Moses has just spoken to the people about NOT believing that their own righteousness has granted them favor with God. Now he revisits their greatest shames.
The people failed God MANY times but a couple of them are so noteworthy that Moses uses them to drive his point home. The first and the last are the most damming to my mind. These are the events with the golden calf and the refusal to go into the Promised Land. Four of the five mentioned incidents resulted in direct retaliation from God.
God sent a plague on the people following the incident with the golden calf. This wasn’t the only deaths connected to that event but it was the one God levied directly. The Taberah incident resulted in God sending fire and consuming the outer edges of the camp. Massah they tested God but we are not told that He punished them. This is where He gave them water from the rock. At Kibroth-hattaavah God sent the quail that the people craved. Those who ate it were stricken while the meat was still in their mouths. Talk about a quick acting poison. Kadesh-barnea was where the spies were sent out to spy out the land. God struck down the returning spies with a plague and began the removal of the entire first generation from His promise. They would see death in the wilderness and never enter into His rest.
Israel’s roster of deeds listed here demonstrates just how untrustworthy and unrighteous they were. Granted, these deeds were laid at the feet of the first generation but this generation wasn’t separate from them. If they thought they were getting this gift from God because they had “earned” His favor they were sorely mistaken!
This is the first time we have seen that God was angry enough with Aaron over the golden calf to want to kill him. In Exodus we don’t see Aaron taking any responsibility or punishment for his participation. And he DID participate! This is also the first time we read about how long Moses had to intercede for the people and for Aaron. Moses fasted and prayed for 40 days before the Lord told him that was enough. Was this after he had burned and ground the calf into dust and sprinkled it on the water? He also made the people drink this water. I’m wondering what the people in the camp were doing while Moses went back up the mountain at this point. Were they too ashamed of their sin to do anything but hide in their tents?
After hearing their litany of failings what were the people feeling? Were they ashamed of their past? Were they saying, “That wasn’t us! It was our fathers.” Were they deciding they would do better for the Lord? Were their hearts torn? Was this second generation different from their fathers in their stubborn hearts? Were they taking Moses’ words deep into their hearts and determining NOT to be like their fathers?
I have always had a stubborn streak. I don’t think mine manifested like Israel’s did. Mine was displayed mostly when I set my mind to something there was nothing going to get in my way. I remember many times as a child my dad calling me out on some act of stubbornness but I can’t remember the acts themselves. His interventions probably effected the immediate issue but not the root of it.
When I was a young woman my mom pointed out to me a particular stubborn event and that changed my heart. It helped me see my own behavior in a new light. I still have determination in what I set my mind to but it isn’t a drive that plows other people under if they get in my way anymore.
This same change is what Moses is probably aiming at with his recounting of Israel’s stubborn behavior. He wants the people to realize where their actions have led them and what price they have paid in the process. He doesn’t want them to promise “never do that again” but to change their heart’s motivation. Learn from the failures of the past and let it be the fuel for tomorrow’s victories.
Father God, Thank You for changing my heart! Thank You for my mother’s words of wisdom. Thank You that You prepared my heart to hear them too. Yes, I still have a determined streak in me and sometimes it goes the wrong direction but I trust You to bring me back to where I need to be. I wonder what my list of offenses would look like if I had to write one. I know my “monsters” stem from a “stubborn” place. I wish I could banish them forever from my life. I’m going to have to settle on letting You direct them to positive places instead. THANK YOU that You haven’t given up on this little stubborn child. Keep channeling and changing me to where that stubborn streak is a positive instead of a negative.
Love, Your determined child.