Torah Portion: Ki Tisa (When You Take) Exodus(Sh’mot) 30:11-34:35
Haftorah Reading: I Kings 18:1-39
Tonight, we study the sin of the golden calf. This is a pivotal Torah portion from which I pray we can grasp what G-d is saying to us in our own life. However, before we get to the verses about the golden calf there are a couple of other points I also see as important to us and should help us in our understanding of verses we will look at in the Messianic scriptures.
We start our portion with the taking of a census of G-d’s people. In Exodus/Sh’mot 30:11-15 we read the instructions on how this census was to be taken. We also read of the consequences that would follow if it was not done according to the guidelines set out here. Later in II Samuel 24:1-17 we read where King David took a census of the people without following G-d’s guidelines set out in our portion. As a result of that action by David 70,000 people died of a plague that is mentioned in our portion as one of the results of not following G-d’s guidelines. So, it would seem there is an important lesson for us in this directive to take a census.
In our Torah verses it says everyone is to give a half shekel. The rich did not give more and the poor did not give less. We are all a part of the whole. This money is called a ransom or atonement for your lives. This shows us that in G-d’s eyes we are all valued the same. He loves us all equally. If we go forward a few thousand years we see where Yeshua became that ransom or atonement for each of us. We, by passing through the blood atonement of the Messiah, same for each of us, are counted as G-d’s people.
In the Messianic Writings we read about this specific tax in Matthew 17:24-27 where Yeshua and Peter paid their half shekel tax by taking a coin from the mouth of a fish. This action is rooted in our Torah portion this week. The ransom paid by the Messiah had at its roots what we read here tonight. G-d loves us all. This should comfort us as we go through life. G-d loves each of us equally. Status, money, whatever we think might make us more or less worthy, G-d see each of us the same and He cares for us all.
Now let us look at the golden calf incident and see what we can learn spiritually. In Exodus/Sh’mot 32:1 we read the prelude to what quickly goes from bad to worse with the people. Moshe had delayed in coming down from his time with G-d on the mountain. The people grew impatient and went to Aaron. They demanded he make them gods to go before them. As for this Moshe who brought them out of Egypt, who knows what became of him. In verses 2-6 we read of what happened next with Aaron and the people. Verse 5 is an interesting verse. Aaron saw the calf and then built an altar to it and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the L-rd.” In this sentence he used the holy name of G-d. Let’s stop for a moment and ask ourselves a couple of questions. What was the issue here that might have caused the people to take this step and make this demand of Aaron? Why did Aaron use G-d’s name when declaring a feast day right after making a golden calf? Before we see how we might answer these questions let’s go further and look at another time when golden calves were used in Israel.
In I Kings 12:28-33 we read where King Jeroboam, who was king over the ten northern tribes, set up golden calves at two different locations in an effort to keep the people from going to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple and celebrate the feast days of the L-rd. In verse 28 he used the exact words that we have in our Torah portion.
Back to my two questions does anyone have answers? In our Torah portion and to some extent here in I Kings, the same issue is apparent. In Exodus, the people had put their faith in Moshe more than G-d. He was a living human being they could see with their eyes. They watched him defeat Pharaoh. He was the one G-d used to rescue them from Egypt, to split the Sea for their escape, provided food and water in the desert. Sometimes it is difficult to stay focused on G-d when things happen. As humans we have a need to see or feel. For these people Moshe had been that for them. Now he had been gone a long time. (Out of their sight or touch) They thought they needed a substitute – a golden calf. Aaron was mistaken to use G-d’s name in any relation to an idol, however, maybe he was making some attempt to prevent the people from going completely into idol worship.
In I Kings we read about King Jeroboam using the same symbol to keep the people from going to Jerusalem to worship the one true G-d. What does this all mean to us? I think many people come to a place where G-d seems to be silent. What do we do? We can follow someone or something else that we can see or feel. We can try to make ourselves feel better by relating to some physical thing. This crutch could be a religious leader, drugs or any number of things.
The point is, G-d is our hope and our salvation even in times when He seems to be silent. Waiting and listening for G-d to speak is not easy when we are in a difficult situation. But it is a time when we as G-d’s people exercise our faith and hold fast to Him. He is always there. He loves us and has a way for us. He is never late. The Israelites placed too much of their faith in Moshe instead of the L-rd. Where are you? Do you find yourselves in any of these verses? I heard a great quote this week, “When we say we can’t hear from G-d but we haven’t opened our Bible is like saying we aren’t getting any text messages while our phone is turned off.”