Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Gospel Doctrine Lesson #14 - Ye shall be a Peculiar Treasure unto me

Lesson #14 - Ye shall be a Peculiar Treasure unto me.
Exodus 15-20, 32-34

Background: From Abraham down to Jacob and his sons, the covenants and promises made by Jehovah to them were in their formative stages. During the patriarchal era, being a "father of many nations" meant being a family man with hopes of nations to be fulfilled in the distant future. According to Exodus, in Moses' day, Israel had grown to 600,000 people! The once small family was now the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel.

With the Exodus, Jehovah demonstrated he was more powerful than all the gods of Egypt. Even Pharaoh, who was considered god incarnate, sees his divine power and authority destroyed with his army in the Red Sea.

With their enemies behind them, Israel was ready to stand in the presence of the Lord.

Sing Ye To The Lord
Exodus 15

Many Bible scholars believe that the 5 books of Moses as we currently have them, were composed centuries after Moses,compiled from several main sources, which may have retained some of the oldest teachings through oral traditions passed down as
songs or hymns. History shared as songs ensured the history stayed very accurate from generation to generation.

Here we find two hymns are prepared, one by Moses and another by his sister Miriam. They were written and sung to ensure the defeat of the Egyptians by Jehovah at the Red Sea would not be forgotten. Many scholars believe that the hymns of Moses and Miriam are their original words passed down and recorded verbatim centuries later. Hymns are a musical mnemonic, a key to remembering and understanding ancient history.

Why do we sing hymns today? They remind us of holy and good truths that are important to remember. A child can long remember the words to "I am a child of God" or "Follow the prophet" easier than memorizing and remembering scripture.

Note that the term "Lord" is a place holder for the name "Jehovah." His name was considered too sacred to speak or even write down, except in holy places (Sinai, Tabernacle, Temple).

Think about what it means to proclaim: "The Lord is my strength and song." Israel has escaped slavery and has just seen their armed captors drowned in the sea. Ancient peoples sang hymns to worship and remember. Not only would they sing to Jehovah, the Lord was THE Song.

Israel forsakes all other gods: "he is my God." Moses' hymn foresees the building of a habitation, a tabernacle, a temple, a house of the Lord.
"My father's God" reminds us that this is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Israel dwelt 400 years in Egypt, surrounded by their pantheon of gods, majestic temples, and personal house idols of these gods. With a plan to return to the promised land came a return to the worship of Jehovah.

Moses' hymn also ties these events to the Creation, as noted last week by David Larsen. There is a literal God of our fathers, who destroys his enemy. The waters represent chaos being brought into order (Exodus 15:8-10). As with the war in heaven (Abr 3, Moses 4, Rev 12:7-9), the Lord vanquishes his enemies and chaos. The people of God are "redeemed" and brought back to his presence in his "holy habitation," in "the Sanctuary" of God's mountain (Ex 15:13, 17).

Waters of Marah

Arriving atthe Marah oasis, Israel found the waters were "bitter." Waters became bitter for several reasons. Salt or other minerals could leech into the waters, rotting carcases could contaminate the water, or someone could have poisoned the waters. The Lord showed Moses a tree that could sweeten the waters, making them safe to drink. Allowing Israel to be a somewhat self-reliant, while still keeping them dependent on God, Jehovah would teach them desert survival by teaching them how to use the local plants.

With this assistance came the first part of the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If Israel would be obedient, Jehovah would prosper them in the land, protecting them from plagues, famine and disease,

Flesh Pots of Egypt/Bread of Life
Exodus 16

Desert life is difficult at best, deadly at worst. A small group can manage a flock of animals and perhaps a little agriculture by an oasis.

However, 600,000 people cannot survive wandering in the wilderness together, especially not slaves who are accustomed to city life and the flesh pots of Egypt.

