Bible Readings for March 22nd
In Exodus 32 we saw the first part of the wrath of God against Israel’s monstrous idolatry, when they fashioned for themselves a golden calf to worship and then dared to call that golden calf Yahweh. In response, Yahweh sent the Levites through the camp to kill their fellow Israelites, and then he sent a plague against Israel. Still, Yahweh relented from wiping out Israel altogether.
In today’s reading, however, the other shoe drops. At first, things sound promising: Yahweh tells Moses to depart from Mount Sinai in order to lead the people of Israel up to the Promised Land in Canaan. Even more, Yahweh says that he will send an angel to drive out the inhabitants of that land so that the people of Israel can settle in the land flowing with milk and honey (Ex. 33:1–3).
But then Yahweh says this: “But I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Ex. 33:3). Immediately, the people understand this word to be disastrous, stripping from themselves any ornaments and going into mourning (Ex. 33:4–6).
But why would this be such a horrible situation for Israel? If Israel still inherits the Promised Land with all its wealth and comfort, and if Yahweh will still send an angel on the way, what more could they ask for?
As we have talked about many times, the story of the Bible is about how God comes to dwell in the midst of his people again. Since the day that Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, shattering the perfect fellowship and communion they enjoyed, God has been working on a plan of redemption to reclaim and restore his people, cleansing them of their sin and death so that he can dwell with them forever in holiness and in peace.
If God gives his people all the material blessings and comfort they could possibly desire but does not give them himself, then everything that has happened so far has been for nothing. It would be like a woman trying to enjoy her wedding reception even though her fiancé had died the day before the wedding.
Never forget that the gospel is not about what God can do for you. The gospel is about God—knowing him, glorifying him, dwelling with him, and enjoying him forever. If God gave you the glory of heaven but he was not there, God would be giving you hell. You were made to glorify God and to enjoy him forever, and anything short of that is death.1
Meditate on the words of Jesus from John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Eternal life is to know God and to know Jesus Christ, whom God has sent.
1 See John Piper’s wonderful book, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005).
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.