Parashat Ki Tisa (When You Lift Up)
Shemot (Exodus) 30:11–34:35
This week, we read of one of the most well-known, yet tragic accounts in the history of the people of Israel. 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 “late” in coming down from 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.
The people’s impatience was rooted in selfishness, which caused them to take matters in their own hands. Often times we are also impatient! We don’t want to wait upon the Lord, and take matters into our own hands. And the results are the same as those of the children of Israel i.e. we make for ourselves a different “god” that we trust in and follow.
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!” (Exodus 32:4)
The blasphemy against the one and only true God did not stop there; Aaron built an altar and said to the people that, “tomorrow will be a festival to the lord”. The next day the people rose up to offer “burnt” offerings, to bring “peace” offerings and they sat down to eat, drink and to make “merry”. Most Bible translations translate the word “לְצַחֵֽק” Letzachek as “to make merry”, but a more accurate meaning would be the sound resulting from a licentious kind of debauchery. In other words, the children of Israel were engaging in a form of lewd idol worship!
God wanted to destroy Israel and rightly so! However, we once again see that despite their human selfishness, God was moved to compassion because of His love and His faithfulness. Moses “reminded” Him of His unconditional covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel).
As Moses was coming down from the mountain he met Joshua, who reported to him in verse 17 “the voice of war (battle) in the camp.” Moses’ reply has a very significant meaning in the Hebrew, which gives us the key to understanding what was truly happening in the camp. Moses responds in verse 18, “It is neither the voice of signing (response) of victory (“עֲנ֣וֹת גְּבוּרָ֔ה” anot gevura) and not the voice of singing (response) of weakness (“עֲנ֣וֹת חֲלוּשָׁ֑ה” anot chlusha), but the voice of selfishness (“אָנֹכִ֖י” anochi) that I hear.”
I find interesting that Joshua heard the sound of war and Moses heard the sound of selfishness. I believe that both are true as what was happening was one big spiritual battle, due to the blasphemy that took place in the camp of Israel. Moses’ rage and anger caused him to throw the tablets that he was holding, causing them to break. He then burned the golden calf. Moses had no tolerance for idol worship, and neither should we followers of Messiah.
As I reflect upon this story, I am reminded of the words of exhortation from 2 Peter 3:3–8:
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
God is never late! Don’t allow your selfishness to cause you to take matters in your own hands — which will result in sin — but rather, remember all that He has done for you! He is faithful — take hold of His promises so that you can follow Him and walk with Him today. Do not grow weary in waiting for Him!