Welcome back! While I’ve had three surgeries in the last five months, you’ve waited to discover how many of the original 600,000 Israelites plus women and children would enter into the Promised Land and the time has come. Ready?
WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON? Part 2
FROM EGYPT TO CANAAN
In Exodus 23 God promised an Angel would escort His people and lead them safely to the land He had prepared for them. If they obeyed Him, all of their enemies would be destroyed. However, there were conditions the Israelites were to meet. They were to destroy all the pagan idols they came in contact with and worship only this glorious God Who had freed them from slavery. In Exodus 23:31-33 God gave a two-fold reason why He established His rules; they were for His holiness and they were the for the Israelites’ protection. He is not a tyrant; He is a loving God Who knows the consequences of our sins better than we do.
“I will cause you to defeat the people now living in the land, and you will drive them out ahead of you. You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.“
The Lord required strict and thorough adherence to these laws. They were to break down all the heathen altars, smash the obelisks, cut down the shameful idols. He considered compromise with heathen practices to be spiritual prostitution. His people were not to make peace treaties with those who worshipped idols. He wanted their absolute loyalty and exclusive devotion. It almost sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Yet look Who is speaking. This is God: He Who created the world, Who gave each of them life, Who freed them from slavery, Who performed miracles for them…He Who loves them so much that in centuries to come He would let His own Son die a most horrid death for them. What He asks is so little compared to what He so freely and lovingly gives.
Exodus 24:7-8 speaks of the solemn covenant made between God and the Israelites, a covenant ratified with blood.
7 And (Moses) read to the people the Book he had written—the Book of the Covenant—containing God’s directions and laws. And the people said again, “We solemnly promise to obey every one of these rules.”
8 Then Moses threw the blood from the basins toward the people and said, “This blood confirms and seals the covenant the Lord has made with you in giving you these laws.”
All of us are familiar with the tragedy that followed this seemingly heart-felt commitment. Moses disappeared up the mountain for forty days to commune with Almighty God and receive The Ten Commandments. However, what were the recently-freed Israelites doing during this time? The men, women, boys and girls went to Aaron complaining of Moses’ absence, rejecting him and demanding a god – small “g” – who would lead them back to Egypt, their former home of slavery (Acts 7:39-40)!! This horrendous act of gross idolatry is described in Exodus 32:3-6
All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt! 6 Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
“To drink and rose up to play” is a subtle way to interpret that they indulged in drunkenness and sexual immorality. This “feast” to the gods was in the very place where the holy Law of God had been previously given. Don’t glide past what you just read too quickly, pause and think on these two vastly different scenes. In the one Moses is in blessed communion with Holy God Almighty Who is writing His commandments with His Hand. In the other scene a man is molding a pagan idol…an idol that the people want to adore. It had not existed the day before. It was what the people wanted not what God had ordained. If Aaron had been a true leader he would have called it what it was, an idol. Instead he called it a god. Worse yet, Aaron sanctified it by building an altar before it so it could be worshipped. Aaron adds an idol to the idea of worshipping God. So often compromise is reduced to worshipping God AND…(Catholic Christian, Christian Yoga, Chrislam – yes, there is such a thing). The people were mingling the pagan practices of Egypt with God. Yet two months before this they had heard the voice of God Himself and had made a covenant with blood that they would obey the Ten Commandments. The first two of those commandments are:
- Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
- Thou shalt not make unto Me any graven image.
The people have broken the covenant and Moses slams the holy tablets to the ground.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF EMBRACING IDOLATRY
Because the people have defiled themselves God is ready to destroy them. Yet Moses pleads mercy, not for the sake of the people but for the glory of God. It is God’s reputation before the Egyptians that is at stake. Moses reminds God of His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to multiply his posterity and give them the land He has promised. Yes, God will have mercy but His holiness is at stake and rightly so. Therefore, He has Moses issue the following command:
25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’ ” 28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29 Then Moses said,“Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.” (Exodus 32: 25-29)
The tribe that rallied to Moses was made up primarily of Levites, the tribe of Moses and Aaron. Moses, in order to stamp out the idolatry, and in order to execute divine judgment on the nation of Israel, instructs the Levites to kill those Israelites committed to idol worship, men who are their brothers, friends, and neighbors.
In verse 30, Moses reminds the people of their great sin and he offers to go to the Lord and make atonement. When Moses speaks to God, he offers to have his name removed from the book (Book of Life) God has written along with the rest of the Israelites, even though Moses did not sin.
Instead, God refuses to remove Moses from the Book of Life, but promises to remove those names of the people who did sin against God. God also promises to strike Israel with a plague as punishment for their sin, and so he does.
SO NEAR AND YET SO FAR
In Numbers 13 God instructs Moses to send 12 spies into the land He is going to give them – the land of promised milk and honey, a good land (Exodus3:8 and 13:5). They are instructed not to be afraid and to return with some samples of the goodness of the land. They return with such a spectacular cluster of grapes that it takes two men carrying them on a pole to transport one cluster! This Wondrous God Who had sent the plagues in Egypt, freed them from slavery, parted the Red Sea, provided never-ending water and manna across the desert, etc.. – wouldn’t you have expected them to have had the greatest of expectations of the land and the God Who gave it to them!? Yet, what does Moses hear from the ten spies? “Nevertheless.” Nevertheless, they lament, there’s all these barriers obviously bigger and stronger than God. Caleb stands against the ten spies, trusting God (remember this fundamental fact for the remainder of the series). Ironically, the last negative comment made was that the spies felt like grasshoppers compared to the giants in the land. Grasshoppers occur significantly in one other place in the Old Testament, in Isaiah 40. Notice Who thinks who are grasshoppers in the following verses.
The answer to fear is always the Word of God; therefore, we will look at verses in Isaiah 40: 15, 22:
15 Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
And are counted as the small dust on the scales;
Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
The spies’ perspective was wrong.
God proceeded to commend Caleb for “having a different spirit” – one that put his implicit faith in his creator. Joshua joined him and went on to take Moses’ place. So, we come back to our initial inquiry?
Ultimately, out of the original 600,000 who left Egypt, how many make it to Promised Land? Two – Joshua and Caleb – plus all those twenty years of age and under. Why? Turn with me to the Lindsell Study Bible’s Commentary on the report of the twelve spies of the Promised Land in Numbers 13:
God had led Israel from Egypt toward the Promised Land. All the way the people exhibited signs of discontent, unbelief and rebellion. God was patient. Despite God’s many miracles such as the opening of the Red Sea, the provision of manna, and protection against their foes, they murmured again and again. Now they hear the report of the ten spies over against the testimony of Joshua and Caleb. The ten spies were negative and were frightened by the giants in the land. The people accepted and endorsed the report of the ten spies despite God’s promise that He would take care of them and would give them victory over the occupants of Canaan. They looked to outward circumstances rather than the promises of God. Their unbelief was dealt with by the forty years of wilderness wandering during which time all of the adults who voted to disobey would die off. The new generation, reared in freedom and aware of God’s daily provision, would be prepared by God to enter Canaan along with Joshua and Caleb, who were men of faith.
THEY WERE ON GOD’S SIDE.