I can barely remember what I did last Thursday, let alone two weeks ago. So much happens in a week, a month, or even a year, and a year involving tragedy or loss can seem even longer. When we’re in our desert, any amount of time is too long.
Imagine if you wandered for forty years. That’s how long the Israelites traveled through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. A trip that should have taken just a few weeks instead took one THOUSAND TIMES longer than it should have. Bear in mind, these people for the most part, followed God during that 40-year journey. Why on earth would He make them take that long? After all, He’d already promised the land to them! Was He was just teasing them with some cruel game of eternal keep-away?
Why couldn’t they move?
Part of the problem was that God wasn’t ready to give it to them… the other part? They weren’t ready to receive it. When God promised deliverance to their forefathers, those people – and that time – were much different. They loved God. Devoted themselves to Him. They followed Him, wherever He would go. And He loved them. This new people group wasn’t even sure who God was – they were a fickle bunch. They were used to many different god options – and sometimes they’d follow those paths. They’d bow to gods named, and those unnamed. Thousands of gods.
Sometimes, they’d just erect a god on the spot and *poof*, that would be their flavor of the month! Moses had gone up to Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights, to hear God’s plan for the people. In the meantime, he’d left his brother Aaron in charge of the people. When Moses didn’t come down at the precise moment they expected him, the people decided they didn’t need his God.
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.
Did you notice something about that passage of Exodus 32? The people weren’t really devoted to God. And neither were their spiritual leaders. If Aaron, the designated spiritual leader of the group, couldn’t even stand up to say “No, we worship the one true God ONLY” with a united forefront, then how could the people ever be expected to do so on their own? Their own leadership wasn’t leading! As business women and leaders, our team will follow the path we make. It’s up to us to stand for The Lord in our businesses, jobs, and families.
In verse 4, Aaron announced his intent with the golden offering – that it would represent the gods that helped them come out of Egypt. And what’s even worse – Aaron was caught like a rat in a trap, and still feigned ignorance! In verse 22, Moses asks ‘what’s up’.
21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”
Out came this calf? You gotta be kidding me. Is that not hilarious? This is Eve and the apple all over again! “Gee, I don’t know what happened! I was just standing here and this golden calf shot out from all the gold I collected from the people for The Lord! It wasn’t me, it was them! They did it!”
Just like that, the people, and AARON had gone from devotion to one God, to worshipping whatever gods they felt like worshipping. The truth was, their hearts – OUR hearts – are designed to worship! We were created in the image of God – our soul is incomplete without Him. Their constant search for something to worship would never be complete until they worshipped God the way their soul was meant to. We see that same degree of fickleness today. Do you hear it amongst your friends, when someone is sick or headed for a job interview? Not everyone says “I’ll pray for you”. They say “sending good thoughts your way” or “good karma wishes” or even “fingers crossed” and “good vibes”.
It’s easier to tell someone you’re sending good vibes than to announce your allegiance with God by sending prayers up to heaven, isn’t it? But a lack of devotion breaks God’s heart now, just like it did then. In fact, when God saw what they were doing, he threatened to wipe them all out and start again!
7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
Why would God give His very best for someone who doesn’t want to devote themselves to God in return, and give Him their very best? Let’s pretend your daughter’s getting married. If you saw her betrothed out one night galavanting with the local women, you’d tell her wouldn’t you? You’d tell her to save herself for someone who would love ONLY her. The same for your son. Your niece. Your nephew. Your best friend. God is no different. His devotion to us, and to the Israelites demanded the very best in return. He wouldn’t give this gift to just anyone – but only to those who felt the same way for Him as He did for them. It’s that way with us, too. God loves us so passionately, yet He wants to make sure that before He gives us these amazing gifts, we recognize who they’re coming from.
Sometimes our stall in the desert is because we don’t want to go where God isn’t going. The Israelites were finally coming around. They weren’t perfect, but better. Exodus 33 tells us:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
You see, God was willing to keep His end of the bargain, but He couldn’t go with them – He knew they still were not completely, whole-heartedly sold out to Him.
