|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #194, 195 and 196|
6 August, 1995
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
We are, through this series of Scripture Studies, unfolding aspects of God's Great Plan for the reformation of His Creation. As I explained on our last programme, that Plan required as its central act the insertion into history of a Divine Rescue by The Incarnate Expression of The Almighty Himself, in Jesus Christ, Who is, at His First Advent, the Suffering Servant, a Substitute for saved sinners, and Redeemer of His National "Wife", Israel, and, at His Second Advent, destined to be received as King of the Kingdom of Heaven which thereby extends throughout the entire Universe.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, began in Genesis 12 with God's Call to Abram to separate himself from his country and kindred, and to be led by The Almighty to a Promised Land. The Plan required that God form, of Abraham's descendants, a line which became the nation called Israel. This nation entered Egypt and later endured Egyptian bondage from which they were rescued by God's Divine intervention in The Exodus. At Sinai, Yahweh, (Jehovah) The Almighty, has met with them and through their leader, Moses, they have covenanted to become Yahweh's national "wife", a covenant impatiently broken as Moses is detained for forty days upon the Sinai summit.
Israel had substituted a golden calf to be their god, and bitter was their reward upon Moses' return. Our account has led us, in Exodus 32, to the foot of Mount Sinai, and that crisis of Israel's first test as God's national "wife"; a test which many of these Israelites, and of the "mixed multitude" among them, have miserably failed. Keil and Delitzsch suggest that Aaron, "Instead of courageously and decidedly opposing their proposal", hoped to divert the people from their design by means of human craftiness in requiring the gold ornaments be torn from the ears of their sons and daughters. Their suggestion is that the vanity of the females would perhaps retain the gold ornaments, but it was not to be, and Aaron was cornered into doing what he had proposed only as a diversionary tactic.
When God told Moses of the people's sin, God made an offer which tested Moses himself, for as Keil and Delitzsch point out, "God puts the fate of the nation into the hand of Moses, that he may remember his mediatorial office, and show himself worthy of his calling. This condescension on the part of God, which placed the preservation or destruction of Israel in the hands of Moses, coupled with a promise, which left the fullest freedom to his decision, viz. that after the destruction of the people he should himself be made a great nation, constituted a great test for Moses, whether he would be willing to give up his own people, laden as they were with guilt, as the price of his own exaltation. And Moses stood the test. The preservation of Israel was dearer to him than the honour of becoming the head and founder of a new kingdom of God. True to his calling as mediator, he entered the breach before God, to turn away His wrath, that He might not destroy the sinful nation." Had Moses failed, God would doubtless have used that alternative which He offered, however the question is academic because God knows the heart of each of His servants and foresees what they will do with their freedom.
Moses had called for swift and drastic action, and his call was answered by the sons of Levi. Keil and Delitzsch point out that "The Levites had to allow their obedience to God to be subjected to a severe test." Sword in hand, they must execute the malefactors. Some 3,000 died in this action according to verse 28. As The non-Biblical Book Of Jasher puts it in Chapter LXXXII, 20, "And there died of the people by the swords of each other about three thousand men who had made the calf."
The New Bible Commentary Second Edition notes of the words "Slay every man his brother" that "They were to slay instantly any whom they found still in the act of idolatry. In spite of Moses' action... many of the people persisted in their orgiastic ritual. Those who volunteered for this service were not to spare even brothers or sons."
Keil and Delitzsch point out a connection with Levi's participation in the slaughter of the Shechemites, from a false regard for blood-relationship. "Now his descendants had saved truth, justice, and the covenant by avenging Jehovah upon their own relations... so that the curse which rested upon them (Gen. xlix. 7) could now be turned into a blessing..."
A note in the Companion Bible to this verse says "These 3,000 were the 'men' slain by 'the sons of Levi.' The 23,000 of I Cor. 10.8 includes those who died of the 'plague' which followed. See verse 35 below."
Israel's water, divinely provided in this wilderness, is now polluted by the ashes and powdered gold dust of their false god, and now Moses must return to implore God's forgiveness for this great national sin.
We pick up the continuation of the Biblical account at Exodus 32:30.
30. And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.
31. And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.
32. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.
33. And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.
34. Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.
35. And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.
The New Bible Commentary (Revised) heads a series of comment on the whole passage from Exodus 32:30 to Exodus 33:23 with this note: "Moses again intercedes and is shown God's glory."
It continues, with the more limited focus upon Exodus 32:30 to Exodus 33:11, thus: "In his initial intercession, such is Moses' love for the people that he offers his own life as the means whereby their pardon and peace may be secured, but God does not accept such sacrifice for oneself or for another (cf. Ps. 49:7). Moses' prayer is no formal petition, but the yearning of a burdened spirit. Cf. Rom. 9:2-3."
