Rev. Haak is pastor of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan and radio pastor for the Reformed Witness Hour, on which this message was aired.
On whose side are you? There are only two camps, the Word of God declares. Who are either on the side of God…or darkness; Christ…or the world; holiness…or sin. There is no compromise possible between these two. Any attempt to have both is to declare oneself an enemy of God.
This was the question that Moses asked the people of Israel. We read in Exodus 32:26,
Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
Moses asked that question after he descended from the mountain, where he had received the Ten Commandments. As he descended he saw that the people, in his absence, had made a golden calf, had worshiped the golden calf, and had committed sin all around it. In anger he broke the two tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments, came down into the camp, ground up the golden calf and sprinkled it on the water, and then issued the challenge: “Who is on the Lord’s side?”
People of the world, the Bible tells us, lie in darkness. By their life and pursuits they declare that they want no part of God, of the church. They set themselves against Him (Ps. 2). They are alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them (Eph. 4).
But you—you who would take your stand among the people of God—on whose side are you? This is a question that forces us to examine ourselves and our lives. It is a question that, by God’s grace, renews us and shakes us out of lethargy. It is a question that tears the mask of hypocrisy away from the heart of anyone who does not have the reality of Christ, even though outwardly he may say that he does. It is a question that calls to repentance, to conviction of faith, to courage, to identify ourselves as His in this world.
This question confronts us every moment of every day. It calls us to identify ourselves as the people of God by a life of faith and holiness in the midst of the world, to identify ourselves as those who belong to the party of the living God.
Notice, first of all, the man who asked the question and the circumstances in which it was asked. It was Moses, and he put the question to Israel when sin was rampant in their camp. Their sin was that of making a god after their own thoughts, making a golden calf that led immediately to gross immorality, naked dancing, and shameless flaunting of the law of God.
First, I want us to understand that Moses stood there alone and summoned the whole nation of Israel to repentance. His own brother, Aaron, was the one who had made the golden calf. Aaron had deserted him and had become the means for the people to play out their sins. The seventy elders who had been left in charge of Israel, who should have put a stop to it long ago, were also milling around in the crowd silent. The only one who stands by Moses’ side is his lieutenant, Joshua. Otherwise he stood alone amidst a riot, a multitude of people swept along, intoxicated with the sinful pleasures connected with their self-made worship. Moses is bold and smashes their idol, grinds it into small pieces, casts it into the water, and makes the people drink of it. He upbraids Aaron before them and he calls the people to repentance.
We admire Moses’ courage. And we ask the question: Where did he receive this courage, this holy majesty to stand for the cause of God? The answer is plain. He had been forty days alone with God on the top of the mountain. He had spoken with God face to face as a man speaks unto his friend. He had spent himself in prayer over God’s promise to His people in Christ. Moses gained his power by being alone with God on his knees. The power of a holy life in the middle of the world, of gross, shameless ungodliness, is gained in the same way: through prayer.
In your class at school or college, when there are perverted jokes told; when you are in the grocery store and there is profanity expressed; when you are mocked for modesty in your dress and holiness in your speech—spiritual courage to respond is found out of the source of our own walk with God in prayer. Moses had seen God. When he came down from the mountain and saw men and women daring to liken the glory of God unto an ox, he was consumed with a zeal for God.
Do you lose sensitivity to God’s law? Do you become loose in your tongue? Do you entertain in your thoughts lust? The waves of sin — when once you said “never,” now do they not bother you? How much time do you spend with God in prayer? When everywhere shameless defiance of God dances around us and Satan whispers compromise and carelessness into the ears of men, the secret of holiness is found in prayer. Strength to resist the frown of the world for being a child of God is still found in the same place: prayer. Strength is not found in numbers. The strength of the child of God, his steadfastness in his faith, that he is not influenced by the world around us, not even influenced, if need be, by his own family or spouse — that strength is to be found on his knees in prayer. Coming forth from the light of God’s presence in prayer, we are emboldened, we are strengthened to face a wicked world and our own temptations.
Moses’ question: “Who is on the Lord’s side?” is a suitable question to be placed before us. What was involved in that question? First of all, the worship of the golden calf. The worship of a golden calf is pretty general in our day. Briefly, Israel, in making the golden calf, was saying that they would determine their own religion. They would decide what God is like. They would decide what is pleasing to God. They would decide how God should be worshiped and what God will allow and what God would disallow.
So the worship of the golden calf is whenever men take their thoughts of God from themselves, base their worship of God in their own ideas, and base their walk of life upon what they think is appropriate, rather than bowing before the Word of God, rather than consulting the word of revelation and walking in obedience to that word.
The sin of the golden calf is simply pride — proud self. It is saying, “The religion that is revealed of God is just too poor for me. It just doesn’t do it. The tabernacle that God revealed to Moses and the law that God gave to Moses — that is simply not enough. It is too bare. There is no luster to it. We want something with more decoration, more movement, more embellishments.”
So with the golden calf we read that their worship included eating and drinking and rising up to play. Having decided to make God the way they wanted to, they went on to decide what was permissible in their lives. They did what came natural — they became naked, bold, shameless. They lost respect for the body, the sanctity and dignity of the body. They viewed the body simply as an instrument of lust and satisfaction. A sinful orgy followed.
