Our Golden Calf Idolatry (Week 7 of 7)

From the Seminar, Walking in the Light of Pentecost

I am summarizing and bringing our study to a close by making three points that seek to address the question, What does the feast of Pentecost—biblically understood—mean to you and me today? We must ...

  1. rethink the whole paradigm of salvation

  2. rethink the significance of the Torah

  3. rethink the issue of idolatry in our lives

First, we must rethink the whole paradigm of salvation. (click here to read last week's installment) Next, we must—as Messiah's church, the people of God—rethink the significance of the Torah. We must have the same attitude as Jesus: not the smallest jot or tittle is insignificant, every aspect of God's word is going to be fulfilled. We must listen carefully to his words, "Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." I want you to think about these texts and tell me, how did Jesus know the will of his Father in heaven? "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt 7:21) "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matt 12:50) Was he walking around with a microphone in his ear, tuned to the heavenly Jerusalem station? No, he had eaten the scroll, he had ingested and digested the Word of God! The Tanakh [Old Testament] was his Bible and it literally shaped his very identity, his world view. In modern computer terms, his software had been programmed by the Torah. What he thought arose from this biblical world view, what he said came out in biblical language. For a window into Jesus' mind and his attitude towards Law and Israel, consider this sampling from the Psalms.

God's Torah ...

  • Ps 1 – is my delight, makes me like a tree planted by waters, nourishes me, bears fruit in my life

  • Ps 19:7 – is perfect, restores my life

  • Ps 119:92 – is my delight

  • vs.96 – is the object of love

  • vs.142 – is venerated as truth

  • vs.165 – is a means of peace, is the means of liberty

Law in Hebrew has an enormously rich vocabulary. It is like the Eskimos who have eleven different words for snow because it is a reality they are familiar with and live with. All of these different ways of expressing and exalting the concept of God's Torah infused Jesus' mind and world view with biblical values. We could say it this way, if you want to see a perfect embodiment of God's Law, look at Jesus of Nazareth. Do you want to know what a person would be like who took on the Torah in spirit and truth? Look to Jesus, because that is precisely what he did; the son embodies the Father's Torah. Said another way, he is the Word made flesh. And what was the result? Light and life to the world. Jesus understood that the Word is inspired, which means literally "inspirited." Written by the Spirit It has the Spirit and therefore brings forth the Spirit. The Spirit is LIFE. Paul makes it very clear that the inspiration of Scripture is not some abstract theoretical issue. It is something that is profitable for guidance, direction, teaching, instruction—in order to prepare you for the good works which your salvation summons you to. Will you change your attitude and your relationship to God's Torah? I use Torah here in the extended sense of the entire revelation of God in what we unthinkingly call the Old Testament. You see, Pentecost is the festival of the giving of Torah. As we have said before, the receiving of Torah only occurs when you submit and obey it (him). Will you receive the law? Last, we must—as Messiah's church, the people of God—rethink the issue of idolatry in our lives. There are so many relevant lessons from what happened with Israel and the golden calf at Mt. Sinai. It seems that because there was a delay, Israel reverted back to Egypt. As has been said before, it was far easier to get Israel out of Egypt than to get Egypt out of Israel. Like them, too many of us grow impatient and revert back to the ways of the world. The sin of the golden calf was not an outright rejection of Yahweh. That is so important. What Aaron and Israel did was create another symbol for him because their main symbol, Moses, seemed to be gone and perhaps even lost. So they created a calf as a kind of pedestal of Yahweh. This is an idea common to the surrounding pagan societies. In fact, it is an idea that is even found in the Scriptures. The cherubim sit atop the ark of the covenant over what is called the mercy seat. It is, so to speak, the place where Yahweh sits. Some Jewish interpreters believe that Aaron and the children of Israel were creating the calf as a pedestal for Yahweh to stand upon. I think this understanding is particularly profound because it tends to be the case when we don't live fully up to our calling and take on the Word of God as we should. Typically we don't reject God, we just recast him in a different form. We take the world's system and images, and we marry them to God. In other words, if you cease worshipping the one true God, you begin worshipping other gods. We become conformed to the image of what we worship. That is what is happening today, in large part, to the church in America and the West. And it will result in judgment. We have been shaped by the very forces we are supposed to stand against. We are to be witnesses and judges; instead, we have made friends with the spirits of the age. So much so that churches are finding ways of theologically putting the stamp of approval on confused and deviant sexual behavior. We must purge ourselves of idolatry. We must stand as witnesses to the fact that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and Jesus—is God alone. Passover is his salvation from evil and death, Pentecost is his way of goodness and life. "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." (Isaiah 2:3)

This devotional study is from a professionally produced transcription of Dwight's audio message. It is a full and accurate transcript, formalized and edited for readability and clarity by JC Studies.

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