This is the second monthly post in a series of twelve that will take us through the bible in a year. Again, I will post all the videos in the recommended order, I highly recommend you watch them. If you are way behind don’t be discouraged, just keep reading. If you are way ahead, you are an anomaly and I’m not sure what to say to you. Remember, the point of this is to get to know God through Jesus. The plan is just a tool to help see that the entire bible is all about him, even the parts that don’t mention his name!
The readings took us on a roller coaster journey with the Israelites (you could argue it was more like a downward spiral). Each book acted like a magnifying glass that let us look closely at their hearts and at God’s heart; comparing the two in ways that were often not flattering. It was easy to think “come on, don’t you remember what God told you, just do what he says!” It was also easy to forget that we are following them on a long journey that spans centuries. It should be noted that they actually were diligent to believe and put into practice what God commanded at times but this was not consistent at all. So then I realized that this is a major problem both then and now: the failure to remember.
What is behind not remembering? Why was Israel so rebellious? The answer to that could probably span thousands of pages if we were left to speculate but thankfully it can be summed up in a short sentence: it is because they exchanged their worship of God for the worship of false gods. A phrase often repeated in these stories and coupled with rebellion is “they did what was right in their own eyes,” this phrase is always used negatively. It means the people are overconfident in themselves and under-confident in God. So God began to fade away in the distance as they started pursuing their desires over and above everything else. Disaster is inevitable. This was so repulsive to God that he was considering destroying the people of Israel but Moses interceded on Israel’s behalf to spare them despite them deserving death. Pretty intense. We see in Deuteronomy Moses recounting that day. The people were to remember it so they did not repeat their actions. Who is the true God. which is tied to worship, is forefront both then and now.
Interestingly, the bible assumes you will always be worshipping. No one is neutral. You were made to worship, so the question isn’t if you worship it’s what or whom do you worship? Deuteronomy 11:16 says to “take care, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and you serve other gods and worship them” (ESV). This implies that if you just “go with the flow” that you will end up worshipping a false god! So how do we know what we worship? There are a few ways to tell: look at what you spend your money on, look at how you spend your time, consider what you most often day dream about. What makes you say, if I only had X I would be happy. Unfortunately, if we honestly answer these questions, it is not very flattering for us. Even the good things we do are tainted. Our mirage of being a good person is turned upside down. We will be tempted to look away or cover up.
Like Israel we are often forgetful, rebellious, and ungrateful. We do what is right in our own eyes, we do not seek truth, we let our desires rule over us and pin us down in submissive worship to them. However, we still have hope because like Israel we have Someone interceding on our behalf despite our false worship and our failings. This Person keeps us from being destroyed and, not only that, he helps us to look honestly at our sin because we won’t be destroyed.
How did Israel (and us) avoid annihilation? Because Jesus took the bullet for us and was destroyed both physically and relationally on the cross. On top of this, we are treated like Jesus should've been: perfect, blameless, and holy. So much can be said about this. Nothing is more dignifying and nothing is more humbling. You don’t need to run from your failings and you don’t need to make up for them. Jesus acts as the greater Moses who will always intercede for you personally and for us as a community. We are safe in him. Jesus name wasn't mentioned here but can you see how this story is pointing to him?
We don't live in a culture where we think we need God. Much less do we think that we are disobeying or rebelling against God. Often it is said "do what you want, just don't hurt anybody else," in other words just do what you think is right to you. Sound familiar? Of course it is tempting to do this because it makes sense in the moment but we know how this plays out, thanks to the Israelites. If we don't think we need someone to intercede on our behalf then we have to stand on our own. A scary place to be. Keep learning about holiness and the law. Jesus won't make much sense apart from it. It's worth your time!