I might add that in Psalm 49:6-7 the Psalmist makes this statement: "They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give God a ransom for him." In Romans 9:2-3 Paul says of himself: "That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." The Second Edition of The New Bible Commentary contains this additional thought: "The idea of vicarious punishment and atonement is found from the very beginning of the divine revelation. No mere man can atone for the sin of his brother... but God was teaching the people to expect it from His Son."
Specifically, of Exodus 32:32 The New Bible Commentary (Revised) explains of that expression "Blot me ... out." that "this expression is borrowed from the practice of keeping registers of citizens. Ps. 69:28 and Is. 4:3 refer to those who persevere in faithfulness and are preserved in a time of judgment."
That reference in Psalm 69, which bears not only an expression of David's own grief, but also some prophetic overtones of the persecution of Christ, reads of his enemies: "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous" while that contrasting reference in Isaiah 4:3 speaks of the escaped of Israel in these terms: "And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem."
The next three verses explain that this will occur "When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain."
The New Bible Commentary Second Edition explains verses 33-34 in these terms: "God has mercy on the nation but reserves the right to punish the guilty individuals, whenever that day might come. But the nation as a whole is punished by God removing His own immediate presence and substituting an angel."
As our time has gone, let me leave with you the meditation that Jesus Christ is the Mediator to whom the selfless mediation of Moses on this occasion pointed forward, as type to anti-type, so that in Him, we have the assurance that all who repent and are willing to serve God can depend upon that far greater Mediatorial and selfless offer upon The Cross for our Salvation and Redemption. We shall continue our studies next week.
13 August, 1995
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
We have been studying God's Great Plan for the re-constitution of Creation into a more perfect accord with the Will of The Almighty God.
The present series of Bible Studies, detailing God's Great Plan for that reconstitution, essentially began with God's Call to Abram, in Genesis 12. Since that time, we have been studying successive Scripture passages which have led us through the lives of the Patriarchs Isaac and Jacob (Israel) and, in the Book of Exodus, the years of Egyptian bondage and the escape of the people of Israel through the events of the Exodus miracles.
Of late our attention has centred upon the Mount Sinai meetings of Moses and Yahweh (Jehovah). Upon hearing the resulting offer by The Almighty, the nation has first expressed agreement to become effectively the national wife of God, by receiving the Law, and the order of sacrifice, and then almost immediately it floundered spiritually during the following forty days while Moses remained atop the mountain obtaining further instructions for the ordering of the nation in accord with their commitment.
Bending to the demands of the people, Aaron had constructed a golden calf as a focus for their worship; an idol which the returning Moses had destroyed, along with the national element that had most directly entered into this sin. God did not wipe out the entire people at this time, sparing them at Moses' intercession.
That intercession, in verse 32, had been with these words "and now, if thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of the book which Thou hast written." Keil and Delitzsch explain that "To blot out of Jehovah's book, therefore, is to cut off from fellowship with the living God, or from the kingdom of those who live before God, and to deliver over to death. As a true mediator of his people, Moses was ready to stake his own life for the deliverance of the nation, and not to live before God himself, if Jehovah did not forgive the people their sin. These words of Moses were the strongest expression of devoted, self-sacrificing love. And they were just as deep and true as the wish expressed by the Apostle Paul in Rom. ix.3, that he might be accursed from Christ for the sake of his brethren according to the flesh."
They further state: "The infinite love of God is unable to withstand the importunity of such love. God, who is holy love, cannot sacrifice the righteous and good for the unrighteous and guilty, nor can He refuse the mediatorial intercession of His faithful servant, so long as the sinful nation has not filled up the measure of its guilt, in which case even the intercession of a Moses and a Samuel would not be able to avert the judgment."
[In Jeremiah 15:1, after Israel had sinned greatly in a later century Jeremiah would write, "Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth."]
In a similar pattern, the punishment of the people here at Mount Sinai was not remitted, but only postponed, and, as Keil and Delitzsch say, "The day of visitation came at length, when the stiff-necked people had filled up the measure of their sin through repeated rebellion against Jehovah and His servant Moses, and were sentenced at Kadesh to die out in the wilderness... The sorrow manifested by the people (chap. xxxiii.4), when the answer of God was made known to them, was a proof that the measure was not yet full."
This action on the part of Moses was prophetic of the far greater intercession which was to come in the form of The Crucifixion of Our Lord in place of His nation and those who would answer the call of The Holy Spirit henceforth to enter into a union as His people. This we must ever keep before us as we study these Old Testament passages, for indeed, as Paul was to explain to those Israelites whom we call Corinthians, centuries later, in I Corinthians 10:6, "Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted."
Having examined carefully the events of Exodus 32, we may begin to look at the connected verses of the next chapter. Exodus 33:1-3 continues:
1. And the LORD said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it:
2. And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite:
3. Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way.
