from Carl Schartner
Reading: Exodus 33:1-6
The Israelites had sinned greatly through crafting an idol in the form of a golden calf. They had acted in a desperate attempt to have God’s presence available to them on their terms and, especially, in their times of need - for the golden calf was to represent the presence of God. Ironically, God’s punishment was to declare that He would remove His presence from their dangerous journey to the Promised Land, for He could not be so very near to these idolatrous people out of concern that He might destroy them as He did the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Israelites were now facing life without God and, in their despair, they turned to the only completely trustworthy source of provision and protection – they turned to Yahweh, the one true God. In turning to God, they also repented of their idolatry and sin and, as a sign of repentance, obeyed God’s instructions to remove their jewelry. The linkage between repentance and the removal of “ornaments” is seen elsewhere in the Bible, but is particularly fitting on this occasion as the people had so recently contributed their golden jewelry to the crafting of the idol. Not only did they simply take their jewelry off, they actually ripped it off as quickly as possible (stripped it off) and, likely, kept it off for the next 40 years, throughout their perilous journey, as a reminder of what they had learned. Israel’s heart was in the right place at this time. When they heard that God was not going with them, they were distressed, brought to true repentance, and cried out for His divine help.
What are the things that we need to strip from our lives, especially during this season of lent, that can help lead us to repentance and obedience to God? Don’t take too much time in discarding any sinful habits and patterns, but rip them out with urgency and force and then allow the presence of the Lord Jesus to rush in and reclaim those areas.