One of the most famous biblical stories is that of the children of Israel being delivered from bondage in Egypt, and their subsequent travels through the desert to arrive into the Promised Land. It is during this time that the children of Israel were given the Torah of God, as they were refined in the wilderness. Today, we will focus on one of the most misunderstood events of that time, how it has affected humanity to this day, and see the connection of this ancient story to our own lives. In the end, we will unravel the mystery of why a certain type of worship that was intended for good was rejected by God, and how it was ultimately overcome by the sacrifice of Messiah, Yeshua/Jesus. It is a lesson of worshiping in spirit and truth. This is the story of Israel and the golden calf.
Before we explore this story we must first establish a foundation for the practices of the nation of Israel and peer into their mindset during this time. We begin the story just after Israel left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea. They had been in the wilderness and had just settled at the base of Mt. Sinai.
Exodus 19:1-2, “In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain.”
It is very important to understand how the Israelites must have felt after the Exodus. They had just been delivered from Egypt after being there exactly 430 years. Their deliverance did not come through earthly means, but by the overwhelming miracles that the Lord performed before their very eyes (Exodus chapters, 7-11). They had just witnessed the 10 plagues of Egypt and watched as God had parted the Red Sea and destroyed Pharoah and his army. By day they had been lead by a pillar of clouds, and at night by a pillar of fire. They experienced the miracles of manna, quail, and the waters of Marah and the rock (Exodus 15:23-25; Exodus 16; Exodus 17:6). These prophetic miracles showed the eventual bitter water of condemnation (God’s judgement) made sweet through the power of God’s grace and mercy (Christ’s crucifixion), and how He would eventually pour out His living water and sustenance from heaven through His rock and cornerstone, Yeshua/Jesus (Isaiah 55:1; John 6:35; John 7:37-38; Ephesians 2:20). After all of this, while the Israelites were at the base of Mt. Sinai, Moses was called to go up before God. God tells Moses to prepare the people, for He is going to meet the children of Israel.
Exodus 19:10-11, “The LORD also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people."
Exodus 19:9, “The LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever.” Then Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.”
The Lord then came down to Mt. Sinai, in full view of the entire nation of Israel.
Exodus 19:16-19, “So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.”
Anyone who has witnessed a natural disaster such as a tornado, flood, or fire, will attest to the fact that it is something that stays in your memory for years, if not for a lifetime. How much more would the Israelites remember God’s awesome miracles in Egypt and the wilderness, hearing God’s trumpet blast and almighty voice, and seeing Him descend on Mt. Sinai? God then speaks the Ten Commandments directly to the Israelites! At this point, the people were absolutely terrified, so instead of directly addressing God, they asked Moses to be their intercessor.
Exodus 20:19-21, “Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.”
After Moses ascended the mountain, he was given the ordinances of the Torah, and then confirmed the Covenant between the Lord and Israel by the blood of bulls (Exodus 24:3-8), foreshadowing the New Covenant that God would confirm with His people by the blood of the Messiah, Yeshua/Jesus (Jeremiah 31:31-40, Matthew 26:27-29, Hebrews 8). Without question, the Israelites would have been completely immersed in God’s greatness and fully aware of His awesome power! This fact cannot be understated, and is integral in understanding the context of what happened next. Moses was then called by God to finish receiving the instructions.
Exodus 24:15-18, “Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.”
While Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights receiving the instructions of God, the children of Israel were up to their own mischief. They built a golden calf!
Exodus 32:1-4, “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
Many bible teachers and pastors have taught this story as the first instance of idolatry by the Israelites. The common teaching is that at the first chance available, the Israelites turned from God and started worshiping false “gods” in violation of the first and second commandments. This is supported and propagated by the fact that in most bible translations, such as the NIV, ESV, KJV, ESV, NASB, and others, the text states in Exodus 34:1 …”make us gods (or a god, or god with a little “g”) who will go before us…” and in Exodus 34:4 “…these are your gods (or a god, or god with a little “g”), O Israel, who brought you out of Egypt.”
While it is absolutely clear and correct that we are not to worship false gods, we have to question if this is what really happened in this instance. Did Israel really turn from the God who just delivered them from Egypt, and instead choose to follow false “gods” or another god? By answering this question, we will discover a deeper truth and mystery to this story that will impact many followers of Yeshua/Jesus. In the original Hebrew text of the verses that contain the phrases “make us gods (or a god)” and “these are your gods/god,” the word “gods” is “elohyim” (אלהם-Strong’s H430). This is the same word used for the one true God. This word is used 26 times in Genesis chapter 1 alone, which occurred before any false god worship ever came into being. In fact, Elohyim is used as a name of the one true God twenty one times before mankind is even mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis! Elohyim is the pleural/elongated form of “elowah” (Strong’s H433), both of which can denote Creator God (YHVH) or other false pagan gods.
