In Exodus 32 we are at last given a glimpse of what the Israelites have been up to while Moses was up the mountain talking to God. They begged Aaron to make them some gods so they could worship them. So Aaron takes all the gold in the camp and makes it into a calf. The people are very excited when they see it. This inspires Aaron to make an altar in front of the calf. The people get up early the next day to make sacrifices and generally have a great big party.
Meanwhile, up the mountain, God tells Moses what the people have done and decides to destroy them all. Moses pleads for their lives. God eventually agrees, but tells Moses he must return at once.
Back in the camp, Moses is so angry at what the people have done that he smashes the stone tablets and melts the calf down. He grinds the melted gold into dust and forces the people to drink it mixed with water. Aaron tries to convince Moses that it was all a misunderstanding, but Moses knows how close they all came to being destroyed. He commands them to follow only the Lord. But the only tribe which answers are the Levites. So he orders them to kill everyone else in the camp. We are told that 3000 people were killed that day. Moses goes back up the mountain to obtain forgiveness from the terrible sin. God tells Moses that he will send an angel to lead the way to their homeland.
In Exodus 33, the people are travelling again and Moses is being guided by God. The people do not wear any jewellery because they are scared of the Lord’s warning that if he travelled with them he would destroy them. One day, as Moses is talking to God he asks to see God’s face. God tells Moses that this will not be possible, but if they prepare carefully, he will show Moses his presence from behind.
We have two readings from Matthew tonight. In the first, Peter is accused of being a Galilean, but he denies this three times. Just then the rooster (in this translation) crows and Peter remembers what Jesus said to him.
And in the second reading from Matthew (chapter 27) Jesus is brought before Pilate, the Roman Governor. (27:11) “‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Pilate asked him. Jesus replied, ‘You have said it.'”
Again, he does not say yes or no. He merely repeats what the others have said.
Another song of joy in Psalm 33. (33:1) “Let the godly sing for joy to the Lord.”
And in Proverbs 8 there is a warning from Wisdom, (8:36) “All who hate me love death.”
One of my favourite books is the humourous science fiction novel The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. And the number 42 has great significance. According to an enormous super computer, 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything! The joke is; everything we find confusing or troubling about life can be summed up in one short answer. In this case, the number 42.
But for a Christian, the answer to our troubles lies with God, who came to answer our questions through Jesus. So what has Jesus said here? Nothing! He refused to answer the priest’s questions yesterday and now refuses to answer Pilate. The Israelites thought the answer to their troubles lay with a golden calf, and boy they were wrong about that.
Do we NEED an answer? What if the answer really WAS 42? Would it make your life any better knowing that all your concerns could be resolved as simply as that? No, it’s never going to be that easy. We have to work at it, daily.
If you want a short answer: Wisdom. That’s a good place to start!