Chapter 26: Why Would God Be Angry With His People?

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I would rather that the reader fills in the answer to this question, because in pointing out the reasons, it sounds like I am offering criticism of the Jews. Of course the Gentiles face the same judgment as the Jews. Whether the Jews have had more “light” (thus they should have less darkness) is a question you must consider. God’s Word has told us, repeatedly, what it is that makes Him angry. The specific incidents that caused God to spell out the reason for His anger simply serve to point us to the nature of the underlying sin.

I believe it is safe to say that the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) cover all forms of the kind of obedience and righteousness that God expects from us. We have reviewed this in another topic, but it bears some repeating that there are two over-arching commandments. The Messiah quotes them. Listen.

Matthew 22:37-40 (NKJ)

37 Jesus said to him,” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38 “This is the first and great commandment.
39 “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Some of my Jewish friends have said, Jesus is not the Messiah. They say that the Torah is that to which they are dedicated. But listen to what Jesus said about the Law.

Matthew 5:17-19 (NKJ)

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
19 “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Regarding the utilitarian purpose of the Law in our daily lives, listen to the words of Moses.

Exodus 20:20 (NKJ)

20 And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”

People debate over which laws are the most important. Aside from the fact that Jesus tried to end that debate by giving you a simple, complete summary of the Law by saying “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ ” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.,” you are taught by Moses that the Law is a “test,” so that you might not sin. Please grasp the view that if there were no law, there would be no straight edge by which to measure your sin. Listen.

Romans 4:15 (NKJ)

15 …where there is no law there is no transgression.

What is sin except the transgression of the Law? Is there a single reader of these words who has never sinned? Of course not and that is why sacrifice, offerings and atonement exist. We seek to be forgiven so we humbly come before God with our efforts to be cleansed. But these efforts of sacrifice simply do not endure. They fail to keep us from sin and we go on in a cycle of sin-sacrifice-offering for our whole lives.

Isn’t it clear that a more perfect way was provided when God sent His only Son as a final sacrifice, a final offering to cleanse us of our sins and to provide us with perfect, final atonement. The “cycle” of sin and sacrifice is ended. Jesus Christ is now our Redeemer. He paid the price for our sins and we can stand in the presence of the Father, not in our righteousness, but in the righteousness of God’s only begotten Son.

When we acknowledge the Messiah, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. That is the power that truly allows the sinner, you and me, to escape from the power of the flesh. It is our flesh that must “die” and it is our spirit that must live. They contend constantly and you are serving one or the other, all of the time. Being “in the Spirit” is to be Christ like, to be saintly in a way that you and I could never be, aside from Him in us.

Does this sound too religious? Hopefully you will understand that it is not “religious” at all, in the ritual sense of the word, but it is simply a “relationship” with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It is a moment by moment relationship that you carry into every transactional event, every thought and every decision.

Now, if one prefers to try to stand before the Father in your own righteousness, instead of His Son, you are going to find your righteousness insufficient, and the anger that God feels about your sin is well documented. You are His Chosen Children, His Special People to whom He has entrusted His Holy Word. The prophets spoke clearly of the events to unfold and they were your prophets.

In short, when we are disobedient, it angers God. When Miriam and Aaron built the golden calf and the people worshipped before it, recall how it angered God. Read the account of that event with care. There are many lessons in this chapter.

Exodus 32:1-35 (NKJ)

1 Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”
2 And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”
3 So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.
4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
5 So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.”
6 Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.
8 “They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ”
9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!
10 “Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”
11 Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
12 “Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people.
13 “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ”
14 So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.
15 And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written.
16 Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets.
17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.”
18 But he said: “It is not the noise of the shout of victory, nor the noise of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing I hear.”
19 So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.
20 Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it.
21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?”
22 So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil.
23 “For they said to me, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’
24 “And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”
25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies),
26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the LORD’S side, come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.
27 And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’ ”
28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day.
29 Then Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the LORD, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.”
30 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”
31 Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold!
32 “Yet now, if You will forgive their sin– but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”
33 And the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.
34 “Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.”
35 So the LORD plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.

Notice the effort of Moses to personally atone for the sin of the people. He said,

“Yet now, if You will forgive their sin– but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” God’s response was to hold the people who sinned accountable, not Moses. In addition, notice that Moses’ name is in the book. What book? Listen to what the Lord said.

Revelation 3:5 (NKJ)

5 “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

When only Joshua and Caleb voted to go into the Promised Land, recall how God reacted, angrily, saying only those under twenty years of age, except for Joshua and Caleb would enter the promised land. Listen to the record of that pivotal incident.

