CDPCKL · The Passion of Moses (Exodus 32:1-33:6)

The Passion of Moses (Exodus 32:1-33:6)

Well…here we are: at a rather devastating passage in the Book of Exodus. 

If you recall, some weeks before this point, God signed a marriage contract with the people of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai. He promised that Israel would be his treasured possession, his first-born son, his only bride; and Israel promised that he would be their only God. And this was a covenant signed in blood, which meant that everyone involved agreed to the death penalty if they broke their half of the covenant. If God was unfaithful to Israel, he would submit to death; if Israel was unfaithful to God, they would submit to death. 

And once everything had been arranged like this, God called Moses and the 70 elders of Israel halfway up Mount Sinai to eat with him, to celebrate their engagement. 

Which created a problem: God lives on Mount Sinai, but his fianceé Israel is destined to live in the mountain country of Canaan, quite a few days’ journey across the wilderness to the north. How can they get married and then live in separate countries? 

This is why, when the engagement dinner was over, God called Moses up to the top of the mountain to give him the tablets of stone with the law and to give him some extra detailed instructions on how to build a sacred tent for God to live in while he travelled with his people across the wilderness to the land he had promised their ancestor Abraham. 

And Moses, knowing he might be gone for a while, told the elders to wait for his return at that point, half-way up the mountain. He would go on up to the top. Joshua — his assistant — would act as a messenger between Moses and the elders. And Aaron — Moses’ older brother — would act as a messenger between the elders and the people at the foot of the mountain, helping to resolve disputes among the people during the elders’ absence. 

This was basically Aaron’s probation period, to see if he would be a worthy priest, a worthy mediator between God and his people. 

It does not go well: [1] When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron — actually, they gathered against Aaron — and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” 

And all this is a painful reversal of previous policy. Because when the people first arrived at Mount Sinai, and God spoke directly to them, they said, “Please stop! Instead, we send Moses to you, you talk to him, he talks to us.” 

And God agreed to this system. At one point he said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” 

But now, after 40+ days with Moses in the dense cloud at the top of the mountain, the people are assuming that Moses screwed up and God killed him. Which is a problem, right? Because the people are very aware that Mount Sinai is not their final destination: they still have a journey to make across the northern wilderness. They need God’s guidance. 

But clearly a human mediator is just not going to work: Moses was the best man they had, and he got bakar a the top of the mountain. So what they need is a more safe and reliable means of bringing God down from the mountain so he can guide them across the wilderness. 

And remember, these are people who just spent 400+ years in pagan Egypt. The Egyptians believed that the best way to get a god to live with you and guide you and give you good fortune is to trap some portion of that god’s essence in a sacred container: an idol, often carved to look like a physical representation of that god. 

So the people come to Aaron, and they put pressure on him. They don’t want Moses anymore. Now they want to go back to hearing from God directly again — but in a smaller, more manageable package. They want phenomenal cosmic powers! in an itty bitty living space. 

And Aaron caves: he [2] answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” [3] So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. [4] He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. 

And this is also a painful rejection of Israel’s own history. 

Way back in Genesis, their ancestor Jacob got himself in trouble and had to run for his life to escape from his own brother. He lived in exile from his homeland for more than 20 years, and even when he got back home he ran into various kinds of issues until finally God told him to go back to Bethel, the place where the whole saga began, and properly dedicate his family to the Lord. 

So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” 

So — and this is the key — they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem; he buried them under a sacred tree, so those idols could never be recovered or reused. 

But what is thing thing about the earrings? 

Well, in that culture, earrings were a mark of belonging to someone. We saw this earlier in Exodus in the laws surrounding servanthood, where if an employee wanted to sign a lifetime contract with their boss, they would have their ear pierced. But what this episode in Jacob’s life tells us is that earrings — perhaps gold earrings in particular — symbolised belonging to a god. 

So when Jacob’s family gave him the rings in their ears, this was their way of saying, “We no longer belong to our previous pagan gods; from now on we belong to Jacob’s God alone.” 

And as a result, God travelled with Jacob’s family on their final journey home across the wilderness: we are told that they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them. 

Well, here, once again, Jacob’s descendants take off their earrings in preparation for their final journey home across the wilderness — but this time, instead of symbolising their rejection of false gods, it symbolises their loyalty to false gods. And instead of getting rid of them so they can no longer be used in false worship, they are used to create an object of false worship. 

And when the people see this golden bull that Aaron made, then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 

So this is even worse! They are not actually returning to the gods of Egypt or some other gods; they are sticking to the God of Israel, the God of Moses — they are just completely misrepresenting him, that’s all! 

