The Oscillations of Israel
In a way, the book of Hebrews tells the entire Bible story throughout its text. In Hebrews 3 and 4, the author records the trials God’s people put Him through, and it is amazing to us how quickly these individuals were willing to turn away from God. Stephen notes this in Acts 7:51-53 as he delivers his final testimony to the Jewish leaders, condemning them of murdering God’s messengers before they kill him in turn.
In contrast, Exodus 14:30-31 records Israel fearing and believing in the Lord after He delivers them from the Egyptian pursuers. Exodus 15, then, contains a song of praise from the people to God, calling Him their strength, promising to lift Him up on high. However, two chapters later introduces a theme that will begin recurring – the people lose faith when the difficulties of their journey seem to be too much. Then, in Exodus 19:5-8, the people reconfirmed their faith in God, and they repeat this confirmation in chapter 24:3-8. Unfortunately, the people return to their erroneous ways in Exodus 32 when they call upon Moses to make them an idol.
God gives them His plan for the law, for the tabernacle, for the priesthood. He fills them with fear and awe, but it never takes them long to grow unimpressed. They lack abiding conviction. In Exodus 32:7, God says that the people have corrupted themselves. He wants sin removed from the camp. He does not want to be in their presence. Their actions drive a wedge between themselves and their God.
Separating Ourselves from God
Does our conduct make God desire to separate Himself from us? In Galatians 1:6, Paul states that he is astonished by Christians who have so quickly turned from the gospel of Christ. He calls them foolish in 3:1, wondering who has misled them so easily. In Exodus 32, Aaron dedicates their idol to Jehovah, and we are in danger of doing the same. We may consider ourselves dedicated to the Lord, but if we are acting contrary to His word, we are putting a wedge between ourselves and God. We can start out full of enthusiasm and devotion, but other pressures and priorities can begin to distract us, encouraging us to rely on self rather than God.
How do we avoid this? II Timothy 3:16-17 encourages us to turn to God’s word as our sole source of spiritual instruction. II Peter 1:2-3 tells us God’s word completely provides for us, and 3:16-18 calls us to continue growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, guarding against twisting and error. Our place is not to attempt improving on God’s word. God’s word stands the test of time, and attempting to alter calls His power and divinity into question. Ephesians 4:11-16 encourages us to use the provisions God has given us to build ourselves up in faith and love. We all have to do our part in making the body increase and grow stronger. Finally, we have to keep pressing forward. Hebrews 6:1 calls us to grow out of spiritual childhood and into maturity.
The children of Israel demonstrated a lack of conviction and maturity in their unwillingness to go forward. They wanted to go backwards into Egyptian bondage. Today, we have to maintain our faith. We have to grow spiritually, pressing forward to our goal lest we slip back into the slavery of sin. God has given us all we need to follow Him. Ours is but to submit to Him and follow His word.
lesson by Tim Smelser