During the intervening centuries since Abraham had obtained God's promise of the land of Canaan for his descendants, the varied mixture of the present inhabitants of that land had, after Israel's departure for Egypt, created a sinful cesspool of religious excesses with, among sexual and many other evil practices, the murder of their children by burning them to death in the sacrificial furnaces of their idols in order to obtain an easier lifestyle with plenty from the land. Hence God was justified in sending Israel against the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. They had, by the time when Israel finally came into The Promised Land, filled up the measure of their sin, and Israel was ordered to become God's means of judgment upon them.
I might add that there is evidence that this "measure" was not an isolated individual judgment related only to the immediate sin of one group of nations alone, but rather the expiry of an actual lengthy but set period of years, a time measure of history, which is part of a great jubilee pattern formed throughout the whole tapestry of God's Great Plan, and which links our own time to those ancient events. We see a reference to this in Genesis 15:16, where God explains to Abram by covenant that his descendants must remain out of the land for a span of time terminating four hundred years after the birth of Isaac, who was, together with his line of descendants, to be the "seed" promised to Abram. By way of explanation for this long delay before the inheritance of the land would materialise, that verse continues "for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full."
Concerning these three verses which lead off Exodus 33, The New Bible Commentary says: "The unfaithfulness of the people does not destroy the faithfulness of God. He must fulfil the promise made to their fathers, but He threatens to alter the manner of His doing so; an angel is now to lead them instead of God Himself (2). Verse 2 is similar to xxiii. 20, 23, but with this vital difference, that in chapter xxiii the angel was God Himself in the second Person of the Holy Trinity (see xxiii. 21, 'My name is in him'), whereas God's own person is now withdrawn (3, 'I will not go up in the midst of thee')." Of the words "Lest I consume thee" in verse 3, The Commentary continues: "Cf. Heb. xii. 29. For the unrepentant the presence of the infinitely holy God is like the white heat of a furnace. It was therefore out of mercy that God said He would not Himself go in the midst. Cf. Rev. xxi. 27." As The New Bible Commentary (Revised) puts it, "God remains faithful and the promise made with their fathers is to be kept, but He cannot walk with such people without consuming them, and so an angel is sent instead."
The reference in Hebrews 12:29 simply states "For our God is a consuming fire" while that in Revelation 21:27, towards the end of a passage which describes the New Jerusalem, says "And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." Thus these references confirm the words of that Commentary.
Of the expression "milk and honey", the Companion Bible explains "all kinds of good things." But upon reading those words, I am more particularly, and frequently, reminded that the usual cereal bowl which is the common breakfast fare for our people often comprises some form of wheat with milk and honey, and thus the tables of our people are blessed daily with the exact literal fulfilment of that promise of Israel's Almighty God to His people.
We are approaching the conclusion of today's programme, but before we close, I would like to draw from these passages some lessons for our own time. As long-time listeners to these Bible Studies will know, we of the British-Israel-World Federation hold the view that the Biblical account can best be understood if it is realised that The Almighty God is still dealing with His Creation essentially through the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples, who are the promised descendants of the Patriarchs of old time. He has not been thwarted by the sins of Israel, but in fact He has simply implemented the curse clauses of the agreement which sin was to bring upon our people.
As our final meditation, remember that as Moses was intercessor for Israel of his generation, so Jesus Christ is for our own people today. Let us not ignore the great gift which is thus granted us. The wise will understand.
20 August, 1995
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Throughout the present series of Bible Studies, we have been studying God's Great Redemptive Plan for His Creation. We began this series several years ago with the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, and we have traced the story of his descendants, the children of Israel, as they entered Egypt, and were later released out of bondage at The Exodus.
In Sinai the Israelites have come to Mount Sinai where Moses, has been conferring with Yahweh, (Jehovah), their God. They had made agreements but, impatient at Moses' failure to return after forty days, they had gone quickly out of the way, demanding that Aaron prepare a golden calf.
Moses, on returning, had smashed the tablets of The Law, broken the golden image, forced the people to drink its powder in the water which they drank and ordered the slaying of those who had led in this idolatry. A plague would complete the immediate punishment for this national apostacy. Upon directing their continuing progress towards The Promised Land, The Almighty had granted that an angel would henceforth lead them, rather than God Himself. God stated in Exodus 33:3: "I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way."
We have now reached Exodus 33:4. Let us, in our customary fashion, read this and succeeding verses with explanatory comments as time allows.
