Let us pray: Dear Jesus, we come today with a guilty conscience. Our failures to put You # 1 in our lives combined with our failures to actively keep Your commandments condemn us. However, as struggling believers, we know that You send forth the Spirit to uplift us! Today, remind us that it’s not what we do that gains glory, but what You have done for us that is all important. May that truth be reflected in our lives and predominate our hearts. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR GLORIOUS LORD AND SAVIOR!
TEXT: Exodus 32: 7-14
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
We love heroes! We seek to emulate heroes. Magazines from “People” to “Sports Illustrated” are full of heroes. We dress like them and even wear their sports jerseys. But, what happens when these mortal humans do something that causes our hero worship to crumble? We become disillusioned and toss them aside like a dirty tissue.
True heroes aren’t just people who are rich and famous. They aren’t people that enjoy their 15 minutes of fame. No, true heroes are folks, ordinary humans, who make a lasting impact on society for the better. Washington, Lincoln, and even Dr. Luther come to mind. These were men who inspired generations. So, where are such giants now? I’ll tell you where to find them.—They are right here. Yes, you are the heroes of this age! For whatever you do, whatever your job, you can make an eternal difference!
It’s not just statesmen, or captains of industry or bishops who hold this country and the church together. It’s you. It’s the repairman, the educator, the thinker, the artist, the faithful parent. It’s Christians who aren’t afraid to speak out and encourage others. It’s Christians who thereby make an eternal impact on another’s eternal soul. With that in mind, today let’s ponder this truth :
ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
One person, Moses, made a huge difference, a difference that still effects us today, by confronting sin. We begin with Moses on Mt. Sinai. This great leader had just led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to the foot of that great granite crag. At God’s command he had left the people behind and climbed that mountain to commune directly with God. In fact, he had just received the 10 commandments etched by God’s finger on those two tablets of stone. But, in his absence, the people had grown restless. “Where is he? Why is he gone so long? God must have forgotten about us. What will we do out here in the middle of no where? We’re all going to die of starvation.” So, they backslide. They think back to their days in Egypt and decide to hedge their future by building and then worshiping a golden calf—a “god” the Egyptians revered. Of course, God knows all and sees this. So, He tells Moses: “Go down, because your people (note how God doesn’t want anything to do with them as seen by the “your people” instead of “my people”) whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt…They have bowed down and sacrificed to a golden calf saying: ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'”
To understand the Old Testament, you must always remember that the Israelites were God’s visible church on this earth. And just as the visible church is filled with both believers and hypocrites today, so too, at that time. Also, just as the visible church today is filled with sinners who are weak and sometimes disillusioned, so, too, then. So, like us, they had forgotten God’s blessings. Like us, they wanted to be “broad minded” and thought: “If we include idol worship in our religious service, God won’t care.” But, He did and does care!
Today we may laugh at this silly attempt at “godliness” on their part. To us it seems O so crass. But, examine what they were doing. They were injecting human emotions and human ideas into Godly worship. Obedience to God was out. Human reason was in. Let me ask you this: Is the concept of one God in three persons reasonable? Is the idea that God washes us from sin in baptism reasonable? How about the truth of communion?—That Jesus supernaturally joins Himself to bread and wine with His true body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins, is that reasonable? Downplaying these truths and disregarding whatever commandments seem difficult to us, such behavior is no different than “golden calf” worship, is it?
The major reason these people fell was the sin of pride. Self-deception elevates the ego at God’s expense. In human terms they also fell because they lacked good leadership. Aaron was Moses’ brother. He was the high priest. He had been left behind in charge while Moses was gone. But, Aaron was weak-willed and a compromiser. His flesh was more concerned about keeping the masses happy than in keeping God happy. So, when they came to Aaron and wanted him to build this calf, he relented. To him the end justified the means. After all, “they’ll still be worshiping God, just in a different form.” But, no! God isn’t about to share His glory with a silly golden idol then, or with political correctness or moral expediency, today. Yes, just like you would be, God was outraged over this attempt to steal His identity!
At this point one person could have made a real difference. All it would have taken is for one individual to stand up and utter the religious equivalent of: “the emperor (the idol) has no clothes!” But, none did. And God was justifiably angry about it. “I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
A lesser man, a weaker Christian, would have thrown in the towel. A person not driven by forgiveness and love would have failed God’s test here and concluded: “Great! Let Him destroy them and then my name will be great and my family will be famous.” But, Moses wasn’t just any man. He was a faith-filled Christian. And so, he doesn’t succumb to this test of faith. No, one person made a difference when it came to conveying forgiveness and saving God’s earthly church from destruction.
Moses the believer, not Moses the pride filled sinner, now intercedes for the people. “But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. ‘O Lord, why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say: ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth?’ Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.”
Moses is governed by the gospel. His faith is ruled by forgiveness. And that faith prompts him to challenge God by holding before Him His past promises. In short, he holds God to His Word! Likewise, Moses reminds God that for the sake of His own honor, and so that the heathen world would know of His loving power, He should give these wayward children another chance. And finally, Moses says: “If you are love itself, if you are who you say you are, then show it by permitting love to overrule your anger.”
Moses’ words made a difference! For we’re told: “then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” But, why did these words of Moses work? Why were they effective? The answer: “because God is always faithful to His promises.” He cannot go back on any of His promises without denying Himself. Also, He is a loving God. And that means His love always trumps His anger. The prophet Isaiah spoke of it this way when he wrote that God’s thoughts and God’s ways are entirely different than man’s ways. When people hurt, abuse, and mock us, our way is to cut them off at the knees. But, when we engage in hurtful behavior toward God, His way is to chastise us in order to get our attention, and then to forgive us and remake our lives for the better. Our gracious God proved that when He sent Jesus His Son to suffer and die on the cross in our place. Christ came to ransom us from our rebellious ways and to change our hearts, not with coercion, but with love. To be sure, on earth we must still suffer the consequences for our sins.—In this case, they had to drink the ground up gold from their burned calf! But even amid such concrete repentance, we don’t have to suffer eternal consequences because Jesus already did!
Our brother Jesus, and our brother Moses, made a difference. Their words and actions made an eternal difference. They changed the course of history, of our history, and through their efforts we are God’s spiritual heirs. Well, you can make a difference, too. God has given you words of eternal truth and wisdom. He has given you knowledge of true morality and right and wrong. But, most importantly, He has given you the one tool which can and does change people’s hearts—His love and forgiveness in Christ. So, use His blessings! True heroes are those who serve others in love without ever thinking: “What’s in it for me?” And of such people God says: “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted!” Amen