Will We Fashion Golden Calves?

What happens when people use their best judgment as opposed to the word of God? What happens when they rely on the evidence they have rather than on divine revelation? Disaster happens.

Exodus 32:1 – When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, 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.”

Moses took a long time up on the mountain. That is true. But it still has been less than a month-and-a-half since the people heard the very voice of God speaking his commandments to Moses. They still saw the fire on the mountain. They still knew that God had commanded them not to fashion idols of any kind.

But Moses had been gone for a while. They did not know for sure what had happened to him. So the people go to Aaron, determining that the whole Moses as leader thing did not work out. They demand that Aaron fashion for them gods they can follow. They like following what they can see and understand.

You know the rest. Aaron gives in. The people give their jewelry, some of the very jewelry that the Lord prompted the Egyptians to give them at the exodus from Egypt just a short time ago. And they use that gold to make images of golden calves to worship. And in an even odder practice, they declare the calves to be the Lord, the one who led them out of Egypt.

What happened? The people stopped being led by the word of God and relied on their own best understanding. They stopped obeying the clear command of God—do not make an image to worship—and determined that their particular situation required them to go against that command.

Christians, we have a parallel situation in many ways. WE have the word of God. But, our Lord Jesus, the One who leads us, the One who saves us, he has been physically gone from this world for a long time. Now people say that they do not know about him any longer, as they do not see him with their eyes. And we will have to choose. The world around us says to ignore the command of God and the words of Jesus. The world around us says that the Savior is no longer relevant to our modern thinking and morality. The world around us says that history has moved on to a new standard of right and wrong.

As we see in 2 Peter 3, there are mockers who mock the idea of the return of Jesus and his importance in our day-to-day. But we are not to lose heart. He is not slow in keeping his promises. The Savior will return. So may we not be like the people standing around the mountain. May we not turn our backs on the word of God. May we instead trust the Lord and remain faithful as we await his return.

The Complaint You Want

In Daniel 6, Daniel has been a faithful follower of God in a hostile foreign land for quite some time. Taken to Babylon likely in his teen years, Daniel is now an old man and well-respected by Darius the Mede.

Human nature, we all know, is often an ugly thing. The other government officials were jealous of Daniel and the favor that Daniel had with the king. Thus, as we see so often in politics, the jealous officials set out to discredit Daniel.

Daniel 6:4-5 – 4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

The politicians looked and looked, but could find nothing with which to discredit Daniel. They knew Daniel to be faithful in all things. But then they decided how to get to him. They could go after Daniel’s faithfulness to the law of God.

You likely know the rest of the story. The officials pass a law that nobody can pray to anybody except King Darius. They then catch Daniel continuing to pray to the Lord as always, Daniel is put into the lions’ den, and God works a miraculous rescue.

The application point that I want us to make today is simple. If worldly people were looking to dig up dirt on you, Christian, where would they go? Would they go to your public character? Would they look to how you treat others around you? Would it be your social media feed that does you in? Would it be your Internet history? Would they find a point of accusation in how you handle your money, how you talk about your friends, or how you entertain yourself?

Would it not be a glorious thing if we could be like Daniel? Let’s strive to see to it that, if our neighbors want to discredit us, they must find their grounds for attacking us in the word of God. May we be a people who are so faithful to the word of God that people would know that we can be caught, regularly, in obedience to the text. May our flaws not be in genuine failings of character. May our guilt lie in the fact that we, no matter what, obey the word of God without pause or apology.

Tempted by Less Than We Expect

Hosea is one of those difficult books with a difficult image. It is not that the image is difficult to understand, but it is tough to look at. It is an ugly image, an emotionally disturbing image.

When God speaks to the people of Israel, he draws a parallel between the nation and an unfaithful wife. As the people forsake the Lord, God uses very strong language to describe their spiritual adultery.

What I notice as I read through this passage is what it was that Israel seemed to be drawn after. This is important, as it catches people still today.

Hosea 2:5

For their mother has played the whore;
she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
who give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’

Without thinking too deeply about why God uses this image for Israel, notice what the six things are that draw Israel, as an adulterous wife, away from the Lord. They are seeking bread and water, wool and flax, oil and drink. These are simple items for living with perhaps a luxury thrown in. These are people who are forsaking God as they chase after basic, material wealth.

Interestingly for the Old Testament culture, God had promised his people all of those things in abundance if they would merely keep his law. But the people would not believe God enough to obey. They preferred to ignore the law of God and seek their material prosperity on their own.

