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The golden calf

While Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the commands that God gave, the people became worried about whether or not he would return and they demanded that Aaron make gods to lead them.

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. 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.”

So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf.

And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 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.” And they rose up early the next day and 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)

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Result of the plagues

Exodus 7:1-12:40 describes the ten plagues God had to send on the Egyptians before they would let the Israelites leave to go to the land God had promised them.  Yet even after all of this suffering Pharaoh changed his mind about freeing the Israelites and tried to bring them back into slavery.  Exodus 14:5-31 tells how God opened the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape and then allowed the sea to return to drown Pharaoh and his army.  Israel was finally free to go to its own land and Egypt was in ruins with its ruler dead.

But God’s judgments had another result.

“Behold, about this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter, for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home will die when the hail falls on them.”  Then whoever feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses, but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the Lord left his slaves and his livestock in the field.

Exodus 9:18-21

Not all of the Egyptians were as hard hearted as Pharaoh.  Some of them feared God and took steps to protect themselves.  When the Isrealites left Egypt they left behind a group of people who believed in the true God.

Seeing the kingdom of God

Jesus made an astounding prediction.

But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.
Luke 9:27

Aside from Jesus himself everyone who was there is now dead, so this prophecy must have been fulfilled.  But just when did its fulfillment take place?  The prophecy appears in three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and in all three is immediately followed by the event known as the Transfiguration.

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.

As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
Luke 9:28-36

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Why Moses failed to free the Israelites

Nearly everyone knows how Moses freed the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.  Not many know that Moses had made a previous attempt to free them and had failed.

One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?”

He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”

Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian.
Exodus 2:11-15

This appears to be nothing more than Moses seeing an act of cruelty and intervening but the New Testament gives more information.

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Aaron’s rod

While the Israelites were in the wilderness some of them challenged the authority of Moses and Aaron to lead them.  God ended the dissent with a sign that showed whom he had chosen.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, and get from them staffs, one for each fathers’ house, from all their chiefs according to their fathers’ houses, twelve staffs.

Write each man’s name on his staff, and write Aaron’s name on the staff of Levi. For there shall be one staff for the head of each fathers’ house.

Then you shall deposit them in the tent of meeting before the testimony, where I meet with you. And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout.

Thus I will make to cease from me the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against you.”

Moses spoke to the people of Israel. And all their chiefs gave him staffs, one for each chief, according to their fathers’ houses, twelve staffs. And the staff of Aaron was among their staffs. And Moses deposited the staffs before the LORD in the tent of the testimony.
Numbers 17:1-7

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The Euthyphro dilemma

Plato wrote of a conversation between Socrates and a man named Euthyphro in which this question was raised: Does God command us to do things because they are good or are they good because God commands them?   Many people feel that either answer creates a problem.  If God commands us to do things because they are good that implies that there is a standard of goodness independent of God to which he must conform.  If the things God commands are good because he commands them then good and evil exist only because of God’s arbitrary decision to call certain thing good and others evil.  This problem is known as the Euthyphro dilemma.

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Ear, hand, and foot

While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.

And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”
Luke 5:12-14

Jesus told him to go to the priest because the Mosaic law required that an offering be made by anyone who had been cleansed from leprosy.

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