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
And the people DID want Him to come with them, deep down.
4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments.
I know that has kept me from moving before – the fear that if I take a step – the wrong step, God isn’t there. Or that I misheard Him. If I stay still, maybe He’ll say it again. Louder, stronger. With feeling. But if we don’t take a step because we’re afraid it’s wrong, God can move on without us! Or worse!When God asked Moses to truly determine whose allegiance belonged to The Lord, he did.
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.27 Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.34 And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.”
They needed to be sifted. The wheat from the chaff – those who truly loved God and desired to follow Him, versus those who just came along for the ride. Not just those wishing to be free, but those who knew that GOD wa the only way to that freedom.It seemed rather harsh, but God HAD to be certain He only gave His best to those who wanted it. Moses had given them time to pledge their allegiance and they didn’t. There will be a time when WE are called to pledge our allegiance as well, and I pray I am not Judas when my time comes. Nobody has to tell God we’re cheating on Him. He knows. He knows when we skip prayer time, or haven’t read our Bibles in a month of Sundays. When we get out of the habit for praying for our teams and coworkers, and when we forget to thank Him each day for giving us the day to begin with. Why is it so hard to make time for the only thing that promises to make us better? Social media doesn’t make us better. Pinterest might make us a better cook, but it won’t teach us God’s heart for us as mothers, friends, and businesswomen. Tweeting might bring us followers, but it will not bring us to understand God’s heart for our businesses.
Our most time-consuming efforts can help us with sales, but they won’t help us be closer to Him, and walk out of our desert. Yes, God can use those things to bring you sayings, quotes, books, and blogs. But they’re like cake – not meat. Like fruit juice, not living water. They’re good, and a wonderful conviction and spiritual reinforcement when needed – but those things alone aren’t what will bring you to God.So what will? What do you think God wanted MOST from the Israelites? It was never for them to be a robotic minion-esque following of people with no opinions, thoughts, and desires of their own. God didn’t want to be their Pied Piper, mystically leading them as if they were under a trance, and he doesn’t want to be that for us either. God doesn’t desire to beat us down into submission and wait for us to beg Him to take us out of the desert. He wants us to go deeper with Him. Not dip your toe in the water of faithfulness, but jump in, no matter the depth.His plan for them was to give them everything they could ever need, but first they had to need HIM. They had to want HIM in all of His forms – both in the Promised Land, and in the desert. They had to be patient, and trust that God would not only see them through, but that when they came to the Promised Land, they’d be better. They had to be sold out to ONE God, and it had to be Him. What will bring you out of the desert, and move you is the same thing that moved the Israelites. He took the Israelites into the desert to see who was truly ready to go deeper into the water with Him. He saw who would obey and who wouldn’t. He sifted them, and found the true heart of His devotees.That’s what Moses did. Moses was God’s chosen man, and when he started on this voyage, God revealed Himself via a burning bush, through clouds, and through fire. But throughout the journey, as Moses sought God’s heart to the very core, he would eventually “speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Exodus 33:11) The transition is so beautiful. And that is exactly what God wants to do with us. He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve every day. He talked with Moses face-to-face, as a friend. God wants us, even in our desert, to seek Him to the point where WE want to be face to face. I know many times when I’ve walked through the desert, my prayers would be “Lord, what am I supposed to do”? It made ME the owner of my destiny, and made me think I had to make the next decision. That’s a lot different than praying “Lord, what do YOU want me to do”, which implies that I will ONLY go where God leads. Do you see the difference? I don’t ever need to doubt that God knows my needs better than I know my needs. If we can go to the place where HE wants us to go – abandon the path back to Egypt, abandon an alternate route that we think is better, take His hand and let HIM lead us through the desert… if we can walk with Him, and talk face-to-face with our Lord, in His time, HE WILL take us to our Promised Land. Reckless abandon. Sold out devotion. A heart that seeks Him. That’s how we find Him in our desert. Once we find Him, and take His hand, He will lead us from that point on.
~ She is free… to follow