They are trying to turn him into a genie that they can flatter and manipulate and control. 

[5] When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” [6] So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. 

Which means singing and dancing and…probably some kind of sexual activity, because that was a regular feature of pagan worship in that part of the world — as it has been a feature of pagan worship everywhere in the world. 

Meanwhile, at the top of the mountain, the Lord tells Moses what is going on. And he says, “You better go down there. Actually, just leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” 

Israel has just cheated on God. They have broken the marriage contract they signed in blood. They agreed to death as the penalty for unfaithfulness. So God is ready to give them what they asked for — while at the same time rebooting his whole plan through Moses. 

What is that plan? 

Back in Genesis God promised to make Abraham the father of a great nation, and a blessing to all nations; Israel is that great nation, but unfaithful Israel is not going to be a blessing to all the nations anymore. So God is proposing that he make Moses the father of a new great nation, one that will truly be a blessing to all nations. 

But Moses intercedes for his people, perhaps because he cannot quite believe the situation is as bad as God has said. He makes three main arguments for why God should not destroy Israel: 

First, because he has already done so much work rescuing the people from Egypt; why throw away all that effort now? 

Second, because the Egyptians, when they hear about Israel’s destruction, will laugh and say, “Serves them right! They put their faith in their God of the Mountains, and he just led them into the mountains and killed them!” 

Third, because God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. They have not yet inherited the land, so…better for God to keep that promise now rather open himself to the accusation of being a promise-breaking God. 

[14] Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. 

So: Israel will not be immediately wiped out. Moses has persuaded God to give him a breathing space to go down and see for himself what is going on. 

So [15] Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. [16] The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 

And, by the way, these two tablets did not have five commandments on one and five on the other; these were two identical copies of the same covenant — Israel’s copy and God’s copy, just like today where all the signatories get their own original copy of a contract. That was standard practice. 

And being inscribed on both sides, front and back, was also standard practice: that way there was no room to change things or add in extra points that were not agreed to by both parties. 

And as Moses descends, he passes the point where he left Joshua and picks him up. And since Joshua is the war-leader of Israel, when he hears the noise from below he assumes it must be the the sound of war. But Moses says nope, that is not a war, that is a party I am hearing. 

And we have to notice that there is no mention of the 70 elders here, so it seems they also disobeyed and abandoned their post half-way up the mountain, where they were supposed to wait for Moses’ return. 

[19] When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, and saw the situation for himself, then — just like God, earlier — his own anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 

Because they are useless now: the contract has been broken; why bother to keep the paperwork? 

Then Moses takes the bull the people had made and burns it in the fire; he grinds it to powder, scatters it on the water and makes the Israelites drink it. 

And this is an unfortunate translation, because it makes it sound like Moses lined everybody up and forced them to drink the gold-infused water as some kind of punishment. But that is not what happened. 

Moses was basically doing the same thing Jacob did with his family’s idols and earrings back in Genesis: he was completely destroying the golden calf and making sure to defile even the raw materials so they could never be recovered or reused for sacred purposes ever again. By throwing the powder into the river of life that is flowing from the rock at the foot of Mount Sinai, Moses guarantees that it is gone. The people have to drink that water to stay alive, of course; which means that every time they go to the river for water over the next few days, they will end up ingesting some of the powdered remains of their idol. And of course anything that passes through a person’s digestive tract becomes defiled, unfit for use even in pagan worship. 

Then he questions his brother: “Just how badly did these people threaten you, that you led them into such great sin?” 

And Aaron tries to cover up his weakness by suggesting that some kind of miracle happened. Therefore this golden bull must have been God’s will, right? 

But Moses does not fall for that. 

Maybe it was a miracle; maybe it wasn’t. But that actually does not matter: Moses knows that miracles are not self-authenticating. Even if some bizarre miracle happens, God’s people are obligated to test that miracle, to look at the message behind it, to make sure it comes from God and not from some other deceptive spirit who wants to lead God’s people into false worship. 

And when, in verse 25, Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies, well then: Moses knew for sure that — miracle or not —  this whole situation did not come from God! 

Because as we noticed last week, the Holy Spirit always brings order into the lives of God’s people, not chaos; he always brings obedience to God’s commandments, not disobedience; certainly not false worship! 

[26] So he stood at the entrance to the camp — which means he stood at the symbolic dividing line between God’s camp and the wilderness outside, and said, “Choose a side! Choose God, or choose the wilderness. Choose order, or choose chaos! Choose life, or choose death! Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him — all of the men from his own tribe. 

