Moses – Rejecting God’s Direction
God gave leadership to assist Moses as he led the children of Israel through the wilderness. There were men who judged in personal affairs and elders who directed in civil and a few religious affairs. In the area of spiritual leadership and worship, God gave Israel the high priest, the Levites and the various courses of priests.
To deal with a sinful people wandering in the wilderness, God gave the Law. From Adam to that point, all men had sinned. However, there was nothing codified to bring them up short, to make them see their guilt or their great need for forgiveness. Although the Law solved this problem, it did not and could not justify a man. It simply showed him that he had a need and that the answer to that need was outside of himself.
“Now we know that whatever things the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:19-20).
Wherefore, the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24).
THE LAW – Divine Direction
What a multitude Moses had led into the wilderness. The Jews were clearly identified as a mixed multitude since they included all kinds of people. Specific instructions were necessary to show them their sin, as well as to guide them in all aspects of their lives.
After only three months into the journey, they came to the wilderness of Sinai. The Lord called Moses up into the mountain and instructed him to give His message to the people. He promised through His leader that if the Jewish people would obey the Lord, they would be a treasure to Him above all people of the earth. With a positive response, they thoughtlessly promised to obey all the Lord would command (Ex. 19:5-8).
Moses was then instructed to sanctify the people in preparation for their meeting with the Lord on the third day. At the appointed time, thick clouds descended, and there were thunderings, lightnings and the sound of an exceedingly loud trumpet. The mountain was covered with smoke as if it were a furnace. There was an earthquake, and the people gathered with trembling and fear as God’s presence was manifested on the mountain (Ex. 19:16-18).
When Moses was called by the Lord to the top of Mount Sinai, he was told not to let the people touch the mountain. It was off limits to them under penalty of death.
The Ten Commandments were given. A standard was set. God had spoken, and it was done! The people became exceedingly fearful and moved away from the mountain. They told Moses they never wanted to face the Lord again and would be satisfied for him to convey God’s messages. Moses reminded them that God had only come to test them that they might not sin. Immediately following the giving of the decalogue, the Lord gave other laws regarding their relationships with one another. Three feasts were instituted by the Lord: the Feast of Harvest, the Feast of First Fruits and the Feast of Ingathering. The Lord conveyed in another promise that an angel would lead the nation. They were to follow his leading in order to have victory over their enemies and would shortly conquer the land which the Lord promised them.
THE TABERNACLE – Divine Worship
The Lord kept Moses on the mountain for forty days and nights (Ex. 24:18). There God also gave His leader His plans for Israel’s place of worship, the Tabernacle.
Financing the Tabernacle
In the midst of the desert, the Jewish people would have to finance the construction of the Tabernacle. The resources of the First National Bank or Bank Leumi were unavailable. In fact, there was no credit available at all. There was nowhere they could go to float a construction loan, so Moses was directed to take an offering from the people. The resources were to come only from those who would give “willingly” (Ex. 25:2). There were sixteen items needed ranging from gold and silver to wood and skins (Ex. 25:3-9). Was it available?
And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him up, and everyone whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the LORD’S offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing-hearted, and brought bracelets… The children of Israel brought a willing offering unto the LORD” (Ex. 35:20-22, 29).
Each morning people brought their offerings for the Tabernacle. Day after day the gifts came until the builders “spoke unto Moses, saying, The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work, which the LORD commanded to make. And Moses gave commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, Let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary. So the people were restrained from bringing; For the stuff they had was sufficient for all the work to make it, and too much” (Ex. 36:5-7). No more was needed. The funds were in, and the list of materiais was complete. God’s commandment to build a Tabernacle could be accomplished.
Furnishing the Tabernacle
A building without furnishings is merely a shelter. God gave Moses very specific instructions concerning how the Tabernacle was to be furnished. There would not be the usual pieces that a person would expect. Instead, an ark was to be built with staves. A mercy seat was to be constructed with cherubim on it. A table was to be made for the specific purpose of holding the showbread. A seven-branched, golden candlestick had to be beaten out, and veils had to be sewn. A brazen altar was to be made out of wood and covered with brass. There were also the altar of incense and a laver, which was a brass bowl to hold water for the ceremonial washing.
