Exodus 31-32, Mark 13
But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. – Mark 13:32-33 ESV
It didn't take long. Moses had been up on the mountain receiving the Law from God. Down below, the people had begun to lose patience, wondering what had become of their leader. Eventually, they took matters into their own hands, appointed for themselves a new leader and demanded that he make them a god like the ones they had worshiped back in Egypt. It is ironic to think that while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments, given by God and engraved by the very finger of God, the people were at the base of the mountain preparing to violate the first two commandments. If ever there was proof for the need of the law of God in the lives of men, this is it. God knew mankind well. The laws He was giving Moses were a direct reflection of the sinfulness of man. In spite of all that God had done for them and how He had revealed His power on behalf of them, they demanded that Aaron "make us gods who shall go before us" (Exodus 32:2 ESV). They had grown impatient and dissatisfied with the God of Moses. In their minds, He was a difficult to understand God. He was a demanding and oftentimes harsh God. He was a God who made pleasant-sounding promises about future rewards and blessings, but in the meantime, they found themselves wandering around in the wilderness eating manna and living in temporary shelters. They were unhappy with the way things were going under the rule of Moses' God. And with Moses out of the way, they decided to make a god of their own choosing.
What does this passage reveal about God?
One of the things God had been telling Moses up on the mountain was His plans for the construction of the Tabernacle, His dwelling place among the people. Not only had God given Moses exacting, detailed plans for the construction of this "tent of meeting," He had made it clear that He had prepared the workmen for the task, naming them by name, and assuring Moses that "I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!" (Exodus 31:3-5 ESV). God provides for what He commands. He had already Spiritually-enabled those who would do the work of building the Tabernacle and all the elements associated with it. But it was all going to take time. It wouldn't happen overnight. Things were going to have to be done God's way and according to God's exacting standards, but He would bring it about by His divine enablement.
The promises of God would eventually be fulfilled. They would one day find themselves in the land that God had promised to Abraham. But the people were going to have to learn that the journey was just as important as the destination. They were going to have to learn to worship God in the wilderness or they would never worship Him in the land. Patient obedience was one of the things we all must learn when following God. His ways are not our ways. His timing rarely gels with ours. At times He seems to disappear or be distant. He is difficult to see and even harder to comprehend. His commands and expectations can seem too harsh and too demanding. His promises can sometimes come across as empty and unfulfilled in our lives. And it is at those times, we must patiently obey and faithfully wait for Him.
What does this passage reveal about man?
We are a fickle lot. It doesn't take much to cause our faith to turn into faithlessness. When things don't quite go our way or turn out to our liking, we can quickly turn on God, just like the Israelites did. In their case, they constructed an actual idol. But we tend to be more sophisticated, placing our hopes, dreams and our constant need for security in things like money, our careers, our own intelligence, other people, science or the philosophies of this world. Either way, we end up making gods out of something we can see or touch. The English word, "idol" comes from the Greek word, eidolon which means "something to be seen." We tend to put our faith and hope in the visible and the tangible. We struggle with the concept of an invisible, unseen God. We get uncomfortable with His "otherness" or transcendence. We grow impatient with His seeming lack of presence in our lives. We wrongly assume that because we can't see Him, He is not there. And our impatience can easily turn to impertinence. We grow doubtful of His presence and, ultimately, disobedient to His rule over our lives. God accused the people of Israel of having "corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them" (Exodus 32:7-8 ESV).
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
Patiently obeying God is difficult. There are so many times in my life when I am tempted to give up on God and move on with my life. I take matters into my own hands because I fail to trust the God has them firmly in His own. The promise of heaven is wonderful, but I find myself in this world, surrounded by the problems that come with living in the midst of a fallen creation and among sinful people. Life can be difficult. And I can't always see what God is doing behind the scenes. So I can find myself growing impatient and impertinent. I can easily turn my doubt and disbelief into disobedience to God's will. In the 13th chapter of Mark we have recorded for us the words of Jesus to His disciples. It is near the end of His life and He is preparing Himself for His coming death, and them for His eventual departure. They will find themselves alone and on their own. So He warned them about all that was going to happen in the days to come. Much of what He said referred to events that have yet to take place. Jesus was giving them an overview of the end times – all the way from the more immediate days after His death and resurrection to the much more distant events associated with His return. Things were not going to get easy for the disciples. He told them, "But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them" (Mark 13:9 ESV). He warned and encouraged them, "And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved" (Exodus 13:13 ESV). They were going to have to patiently obey. They were going to have to trust God's timing. Jesus Himself was not privy to the exact timing of God's plan. "But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Mark 13:32 ESV). So He told them, "Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come" (Mark 13:33 ESV). Much of what Jesus talked about would not happen in their lifetime. It has yet to take place in ours. But He would tell us the same thing. Stay awake! Be ready. Live patiently obedient. Trust God and don't bail on Him just because you can't fully understand or comprehend what He is doing in and around your life. Jesus assures us that the one who endures to the end will be saved. That is a picture of patient obedience, as we do our part and faithfully trust God to do His.
Father, I want to patiently obey. I want to increasingly trust You, regardless of whether I can see You or not. You have given me more than enough reasons to do so. You have always been faithful to me. You have proven Yourself faithful throughout the ages. You have given mankind plenty of evidence of Your power, Your presence, and Your patient endurance of our sin and faithlessness. Help me stay awake, be on guard, and patiently obey to the end. Amen