Now, this does not mean that the Levites did not participate in the false worship that just happened. But it does mean that they were the first to repent. And since it says all the Levites rallied, this act of repentance undoubtedly included Aaron. 

[27] Then Moses said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” [28] The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 

And, here again, this translation is a bit unfortunate. Because it sounds like further mayhem, a random slaughter, where the Levites ran about killing everyone they ran into. 

But this wording — go back and forth through the camp — describes a more deliberate, controlled judicial process. The Levites heard Moses’ call to repentance, and they answered first. So they became the new instruments of that call: they went systematically through the camp, stopping the wildness and asking each head of household: “Are you sure you want to continue down this road? Or would you like to take this opportunity to return to the true God?” 

And most of the people repented! In fact, it is a little bit shocking that 3,000 still refused: when confronted — at swordpoint — with the choice between God and the wilderness, life and death, they chose death. 

I guess we can respect their commitment, anyway: they put their faith in a golden cow, and they stuck to it, believing that the cow would provide a better afterlife for them than the true God… 

Then Moses says to the Levites, “You have been set apart to the Lord today“ — and he uses the Hebrew word for ordained there — “You have been ordained to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.” 

So Aaron failed his priestly probation period. But in the end he and his tribe were given a passing mark as priests; not because they performed so well at first, but because they were the first to repent, the first to turn back and call the rest of their people to repentance. 

So the sun sets on that terrible day. The sun rises. And on that next day Moses said to the people, “The story is not over. You have committed a great sin, and we could still stand to lose everything here. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 

So Moses goes back up to the top of Mount Sinai to intercede for his people a second time. 

The first time he managed to save the nation from immediate destruction. He won them a breathing space so they could have a chance to repent, a chance to re-choose God. 

But repentance does not undo the damage of spiritual adultery. The marriage contract has been broken. God is totally within his rights to walk away from the relationship completely. 

So this second time, as Moses climbs the mountain, he has a further goal in mind: to somehow persuade God to re-choose Israel, to sign another marriage contract with them. 

And it is important to notice that Moses does not start by trying to minimise what just happened. One of the marks of true repentance is total honesty with God about the nature and depth of our sins. 

Moses says, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. [32] But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written also.” 

Back in those days, towns used to keep lists of their citizens in books. As new people were born or moved in, their names were added; as people died or moved away, their names were removed. So these books came to be known as the Books of the Living. 

Moses knows that God also keeps a Book of the Living, a list of all the citizens of Israel. Now, just yesterday, God threatened to erase every name except Moses’, and then to start the book over again with Moses’ name at the top — because Moses is innocent of breaking the covenant. So Moses also knows now that God wants to continue to work with him. 

So Moses is saying, “Lord, I want to help you keep your covenant with Abraham. But if you want me, then I want you to fully restore back the covenant with me and with everyone else. But if you are not willing to restore the covenant with everyone, then just let us all go.” 

Moses is making an all-or-nothing proposal here: he wants total restoration, complete forgiveness for everyone, restoration of the covenant…or nothing. 

[33] The Lord replied to Moses, “Mmmm, no. That is not going to work. I am the righteous Judge of all the earth, so I must do what is right. I cannot offer a blanket amnesty to everyone as if nothing happened here! Therefore, whoever has sinned against me — whoever has removed themselves from my covenant protection — I will blot out of my book. So, Moses, go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.” 

God is really just expanding on the answer he already gave Moses earlier: he is not going to wipe the people out right away. But the covenant has been broken, and that cannot be simply overlooked. Death must be the consequence: that was the contract the people signed. 

And God hears Moses saying, “If you destroy them, destroy me also.” But God is saying, “I’m sorry, Moses, but your life is just not valuable enough to cover what has happened. Your death would not be sufficient to atone for Israel’s sin — you simply lack the power to undo what has been done.” 

So he is telling Moses to proceed with the journey home, he is promising to provide some guidance along the way. But he is not agreeing to renew the covenant with Israel. When the time comes the nation will be wiped out, and God will continue his plan through Moses, just as he proposed at first. 

[35] And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made. 

So while Moses is on the mountain, interceding for that second time, a plague begins in the camp below. 

But this plague is not the punishment God just talked about. That punishment will happen in the future, when God finally blots them all out of his book. 

This plague is actually a merciful reminder of who God is. Way back in Chapter 15, right after the people escaped through the Red Sea, God told them that if they listened carefully to him and did what is right in his eyes, he would not bring on them any of the diseases he brought on the Egyptians. Why not? Because, God said, “I am the Lord, who heals you.” 

