God together with us

Ki Tisa (When You Take) Exodus/Sh’mot 30:11-34:35

Haftorah Reading: I Kings 18:1-39

When we read our portion Ki Tisa, we read of several epic events that took place, events that still shape our world today. I would like to major our study on one such event. I want us to spend most of our time on the giving of the tablets of G-d to Moshe and the Jewish people.

When we read our portion we read where two sets of the Commandments serve as book ends to the sin of Israel when they worshipped the golden calf. In Exodus 32:16 we read, “The tablets were the work of G-d, the writings of G-d engraved on the tablets of stone.”

Remember, these were perhaps the holiest, physical objects in history from the beginning to end, the work of G-d. Yet, within hours they lay shattered, broken by Moshe when he saw the golden calf and the Israelites dancing around it.

The second set of tablets were brought down the mountain after Moshe pleaded with G-d to forgive the people. This second set was different from the first in one respect. The second set was produced by a cooperative effort between G-d and man. In Exodus 34:1 we read, “Carve out two tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets which you broke.” What is different? The first set made wholly by G-d did not remain intact, while the second set made by Moshe and G-d did. I expect we would have expected the opposite to be true. Why was the most holy set broken while the second set, made by man and G-d spared?

I believe the first set of tablets being wholly initiated by G-d was spectacular. It was an event much like G-d splitting of the sea to allow the Israelites to escape Pharaoh.  In Exodus 14:13-14 we read where G-d told the people to be still and see the deliverance of G-d as he drowned the Egyptians in the sea.

Just before this event the people had been complaining to Moshe, Exodus 14:11,“Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us into this desert to die?” After the miraculous crossing we see over and over where the people complained to Moshe, rebelling at their lack of food and water. This complaining continued until we read in Exodus 14:12, “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert.”

When we look to the war with the Amalikites in Exodus 17:8-13 we hear no complaints. The Israelites simply fought under Joshua’s leadership while drawing strength from Moshe’s out-stretched hands. It was as if they were different people. What caused this change? I believe the battles fought for us do not change us. The battles we fight, with G-d’s help, do change us. What changes us is our participation in the battles we fight. 

The revelation at Sinai, when the mountain shook and G-d spoke was a wondrous event. The people even asked Moshe to communicate with G-d for them. Then while Moshe spent forty days on the mountain with G-d the golden calf episode occurred. After witnessing such a miracle when G-d spoke, the people still demanded an idol be made for them to worship.  Interestingly, after they worked together with G-d building the Mishkan the people made no more idols for at least the next 40 years. Why, because they had become labors for and with G-d. They contributed and did the work.

Divine intervention changes nature, such as the splitting of the sea. But it is man taking an active part in working with G-d that changes us. I believe each of us can relate to this. G-d can bring us into His presence but unless it causes a spiritual change in us it will have no lasting effect. We as His people join our lives to Him but if nothing really changes, we will find ourselves back where we started or worse. G-d requires something from us. He is looking for our step of faith. We see this over and over in the Messianic Scriptures such as the story of the rich young ruler in Matt 19. 

When Yeshua passed by many heard and saw Him yet not everyone followed.