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July/August Issue 2006 - Volume 25 Number 4
“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.’… 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.” Exodus 32:1,6
It also seems evident that Aaron and the children of Israel thought what they were doing would meet with God’s approval. They rose early the next morning and offered sacrifices. The problem was that the people had encouraged Aaron to fashion a golden calf to which the sacrifices were offered. And it wasn’t just the idol that was present, but they also were engaged in some of the unholy practices of heathen worship. Most commentators agree that the term “play” used in this text refers to idolatrous revelry.
Jamieson, Fausset & Brown offer this comment on Exodus 32:6:
“Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord---a remarkable circumstance, strongly confirmatory of the view that they had not renounced the worship of Jehovah, but in accordance with Egyptian notions, had formed an image with which they had been familiar, to be the visible symbol of the divine presence. But there seems to have been much of the revelry that marked the feasts of the heathen.”
Adam Clarke offers this observation:
“The people sat down to eat and drink. The burnt offerings were wholly consumed; the peace offerings, when the blood had been poured out, became the food of the priests. They rose up to play, letsachek, a word of ominous import, which seems to imply here fornicating and adulterous intercourse; and in some countries the verb “to play” is still used precisely in this sense. In this sense the original is evidently used, Gen. xxxix. 14.”
We wonder how the children of Israel could act like they did. They had just seen a great demonstration of God’s power in Egypt as He delivered them from bondage. What is especially discouraging to us is that Aaron was an accomplice in the whole affair. He is the one who told the people to bring their gold and jewelry that he fashioned into a calf for worship. Some Jewish traditions say that Aaron was frightened into this action by the rabble. They allege that Aaron’s colleague, Hur, opposed doing the people’s bidding and that the people stoned Hur. They say Aaron only complied as a result of their threatening. All of us have been overcome by human weakness at times. We would hope that a leader like Aaron would be stronger; however, maybe Aaron had his own doubts about the return of Moses. But why would Aaron agree to such outrageous religious practices? We may never fully know the answer to this question, but hopefully we can learn some things from this episode in Jewish History.
As with so many of the stories from the Bible these events reveal human nature. They show us a mirror image of ourselves, if we have the courage to look. Two things that have come to my attention lately have caused me to think about the children of Israel sitting down to eat and then rising up to play.
A recent article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette had this headline: “Newer Ways Appeal To Today’s Youth.” Here’s just a portion of what the article said:
“Today’s college students enter the classroom with an entirely different set of expectations from previous generations, an educational consultant from Little Rock said Wednesday at the University of Arkansas. ‘Students today crave entertainment, seek instant gratification and have little patience for traditional teaching methods,’ said Mark Taylor, who presented a seminar for Fayetteville faculty and staff on the challenges of teaching ‘Generation Next.’ It’s something Jim Hammons, a professor in the College of Education and Health Professions, and other professionals deal with every day. ‘In the old days you said, “Here is a syllabus, here are the requirements,” Hammons said. “Now there are the questions. Now students want to negotiate.”’”
When I read this I immediately realized that these “professionals” who are advising the faculty and others are noted “experts.” When the experts talk we are supposed to listen. I wonder if any of the faculty at the University of Arkansas questioned anything this expert consultant had to say? After all, the professor in the College of Education stated very emphatically that today’s students question the standards of the syllabus and want to negotiate!! Are we supposed to assume that the experts are right when they say that we need to change our standards and our methods? What experience has Generation Next had that puts them in a position to negotiate new standards? Aren’t they the students who are supposed to be in higher education to learn something?
There is a very Biblical idea contained in both the Old and New Testaments that the older generation is to train and guide the younger generation. Note these two passages:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with and you heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).
“Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth. And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1-4).
Someone may protest at this point, “Hey, why are you so uptight? That newspaper article you quoted is about educational standards and methods. It doesn’t have anything to do with the church or with spiritual matters.” I’m sorry, but I beg to disagree with you. What is going on in other institutions in this nation is affecting the church and is impacting our families. I believe some of the attitudes and assumptions playing out in the corporate world, in the educational world and in government are also at play in the religious world today.
This brings me to the second thing that came to my attention recently and it is right in keeping with what I read in the newspaper. The second was a bit of advertising that I received from a local church in our community. In fact, it is a prominent church in this area. The advertising was for KIDZ INC. This is a theatre that is for kids and the advertising copy states: “Theatre: Exciting Sunday Worship Service for Kids!” Pictured in the advertising is a modern stage set with a lot of lights and hi-tech projection along with what I assume to be the players in the production. Also included in this same advertising piece is this copy: “Reach for Life. A LifeWay church Store. Check out our Coffee Shop!” Pictured with this copy is the front of the store that is selling books, gifts and I would assume some coffee. The name of the store is Reach For Life and it is located right in the church premises.
