the revival that Moses was experiencing on Mt. Sinai, there was great immorality going on at the foot of the mountain... This sin was out of place... like clowns at a funeral... Why would the people sin in the midst of revival?
"They made a calf in Horeb, and worshiped the molten image. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass. They forgat God their Savior, which had done great things in Egypt; wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red Sea. Therefore, he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses, His chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He should destroy them."
Why were they not grateful for their deliverance? Why were they not marveling of the display of the glory of God upon the mountain? Still, we could ask such questions about the early church period... for Ananias and Sapphira were sinning in the midst of that revival. Today, in the midst of the latter rain revival, we find sin abundant in many churches. Many who say "Amen" on Sunday, are swearing at work on Monday...
None of us are exempt from failure, backsliding, or the desiring to go back to "Egypt"... Salvation is not perfection, and we may be shocked to learn of the faults, failures, and sins of preachers or evangelists... but even the elect can and do fail......
Aaron failed, and the children of Israel worshiped the golden calf... The visible calf was more appealing than the invisible God on the mountain with Moses. For the same reasoning, many will stand in line for hours, pay an exorbitant amount for a ticket... to hear a rock star, who is high on drugs, sings about sex and murder... makes obscene gestures, speaks with vulgarity... but need to be forced to attend a church service... They think us strange to want to hear a Bible study, worship with a congregation, or use the name of Jesus in worship rather than in vulgar cursings...
Idols have many faces... sin may fascinate us... and saints of all ages need to beware of the temptation to sin even in the midst of revival. John warned us when he wrote:
I John 5:21
"Little children, keep yourselves from idols..."
Aaron tried to excuse himself, but finally partook in the sins of the people... He saw himself as justified for his actions, and thought it was the other horrible people who forced him by intimidation to commit such sin. Many today try to excuse their sins by blaming others... They have a grudge, "but if you only knew why..." They lost their temper... but "they were victims first..." They gossiped, but the other person "needed to know..."
STEPS IN AARON'S BACKSLIDING
1. He listened to criticism of God's chosen leader... (vs.1)
2. He surrendered to those who wanted to sin, for fear of losing his popularity... (vs. 1, 22)
3. He agreed to make an idol god... (vs. 2)
4. He received gold to make such an idol... (vs. 4)
5. He made the golden calf to worship...
6. He built an altar before it... (vs. 5)
7. He called a feast to Jehovah before it...
8. He sacrificed to it... (vs. 6)
9. He sanctioned their immoral activities... (vss. 6, 19)
10. He worshiped the calf... (vs. 8)
11. He claimed the calf was the God Who led them from Egypt... (vss.21-23)
12. He laid the blame for the sin upon others...
13. He lied about the making of the calf... (vs. 24)
14. He exposed the whole nation to the wrath of God... vss. 11-14, 25)
The main problem of Israel in the wilderness was the rejection of God's leader. They did not accept Moses as God's leader. They rejected the report of Joshua and Caleb. Korah rebelled against Moses and Aaron because they were placed above him. In opposing God's leader, they opposed God! When many wanted Aaron to make a golden calf, he listened to others and joined in their rebellion.
Today, we face many times of decision also. God brings us to a place of testing and - if we fail - we wander in circles also. Many church congregations are wandering in circles. They may pray for revival, and God will begin to answer that prayer... and bring them to the border of great revival... Then comes the TEST.
Many congregations fail that test. They go back to wandering about spiritually. We cannot have the revival, the blessings and the promises of God... if we fail the tests of God. If we refuse His way, and refuse to face issues... God will allow us to die in the wilderness... very near to the blessed land of revival.
The priesthood of the Old Testament period ministered to this sort of people in that day. Paul, in Corinthians, says they were examples for us... and tells us that many today are in similar tests, trials, and blessings. We are not unlike the people of that time. The church congregations are coming alive, the revival of the latter rain is stirring the congregations. Yet, there is still the test of "Kadesh-Barnea" to be faced.
We, in this priesthood of the New Covenant, are to intercede for this kind of Christian. It is a challenging, difficult, and disillusioning task. These people for whom we intercede, and the people to whom we minister... are a people with:
As the people in the wilderness, "fell a lusting" after the food of Egypt, so many saints today retain the desires for the things of the old sinful life, from which they are now to be free. The saints in the Old Testament tired of manna, which God had provided. Many today tire of Bible study, prayer, church attendance, Christian fellowship, worship, and want to go back to old habits, sinful practices of the past.
Just as Lot's wife looked back to the old homestead, the place of sin and degradation that God was destroying... with a look of love she looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. The Word of God reminds us to "REMEMBER LOT'S WIFE." because it is a sin that tempts many of today's saints.
Life in the desert can be difficult, as it was for the children of Israel. Life in this world can also be difficult for the saint. Yet, we, as they, have a promised land to anticipate. They doubted God's goodness, and ability to give them that land. Many today tire of the struggles, impatiently begin to have second thoughts about the promises of God... They will sometimes then revert back to the sinful practices of the past...
While Moses was still on the mountain receiving the law and the plans for the tabernacle, the people fell into a terrible sin. They began to worship an idol. How surprising for a people who had just seen the waters of the Red Sea part for them, and drown all the Egyptian army. They had seen the manna fall daily from heaven... They had seen the cloud by day, and the fire by night lead them... Yet, they failed... They began to worship an idol, the golden calf.
