This week, we’re going to conclude the Book of Exodus – picking up where last week finished off – as God outlines to Israel what right worship will look like.
Very quickly in these readings, you’re going to come across something dramatic. In spite of all that they had seen and experienced: the plagues, their miraculous escape, and God’s continued care for them in the desert… Aaron will direct the Israelites to create a golden calf which they will worship as the god that brought them out of Egypt. I wouldn’t blame you for being confused by this event. Sure, Moses had been gone forty days and forty nights, but it seems to be a rash decision. There are some suspicions that the golden calf represented the Egyptian god, Apis. The text tells us that not only had Israel made this idol, but that they had sacrificed to it, at a sacred meal in its presence, and then engaged in other inappropriate worship as well.
Herein lies the great challenge for God (and Moses). Though Israel was physically free from slavery in Egypt, they had picked up Egyptian habits and defaulted back to Egyptian worship when the going got tough. It’s been said that although God was able to take the Israelites out of Egypt in a relatively short time (the ten plagues), it would take another forty years to get Egypt out of the Israelites. Moses comes down and smashes the tablets upon which God had written the Ten Commandments (which makes Moses the first one to break all ten commandments at the same time…)
Mercifully, God renews the covenant and Israel begins the construction of the Tabernacle – which you’ll read about in the later part of our readings this week. As I mentioned last week, God is showing Israel how to worship, leading them by the hand – and setting the stage for what we still do as Catholic Christians to this day.
One other item of note. In Exodus 33:23, you’ll read about how Moses saw God’s “back.” As amazing an experience as that would be, it shows us that at this point there is still a great gap between God and humanity: they still awaited a more perfect mediator, one who would see not God’s back, but His face… and who would also reveal God’s face to us (see John 14:9).
Here’s the readings for this week as we conclude this period of Egypt and the Exodus:
- Monday: Exodus 27 & 28
- Tuesday: Exodus 29, 30 & 31
- Wednesday: Exodus 32, 33 & 34
- Thursday: Exodus 35 & 36
- Friday: Exodus 37 & 38
- Saturday: Exodus 39 & 40
- Sunday: Catchup on what you’ve missed or read the Sunday readings
Have a wonderful week!