As we discovered, God had just delivered His people from Egypt using divine signs and wonders and performed many miracles in the desert to keep them alive. He led them through the wilderness and they were camped at the base of Mt. Sinai in His direct presence for at least 10 days (3 for consecration, 7 before Moses entered into the midst of the cloud on the top of the mountain). In His mighty power and awesome glory, the Lord showed Himself on the mountain, speaking to them in thunder. We know from the time of FirstFruits to the Feast of Weeks/Shavuot (when they received the Torah) is 7 sabbaths plus one day, or exactly 50 days. So we can know that they had been witnessing amazing miracles and wonders during this entire time, not including their time during the plagues in Egypt. Moses then left and was gone for 40 days, or just over 1 month. During this time of Moses’ absence what happened? Is it really logical to assume they suddenly lost interest in the one true God, or worse, forgot about Him and wanted to turn to other gods? Remember, they had just pleaded with Moses to intercede for them, as they were terrified of the Lord.
Exodus 20:19, “Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”
Within this context it seems much more logical that the Israelites were likely not turning from God to follow false god(s), but rather trying to create another intercessor to God as they did not know what had happened to Moses.
Exodus 32:1, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”
This is supported by the original Hebrew text and should be read as “make us God (Elohyim)” and “this is God (Elohyim),” rather than “make us gods (or a god)” and “these are your god(s) that brought you out of Egypt”. It is clear from the original text and the situational context that the children of Israel were likely not turning away from God, but rather trying to worship Him in a way that He specifically forbade! Rather than violating both the first and second commandments, they were really only violating the second one. Although it is not directly told to us, it is likely that the reason they made an idol to be an intercessor is because they had just come out of a pagan nation (Egypt) that upheld this very practice. In fact, they were surrounded by pagan peoples that used idols and intercessors for any number of false gods. The Israelites were simply following in the footsteps of those around them and mimicking the culture from which they came. The choice of the idol they chose also gives us evidence that the Israelites were not turning from God, but rather trying to worship Him in the wrong way. A calf is not a random symbol, but rather a symbol that in itself gives us clues to the intention of the Israelites. While it is true that the ancient Egyptians had cattle gods, the Israelites would likely not have created an image of an Egyptian false god in the very presence of God’s mighty power. The choice of the calf likely comes from what they would have understood about God’s nature.
The first letter of the aleph-bet, or Hebrew alphabet, is, not surprisingly, “aleph”. It’s ancient pictographic representation was that of an ox, or cattle. It symbolizes strength, leadership, and is the “father” of the aleph-bet. It is also the first letter of many names of God used throughout scripture including “Elohiym (אלהם),” “El” (as in El Shaddai-all sufficient God–(אל שדי), “Adonai” (אדני), and “Av” (אב-Father in Hebrew).”
Below is the symbol of aleph:
The idol was also made from melting down “gold rings” worn in the ears of the Israelites. This portrays an image of those who have very little (they had just come out of bondage and were living in the desert off of manna) giving their precious belongings to create this false image of God. Earrings are also often used as a covenant promise symbol, and a symbol of love and affection. Immediately after the children of Israel made this calf, they declared a “feast to the Lord."
Exodus 32:5-6, “Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play."
It is crystal clear who the children of Israel were intending to worship. Whenever the word “LORD” is used in the bible, it is always designating the very name of the one true God, YHVH. In Hebrew this is the word “Yod Hey Vav Hey,” and it is the exact same in this instance: This is the Hebrew name for God, the same that is found in Exodus 32:5-6.
Within this picture of the golden calf and the feast to the Lord, we see a people worshiping not a false god(s) to whom they had turned, but rather the God who had just brought them out from bondage. They did this through an idol (intercessor) fashioned in the image they thought was His likeness, out of precious metals that they gave up in homage to Him. They sacrificed to the Lord and brought offerings to Him, and declared a feast to Him, not to another false god. They truly believed in their hearts that they were doing what was right by honoring Elohyim (God) through their worship. But it is very clear that God was not pleased with this form of worship.