4. And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments.
5. For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee.
That order reminds me of the similar condemnation which the Prophet Isaiah hundreds of years later was commissioned to pronounce in Isaiah 3:16-22 concerning a variety of ornamentation which the haughty, wanton-eyed daughters of Zion favoured. However, Keil and Delitzsch say of these Israelites at Sinai that "The people were so overwhelmed with sorrow by this evil word, that they all put off their ornaments, and showed by this outward sign the trouble of their heart." Keil and Delitzsch explain the meaning of verse five thus: "'Thou art a stiff-necked people; if I go a moment in the midst of thee, I destroy thee:' i.e. if I were to go up in the midst of thee for only a single moment, I should be compelled to destroy thee because of thine obduracy. He then issued this command: 'Throw thine ornament away from thee, and I shall know (by that) what to do to thee." Incidentally, for those who may not have a dictionary handy, that word "obduracy", derived from Latin "ob, against; durare, to harden", is defined as "hardened in heart or in feelings: difficult to influence, especially in a moral sense: stubborn, harsh." It is thus a well chosen descriptive for certain of these Israelites. Now, however, the New Bible Commentary and Keil and Delitzsch both indicate contrition. The New Bible Dictionary says: "The people still had sufficient love for God to be truly dismayed at this threat. They stripped off their ornaments as a mark of their Godly sorrow and never replaced them. (in verse 6 read with RV 'from mount Horeb onward' ...This was to be the test by which God could see how genuine was their sorrow."
Gold ornaments might not only have gripped their fancy as articles for beauty, but also for trading value and for religious ostentation. We might assume that as they did not have bank accounts in which to deposit their wealth, such articles might well include gold coins and rings which were ornamentally worn by their wives and children as a display of wealth and hence of pride in their successful attainments in life. Such a display of ornaments might also betoken pride in a religious sense, as if to indicate that they had been favoured by deity for their good works. In truth, it had been The Almighty Who had granted them to carry such wealth from Egypt, for as we may remember from Exodus 11:2-3 and 12:35-36, the Egyptians had more than given them their back wages for the years of bondage. To use the Scriptural expression of 12:36, "And they (the Israelites) spoiled the Egyptians." As part of this wealth had become the means of creating a false god, diverting their religious focus from the True God, Yahweh (Jehovah) it is not to be wondered at that The Almighty should use this as the test of contrition. This leads to the natural question "Are there parallels which descendants of those same Israelites display today?"; a question to which we shall return in a moment.
6. And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.
7. And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp.
The Companion Bible, at verse 7, notes of this tabernacle that "tabernacle=tent... not the tabernacle, for this was not yet made, but a different building altogether, called 'the tent of assembly' (see Ap. 40)" Supplementing this the reference continues "without the camp. In presence of corporate failure God withdraws Himself. Typical of our own day. Those who seek Him must 'go forth to Him.' cp Heb. 13.13." That reference with the preceding verse 12 reads "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." That Companion Bible Appendix 40 gives a summary of the various names of the Tabernacle, and this one translates the Hebrew word 'Ohel. Of it, we read "erected as a special place of worship before the Tabernacle was set up. Hence to be always distinguished from the Tabernacle proper. Its full title was 'Ohel Moh'ed = Tent of assembly, or of the congregation."
8. And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle.
9. And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses.
10. And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door.
There are lessons for ourselves in a careful study of this passage of the Old Testament. God does not change, for He has given us that word through the Prophet Malachi 3:6 where that prophet writes "For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." It was a merciful absence which The Almighty provided to His people by removing Himself from among them in Moses' day, as we have just been reading. Today, many regard the apparent absence of God as proof of His non-existence. Let us not fool ourselves. His absence in the same sense that He removed Himself from that camp of ancient Israelites has a purpose. So long as that condition remains true we are still in a time of grace. When He returns, in Christ's Second Advent, let us recall those words of Paul, which he wrote in II Thessalonians 1:7-8: "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." Those words were not written simply to be dismissed. They are a dreadful warning to those who may be making the same assumption, as that of the fool of Psalm 14:1 that "hath said in his heart, There is no God." The prophecy of James 5:1-8 is significant:
1. Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
2. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
3. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
4. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
5. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
6. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
7. Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
8. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
Today, particularly in those lands of Anglo-Celto-Saxon peoples, we are manifesting all the signs which were to mark out Israel of the last days. Both the curses and the blessings which were to come upon Israel in the latter times in response to their condition of sin or repentance can be seen. From these, and all the other available evidence, we can come to no other rational conclusion than that we are, in fact, the descendants of those ancient Israel peoples who sinned so long ago at the foot of Mount Sinai. Realising this, we also should realise that, just as Moses became intercessor for the Israel of his day, we have the far greater offer of the intercession by Jesus Christ, described by Paul in Hebrews 9:24: "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us."
Remember also that word written by John in John 6:37 wherein Christ spoke, saying: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." This cry has now gone out into all the world. Let all who hear consider well their response to this remarkable offer and, if called, let each respond without delay, for I am persuaded that the time draws swiftly to a day of crisis, and the resolving of all things. May you find blessing in these considerations.
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