March 27, 2014

Strange Cuisine I: Golden Water

In today’s world we often look at foods from other countries and cultures oddly. We look at them as if they should not be eaten. Sometimes we even turn our noses up to some of the dishes we in the west deem unpalatable. It is not uncommon to see consumption of canine meat in the Far East, Southeast Asia, West Africa, The Philippines and even parts of Europe. The Texans are known for eating Rattlesnake and the good folks in Cambodia have been known to eat Deep Fried Tarantula and spiders. What could seem more unusual than some of these dishes? Perhaps some of the strangest are found in the pages of Scripture.

We read in the pages of Exodus a rather bland “meal” fed to the children of Israel. It is immediately after God’s people have submitted to their sins and given in to the worship of idols. In this case, the golden calf.

Exodus 32:19-20 ~ When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.”

It seems clear from this passage that the majority of the golden calf was wood or some other flammable substance overlaid with gold. The gold was contributed by many that were present. It is as if they merge and mold their sin into one giant affront to God. In this way they affirm and solidify their guilt in gold. The remnants of the statue were ground up and strewn in the water for the people to drink. In so doing Moses totally eradicated from sight the horrendous idol they had constructed for themselves. It also forced them to ingest or consume their own sin(s). Moses would then immediately return to Mt Sinai for another forty days and nights fasting and praying for his stiff-necked wicked people. In a symbolic way God also shows that He grinds His enemies to dust and totally annihilates them. When God is done with the wicked, there will be nothing left of them in this world.

God informed Moses that He would punish His people. Although God had passed judgment it appears he delays the execution of the due penalty. Regardless, as we see elsewhere in Scripture, sin leads to death whether the penalty be implemented immediately or later. The penalty would be that God would refuse to go before His people leading them into the Promised Land. What God didn’t not do is forsake His covenant promise. He just changed the way in which He would implement it and that change would be in response to His people’s rebellion. When this message is delivered to God’s people by Moses they mourn. In having given over to sin and then mourn, it appears they have learned to be repentant the hard way. Do we not do this ourselves at times? Do we always have to learn the hard way? We must never forget that sin costs us in the end. We always pay a price for it. The price isn’t just a slap on the wrist. It is death. It should deter is from our sin. Yet most times…it doesn’t.

Additionally, in grinding the idol to dust and forcing the people to essentially “eat dirt” of an idol it seems it is God’s way of repudiating the people’s assertion that it is this false God that led them out of bondage in Exodus 32:4’s, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” There is also a hint of Hosea and the unfaithful wife of Numbers 5 in the drinking of “bitter water” here. The book of Numbers clearly spells out that one of the punishments for an unfaithful wife (Israel’s relation to God) in Numbers 5:18-22 is to drink bitter water.

The other sad fact of this story is the smashing of the tablets. Many will see this as an impulsive irrational lashing out due to anger but this too would been a sin in reaction to a sin. This is not why Moses smashes the tablets. These are commands direct from the finger of God. By smashing the Law in this manner it appears as if Moses is symbolically undoing the Law for the people. In other words: If these people are this unprepared for obedience to the Law (which they were), they did not even deserve to have it to be able to obey it. They were indeed a condemned people. Although they could mimic the gold of the Ark of the Covenant and try to replace God with a flimsy idol, they completely understood that they could not duplicate the Law that had come down off the mountain and had been smashed at Moses feet. The shattering of the tablets parallels the shattering of the relationship between God and His rebellious people. Although they appear to have rejected the Law, they cannot escape its intent or the power instilled in it by God. In the end none will be able to outrun the power of the Law…except Christ. It is through Jesus’ ability to fulfill it that we have any ability to eventually escape the penalty of our own sins.

The last thing I should note about this scene is the guilty. They are all guilty including Aaron, Moses brother. Not some or most of them…all. They are guilty to varying degrees but all are held accountable. It seems as if the excessively guilty or the instigators are put to death nearly immediately by the Levites. The fact that the “less” guilty allowed the events to transpire without a hellacious fight bodes poorly for them also. By doing little they become accomplices. As the old saying goes, sometimes the only thing needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. So we have an immediate 3000 terminated. The remainder are punished at varying times and in assorted ways. Moses essentially attempts to atone for them by returning directly back to the mountain. To atone or attempt to cover them from the wrath of a jealous God who has been severely wronged by His own people.

This ubiquitous guilt will be revisited by a New Testament Apostle of Christ named…Paul. Paul will allude to this all-encompassing guilt in Romans 3 when he tells us believers now that all are unrighteous and all are guilty before God (Romans 3:9-20). All fall short of the glory of God…except His Son and this is the reason we must accept what His Son has done for us in dying on the cross for our sins. His atoning work is what stays the hand of God’s wrath that would doom us to eternal condemnation in Hell. This is why it is only through Jesus that we are saved. It is why He is the only way. He was the only one that could perfectly obey and fulfill God’s Law. It is only He that would be able to meet its demands and die on our death in our stead. It is because Jesus was able to fulfill the Law that lay smashed at the feet of Moses. The people (including us) had/have fallen so horribly short that it warranted smashing the tablets as they/we do not even deserve an attempt to meet its demand. Jesus on the other hand abrogates the Law with His obedience both active and passive (on the cross). 

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...