Exodus 32:8-10, “They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god (Elohyim, should be God), O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”
God was not only angry at the worship itself, but rather was particularly angry at the way in which the Israelites had worshiped Him. He had commanded them to worship Him in very specific ways, but in their arrogance they decided to worship the Lord in their own way. Here we see that worship done in the wrong way is actually sin! The golden calf has often been taught as an example of worship to a false god, but in reality it is an example of worshiping the true God in the wrong way! In fact, this is not the first example of this in the Holy Bible. In the story of Cain and Abel, they both brought offerings to the one true God, but only Abel’s offering was received.
Genesis 4:3-5, “So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.”
Why did God accept Abel’s offering and not Cain’s?
Genesis 4:7, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
(Here God is talking to Cain after He has rejected Cain’s offering)
Hebrews 11:4, “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.”
1 John 3:11-12, “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.”
Jude 1:10-11, “But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”
These verses clearly show that Abel’s offering was accepted as it was done in love to God and faith and obedience to His commands, which made him righteous before the Lord. On the other hand, Cain, Balaam, and Korah had rebelled against God’s specific commands and followed their own desires. Cain’s offerings, just like Balaam’s error, Korah’s rebellion, and the Israelite’s golden calf, were done out of an ambition to put the desires of their own worship above the commands of worship given by God.
While both Cain and the Israelites were worshiping the one true God, they were doing it in the wrong way. We must therefore understand the nature of worship if we are to do it correctly, and we must understand the nature of sin if we are to avoid it, especially when it comes God’s nature, His commands, and the specific ways in which we are to worship Him.
We have established that God wishes to not only be worshiped, but also to be worshiped in the right way. So how does He command us to worship Him? The Holy Bible is very clear that we are to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, just as Yeshua/Jesus proclaimed to the Samaritan women at the well.
John 4:23-24, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Here we see that Yeshua/Jesus is exhorting His followers to worship in spirit and in truth. He states that those who are faithful to the Lord and His commandments will have both spirit and truth, and this is how they will worship. What is truth?
Psalm 119:142, “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth.”
Psalm 119:151, “The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.”
Yeshua/Jesus also confirms that what He says is the truth:
John 8:45, “But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. “Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?”
Jesus/Yeshua IS the Truth!
John 14:6, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
And during His great prayer before He is to be crucified, He very plainly states what is the truth.
John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth."
Yeshua/Jesus also states that the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) is the Spirit of Truth:
John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come."
These are just a few of the hundreds of verses in the bible that describe or extol truth. Nearly every one of these verses points to the Word and/or God as written in the Torah, the Tanakh (Old Testament), Yeshua/Jesus, or the Holy Spirit (Ruach Hakodesh). We see that truth is given in God’s Commandments, written in His Word, lived out and taught by Yeshua/Jesus, and guided by the Holy Spirit! These are the standards by which we, as followers of Messiah, are to measure truth.
Now that we have established truth, we will examine the other side of the proverbial coin. If truth comes from God, the Word, His Commandments, Yeshua/Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, where does truth NOT not come from? The answer is the “heart."
Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?"
Proverbs 12:20, “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but counselors of peace have joy."
Again, there are dozens of verses in the bible that describe, discourage, or warn against deceit. While God is the origin of truth, the devil is the origin of deceit. When Yeshua/Jesus was being questioned by the religious leaders He clearly defined where deceit originates.
John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
It is clear that truth is God and comes from God, and deceit comes from the devil and dwells in the heart if the heart strays from the Word and follows it’s own desires. The truth manifests itself in God’s commandments, the Word, Messiah (Word made flesh-John 1), and the Holy Spirit. By our own accord, we do not have truth except that which is in Messiah as revealed in the scriptures, who is the giver of the Holy Spirit. Our “heart”, while certainly a valuable tool in perceiving righteousness or sin, is prone to emotional manipulation and thus cannot be trusted as a source for truth. Therefore, we must look to the Word, the Commandments, Yeshua/Jesus, and the Holy Spirit for truth, not our “hearts.”
Now that we have established truth and where it comes from, we must examine what it looks like to practice, or “walk in” the truth.
2 John 1:4, “I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments.”
3 John 1:2-6, “…For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.”
John 3:20-21, “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
If we worship in spirit and in truth, then by faith we come to the Light that is the Father through Messiah. We will seek a personal relationship with Yeshua/Jesus, and through our love for Him desire to walk in His ways. In Messiah we are to love each other, act faithfully to His commands, and develop our relationship by studying His Word and following His Commandments. We are to be guided by the Holy Spirit in His truth as revealed in His Word, not our own. The manifestations of truth as led by the Spirit of Truth are His Spiritual fruits:
Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Now, back to the story of the golden calf. We can see that while the Israelites may have had desire to worship God, they did not do this in the truth of God’s commandments, but rather by the spirit of their own heart and flesh. By following their “hearts” and seeking to worship God in their own way, they created an idol and inadvertently committed a great sin.