Months before this terrible moment God promised to be the Lord who would heal his people of the trauma of slavery and make them truly whole. Now they have rejected the Lord who heals! So obviously the result is going to be sickness, just as God promised. 

But still, this is a merciful plague: we are not told that anyone dies from it. Instead, they just get really sick. And what does sickness create in the human heart? A longing to be healed. 

Basically, this plague is designed to turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord who heals them…the Lord who could heal them. The Lord who would heal them if they had not just totally rejected his healing. 

So in that way, this plague is also a foretaste of the punishment to come. It is a warning that the nation stands right now on the precipice of eternal judgement. And if Moses cannot accomplish some amazing miracle of atonement on the mountain…then they are as good as dead. 

Meanwhile, on the mountain, Moses is failing to provide atonement: [1] then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ [2] I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. [3] Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” 

Now, once again, the Lord is being merciful. 

He has decided to do what Joseph was going to do when he discovered that his fianceé Mary was pregnant and it wasn’t his kid. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that because Joseph was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 

In the same way, the Lord is faithful to his own law: he is not going to marry a fianceé who has already cheated on him. But he does not want to expose his fianceé — and himself — to public disgrace either. So God has in mind to divorce Israel quietly: send her home, let her have the house and the land, let her family keep the bride price…but he will not proceed with the marriage. There will be no tabernacle, no more meals with God, no atoning sacrifices. And when the time comes for him to punish, their names will be blotted from his Book of the Living. 

In other words, God is going to provide a comfortable physical life for his ex-fianceé — a very generous severance package — and then they are going to pass on into an eternal separation from God in the next life. 

So Moses descends from the mountain with this bad news. He has saved their lives. He has managed to save their property. But he has not saved the relationship. And so, [4] when the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 

The people officially repented earlier, when they were threatened with physical death at swordpoint. But of course they did, right? 

But this here: this is real, heartfelt repentance. Now that it is too late for them — now that their eternal spiritual death is guaranteed — now, finally, they are really sorry. 

The festival they just enjoyed around that golden cow is well and truly over! 

But now, here is a question: if the relationship is gone, if the break-up is total, why are the people mourning as if they have a hope of winning God back again? Why don’t they just act like a normal girlfriend: curse the ex-boyfriend’s name, burn his stuff, smash his car with a golf-club, and run off into the arms of another god? 

Well, verse 5 tells us why: 

For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’” 

Apparently there is still some kind of very faint hope. God has said, “This relationship is over!” But he has also said, “…give me a minute here to think. Okay?!” 

The nation stands on the precipice of eternal judgement, eternal separation from God. But they are not yet quite dead, despite Moses’ failure to provide atonement. And as they stand there on the edge of oblivion, they are reminded of a moment from their own history when their ancestors took off their idolatrous ornaments and buried them under a sacred tree, and in response the Lord renewed a covenant with their father Jacob. 

[6] So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb…and waited. 


So Israel has re-chosen God; but will God re-choose Israel? 

What a cliff-hanger, huh?! 

Two times in this passage the people have taken off their earrings. The first time was because they thought Moses had failed as their Messiah, and they were trying to purchase a new one. The second time is because Moses really has failed as their Messiah, and now they know there is no price they can pay to make up for what they have done. They are totally dependent upon the mercy of God. 

So now: what are we supposed to make of this? How are we supposed to apply this terrible passage to our lives? 

Well, much earlier in the Book of Exodus we noticed that Moses’ life as God’s messiah for Israel is actually a foreshadowing of Jesus’ life as God’s Messiah for all nations. 

The gospel writers in the New Testament were careful to make the connections: just like Moses, Jesus was chosen from birth, grew in stature and wisdom, was baptised and driven into the wilderness for a time of testing and preparation. Just like Moses, Jesus was sent back to save God’s people from slavery through amazing signs and wonders. Just like Moses, Jesus led his followers to a mountain where he preached God’s Law and applied it to various situations in their lives. 

And just like Moses in the Book of Exodus, in every one of the four gospels there comes a turning point where Jesus stops using so many miracles, and focuses instead on teaching his people, so that their lives together will become the means through which Jesus’ identity will be revealed to the world. At the same time, just like Moses, Jesus also goes up to the mountain of the Lord, up to the house of God, to receive his official affirmation as God’s Messiah for God’s people. 

But by that point in history, the Jewish people had been waiting for their promised Messiah through 400 years of silence from God. And as a result, most of them had turned aside to other gods, other idols, other ways to keep their nation going. Their attitude was, basically: “Come, let us make gods who will go before us. As for this Messiah fellow God promised to send, we don’t know what has happened to him.” 