Therefore, Jehovah provides what they cannot provide for themselves. God could have just made their stomachs continuously full, or had baked loaves of bread waiting on their plates each day, but he didn't. Instead, he provided quail and manna, but Israel still had to gather and prepare the food. This ties in nicely with the LDS Church’s welfare program, where we are expected to be as self-sufficient as possible, but given liberally when we cannot help ourselves.

We find, though, that with the manna comes a specific guideline. Gather up just enough for that day’s meals, and twice as much the day before the Sabbath to cover two days. Even with such command from God, greed set in and many attempted to store more than a day’s worth. Once they found the manna would spoil and be filled with maggots, they obeyed. Again, some doubted that the manna would last two days and went out on the Sabbath to collect, only to find it was not there. Why is it that we just have to test the limits? God commands and we look for the loopholes, rather than just obey. Of course, for each of us, we have our own particular commandment(s) that we seek to find a way around.

The manna represents the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ (John 6:35). Christ, our daily bread, is life sustaining, and the only real spiritual food available in the entire desert of life. The manna is freely given, but each person must prepare and use it properly, otherwise it is of no good use. If we attempt to obtain salvation on the cheap by looking for loopholes, the atoning sacrifice of Christ will be as the rotting maggot-infested manna. When eaten/accepted with “prudence and thanksgiving” (D&C 89:11).

While today it does not seem as obvious how God brings forth physical food for us, we read:

“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
“Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
“And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.
“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (D&C 59:18-21).

Our bread of life, whether physical or spiritual, must not used in excess, and God’s hand recognized in all of it.

The First Battle
Exodus 17

The Amalekite nation worries about Israel’s approaching, and meets them on the battlefield. Moses has Joshua organize their forces, men who were trained as slaves, not warriors, to go out to battle with Amalek. Moses sat up on a hill observing the battle, representing Jehovah looking down on the affairs of mankind. Along side of Moses stood his two counselors, Aaron and Hur. As Moses raised his hands, the Israelites conquered, but as the day dragged on, his arms wearied and lowered, allowing Amalek to gain the upper hand. We see a battle not just of nations, but of the strength of their gods. I can imagine the king of the Amalekites sitting on a distant hill raising his hands and chanting incantations to his god to contradict the power of Moses’ God, Jehovah.

Aaron and Hur grasp Moses’ arms and hold them steady so that the victory goes to Israel. In this event, Moses represents Jesus/Jehovah. His arms are spread out like Jesus’ arms on the cross. During his atoning sacrifice, Jesus grew weary. In Gethsemane, he prayed that God would take away his cup. Later on the cross, Jesus would ask God, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” Yet in his weariness, he overcame the enemy for all of us. Israel conquers because their God is Jehovah, even Jesus the Christ.

Jethro the high priest
Exodus 18

Israel’s fame quickly spreads abroad, and Jethro/Reul the Midianite, hears about his son-in-law’s triumph against Egypt. Jethro comes to him, bringing Moses’ wife and children. In hearing about their successes and miracles, Jethro truly is amazed at Jehovah’s great power over Egypt’s gods and proclaims:

“And Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord, who hath delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh, who hath delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.
“Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them.
“And Jethro, Moses’ father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father in law before God (Ex 18:10-12).

Jethro becomes a counselor to Moses as he sojourns in the area. Watching Moses spend countless hours judging menial problems, Jethro advises him to stop before he kills himself. Jethro tells Moses to select judges to rule over the people in their daily issues. Only the big matters should ever come to Moses.

The beginning of the Judges of Israel starts here. These are to be “rulers” over various numbers of people: thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. If a decision could not be made on a certain level, it was sent up to the next level. This allowed decisions to be made at the lowest level possible, avoiding the huge top-heavy bureaucracies many ancient and modern governments struggle with. One size does not always fit all when it comes to human affairs. Should all killers be sentenced to death? How about killing in self defense? We shall see that God gives general guidelines through his head prophets and rulers, and allows for a wider level of interpretation and consideration the closer one gets to the lowest level of judges.

