Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, written on the front and on the back. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” But he said,
“It is not the sound made by victors,
or the sound made by losers;
it is the sound of revelers that I hear.”
As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.
Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” And Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn hot; you know the people, that they are bent on evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods, who shall go before us; 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.’ So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, take it off’; so they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”
When Moses saw that the people were running wild (for Aaron had let them run wild, to the derision of their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. He said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbor.’ ” The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. Moses said, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of a son or a brother, and so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.”
On the next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.” But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; see, my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.”
Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf—the one that Aaron made.
Warnings and Exhortations
But you, beloved, must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; for they said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.” It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on some who are wavering; save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Prediction of sin
There are cries of joy and cries of pain, and they are unmistakable. They are universal. But there is another kind of cry too. It is a cry of ecstasy, of revelry, and of wild, unfocused celebration.
We all experience temptation, but some of us like the experience more than others. It is one thing to get caught up in the trap of sin. It is another thing altogether to go looking for it. We may be weak and prone to failure, but often we bring trouble upon our own heads simply because we went looking for it. Experiencing failure creates an expectancy that we will fail again… and again… and again. We do not have to live very long before we actually have a harder time imagining ourselves withstanding and getting victory over temptation in our lives. Failure looks more like the reality, and so it becomes.
Where is God in the mess of all this? God knows and prepares for our sin. One of my own personal pitfalls I fell into as a teenager was that the holiness of God was like being clean… which meant God could not get dirty. (Cleanliness is next to Godliness perhaps?). At the time, I thought it was showing reverence to God… separating Him from the common and broken in our world. What I did not realize though was that it was actually limiting Him and forcing Him out of our world. More importantly… it wasn’t true. Genesis 2 shows us in the second creation account that God has no problem getting His hands dirty, quite literally.
Let’s be honest though, our hesitancy to put God and sin in the same room together has nothing to do with dirt. It has to do with guilt and worth and the spiritual stains that mark us. So where is the scripture that shows us that God can handle our sin fullness? Just look at Jesus.
Promise of Holiness
The Jews were waiting for a Messiah and their religious and political interpretations of the Messiah were so intertwined as to be almost indistinguishable. Religious purity was the same as political purity and the Messiah had to be both for them to accept Him. So if you want a good scripture to begin seeing how God handles being in the presence of sinners… start here: Luke 7.
This chapter has one story after another of Jesus coming into contact with different kinds of uncleanness: gentiles, sinners, etc. As it turns out, what it means for God to be Holy means that His Holiness is not threatened by our sin… it overcomes it. In fact, most interactions we have with the holiness of God tends to leave us marked for the better.
God’s holiness changes us, even accidentally. We react to the truth when we come into God’s presence. It gets our attention and often gives us a sense of warning of where not to go. We find forgiveness, grace, consequences, and discipline… often none of it comfortable or convenient, but all of it leading us someplace better.
The Apostle Paul tells us, therefore, we have no excuses. Not because Paul does not understand our natural bent toward sin. We have no excuses because God is able, and willing to help us, if we will only ask. Sometimes, we don’t even have to ask, we just have to be willing to receive it. Whether it comes as a cleansing spirit, purifying us from the inside out, or simply as a warning. We defeat the power of sin on us the same way we do everything else by faith. We keep our eyes on Jesus and follow His lead.
What sin would you predict yourself falling into today?
What promise of God encourages you to trust God to give you victory over that sin?