And in all four gospels, Jesus confronts the leadership about this. He basically says, like Moses did to Aaron: “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” 

But instead of repenting, like Aaron did when he was confronted, the leaders of Israel had Jesus arrested and put on trial for his life. 

Now, Jesus had the power to strike back and destroy them for breaking their covenant with him. Instead, even though — like Moses — he was not guilty of breaking the covenant, he submitted to death on a Roman cross. His attitude was the same as Moses’ attitude here today: “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 

So he died. 

And at that point, we are told, Jesus’ few remaining disciples fell into despair. They figuratively “stripped off their ornaments” and went into hiding from man and from God. Because, in their minds, Jesus’ death in such a terrible way proved that he had been a con-man, a false prophet, cursed by God. They assumed that they must have mistakenly broken God’s covenant and had turned aside to idolatry, the worship of a false god, a false messiah. 

But that moment in the gospels actually sets up a wonderful irony, because the disciples are right. They have broken the covenant; they have turned aside to idolatry — not by accepting Jesus as God’s Messiah, but in every other way! Oh, but by the way, this is also true of everyone else, including the chief priests and leaders of Israel. The difference between the disciples and everyone else is that the disciples now know that they are guilty. While everyone else celebrates the death of God’s Messiah, the disciples mourn. They repent. They see that they stand on the precipice between eternal life and eternal death, and they realise that if God does not give them a Messiah who can truly accomplish some amazing miracle of atonement for them…then they are as good as dead. 

So they waited. 

Now, I do not want to spoil next week’s episode in Exodus for anyone. But I do want to let you know that, in the New Testament gospels, the disciples’ mourning was turned to joy. Moses’ death was not valuable enough to atone for Israel’s sins in this passage today; but Jesus’ death was valuable enough to atone for his disciples’ sins. God heard their cries, and he answered by raising Jesus back to life and making his shed blood the foundation of a new covenant. Which — if the pattern holds — suggests that something similar might happen in Exodus next week. 

But still, you had better come back next week to find out for sure! 

Okay. Back to our question: how does all this apply to us? What is God calling us to do in response? 

Well, if you are here today, and you are not a Christian, then this is what God is calling you to do: recognise the danger you are in, strip off your ornaments, cry out to God for mercy…and wait. 

Friend, the bible tells me that you are living on the line between life and death, between an eternal covenant with God and an eternal judgement. Mostly you are able to hide this truth from yourself. But there are times, in the depths of the night, when a deep and dreadful sickness comes upon you, and then you know, you know, you know that you are as good as dead, that all your efforts, all your sorrows, all your accomplishments in this life are nothing more than idols destined to be burned and ground into powder and scattered across the waters of eternity. 

Friend: repent. Give up trying to make your life mean something. Give up trying to atone for all the hurt you have caused others, give up trying to heal yourself of all the hurt that has been done to you. Turn back to the God who created you, turn back to the Lord who heals, and be healed. 

Now, for those of us who are Christians already, what is our Heavenly Father calling us to do? 

Brothers and sisters, we are like the Levites in this episode: we are not guiltless. We too have broken the covenant. But we heard the call to repent, and we answered it. And now it is our duty to go back and forth throughout the earth from one end to the other — but not to kill everyone who refuses to repent! instead to outline the choice that comes to each person in turn, to say, “Choose a side! Choose the garden or the wilderness, choose healing or disease, choose eternal life or eternal death.” We have been set apart to the Lord to serve him as a kingdom of priests. So let us be faithful. And let us encourage one another. 

Because we need encouragement! 

Jesus has been gone for a long time — just as he told his disciples he would be. He warned them that we, his distant servants, might be tempted to say to ourselves, “Wow, my master is taking a long time in coming,” and then we might start to eat and drink and get drunk, wandering away into self-indulgence and idolatry and false worship. 

The apostle Peter added to Jesus’ warnings; he said that during these long last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 

Brothers and sisters, let’s be honest: sometimes we are tempted to believe that those scoffers might be right, we are tempted to say “As for this fellow Jesus who brought us up out of slavery to our sins, we don’t know what has happened to him.” 

When that temptation comes upon us, let us do this: let us remember that we do know what has happened to him. As the apostle Paul says at one point, Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. So that is something for us to put our faith in! 

And he is not just interceding for us. He is also waiting for the day when he has put all his enemies under his feet. Then the end will come: whoever has sinned against him will be blotted out of his Book. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 

So then, dear friends, since we are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 

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