Ghoulish shadows cavorted across the rocky outcroppings, while the pungent scent of death swirled and danced, taunting its way up the mountainside. Guttural groanings echoed throughout the valley, clapping came to a crescendo as cheers and whistles burst forth in decibels too shrill for human ears.
“Joshua, do you hear that shouting? It’s coming from the camp in the valley below.”
“It’s the sound of war.”
“No, it is not the sound of the cry of triumph, nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat; but the sound of singing I hear.” (Ex. 32:18 NASB)
The two men hurried their pace down the hillside path, unsuccessfully attempting to put aside the fears of what they might find at the encampment. The older man slowed, under the burden of two heavy stone tablets he gently cradled in his arms. His suntanned olive skin glowed, shiny with sweat; a frenzied patch of brilliant white hair adorned his head, while a matching beard conspired to hide his exasperated countenance.
The younger man, Joshua, arrayed in battle armor and helmet, a sword at his side, whispered, “I have never heard singing like that before. Are you sure it’s not wild animals attacking the camp? The sounds are . . . almost evil.”
“The Lord has told me what to do, Joshua. We must hurry. Our people are in great need.” The older man’s eyes narrowed. Lines of concern furrowed his brow. A deep sorrow engulfed him, an unspeakable weight crushing his spirit.
With a look of understanding and sympathy, Joshua nodded his head and then ran on ahead. He evaporated into the darkness, sandals slapping frantically on the dirt path.
A few moments later, Moses caught up to Joshua who was standing at the precipice of a rock cliff. The scene below them was chaotic--whirling robes, flailing arms, glints of gold, and oppressive fire sliced the darkness like the blades of a warrior engaged in fierce battle. A golden, hand-cast calf stood at the center of their dance proclaiming its mastery over them.
A chosen people forgot who chose them.
A drunken people praised a false god.
A lost people struggled once again to be found.
Steeling himself for the coming encounter, Moses’ features transformed as determination and anger joined him in his battle for the people of Israel. His commanding voice rang out across the multitudes, “You have sinned against Almighty God. He will surely deal harshly with you.” His eyes burned as fire and, in a burst of righteous anger, he cast the stone tablets over the cliff, shattering them on the rocks below. A tear slipped down his cheek as he dropped to his knees in frustration.
Then he fell face down before God, interceding for the people of Israel. God’s Spirit enveloped Moses—refreshing him, instructing him, giving him hope. Visions of the people’s journey through the dry Red Sea and their joyous songs of praise haunted him. Would this people ever learn? Would God restore His song within their hearts? Would the people once again pick up their timbrels and honor the one true God with their praise?
And, God’s Spirit responded with encouragement, “Despite tonight’s song of corruption, the sons of Israel do know God’s song of salvation and they will sing and dance of it once more.”
Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and said, “I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; the horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will extol Him." Ex. 15:1-2 (NASB)
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