But how might this apply to us today? Are we willing to turn from the Lord for material blessing? Be careful. If you answer this question from a position of security, consider how you would answer that question during a time of want and of persecution.

Friends, we need to understand that it is a common human temptation to turn away from the Lord in order to gain material security or safety. But those who love the Lord determine that we will be faithful to the Lord in times of plenty or want. Paul said that he had learned to be content in wealth or poverty. We must learn the same. We must not be willing to turn from the Lord for physical comforts. And we must not underestimate the temptation that this presents, as people have shown us in the past how easily they fail.

When we are not careful, when we are not faithful, we find ourselves tempted by small things. Bread and water, wool and flax, oil and drink, these should not be major temptations. But in hard times, we can find ourselves tempted by far less than we might think would tempt us at present. May we love our Lord so much that we are ready and faithful regardless of how hard times get.

We Want To Look Normal

In 1 Samuel 8, the people of Israel sin against the Lord by demanding that God give them a king. Before this time, the people had covenanted with God to be under his personal rule and protection. But as time passed, the nation began to desire a human ruler.

Samuel even warns the people that having a king will be to the people’s harm, not to their good. The king will require servants, taxes, and a military. The king will cost the people a great deal without bringing them benefits.

But here is how the people respond.

1 Samuel 8:19-20 – 19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

The people demand a king, even when they know that they are violating the will of God and are asking for something that will hurt them. Why? What motivates them? They want to be like all the other nations around them.

Now, without over-interpreting this, let’s simply ask ourselves if we are susceptible to that temptation? Just watch the modern church. Isn’t it obvious? How often will modern Christians turn away from the word of God and choose a thing that God says is not his will simply so that they can be like all the people around them? How often will we do what hurts us spiritually simply to look normal to society? How often will we embrace sin, violations of Scripture, in order to have others who hate God approve of us?

Dear believers in Christ, may we learn from the mistakes of others here. May we repent and love the word of God. And may we throw off the desire to be just like all the peoples around us. Instead, may we desire nothing more than to be pleasing to our Lord, regardless of how strange that looks to the world.

Walking in the Truth

When the apostle John was old, he wrote two lovely, short letters to churches and friends. And in them, we learn something about what makes an old apostle happy. While that might not strike you as the most important thing to think about in 2018, stop and really give it a second. If the apostles are the men chosen by God and sent out by Christ to communicate the word of God and lay the foundation of the church, what makes such men smile matters. And John, the last remaining apostle, has told us what makes him smile.

3 John 4 – I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

There it is. What makes an old apostle happy? It makes him happy when he hears that his children, those who have been taught by him and shepherded by him, are walking in the truth.

I would suggest, dear Christians, that this is what the Lord wants of us too. He wants us to walk in the truth. These are easy words, but they require us to take them seriously.

Truth is an easy word. But to accept it here is to accept the fact that there is such a thing as truth. Truth is true, for real, no violations or gradations. There is such a thing as truth in which we are to walk.

Christian, this is the word of God. You and I are to believe that truth begins with Jesus, the Son of God, the word of God. We must believe that God’s truth is revealed as holy Scripture. And we must believe the claims and teachings of Scripture.

But we are not only to believe the truth—that is actually the easy part. We are to walk in the truth. That means that we, as followers of God, not only believe the word of God, but we do what it says. When the word says not to commit sexual immorality, we are to obey. When it says husbands love your wives in such a way that you would lay your life down for her just as Christ did the church, you obey. When the word tells us to worship the Lord together and not to give up that practice, we obey. When the word tells us that the God who made us is to be our number one priority, that we are to have no other gods before him, that we are not to make up things to worship in his stead, we must obey this. When the word says not to kill the innocent, we obey. When the word says to care for the needy, we obey. When the word says to pray for our political leaders, we obey. When the word tells us to avoid gossip, slander, greed, drunkenness, sexual deviancy, violence, abusive speech, and so much more, we obey.

And to walk in the truth is to obey the command to make the Lord our God our first love. We are to believe in the holiness of God and let that overflow in worship. WE are to find delight in the character of God and his mind-blowing mercies on us. We are to find our joy in the glory of the Lord and let that thrill our souls for eternity. We are to live in a loving relationship with the Lord now, with his Spirit living within us, even as we long for an even better day when we live in the eternally sinless state to come. We walk with our eyes fixed on heaven and our hearts set on the Lord. And we strive with every step to reflect the glory of our God in the here and now.

You see, walking in the truth is beautiful. It is to believe the word so as to have it shape your life in every step. Such faithful living makes an old apostle happy. And I think we can see that, since the Lord inspired John to tell us this, it pleases the Lord too.