Anything that takes the place of God in our lives is an idol. For some it is sports, work, money, vacation, family reunions, prestige, education... People tend to think that "the Lord delayeth His coming" (Matthew 24:48) and to live as though they had much time to repent later. They allow these things to have first place in their lives. They allow the cares of this life, the materialism of success, and the pressures of the peers and family of this world to distract them from the Lord.
In Numbers 25, the children of Israel are seen having immoral relationships with the Midianitish women. They were dwelling too close to world, and they tampered with sin... Many died from the plague caused by this sin.
When Moses had first read to them the commandments, they had said, "We will do it!" Yet, when the testing times came, they failed, they sinned, and they were unfaithful to the God who had saved them. Like many today, the unfaithfulness to the commands of the Lord, plagues many. God is very angered at the sins within His people.
OPPOSED GOD'S LEADERSHIP
I Corinthians 10:9
"Neither let us tempt Christ..."
To "tempt" means to "test"... They tempted God when they "spake against God, and against Moses..." (Numbers 21:5) They complained against the conditions, against the leadership of the Lord. They looked about them for human leadership, but God wants to be our leader. In the same way, the Lord is to be our leader, and when we seek guidance from other sources that Jesus, we are in grave danger.
Jesus dwells within us, and has sent the Holy Spirit to speak His words to us... Why do we run to others for guidance. Surely the Lord places pastors, teachers, prophets, etc amidst us to aid, but their aid is supposed to be to help us find the answer in the Word of God, and from the Spirit of the Lord. Too many "saints" are trying to make themselves to be lords... Too many want to rule the church, the church people... Too many are trying to replace Jesus as the shepherd of the flock...
When this happened in the Old Testament, the ones who opposed the leadership of the Lord were swallowed up by the earth. At another time, the serpents came and bit them, causing pain, sickness, and death. Another time, leprosy afflicted the one who opposed God's leadership.
Complaining about the way in which the Lord leads us will lead to rebellion. When God sees that we are not satisfied with His leadership, because it may lead down stony paths, or take us to dry deserts, or make us stay in lonely valleys, He is angered.
Israel murmured almost constantly. At one time, they said:
"Would to God, that we would die in this wilderness."
God answered this prayer. We need to beware of our murmuring, our words of despair, discouragement, and hopelessness... God may answer those prayers... When Korah murmured, the earth swallowed him alive... When others murmured about what had happened to Korah, a plague followed. A Christian today - who murmurs - is in danger of judgment also.
God provides for His people. He has made provision for us, as He had for the people of the old covenant.
DIVINE GUIDANCE IS OFFERED
"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, and to lead them by the way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light, to go by day and night."
God wants to lead and guide His people. God willingly offers us the Holy Spirit to guide us... When we listen to family, to friends, to others who want to be our shepherds... we will find problems. When we stay sensitive tot he Spirit's guidance, when we risk all to follow wherever He leads... we will find victory.
DIVINE NOURISHMENT OFFERED
"Then said, the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go our and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law, or no."
Jesus is our manna, He is our Bread of Life. We feed daily upon Him, or at least we should. The Word says that the gift of manna was a test... to see if they would daily obey the Lord. If we do not daily feed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, we are failing the test. How hard is it to daily come to the spiritual table of blessing...??? Yet, many saints do not, and spend days, many days sometimes, between spiritual feedings.
We may feed on this supply, or not. We may choose to seek sustenance from others, from things, from man's praise, from family, from the applause of this world... but none of these truly satisfy. Only the Lord Jesus will satisfy our spiritual hunger.
DIVINE REFRESHING IS OFFERED
"Thou shalt smite the ROCK, and there shall come out of it, that the people may drink."
"If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink... He that believes on Me, as the Scriptures hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of water. (But this spake He of the Spirit.)"
The Holy Spirit is offered to all saints, and yet many will neglect this wondrous gift of the Lord. They wander about in thirst spiritually, and never are satisfied, refreshed, and rejuvenated by the Spirit. What a foolish neglect of many today.
A PRIESTHOOD OF MEDIATORS IS AVAILABLE
In the center of the camp of the Israelites, was a place of sacrifice. There at that tabernacle, were priests. They offered to mediate the sacrifice for any who had sinned, or had special requests from God.
God has an intercessory priesthood today for sinners. We are all to be priests to God.
"I Peter 2:5,9
"Ye also as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood... ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood.
"But ye shall be named the 'Priests of the Lord'..."
We, as the priesthood, must be intercessors. We should "pray for one another". It is not an easy vocation. It is a ministry for a wandering, rebellious, murmuring, critical, cowardly, failing people.
The priesthood of believers minister to a people much like the people to whom Moses and Aaron ministered. What a challenge. What a task. It is very difficult to minister to and for a people that can sin in the midst of revival. Certainly we need the help of the Lord!!!
Sin, idolatry, and the missing of great revival all about us. still plagues many in this world. We need intercessors like Moses. We need people who will stand before the Lord and argue for mercy. We need spiritual blessings in order to help the intercessors. We need visible assurance of God's help and His presence!
Moses prayed for such help. Moses asked God for help to continue his ministry to these sinful people. He asked to "know" God, and to know God is to have His presence.
"Now henceforth, I pray Thee, if I have found grace in Thy sight, shew me now Thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in Thy sight; and consider that this nation is Thy people. And He said: My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest."
When we seek God with a great desire to know Him, and to have His presence, so that we may serve Him, intercede for such a sinful generation, we shall find Him.
"If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God."