When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.” Moses replied: “It is not the sound of victory, it is not the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear.” – Exo. 32:17-18 NIV
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The Almighty God had taken the decision to destroy the Israelites, because they corrupted themselves, by asking Aaron to make gods for them that will replace Him as their God. He concluded that they were stiff-necked people that were deserving of destruction, and made a promise to Moses, to replace them with a greater nation – Exo. 32:1-9. Moses interceded by pleading on their behalf, adding that the name of the Almighty God will be ridiculed by the Egyptians, who will conclude that their God decided to destroy them in the desert, when He could not fulfil His promise, to take them to a land flowing with Milk and Honey. The Almighty God saw reasons with his points and relented in bringing the planned destruction, though he later punished their actions by striking them with a plague – Exo. 32:9-14; 35. It was only then that Moses, carrying on him the two tablets of Testimony that bore inscriptions on both sides, written in the hand-writing of God, and in the company of Joshua, left the presence of God to return to the people – Exo. 32:15-16.
The scripture that is the foundation of today’s Devotional is the interpretation of both men, of the sound that they both heard, coming from the camp of the Israelites, when they descended from Mount Sinai. Whereas, Joshua interpreted the sound as “sounds of war”, Moses interpreted the same sound as “the sound of singing”, but was sure, it was neither songs of victory nor songs of defeat. To both of them, the sound was not a good one.
Meanwhile, the people believed they were rejoicing. They had arranged a festival to celebrate the formation of their new god, that they believed was going to take them out of their present uncertainties, and lead them to their divine destination. They had sacrificed burnt offerings and also offered fellowship offerings, and contented with what they must have seen as a great accomplishment, they sat down to eat, drink and indulge in revelry – Exo. 32:6. As far as they were concerned, they had all the reasons to indulge in lively and noisy festivities, and drink large amounts of alcohol to celebrate what they saw as a huge achievement. They felt accomplished and fulfilled about an action which Jehovah, who had promised to take them to the land flowing with milk and honey, and whom they expect to continue to lead them, is unhappy with. They probably thought they could hold Him to His promise, even when they have angered Him.
The return of Moses from Mount Sinai brought back some sanity as he burnt the calf that they called a god, ground it into powder, poured it on water and made them drink the water. Unfortunately, in a demonstration of one of the several negatives of anger, Moses, in the course if his reaction, broke into pieces at the foot of the mountain, the two tablets of Testimony that he came along with – Exo. 32:19-20.
Aaron, in his attempt to exonerate himself from the abominable actions of the Israelites, also ended up revealing his leadership skill deficit, as he admitted that he responded to the demand of the people for gods – Exo. 32:22-24. For one who desired leadership position, it would have been assumed that he will have a vision to defend his actions and not act on the emotion and sentiments of the people he was supposed to be leading, as his having no opinion other than implementing the wishes of the people signified that it was the people that were actually leading him. He ended up, not only leading the people away from the Grace of Jehovah, but turned them into a laughingstock of their enemies as they became wild and out of control – Exo. 32:25-26. There was the need to take a drastic measure in order to restore sanity and this Moses did by using the Levites to eliminate three thousand of the people, in a move that was aimed at atoning for the abominable acts of the people before the Lord – Exo. 32:27-29. Although Moses offered to be punished if Jehovah was not going to forgive the people, he was told in clear terms by the Lord that he could not suffer for the sins of another as only those who have sinned against Him will be blotted out – Exo. 32:31-33.
Similar events still occur today, even amongst Christians, where anxiety due to leadership vacuum, leads to acts of unfaithfulness amongst the people, who in their desire to fill such vacuum become victims of false and fake leadership. These leaders produce solutions which such a Christian may, initially, consider good enough to be celebrated, but which to those with discerning spirit are able to see as a route to greater battles and sadness. They may think they are celebrating success but in the long term, it may just be beginning of greater woes.
There is no doubt that a people will always need leaders but they will need to always pray that their leaders will also be God chosen. Nothing can excuse a people from suffering the error of looking up to a wrong leadership. Many Christians today, like the Israelites then, are really worried about the state of their lives, as it seems they are in the middle of a desert with everything at standstill and there is no solution in view, and so are in need of leadership to help them out of their situation, but unfortunately have approached wrong personalities who pretend to be God-sent. The result of such errors can only be the loss of whatever remains of the Grace that has been enjoyed hitherto. The repercussion of such a loss is for such to become a laughingstock of enemies, as such a person loses control of everything and begins to run wild.
Such leadership does produce solutions that may be celebrated, but it will only be for a while, as the joy soon turns to greater sadness. To remain under such leadership, attempting to reverse the uncomfortable situation may end up being a fruitless effort as all that may be required is a review of the decision to be subject to such a leadership. The Israelites were lucky to have Moses return and redeem some of them, although it was not without a price, but the Christian today, though also have someone who can lead in such situations, but he will not come unless he is invited. Jesus Christ remains the solution in those situations and like his mother told the guests at the wedding in Cana in Galilee, all that needs to be done is to do all that he directs to be done – Jn. 2:5. Unlike the case of Moses and the Israelites, he will not come into that situation unless invited, but more than Moses will do, he has the ability to bear the consequences of sins of others, that is, anyone who accepts him as Lord and Saviour. Until that leadership is changed and whatever solution such a leadership prescribed is trashed, that expected release from that uncomfortable situation may never arrive. Moses did offer to be blotted out, to save the Israelites, but was not found capable of playing such a role by Jehovah (Exo. 32:31-33), but Jesus Christ came for that purpose and under his leadership, there is always the assurance of the true and everlasting joy – Matt. 26:27-28; Psa. 16:11.
Avoid being unnecessarily anxious as it will only lead to greater errors – Phil. 4:6-7. Like Jesus Christ advised all his followers, no one through anxiety, can add or take away from the plan of Jehovah for his/her life – Matt. 6:25-34. If anything, the one that acts under anxiety will likely be putting his/her life in greater risk. May God grant us the right temperament to seek only His leadership in all situations in Jesus name. Amen.