Every time I read the story of Aaron and the Golden Calf I scream in my heart, "don't do it....don't do it", but he always does. It is like the movie "Ground Hog Dog", it just continues to repeat itself. How much like that we are. We see the error in Aaron's ways but we struggle to cure our own sin.....we cling to our own Golden Calves rather than giving ourselves completely to the God who wants to bless us and use us as a sign to the nations of his presence and power. What is the thing (the golden calf) that you are unwilling to give up from your life in the world, the thing that separates you from God's purpose?
Moses asks God to allow him to see his face and God tells him that he would die, no one can see his face, is an illustration of God's perfection and our imperfection. Nothing unholy can stand before our Holy God. We must be perfected to be in his presence. I am reminded of #178 in the United Methodist Hymnal, a great hymn written by Fannie Crosby titled "A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord". The refrain is a reference to this passage. If my memory serves me it goes, "He hideth my soul in the cleft of the Rock and covers me there with his hand." The Rock for us is Jesus Christ who perfects us in the power of his sacrificial love and allows us to stand and be received by Almighty God. We do have an awesome intercessor in Jesus!!!
34: 6-7 is a marvelous song of grace and encouragement: "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin." How fortunate were the Israelites; how fortunate are we to serve a God so gracious and so merciful.
There is a lesson in God's continuing instructions to the Israelites regarding the people that they are going to drive out of the promised land. No compromise with the world, such compromise will pollute that which God has intended. It will diminish the power of the city on the hill. It will dim the light unto the nations. Israel (and the church) is intended to be a blessing to the world and a revelation of the awesomeness of God. Compromise (intermarriage, worship of false gods (golden calves) will diminish God's presence. We are to force evil out of the land by the power of God's great love in us.
And then God reminds Moses and the people (again) of the importance of Sabbath. Could it be that our failure to honor this command diminishes our presence and our power in the land that God has given us? Is it possible that we have walked away from blessing by walking away from Sabbath keeping?
Certainly, Moses was changed by being in the presence of God (he shone). Folks were a little frightened by his change. We, too, are changed when we have been in God's presence and perhaps we are a little scary to the world because they see the difference in us. No doubt the world (which is fallen) does fear the change. This world is the dominion of the fallen and to be in the presence of God is to be reminded of our sin. Won't you hide yourself from us, the world says to the Christian. Won't you keep your Faith to yourself, it asks. For us to give in to their demands is to compromise our God and to risk another 40 years in the wilderness. I don't want to pay that price.....do you?