Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the thoughts of the Lord's heart to all generations.
(from Psalm 33:1, 11)
In Egypt before Pharaoh had released them, on the way out of Egypt when Pharaoh had changed his mind, and over and over in the wilderness, these people have personally witnessed saving acts of the Lord.
Moses is not around at the moment. Without him, they seem to think God is gone, as well. "Let's make some gods for ourselves," they say to Aaron. We are not told what Aaron thinks or what Aaron fears, but we are told that he complies with their wish.
Or does he? When he formed the golden calf and built an altar, he then proclaimed that the festival would be to the Lord. What was he thinking? How easy or difficult is it for us to distinguish between what looks like Lord-worship and what is actually something-else-worship?
Who or what is Moses to us? What substitutes are necessary? Are we capable of remembering what God has already done for us?
The Lord reacts to the people's wish to substitute a visible god for the one that they can't see at the moment. The Lord seems willing to give them up, calls them "your people" when speaking to Moses.
Moses intercedes once more. He makes two arguments:
What would the Egyptians say if they hear that you have given up on these people?
Remember your promise to Abraham.
God does not destroy these unfaithful people. But, there are consequences.
Which is more frightening that God is right here with us and knows exactly what we are doing right now? Or, that God is not here, not paying attention to us and our needs?
While Moses traveled to the mountaintop to visit the Lord and receive the tablets, the people misbehaved badly.
Now, the Lord has said to Moses that the trip will continue and announces, "My presence will accompany you."
Moses is unhappy with this news. What does presence mean to him? Does he think that the Lord is going to go back to the mountaintop and send only an assistant to accompany the people?
Remember Chapter 12. God had saved their children from the general destruction. They had a big feast then set off on a journey toward the land promised them. Since then, God has rescued them over and over and they have complained over and over.
In Chapter 33, they have another feast--but not one ordained by the Lord. Rather, they form their own god and celebrate with an orgy.
The Lord then gives them one more do-over. "I'll be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy."
This is the God who gave clothes to Adam and Eve after they disobeyed the command to leave that tree alone, who protected Cain after he killed his own brother, who provided an ark to save Noah's family, and called Abraham and then Moses to lead a people to their new home.
Sometimes, we cannot see God's glory until it has passed by us. Sometimes, we don't recognize God's face. But, we continue to depend on God's grace and God's mercy.
After being betrayed by one of the ones closest to him and arrested, Jesus is taken to the high priest. Two witnesses reported that he had said that he was able to destroy the temple, a capital crime. Now, hadn't actually said that he was going to destroy it but he had said that it was going to be destroyed. Thomas Long points out the charge that he intended to destroy the temple was absurd, but at a deeper level, the charges were true. Moreover, Jesus, on trial for his life, quotes the Psalms, indicating that the high priest is not in charge. Rather, the one sent by God will make the decisions.
Two followers of Jesus, two of the twelve closest to him, had put their own security first. Peter denies that he had accompanied Jesus then swears an oath that he even know the man. He almost immediately repented and in his regret wept bitterly. Judas also repented of his part in the arrest of Jesus. He returned the money he had been paid by the religious authorities and then committed suicide.
The priests were unwilling to put the money into the treasury so they used it to buy a place to bury foreigners.
They turned Jesus over to the Roman governor, Pilate, telling him that Jesus was calling himself a King. Rome didn't like rival kings.
Prayer for Today: Lord, forgive us for those times that we have not shown our loyalty to you, for those times that we have considered our own comfort to be more important that your will. Forgive us for those times that we did not even recognize your presence among us. Forgive us and support us by your grace and with your mercy. Amen.