I am a modern-day Israelite.

I have been reading through the Bible this year. It is something that I have always wanted to do, and the Lord finally just told me that it was time. I purchased a One Year Bible and have really enjoyed the format so far. I read a few chapters from an Old Testament book, a few from a New Testament book, verses from Psalms, and one or two verses from Proverbs every day. So far it is February 25 and I have already read through Genesis, Exodus, and Matthew. I am now in Leviticus and Mark, as well as Psalms and Proverbs.

I have loved reading through the New Testament. I am falling more and more in love with Jesus as I read about His ministry, His personality, His teachings, and His perfection. I wish that I could have been there, to see Him among His people. And I long for the day when I will be with Him.

At the time, I couldn’t get enough of Genesis and the story of the Israelites’ Exodus. I have been hearing these stories since I was a baby, but reading through them from beginning to end changed a lot of what I thought about them. I find myself identifying with the people. I am able to see how each circumstance brought them closer to the Lord, and how He was bringing glory to Himself in every situation. I ask a lot of questions and I write my observations beside the text so that I can soon go back and study it more in-depth.

In Exodus 23 and following, Moses has just spent time with the Lord on top of Mount Sinai. He was given specific instructions from God to share with the Israelites. When he descended from the mountain, he shared the Book of the Covenant given by the Lord with the Israelites, and they all responded “We will do everything the Lord has commanded. We will obey” (24:7). Then He ascended back up to the mountain to received the tablets on which the commands were written. He spent 40 days and 40 nights on the mountain, in the glory of the Lord, where he was given more instructions. He left the Israelites in the hands of Aaron, the soon-to-be Priest, and his sons.

When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and begged him to make a god for them to be their leader. “We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt” (32:1). So Aaron took gold from the people and molded it into the shape of a calf. Then the people exclaimed “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” (32:4). And they began to sacrifice burnt offerings to this golden calf, worshiping it and indulging in their pagan revelry.

Now, every time I had heard this story, I thought how ludicrous the Israelites’ actions were. They were able to see the glory of the Lord in the form of a cloud and in the form of fire. They followed a man who spent significant time with the trustworthy Creator of the Universe. And they spent their entire time in the wilderness complaining. And time after time, the Lord provided for them when they least deserved it (manna anyone?). But as I was reading, I was convicted. How many times have I been right with the Lord, and gotten distracted? How many times have I complained when God’s timing is not in line with my desires? How many times have I gone to a church camp or a conference and said “This time, it will be different. I will do everything the Lord has commanded. I will obey,” only to return home and immediately go back to my “normal” life, forgetting all that God had taught me? It only took 40 days for the Israelites to forget what God had done for them, and what they had promised Him. In my past, it has taken only 40 hours for me to forget.

However, this is the beautiful thing about grace. God could have destroyed the Israelites and never brought them into the Promised Land. He had every right to. And He could destroy me for promising time and time again that I will change, and quickly forgetting that promise. He has every right to. Yet He continues to lavish His grace upon me, as He did on them. He continues to pour out mercy. He continues to mold me. He continues to teach me. And He continues to forgive me when I fail.

I constantly ask myself why such a wonderful Creator would care so much about me. I do not deserve His favor. Nothing about me is good. The only thing that I have that is promising is His Spirit, living inside of me, loving others through me, and leading me through this life. And thank the Lord, I will never get over it.

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