Developing the Theme of Family through the Torah Portions. Number Twenty-One.

Dr Clifford Denton.

Ki Tisa: Exodus 30:11-34:35

2nd March 2024/22 Adar1

You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood. (Exodus 30:1)

Picture by Helen McNeill

The seeming silence of God can be a testing time for anyone. In Israel’s case, Moses was away so long without bringing God’s instructions that all manner of ideas came into the minds of the Israelites. They had known the way that the Egyptians had images of gods which may have been the inspiration that led Aaron to manufacture the golden calf. After all, if we have something tangible to focus on that has characteristics of the sort of god that we imagine then it will, unfortunately, help us to worship this god of our imagination and we think that our lives will be fulfilled. Hence the exuberant rejoicing and dancing of the Israelites. It is so clear to us, looking back, how foolish this was!

Yet look at the world today, especially our own country which has known the ways and the protection of God through many generations, including through two horrendous world wars. Moses was on Mount Horeb receiving the Ten Commandments at the time when the golden calf was manufactured. We have had those same commandments as the foundation of our own national laws, growingly so, over many centuries until today. Despite this, in an era when the voice of God across our nation is not very clear, people are doing what seems right in their own eyes. This is just as it became for Israel at the time of Moses and at the time of the Judges: In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). “Golden calves”, typified in Exodus 32, is replicated over and over in our nation today, whether through the images of false gods or in the minds of those who invent gods for themselves.

While the Israelites were turning to idolatry, Moses was being instructed about the precious way God’s people could know Him in their midst and approach Him. While the pattern of the Tabernacle and the Priesthood was being taught to Moses the spiritual enemy deceived the Children of Israel, persuading them that Moses was not going to return and that the God of Israel did not see what they were doing. Those who were deceived may have even been persuaded He would be pleased with their image and their idea of the character of God. The foolishness of this is evident in every false religion that is known to mankind. There is only one way to the true God and anything else is deception.

This was not the first time that seeming silence from God precipitated human reaction. It was even true for Abraham when Ishmael was conceived – the consequence of his not waiting for God’s timing. It became true for Saul, the first king of Israel, when he made a sacrifice that he should not have done and lost the kingdom as a result (1 Samuel 13). We are yet to read, in our weekly portions, of the death of two of Aaron’s sons for offering in the Tabernacle the wrong incense in the wrong way. In matters large and small we must learn from the incident in our portion this week that the silence of God does not mean that He has forgotten us. His timing is perfect and His revelations sure.

After God had completed His instructions to Moses, He told Him to go down to the people. God knew perfectly well what had been going on (Exodus 32:7-9). While He was talking with Moses, He also knew what Israel was doing. The seriousness of what Israel had done was borne out in the fact that God would have destroyed them all but for Moses’ intercessions. Even so justice was due, and many people lost their lives. It was an immensely sad day, yet the God of grace did not destroy those who were repentant. This is the ongoing theme of all history.

Always something is lost in such circumstances. In Abraham’s case, Ishmael brought difficulties for Isaac, a hint to the difficulties that Israel faces today with enemies constantly demanding their annihilation. In Moses’ case, the loss of many lives resulted and also the loss of the precious tablets which God first prepared, so that they had to settle for a duplicate set. How sad when we settle for second best instead of waiting for God’s perfect plan.

We are in parallel days today. Our Saviour, Yeshua HaMashiach is in Heaven at God’s right hand waiting for the exact time for His return. The Gospel, for many centuries has gone around the world and reached all continents. Yet there sometimes seems to be a silence from Heaven similar to the time of Moses, concerning what God is doing and how this relates to the time when Yeshua will return.

The Apostle Peter foresaw this. We read in Acts 3:20-22, where Peter spoke to the crowd in Solomon’s Portico following the healing of a lame man. He said, Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘TheLordyour God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren’. There is a time when Yeshua (Jesus) will return. He Himself told us that we would not know the day or hour but would see the signs of His coming. (Matthew 24:36)

Peter also warned what would happen in the world prior to the Lord’s coming:

Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Saviour, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they wilfully forget that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:1-9)

The days foreseen by Peter are the days in which we live when the promises of God and the nature of God are being forgotten, false religions are abounding, and tensions are rising all over the earth. At such a time we have been told to watch and pray, to patiently wait for the Lord’s return, doing those things that He has already taught us through the Old and New Covenants. We must not fall for the traps of the spiritual enemy to establish false gods and false religions. In this sense, we are in a similar position to the Israelites at the time of Moses.

There is a picture of hope in our Torah portion this week nevertheless. After everything was put back in order, the people waited more earnestly for what God would say through Moses. Where did they wait? At their own homes. Each time Moses sought the Lord they would wait by their tent doors, worshipping, until the time when Moses would reveal what God had said (Exodus 33:7-11)

If we transfer this image to our day, it reinforces our perspective that the central place to worship, wait on the Lord, and consider carefully what He expects of us, secure together, is our own family home. There will be many challenges in the world around, but we can remain secure in the framework of our family. The Holy Spirit has been sent from the Father and Son as a Counsellor. We can listen together to Him.