All of these furnishings were designed to point to the Savior and His work. Some were used on a daily basis, some weekly and some only once a year on the Day of Atonement. David Levy has thoroughly covered each of these furnishings as well as their significance (ISRAEL MY GLORY, Vol. 36, NO. 4, August/September l978 through Vol. 38, No. 1, February/March 1980).
Facilitating the Work of the Tabernacle
Not only did the Lord give detailed instructions on the building of the Tabernacle but also on the construction and placement of the furniture. Furthermore, He instructed Moses concerning the clothing and equipment for the priests and the high priest.
How could Moses find men with the necessary skills to accomplish what the Lord wanted? After all, the people had been making bricks. They had been merely slaves for four generations. Were there really any artisans left in this mixed multitude. God had just the answer, Bezalel would be the superintendent and Oholiab his assistant. The Lord had given them ability far beyond normal human skills. They could lead the people in the building project until the sanctuary and furnishings were complete.
Failure at the Mountain
While Moses spent forty days and nights on the mountain receiving God’s Law, a horrible event occurred. We don’t know what happened to Moses, moaned the people. Certain that their leadership was gone and God had let them down, they cried for Aaron to make other gods that would lead them (Ex. 32:1). The stubborn and rebellious nature of the Jews raised its ugly head.
Aaron – the brother of Moses – who had witnessed firsthand the multitude of miracles God had performed in Egypt, responded to the pressures of the crowd. He actually commanded the men of Israel to break off the earrings in the ears of their wives and daughters. These were brought to Aaron who made a golden calf which the people then declared to be their god. Aaron built an altar before this idol and declared a feast day. The people actually brought their burnt offerings and peace offerings to this golden calf. On that day Israel stooped as low as she could. That which was so sacred was tossed to the winds as they forgot the God who had delivered them. An idol of metal wrought by human hands was far more important to them than the One who had so tenderly led them for many years.
Not only did they forget God, but they set aside everything that was sacred. The philosophy of the Jews became eat, drink and be merry. They even went so far as to commit gross immorality. What a despicable sight (Ex. 32:1-6; Dt 9:7-13; 1 Cor. 10:7-8). Israel had sunk as low as she could by totally forsaking her Lord.
Suddenly, the Lord spoke to Moses on the mountain, “Go, get thee down… beho!d, it is a stiff-necked people” (Ex. 32:7, 9). God was prepared to utterly destroy His people and to make a new nation from Moses instead. His fury was poured out.
Moses, however, cried out, Don’t let the Egyptians have cause to speak evil of you, Lord. Remember the covenants made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex. 32:12-13). This frantic cry of His faithful leader stemmed the fierce anger of the Lord. Returning to the camp, Moses saw with his own eyes the orgy which was taking place, and in wrath he cast down and broke the stone tablets given by the Lord. The judgment of God did fall, however, and three thousand men died out of Israel.
Moses became the intercessor before the Lord. He begged Him to forgive the sin of the people. He even went so far as to ask the Lord to let their sin fall on him in order to spare the lives of the people. This God would not do, but He did send a plague because of their sin (Ex. 32:34-35).
God was in the process of giving divine direction. He had made Himself known to Israel and had given the Law. The heinousness of sin was clarified. The people cried in fear of the Lord. They had been so generous with their offerings for the Tabernacle that the leaders had to stop their giving. Things looked so good. It appeared that Israel was finally depending upon the Lord.
While Moses was gone for a few days, however, everything fell apart. The Canaanite influence took over, idolatry was rampant and judgment fell. God had to pick them up and set them on their feet spiritually.
Lest we think too harshly of Israel, my friend, let us examine our own lives. It is so easy for us to “fall into idolatry”. We may not bow to a molten calf, but we succumb in so many other ways. We sometimes bow to the whims of our children. Our clothes must match those of a sin-sick generation. Sometimes our idols are those with only a purely humanistic view. We are trapped into a materialism that puts us in a position where we cannot give the Lord His due. Time spent with the Lord is minimal. Perhaps we are bowing to the molten calf of our generation.
Were it not for the intercession of Moses, God’s people would have been destroyed. What does the Lord think of our generation? Let’s not follow Aaron but look to the mount, to the “Rock that is higher than I”, Christ Jesus. We must never reject God’s direction for our lives.