A Peculiar Treasure
Exodus 19

Arriving at Sinai, the Lord calls Moses forth to counsel him. As they speak, Israel can hear and see the tumult that the Lord’s glory casts upon the mountain. Jehovah tells Moses, “if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Ex 18:5-6).

If they will accept Jehovah as their one and only God, they will become a special people in all the earth. They would not be like others who worshiped Jehovah as just another tribal god, but be placed above all others on earth. Jehovah was El Elyon’s chief son and given the prized possession of Israel as His inheritance. After centuries of preparation, Jehovah is now ready to accept Israel as his people, a “kingdom of priests and an holy nation.”

The people agree and pledge, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” They are commanded to wash their clothes, cleanse themselves, be abstinent, and prepare to see God on the third day. On that day, the Lord’s glory caused thunder and lightning to explode around them. The angel of the Lord blew loudly on his trumpet for all Israel to hear, and it caused them to tremble. God descends to the mount, and calls forth Moses to speak with him, warning him to not allow any others except Aaron to ascend Mount Sinai at that time; otherwise they would not be able to withstand his glory. And it may even be more than that. Jehovah tells Moses, “Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the Lord, lest he break forth upon them” (vs 24). Who is it that would “break forth upon” Israel? It seems that the angel of God waited on the mount as a sentinel to destroy any who were not worthy to stand in God’s presence.

The Ten Commandments
Exodus 20

Any Christian who has grown up since the early 1960s can describe Moses as looking like Charlton Heston, and that Jehovah speaks with a deep and long drawn out voice. Many can recite the Ten Commandments because they have watched the movie by that name annually during the Passover/Easter season for the last 50 years (it came out in 1956).

These were not the earliest set of written laws or commandments given to men. Hammurabi lived several centuries before Moses and put forth a set of laws that are often complimentary to the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments were given to the nation. Israel is a “holy nation” and a “kingdom of priests”, not just individuals. These commandments were given to ensure the nation as a whole remained pure and holy, so that they could retain the blessings of God and be a city on the hill for other nations to see and contemplate.

The 10 Commandments are divided up into two main sections: how we are to deal with God, and how we are to deal with mankind. The first four deal with God, with six commandments dealing with our fellow beings.

Many people think the first two commandments are directly related, but they are not. One discusses actual gods, while the second discusses false/fake idols.

1. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” means that there were other gods, real gods. However, Jehovah would be the premier and chief God, the only one Israel was to worship. We will see this later in the lessons as we find that Israel recognized other gods and goddesses, such as Asherah, who was Jehovah’s consort/wife, but were not to worship them. Ancient Israel believed in monolatry, the worship of one god, while believing there are other real gods as well.

2. As mentioned, the second commandment refers directly towards graven images or idols. We are not to make nor worship the image of anything, whether it be a god or anything else. This is especially true in our day, when humans in the modern world tend to be extremely materialistic and humanist. Yes, we believe in God, but not enough to eschew our sins and vices.

3. Taking the Lord’s name in vain means more than just using his name as a swear word. It means anything that could be considered sacrilegious or blasphemous. God is raising up a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, and therefore they must stand head and shoulders above the peoples of other nations. Since God is holy, and they are God’s children, they too are holy and must act accordingly in all things.

4. Keeping the Sabbath day holy becomes one of the major commandments for Israel. Under the Mosaic Law, not only is a person stoned to death for murder, but he is also stoned to death for breaking the law of the Sabbath Day! One is equally as important as the other. Why? Because the Sabbath day becomes the symbolic day when we lay aside the worldly things and enter into God’s holy sphere. It becomes a day of spiritual rest, when we enter into the Lord’s rest/presence by anointing all things in our lives and setting it apart for one day to holy worship. Separation from God equals spiritual death, and the person who breaks the Sabbath is separating him/herself spiritually from God. In Israel, the person has contaminated the purity and sanctity of the nation, and the contamination must be removed if the nation is to survive.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother. This commandment comes with a promise of long life. Under the Mosaic Law, a rebellious child could be taken before the elders of Israel and condemned. Such children would be stoned to death, in order to keep the nation pure and holy. We will see that rebellion against parents and the Lord’s anointed prophet will be among Israel’s biggest challenges. It also represented a long spiritual life when a person honored their parents, as the earthly representatives of their heavenly parents.