Someone may ask, “So what is the connection?” The connection is this. The education experts say that this generation craves entertainment. The church advertisement is offering entertainment. But what I question is the fact that we so often take what the experts say and begin trying to fashion ourselves into the mold of the latest fad whether it be in education or in religion. The experts may be able to wet their finger, hold it in the air and tell us which way the wind is blowing, but it has always been true of God’s people that they have been challenged to fight against the wind and not be carried along with it. Listen to what inspiration says: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
I am concerned that many churches in our day are buying into the entertainment culture and conforming to the world’s standards. There are very noticeable and real efforts in churches to appeal to Generation Next by offering all the lights, bells and whistles that they have come to expect. Experts advise churches to keep things moving, you have to liven things up because the attention span of this generation is attuned to television images and video games. Do we really have to do that? Should we not be saying to Generation Next that they need to slow down and actually concentrate on something for longer than a few minutes? Are the experts right? Must we scuttle everything in the church and turn the local church into a mini-Disneyland?
The experts may win out, but I hope they don’t. It is more than just the packaging that we are talking about; we are talking about the contents, too. We are rejecting some of the basic principals of God’s word in our day at an alarming pace. Once again the experts have assured us that Paul and other writers of the New Testament were bogged down in the cultural hang-ups of their day, so we need not be too concerned with most of the things they wrote. These experts are advising us on everything from the inspiration of the scriptures to the woman’s role in the church and homosexuality.
I read a
sermon on Proverbs 30:7-9 not long ago by a man named Gordon Runyan. I
don’t know Mr. Runyan, but I certainly thought his sermon has an
application for the times in which we are living.
I quote just a portion of his sermon:
nervous to look around and see how theologically ignorant the average
Christian is. That is the hallmark of defeat. It is proof that Balaam has
been at work among us.
Runyan’s conclusion correct? Are
our favorite idols today comfort and entertainment? I’ve seen the worried
look on parents faces when little Johnny says, “I’m bored!” Mom and dad begin hustling around trying to find something to
entertain Johnny; he absolutely must not be bored. Should mom and dad go buy
Johnny a new video game or tell him to go to his room and contemplate what
real boredom is? Are we to
listen to the experts or should we exercise a little common sense? Does the
Bible have anything at all to say to us in this situation? Surely it does. Surely
the Bible is a book for all the generations of mankind.
The Bible is a ready supply of timeless wisdom.
It is a book of eternal truths and not passing fads.
It is the inspired word of our creator and is still applicable and
relevant to the needs of modern man. One man may have ridden on a donkey and
another man may drive a Lexus, but human nature hasn’t changed all that
much. It is just the mode of traveling that has changed, not the
said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take
up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Generation Next may claim that is a boring doctrine and that we need
to negotiate terms on these matters; and the experts may encourage us to sit
down and negotiate. The question is are we going to negotiate or are we
going to respond that there are some things that are not negotiable?
My Faith Diminished?"
yourself with the following questions.
(Questions: from the book Seeing the Unseen,
1; Chapter two, by Joe Beam).
Via Rogers Church of Christ bulletin
A VISIT WITH OL' MAN LISTER
Limpett was sitting in the corner booth at the Bottomless Cup, stirring a
cold cup of coffee and staring into space. Ol' man Lister headed his way
while I got two clean cups for Lister and me and poured refills for the
other Ponder Point patrons.
sat down across from Stu and said, "Why the far away look, Stu?"
muttered, "I'm just thinking, Lister.
I keep thinking about how my life is going by, and I've made so many
mistakes. I've failed so many
times I just don't know what to do anymore."
I sat down, Ol' man Lister thanked me for the coffee, then turned back to
Stu and said, "Stu, do you know why God created both yesterday and
today? He created yesterday to
give us a place to bury our mistakes, and He created today to give us a
place to live. Your problem is
that you are trying to live in yesterday and carry your mistakes around with
you today. You've just got it
know...I reckon he's right.
A VISIT WITH OL' MAN LISTER
"FAST OR RIGHT"
he's not drinking coffee or using up the shade at Phil's filling station, ol'
man Lister does a little carpenter work.
Last summer I hired him to put a new roof on my house for me.
was too busy with other things to help, but it seemed to be taking a lot
longer than I had anticipated. I
finally asked him if he could hurry the project up a bit.
looked down from the roof long enough to say, "Kid, you can have it
fast or you can have it right, take your pick."
see your point, Lister." I
was quick to respond. "I'm
sorry the point was so sharp, kid. I
just know that folks will never remember how fast you did a job, but they
will remember how well you did it. If
I do this job too fast, you'll only be happy for a little while. If I do it right, you'll be happy for years.
Or as my Grampa used to say, 'Do it right the first time, and
know...I reckon he's right.