A Disastrous Word for Difficult People

The people have blown it. While Moses is on the mountain receiving the law, they decided they couldn’t wait any longer. So they asked Aaron to make a golden calf for them. He did and they worshiped the golden calf even saying, “These are the gods who brought us up out of the land of Egypt.” They attributed that fantastic miracle to a golden calf they could make with their own hands.

Aaron built an altar in front of the golden calf. The next day they offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. “And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”

And God got angry.  The way you get angry when you provide for your children and they forget what you’ve done.

God got angry. The way you get angry when you work 50 hours a week and your children think you owe it to them.

God got angry. He spoke to Moses: “I have seen this people and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

God was furious. Moses pleaded with God and God listened to Moses. He sent a plague on the people—which was gracious in light of the fact he wanted to destroy them. God was so angry.

In his anger God promised them His power:

The LORD said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” (Exodus 33:1-3 ESV)

God would not go with them–he would send his angel who would fight for them. Sadly, this would have been enough for most of us. But wait, God “sweetened the deal.”

In his anger, he promised them his provision:

Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” (Exodus 33:3 ESV)

Milk and honey. That’s like pumpkin spice and latte. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes. That’s everything you’ve ever wanted or needed. Case closed. Deal made. Most of us would have been content with God’s power. Surely now his provision would be enough. Thankfully they weren’t.

In their repentance, they begged God for his presence:

When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’” Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward. (Exodus 33:4-6 ESV)

To them this was a disastrous word. Moses would later say, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring me up from here.” How about you? Are you content with what God can give, not who God is? Are you satisfied with the good things of God without enjoying His good presence? Do you want God for who He is or what He can give you?