Numbers 14:22-24 (NKJ)

22 “because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice,
23 “they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.
24 “But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.

Numbers 14:29-38 (NKJ)

29 ‘The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.
30 ‘Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in.
31 ‘But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised.
32 ‘But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.
33 ‘And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness.
34 ‘According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.
35 ‘I the LORD have spoken this; I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.’ ”
36 And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land,
37 those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the LORD.
38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land.

Some might say that such retribution is unwarranted. For example, each day of the time they spent spying turned into one year of punishment. I would suggest that we, in our flesh, completely fail in our estimate of what God expects. When God demands obedience, He means it. We tend to value “this life” so much that we lose perspective on the brevity of life, compared to eternity, and we then attach great significance to the events of this life. In a sense, the events are of great significance, but not as an end unto themselves, but as a means to determine our place in eternity.

Will our disobedience lead to eternal punishment, eternal banishment from the presence of the Father? Only God knows, but one thing is certain. Our sins are ever before us, large and small, and we plead for mercy, not judgment. On what basis do you expect your sins to be forgiven? Certainly we would agree it is not on the basis of personal merit. I think you would agree that the sacrifice of bulls and goats will not do it. What will make us acceptable in the sight of the Lord? Only one thing and that is our confession of faith in the redeeming act of the Messiah.

Even Moses, whom God held accountable for a sin of disobedience, did not enter into the Promised Land. Listen to the incident that caused God to be angry with Moses.

Numbers 20:2-12 (NKJ)

2 Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron.
3 And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: “If only we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!
4 “Why have you brought up the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here?
5 “And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.”
6 So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them.
7 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
8 “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.”
9 So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him.
10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?”
11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.
12 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”

Do any of you think that Moses was perfect? No and neither did Moses. God forgive me for speaking about a saint in this way, but if Moses needed forgiveness, doesn’t that magnify our sense of insufficiency? His life was one of being a faithful servant, imperfect, but certainly knowing that God was with him, guiding and directing him, loving him, forgiving him and assuring him of his place in eternity. Moses knew the Messiah was coming. Listen to the testimony of those who walked with the Messiah in Jerusalem.

Matthew 17:1-8 (NKJ)

1 … Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves;
2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.
3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”
6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.
7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.”
8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

Why did God show us that Moses lives? I believe He chose to do so in a scene witnessed by men and in the presence of the Messiah, to both validate his relationship with Jesus, His Redeemer, and to show us that the sin of Moses had temporal but not eternal consequence. Our sin does not separate us from God when we stand in the presence and power of our Redeemer, our Messiah.

Let’s reconsider one of the most prolific sins of modern history. We all know that the first 4 commandments are summarized by saying, love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength. Given that expectation, doesn’t it strike you as bizarre that our society, even those who claim they love God, use His Holy name both vainly and profanely and with a total lack of respect. Do people have any idea how terrible the sin of blasphemy is? Listen.

Exodus 20:7 (NKJ)

7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

Ezekiel 39:7 (NKJ)

7 “So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let them profane My holy name anymore. Then the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.”

Can you think of any sin more prevalent in society today than the constant use of the name of our Holy God in phrases that have nothing to do with our recognition of His Deity? Even the children use His name in vain, imitating the adults. Every exclamation, whether of joy or sorrow, seems to begin and end with G-D, but the person using God’s name in vain appears to be clueless as to the offense.

When confronted over their vain use of the Lord’s name, most are shocked that someone would think that they meant to offend the Lord. Their hearts have been hardened and the Holiness of His presence and Holy Name no longer stir them to a sense of His majesty and power. It is almost impossible to watch television without hearing the Lord’s name as an exclamation. If you clicked away from a television show every time it occurred you would find it difficult to watch most of what is produced.

Do you use the Lord’s name in vain? If so, you must stop now and beg His forgiveness. To continue in this sin is mindless disobedience. It is my sense that God takes great offense at profanity and in particular in cases where those who claim to love Him use His name with the most unholy of intentions. The scriptures make it clear that our words count heavily.

Matthew 12:36-37 (NKJ)

36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.
37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Why would God be angry? You fill in the answer, in terms of your personal relationship with Him and then resolve to do something about the problem. Eternity is forever and the mistakes of this short life will govern the outcome. Try to make the changes in your own strength and you will fail. It is the power of the Holy Spirit in you that enables you to become a loving child of God, accepting His mercy and grace.

The Holy Spirit will not come upon you “in your unforgiven state.” Redemption awaits those who repent, whose heart is humble and contrite, and there is only one Redeemer, only One who can present you spotless. You need not be an object of God’s anger. Instead, seek Him and respond to His love, now.

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