Why is this sin so great that God would want to destroy the Israelites? Why would God care if they worshiped Him in a way (spirit) that was not true by His commandments? Doesn’t He know what was in their “hearts?"
Deuteronomy 12:29-31, “The Lord your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods."
Here we see the answer to the question as to why God does not desire worship that is not done in spirit AND in truth. The practice of false worship to Him is a reminder of the detestable things that are done in worship to false gods. Many pagan religions use things such as immorality, sexual deviance, violence, idols, and human sacrifice, even human infant sacrifice, to worship their false gods. These evil worship rituals are almost always centered the created rather than the Creator, and are based on fertility, perverse sexual practices, and obtaining personal wealth, health, or spiritual power. They are attractive and deceitful, as they seek to turn people away from the One True Creator God.
By using the methods that are an abomination to God, the Israelites had sinned greatly. The mixing of the holy (worship of God) with the unholy (detestable methods) is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. In fact, in the prophetic foreshadow of “the abomination of desolation” (Daniel 11:31 and 12: 11; Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14) Antiochus Epiphanes IV set up an idol to Zeus and sacrificed swine on the alter in the Temple of the Lord.*
Did false worship stop at the end of the Old Testament? Hardly! It continued into the Messianic period (Jesus), and still exists today. Many of the books of the New Testament (B’rit HaDashah) include extensive rebuttals or instructions in dealing with these false teachings and worship practices (Titus, Books of John, Colossians, Corinthians, etc). It is easy to see how the world worships false idols and golden calves. In fact, even today one of the most popular symbols of worldly wealth and prosperity is the “charging bull” of Wall Street. It should be no surprise that a fallen world that does not know or worship the Lord (in spirit and in truth) would turn to worldly idols and false gods. But remember, the Israelites worshiped the golden calf after they had entered into covenant with the Lord.
Exodus 19:5-6, “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
Is it any different today?
Unfortunately, today many Christians continue to walk in the ways of false worship and traditions of men rather than the truth of scripture, following the spirit of their own hearts, rather than the Spirit of God. These practices and traditions often have deep anti-semitic and anti-YHVH pagan roots, and absolutely no basis in the Holy Bible. They are endemic in the Christian church, and are often taught and propagated from the highest levels on down. One of the many examples that is near to the hearts of many followers of Jesus is a celebration that is coming up in the next few months: Easter Sunday.
The death, burial, and resurrection of the Yeshua/Jesus the Messiah is the defining redemptive act in all of history and the foundation for all of Christianity. This suffering, selfless act (Isaiah 53) clearly happened during the Spring Feasts of the Lord: Passover (crucifixion), Unleavened Bread (burial), and FirstFruits (resurrection). The Seven feasts of the Lord* were given to Moses as foreshadows of significant prophetic events concerning the Messiah, specifically His First and Second Coming Events.
Easter, on the other hand, has it’s origin in the anti-semetic political compromise of the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Is is well known that the early Christian church adopted some of the pagan symbols, celebration dates, and practices of the surrounding cultures and then “christianized” them to appeal to the pagans and Christians in a political compromise during the time of Constantine. While several of the symbols and practices of Easter, and even the name “Easter” itself have questionable origins (many claim they are pagan fertility names and worship practices), these are not found anywhere in scripture, at least not in a positive light. Despite the clear evidence of the likely syncratic pagan origins of Easter and many other “Christian” traditions, this is still debated by some.
Regardless of the arguments over the origins of these traditions, there is absolutely nothing in scripture that commands or even hints at Christians following ANY of the non biblical practices of Easter or other well known likely pagan traditions which have been adopted by the majority of Christians. Yet Passover, Unleavened Bread, and FirstFruits, as well as the other Biblical Feasts, are found extensively throughout both the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B’rit Hadashah (New Testament). It is also clear that Messiah kept these Feasts as they were prophetic and part of Torah, but there is not one incidence of Messiah celebrating Easter or any other pagan holiday during His entire life. Because of the deep anti-Semitism within the early Gentile church (seen as early as 3 John), the Feast days of the Lord and many of the worship practices of the early believers, called Nazarenes (Netzerines from the Hebrew word Netzer=Branch (Strong’s H5342)which is one of the many prophetic titles of Messiah, Isaiah 11:1), were made illegal and replaced with sun god and fertility goddess symbols, celebration days, worship practices, and traditions. These were the same practices that ensnared the Israelites. Unfortunately, these unbiblical practices, symbols, and celebration days persist to this day.