6. Thou shalt not kill. Under the Law given to Noah, this included the killing of man and the unnecessary killing of animals. Life was to be considered sacred. Only God could take life, and man could only do so under God’s command.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. The history Abraham’s family contains a long line of men with unrighteous sexual desires. Ishmael and Esau married outside of the covenant family. Reuben slept with his stepmother. Judah slept with his daughter-in-law. Levi and Simeon massacre the city of Shechem because a young man slept with their sister. Only a few, such as Jacob and Joseph are shown to be chaste and righteous in this history. For God, fidelity is necessary. If a man could not be faithful to his wife, how could he ever be faithful to God?

8. Thou shalt not steal, is a very simple command that covered any and all forms of theft.

9. Bearing false witness against one’s neighbor opened the door for a nation’s destruction. If lies spread about, then who can be trusted? During the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, anyone who had a problem with his neighbor could falsely claim against that individual and have him found guilty in a kangaroo court. Lies, gossip, and false innuendo can bring chaos. And if a person will lie about their neighbors, they will lie to their God, as well.

10. Thou shalt not covet anything. This is an amazing commandment at this time and period of history. To command that people not be greedy advanced Israel’s society. It ensured that the nation worked as a group, and not be threatened with breaking up into small groups or individuals who would seek to get gain at the expense of the nation.

The People Reject God’s Presence

Moses returns to give the commandments to the people, and to bring them up the mount with him. However, the people “saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was” (Ex 20:18-20).
In other words, the people told Moses they were not interested in entering into God’s presence. They were happy to listen to the prophet, but were too frightened of God and his power.

In modern revelation, we come to understand this event better:
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
23 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.
25 Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;
26 And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
27 Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb (D&C 84:19-27).

The Melchizedek Priesthood, which Moses held, contained the keys to the knowledge of God. This is the literal knowledge of God, to see His face and behold His glory. But Israel, when given the chance, as a body, rejected God’s offer. They were not ready for a Celestial experience. And so God gave them the lesser priesthood of Aaron with its carnal commandments (the Mosaic Law) and with a preparatory set of ordinances. This set of ordinances would not exalt them, but could prepare them for the day when they would be ready for the fullness of the gospel, the fullness of the priesthood, and to receive the fullness of God’s presence.

This is the goal of every prophet, to take his people into the presence of God. This event on Mt Sinai was equivalent to the LDS endowment, as we practice in our holy mount, the temple, to cleanse ourselves and enter into the Lord’s presence. Everything in the gospel points toward Israel as a nation, ancient and modern, entering into God’s presence.

The Mosaic Law

As just mentioned, the Mosaic Law was given as a preparatory law. The Israelites were not ready nor willing to live Christ’s higher law of love and obedience, and so were given a law of carnal commandments and ordinances. They were a major step above the expectations they had as slaves in Egypt, but still less than the greatest blessings God hoped to bestow upon them. These laws are enumerated in Exodus 21-31, including an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” which may seem awful today, but was much better than the previous practice of if you take my eye, I’ll kill your entire family.

Later, some of the elders of Israel DID prepare themselves to see God. In Exodus 24, we read,
“Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink” (Exodus 24:9-11).

What do we find out from this experience? First, Man CAN see God and live! The requirements are that they are clean and holy, and they are brought forth through the power and keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood to see God. Second, God is man-like. If the elders saw God’s feet, then we are describing anthropomorphic features of God.

The Tabernacle
Exodus 25-27

As Israel prepares to leave the holy mountain, God commands them to take a portable sacred space with them, the Tabernacle. Prior to this time, Jehovah’s “temples” were solitary places made holy by prophets anointing them, such as Jacob at Bethel. Israel was now a nation, and required God’s sanctuary to go with them. The Tabernacle was made of curtains and rods, making the various rooms and sections to perform various ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood.

