Parashat Ki Tisa (When You Lift Up)
Shemot (Exodus) 30:11-34:35
Haftarah: 1 Kings 18:1-39
We read one of the most well-known, yet tragic accounts in the history of the people of Israel this week. It begins with Moses on Mt. Sinai, receiving the stone tablets, which were written with God’s finger. During that time, the people grew impatient because they thought Moses was delayed coming down the mountain. They gathered against Aaron and told him to make them a god that would walk before them since they did not know what happened to Moses. Aaron feared the people more than he feared God. This fear caused him to surrender to the people, and therefore, he collected all the golden earrings and turned them into a molten calf. He then blasphemously declared,
“This is your god, Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”
As we read the rest of that tragic account, we know that Moses went down with the tablets and that, in his anger, he broke them. We also read that God wanted to destroy Israel and to make Moses into a great nation, yet Moses interceded on behalf of the people and God showed His grace to them not only in sparing their lives, but also by giving them new tablets, and and making another covenant with them:
Then God said, “Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you.
Be sure to comply with what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite from you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Be careful that you do not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their memorial stones, and cut down their Asherim for you shall not worship any other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they would prostitute themselves with their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone might invite you to eat of his sacrifice, and you might take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters might prostitute themselves with their gods and cause your sons also to prostitute themselves with their gods.”
God’s desire was for Israel to know and to worship Him alone — not man-made idols. I want to emphasize the amazing promise from verse 10 in the above scripture portion because it may help us understand what happened in our Haftarah reading from 1 Kings 18:1–39. In order to fully understand what happened here we need to go back a bit to 1 Kings 16:29–33:
Now Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria for twenty-two years. Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him. And as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshiped him. So he erected an altar for Baal at the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. Ahab also made the Asherah. So Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
King Ahab built an altar to Baal, who was the pagan god of the skies, i.e., the god that controlled the rain. The king did the exact opposite of what God had instructed Israel to do in Exodus 34:10–16, and by doing so, he caused Israel to stumble by following idols and worshiping false gods.
It is important to understand this background, because this is the reason that Elijah announces there would be no rain in Israel; it was a declaration to Israel of the one true God that controls everything.
We then have the famous account in 1 Kings 18, where Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a showdown of sorts, but where God reigns victorious. This account is not about Elijah and his great faith, as so many people tend to think, but rather, it is about the God of Israel, who never changes, and whose desire has always been for His people to worship Him alone!
In Exodus 34:10–16 , God not only instructed against worshiping idols, but He also says clearly in verse 10 that:
“Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you.”
And indeed, we see in our Haftarah portion, that He did just that:
Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood, and the stones and the dust; and it licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God!”
1 Kings 18:38–39
God performs His acts of wonder for us to know and worship Him alone. It is not about us, as so many people like to make it. Any miraculous gift that one may have is not about the person, but about God. We can’t worship people; we must worship God, and God alone!
As I read the promise from Exodus 34:10, I think of the account from John 14:1–14:
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “LORD, we do not know where You are going; how do we know the way?” Yeshua said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Yeshua said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own, but the Father, as He remains in Me, does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly I say to you, the one who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, this I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”
Just like the Father promised the children of Israel great acts of wonder that would confirm and affirm who He is, so the Son, Yeshua, promised us even greater works that will confirm and affirm who He is.
It is not about us; it is all about Him!
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