« PreviousContinue »
man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.”
The order was instantly executed ; and about three thousand men, the leaders, no doubt, and chief transgressors, in the offence which had been committed, were slain.
In this transaction the Levites had been told by Moses, that they would consecrate themselves to the Lord. Their ready obedience, revolting as it might be to their natural feelings, would be regarded by God, as a test of their preparation for the sacred office with which they were to be invested,
and draw down his blessing in this respect, and in other ways, upon them. It was, indeed, a bloody sacrifice with which to commence, as it were, their priestly functions; but the Divine justice demanded it, and their course of duty was plain before them.
The day was one of lamentation throughout the camp of the Israelites; many trembling in fearful expectation of the still heavier judgments that might come upon them; not a few bemoaning the loss of their kindred and friends; and here and there some pious worshippers, prostrating themselves before the offended Majesty of heaven, and
especially of those who had been directly concerned in the worship of the idol, and of the rest as either conniving at it, or making no efforts to prevent it.
" Ye have sinned a great sin," said he ; "and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your
sin.” Moses re-ascended the mountain, and prostrating himself before the Divine presence, poured forth this importunate supplication:"Oh this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I
pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written;" out of the " book of the living," as David terms it. As if he had said I would rather die with my people than live, and witness the auful destruction, which, in thy anger, thou mayest sec fit to bring upon them.
The reply was : " Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book. Therefore,
lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upou them;"—thus threatening that, when they should be chastised for future transgressions, this aggravated offence would not be forgotten, but enhance the severity of their punishment. And we are told, that " the Lord plagued the people," on account of this sin, in the subsequent judgments which he sent upon them for their repeated acts of disobedience. The Jews, re. ferring to these events in a proverb that they have among them, say, "No affliction has ever happened to Israel, in which there was not some particle of the dust of the golden calf.”
Fear, my young friend, lest God may send his plagues upon you, on account of your past sins ! Sometimes he does this, even in this life, in a very remarkable manner; so that the connection between the sin and the punishment is plain beyond all doubt. The sinner sees it. All around him see it.
Every time that you sin, you expose yourself to the just displeasure of God. You swell the amount of your guilt. Past sins added to the present, will call for the Divine vengeance in an increased degree. At all events, if God spares the sinner in this life, a fearful reckoning will come, at last, for the finally impenitent. Then the Divine Justice will visit all their sins
them! Now is the time to escape this awful doom, and to flee for refuge to the Hope which is set before us in the Gospel.
Moses is directed to proceed from Sinai. He descends.
The tabernacle of the congregation. God's accompanying presence promised.
Before leaving the mount, Moses received a command from God, or perhaps rather a permission, to depart from Sinai, and proceed with the Israelites on their way to the promised land. He was told that Jehovah would send un angel before him, and drive out the heathen; but that he himself would not go up, (as he had before done,) by his peculiar presence and visible manifestation of glory, in the midst of them. The reason given for this, was, lest he should consume them in the way, they being so obstinate and rebellious.
Moses was also directed to say to them; "Ye are a stiff-necked people : I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee; therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know," or, (as it might better be rendered,) make known," what to do unto thee.”
This putting off their ornaments, and perhaps, also, their upper, more beautiful garments, was ernblematical of internal mourning for their sins. At the same time, God would notice the state of their
hearts, of which the external expression of sorrow ought to be the true indication, and thus let it be seen whether his threatening should be removed, on their penitence, or, if they felt none, carried into execution.
Moses once more appeared before the Israelites, and made known to them the divine declarations. When they heard the "evil tidings,” they mourned, and stripped themselves of their ornaments. Το what extent their sorrow was that of sincere repentance, we cannot tell. Doubtless there were those
among them who were truly humbled before God on account of their own sins, and those of the people; and, in consequence of this, his forbearance may have again been exercised towards them.
Before the building of the tabernacle concerning which Moses received directions on the mount, there was one stationed within the camp of the Israelites, and used for some religious purpose. Moses took this, and pitched it afar off, without the camp; probably as another token of the divine displeasure against the sin of idolatry, it being in. consistent with the sacredness of a habitation of the Most High, to remain in a place polluted by such an offence.
He called it " the tabernacle of the congregation ;' and it seems that the people had resorted to it when they wished for any particular direction, or decision, from the Lord.