The innermost room was the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence dwelt. It was separated from the rest of the Tabernacle by a sacred veil. Inside the Holy of Holies would be the Ark of the Covenant. This was a golden box with the Mercy Seat of God on top. The seat was shrouded by the wings of two golden cherubim, warrior-angels of God. Unlike the Egyptian temples, there were no statues of God in the Tabernacle, as God’s likeness was not to be reproduced for worship. Instead, Israel was to worship the “invisible” God, who sat between the cherubim on the Mercy Seat.

In the room outside the Holy of Holies stood other sacred items: the table of shewbread and the candlestick or Menorah. Today, we see that the table of shewbread represents the Savior Jesus Christ, and his sacrifice. The bread represents both the Bread of Life manna that God gave to the people, and the Bread of Life Christ, who saves all mankind. We partake of the Sacrament/communion bread today in memory of Jesus’ sacrifice. The Menorah represents the light of the Holy Ghost. As we approach nearer to God, it lightens the way for us, preparing us to enter into God’s full presence.

So, the Tabernacle is representative of the Godhead members and our entrance into their presence as we prepare ourselves.

The Tabernacle/Temple Clothing
Exodus 28

The Levites, and specifically Aaron and his sons, were chosen to be the acting priests in this kingdom of priests. Their sole responsibility would be to manage the Tabernacle and the worship therein.

Holy garments are made for Aaron and his sons: “these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office” (Ex 28:4). Let’s break this down.

Breastplate was an ornamental metal piece worn over the breast. Wikipedia explains:
“A breastplate is a device worn over the torso either to protect the torso from injury, or as an item of religious significance, or as an item of status. A breastplate was sometimes worn by mythological beings as a distinctive item of clothing.”

In this instance, the breastplate on Aaron’s garment held 12 stones which represented the Tribes of Israel, and together made the Urim and Thummim. Aaron and his sons would have to be in the temple and wearing their holy garment in order to receive revelation via the Urim and Thummim.
“And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron’s heart, when he goeth in before the Lord: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually” (Ex 28:30).

The ephod was a linen apron. While most would imagine that all of the priest’s clothing would be white, the ephod or apron was not: “ephod of gold, of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work” (Ex 28:6). The girdle was a long rope of linen that wrapped around the waste to hold the ephod and robe in place. Linen breeches were made as an under garment, “thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach” (Ex 28:42).

The main outfit included the robe and a embroidered outer coat. The mitre was a hat or bonnet that represented a crown, and had Jehovah’s name written in it. Over the years, the mitre used in the Catholic Church has evolved into the one worn by the Pope today.


Aaron’s robes did not just represent all of Israel, but according to the Wisdom of Solomon "upon Aaron's garment was the whole universe" (Wis.18:24).

The historian, Philo taught,
"Now such was the raiment of the high priest; and both it and its parts have a meaning which must not be passed over in silence. For the whole is in fact a representation and copy of the cosmos, and the parts are representations of its several portions" (Philo, Life of Moses II.117).

Josephus explained that
"the tunic of the high priest signifies the earth since it is made of linen, and the blue color signifies the vault of heaven… And I believe that the ephod represents the nature of the universe which God thought good to make of four components; it was woven with gold signifying sunlight which beams upon all things. And he arranged the breastplate in the midst of the ephod after the manner of the earth, for it also has the most central place. And he surrounded it with a girdle, thereby signifying the ocean, for this too comprehends everything (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, III.184). http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/church_history/klitsenko_orthodoxy_england.htm

The Washing and Anointing of Aaron and his sons
Exodus 29

Aaron and his sons are washed in the large basin, built for washing/cleansing the physical body prior to entering into the Tabernacle. This was placed in the outer court, where all the people could cleanse themselves prior to entering the holy sanctuary.