Ezekiel 8:12-16, “Then He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what the elders of the house of Israel are committing in the dark, each man in the room of his carved images? For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us; the LORD has forsaken the land.’” And He said to me, “Yet you will see still greater abominations which they are committing.” Then He brought me to the entrance of the gate of the LORD’S house which was toward the north; and behold, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz. He said to me, “Do you see this, son of man? Yet you will see still greater abominations than these.” Then He brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house. And behold, at the entrance to the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun.”
Just as the Israelites were called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy people, so are the followers of Yeshua/Jesus. We are called to follow the High Priest of Messiah who is in the eternal order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7) rather than the mortal order of Aaron, based on a better promise and a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-40, Heb 8). This is an everlasting covenant not confirmed with the blood of bulls (Exodus 24), but with the blood of Messiah (Matthew 26:28-29)!
Hebrews 7:26-28, “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.”
Hebrews 8:6, “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises."
As such, we should seek to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, rather than in the false traditions and practices of men. A common response when being challenged about these false traditions and practices is “God knows what’s in my heart,” or “by worshiping Jesus in these ways we can change the meanings of these pagan traditions and redeem them” or “but we are glorifying God when we celebrate Him in these ways.” The scriptural answer to these statements is that the heart is deceitful above all else, and God never commanded us to use pagan or false worship practices to glorify Him, but specifically commanded us to avoid these practices. Yeshua/Jesus never used idolatry or pagan traditions to glorify the Father nor did he ever command us to use His name, life, death, or resurrection or try to redeem pagan ways. While it is true that the Lord does know what’s in our hearts, He knows our hearts not by our intentions, but by our obedience to His commands.
Deuteronomy 8:2, “You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”
John 14:15, "If you love me (Yeshua), you will keep my commandments."
John 14:21, “Whoever has my (Yeshua’s) commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
John 14:23-24, Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me."
God clearly desires for us to show our love to Him and each other by our faithfulness to His commands and to worship Him in spirit and in truth, thus glorifying Him. He desires this even if it means giving up the traditions of men which we may hold dear. As Yeshua/Jesus said:
Matthew 16:24-25, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
This is reiterated by the apostle Sha’ul (Paul)
Colossians 2:6-8, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ."
While this is some heavy stuff, the intent of this article is not meant to laud or condemn anyone, or persuade someone to adhere to a legalistic set of practices or rules, but rather, in love and humility, to glorify the Lord through pointing the way to the truth in Yeshua/Jesus, His Word and Commandments, and the Holy Spirit, which are one. Absolutely no one, save Jesus Christ/Yeshua HaMashiach, is perfect, and could ever hope to perfectly worship the Lord (Romans 3:21-25).
We humans are a fallen race, and Yeshua/Jesus is our only hope. He is our only intercessor and justification before the Lord, and it is by His grace through our faith that we have been saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). His sacrifice has provided the only reconciliation between God and mankind, something our adherence to the law could never do as all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 8:3). The amazing grace as obtained through our intercessor, Messiah, was foreshadowed by Moses’ interaction with the Lord after He saw them worshiping the golden calf:
Exodus 32:11-14, “Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.”
With Moses, the Lord changed His mind and did not destroy the Israelites. With Yeshua/Jesus, He not only changed His mind about destroying His people, but He forgives our sins and gives us the gift of everlasting life and the promise to spend eternity in Heaven with Him! (John 3:16)
Revelation 21:2-4, “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:23-24, “And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.”
At Mt. Sinai, 4000 years ago, the Israelites were called to be consecrated before the Almighty, who descended on the third day to meet them on the mountain. Today, God calls His people to be consecrated through the blood of Messiah, who rose in full view of His followers on the third day after His crucifixion. Messiah’s resurrection signaled the defeat of death, the pardon for sin, and the fulfillment of the wonderful promise that was and is to come! The promise is eternal life (Chayim Lanetzach), where we will get to know Him face to face, and He will know His people! He will wipe away every tear, He will dwell among His people, and we will worship Him forever in spirit and in truth! Hallelujah and amen!!!