Torah Portion: Ki Tisa(When You Take)Ex./Sh’mot 30:11-34:35
Haftorah Reading: I Kings 18:1-39
Today we will talk about a Torah Portion that has much to say to us in our world today. I want us to begin with the taking of the census of G-d’s people. In Exodus 30:11-15 we can 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 G-d’s instructions.
In II Samuel 24:1-17 we see the results of taking this census incorrectly. Here we read where 70,000 died of a plague because King David did not follow G-d’s guidelines when he counted the people of Israel. This, like all of G-d’s word, shows the importance of not forgetting what G-d said.
We read here that, in the taking of this census, everyone was to give one half shekel. The rich and the poor were to contribute the same amount. This amount collected was to be used in maintaining the Mishkan and later the Temple. What does this teach us about our relationship with the Father?
Why were they asked to contribute a half shekel? Why did G-d not just ask the people to be counted? Because we are more than just a number to G-d. In the Holocaust the Jewish people were only referred to by a number.
It shows us clearly that we are all valued equally in G-d’s eyes. G-d’s love for each of us is the same, rich or poor. How does this compare with how we sometimes look at people? Even in congregations we can easily fall into the trap of judging the worth of someone based on money, power, intelligence or position. These verses here should show us that G-d does not look at people this way. He looks at our heart and see us all as we are, not based on anything but His love for us, our need for Him and His desire for us to be a part of His family. Never doubt your worth as one of G-d’s children.
In the Messianic scriptures we read of this same census/tax mentioned in Matthew 17:24-27. Here Yeshua instructed Peter to take a coin he would find in the mouth of a fish, which would be the exact amount needed, and to go pay the Temple tax.
G-d’s love for you is not based on how much you accomplish for Him, your social status in the community or how much you know. His love has everything to do with being His creation.
Now I want to spend some time looking at the incident described in our portion concerning the golden calf. We read of this in Exodus chapter 32 beginning at verse 1. This verse says the people became restless when Moshe was on the mountain with G-d. Exodus 32:1 says, “The people saw Moshe was delayed in coming down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, Arise, make us gods, which will go before us; and as for this Moshe, the man brought us out of Egypt, we do not know what became of him.”
In response, Aaron told the people to bring to him the gold from their wives, daughters and sons. As we read on we see Aaron collected all the gold and made a golden calf. In Exodus 32:5 Aaron made a proclamation saying, “Tomorrow is a feast to the L-rd.” In this verse Aaron used the holy name of G-d.
Several questions arise here. The people had seen Moshe lead them out of Egypt, through the Reed Sea. They heard the voice of G-d speaking at Mt. Sinai. Yet when Moshe was gone for 40 days and nights their faith was shaken to the point we see here in these verses. The obvious question has to be why? How could they have sunk so low as we see here and what can we learn from this?
Have you ever been going through a difficult time and felt G-d was silent. Have you ever waivered in your faith? Maybe there was a person you depended on and they went away or ended up being no help at all when you needed help. How did you handle those times? I expect the people here in this Torah portion had put their faith in Moshe more than G-d. Moshe was a physical being that they saw every day. They saw the miracles that he performed. He answered their questions, settled disputes, calmed their anxieties. Then, he went away for days and he was not there to calm their fears. They probably complained to each other and the negative thoughts grew. Then their faith faltered. Instead of turning to G-d for comfort they asked Aaron to make an idol for them to worship – a quick fix, something tangible.
In times like this we can return to our foundation. We can remember those times in our past when we heard G-d’s voice. It builds our faith to remember all that G-d has done for us in the past. We can stand strong. Our answer does not lie in a person. It is easy to fall into a trap of going to a person for our answers instead of waiting on G-d. The more we do that the more we depend on that person for our relationship with G-d.
Our answers are found in G-d Almighty the Maker of heaven and earth. We will all experience times like this in our lives. But we have an anchor and He is faithful. We hold on to the fact that He loves us. We read his word for direction.
In this portion we see the people fall because their faith was more in Moshe instead of G-d. My prayer is that each of us, when we face difficult times will hold fast to our Creator and wait for His salvation.
One more question. What other place in scripture do we read of golden calves being formed for the children of Israel to worship? In I Kings 12:27-30 we read where Jeroboam had two calves of gold made for the people to worship. I encourage you to read the entire story in I Kings12-13.