Once washed, they were clothed with the garments of the Tabernacle, and then anointed with oil.

Once they were prepared, the first animal sacrifices were made. In specific order, the Prophet Moses and the priests of Aaron performed the following sacrifices: a Sin offering, a Burnt offering, a Consecration offering, a Heave offering, and a Peace offering.

The Stone Calf and the Garden of Eden
Exodus 32-33

Moses spent 40 days on Sinai receiving instruction from God. Upon receiving the stone tablets, Moses discovers that Israel has already broken all 10 of the Commandments he has already given them orally. The people feared Moses was dead. Had they not feared to go into God’s presence themselves? And now Moses was long delayed, over a month. The slaves reverted to what they knew: the gods of Egypt.

Among the gods they created was a molten calf. There were others, as they declare, “these by thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (Ex 32:4). The molten calf is singled out because it is more representative of the gods of the Canaanites, the people Israel will soon seek to throw out of the Promised Land. The Canaanites worshiped a pantheon of gods, including Baal and his father, El Elyon. Both Baal (which means “Lord”) and El Elyon were represented figuratively by the calf or bull. It represented strength and power, as well as fertility. Jehovah was also a divine son of El Elyon, but his kingdom was Israel. They were not to worship other gods. They were not to make idols of gold or silver.

Interestingly, upon making the idols, Aaron proclaims a festival. “To morrow is a feast to the Lord” (Ex 32:5). This is not a feast for the Egyptian gods that they claimed saved them from Egypt, but a feast to the Lord, with the golden calf as representative of Him! They were replacing the worship of Jehovah with the older worship of El, or perhaps the Canaanite worship of Baal, perhaps in hopes of having the head gods of the land of Canaan accept them and allow them into their Promised Land.

But Moses returns to see the rebellion. He grinds the calf to powder, tosses it into the drinking water and makes the people drink it. The Levite priests run through the population, killing people as they go. Jehovah is a jealous god, and will not tolerate rebellion. If they are to be a holy nation and kingdom of priests, they must be focused solely on Jehovah as God.

This story is symbolic of the story of Adam and Eve in Eden. God was with them for a while, and then left. While he was gone, they listened to the serpent and disobeyed God. When God returned, he had no choice but to chastise them, pronouncing spiritual death upon them. Moses is representative of Jehovah before the people. He is in many ways their god (with a little “g”). Jehovah even told Moses that Moses would be as god, and Aaron his prophet. But as with Adam, Aaron listened to the wrong voice, was deceived into thinking that God/Moses was delayed or would not come back, and tried a solution he was already warned not to do (don’t eat of the fruit/ do not make idols).

As God put the serpent and his followers in their place; Moses put the calf and its followers in their place as well. God sends a plague upon Israel, and moves his Tabernacle out from the middle of the congregation. They are spiritually dead and cast out, even as Adam was cast out of the Garden. Even Moses, who once spoke with God face to face, can now only hear his voice and see his back parts, but not see his face or glory.

Returning to God’s presence
Exodus 34

After a long period of repentance, God begins to forgive Israel for their rebellion. He commands Moses to hew a new set of stones to put the commandments on. These are different than the first. Moses makes this set, while God made the first with his own hands. Moses ascends the mount, where the Lord reappears to Moses, proclaims his holy name, and makes a new covenant with Israel. They are no longer cast out of His presence, but have been redeemed through their repentance and His forgiveness.

The Lord proclaims, “Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.
11 Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.
12 Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:
13 But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:
14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
15 Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;
16 And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.
17 Thou shalt make thee no molten gods (Ex 34:10-17).

The Lord restates the Ten Commandments and adds a few more requirements to prevent Israel from rebelling again. If Israel accepts the Canaanite culture, they will fall. They aren’t to accept that culture, intermarry, or allow their gods and idols to exist.

With the renewed covenant and return to God’s Presence, Israel is ready to meet their destiny in the Land of Promise.

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