And the speed at which all of this happened—it was as if a dam had burst! First they conceived of God the way they wanted to. Then anything was permissible in their life. Hear the Word of God: If you depart from this principle, namely, that all of our thoughts of God and what pleases Him are a matter of revelation in the Word, and you begin to conceive of God as youwish, and to serve Him the way you think best, then down you go—away from all truth and holiness.
In the midst of such a situation, Moses stood up and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side?”
Do you have that courage? A day when tampering with the truth is considered allowable, when apparently nothing is to be firmly believed, when the only thing worth believing is that there is absolutely no final truth and everybody can express himself the way he wants, do you stand up and say, “Who is on the Lord’s side?”
In that situation Moses made a courageous stand and brought forth the challenging question, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” For here are two camps. The two camps are these: the camp of living as you decide, or the camp of fearing God and keeping His commandments; the camp of serving your own self as your master, or the camp of grace and bowing to the Savior and following Him in obedience; the camp of following your own natural way of the flesh and finding a way out of the pinch if you fear that being faithful to the Word of God is going to bring problems, or the camp of looking to heaven and answering in wisdom, humility, and courage: “I am of the Lord.” On which side are you?
There is no compromise. There is no way to merge these two camps. It is only by grace worked in us moment by moment, not anything of ourselves, that we answer: “We are on the Lord’s side. We desire to serve Him.”
Who is on the Lord’s side? This question confronts us. There is a danger of trifling with that question, of putting it aside, of wanting to ignore it. There is the danger of the folly of the flesh that says, “The Lord knows my heart and He knows that I mean nothing by this sin.” Faith must learn, rather, to act decisively. I like the story of the warrior who, facing a swollen river in the path of duty as he led his men, first threw his sword over the river, then said to his followers: “Now we have to go across.” Delay can be dangerous. Thinking about it may prove fatal. Are you on the Lord’s side? Then the first thing you say is: “I am of the Lord.”
At the first hint of dishonesty expected of you on the job, at the first suspicion that the activities of your friends are heading where your conscience will be burdened—at the first hint and first suspicion, you must act decisively! Do not halt. Do not sit down and think about it. Do not procrastinate. Do not begin to ask, “What’s the best side for me? What way is going to bring the most esteem and favor? What way is going to avoid, perhaps, some unpleasant situation?” You must ask the question: “Where is the Lord? That is where I must be! I must be His servant.”
Really when, by the grace of God, we see the love and the glory, the grace and the splendor of the Lord, then the question poses no difficulty. That is the way to make it decisive. That is the way to make it very clear-cut for yourself. The Lord, Jehovah, the I AM THAT I AM, the One who has redeemed us in the blood of His own Son, the One who is faithful to preserve us, the One whose goodness none can measure, the One who is mighty Savior, almighty Creator, true Friend—on His side, by grace? Then I’m on the side of truth. Then I’m on the side of wonder and glory. I am a friend, then, of the living God. Remember that!
Moses called for faith to declare itself that day. He said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come to me.” The Hebrew language there became very sharp. It literally reads like this: “Who is on the Lord’s side? To me! to me!” It was a command. Our text places us on a battlefield. On a battlefield you must identify yourself. With war raging all around you, you cannot be indecisive. In the battle of faith and unbelief, you cannot camouflage yourself. You cannot wait in a neutral corner. Grace calls you to come forth—”To me,” says Moses, “Gather to me.”
That was a coming out. Those sons of Levi who came out from among the idolaters identified themselves. They came out of a sinful crowd. Perhaps they had retreated and gone to the farthest limits of the camp, away from all of the noise and uproar, and decided that they simply were not going to involve themselves in all of this. But Moses says, “That’s not sufficient. To me! Show yourself.” None may hide his color. None in the Lord’s army may retire. None may say, “It’s not my fight.” Come out from among them and be ye separate and touch not the unclean thing, saith the Lord (II Cor. 6). Come out of her, my people (Rev. 18). There must be a separation of the child of God from the follies of this world. Stand out from this world. So often we are reticent. We are like Lot, who needed an angel to take him by the hand and say, “Up, get you out of this place.”
We must identify ourselves as the people of God, the people of grace.
But the call is not simply “Come out.” The call is “Come unto me.” There Moses stood as God’s representative. He stood as the one who represented the cause of God on earth. And he said, “To me!” Remember that Moses stands here as a type of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the call is: “To Me.” To the Lord Jesus Christ. Identify yourself as His disciple, as one in whom the grace of God has worked powerfully. Identify yourself as one who, by grace, has been purchased to belong to Jesus Christ in life and in death.
To Me, come out! To me and to the church.
We read that the sons of Levi gathered themselves together onto Moses. Levi was a tribe of priests. They were those whom God had set aside for His service. In this God is telling us that those who are on His side are, first of all, those whom He has separated for Himself. In other words, as we read in I John, we love Him because He first loved us. We are separated by the grace of God. The mighty grace of God calls us out of the world, shows us the folly of our sin and the folly of a sinful world, and gives us to see the beauties of Christ and the beauties of belonging to Him.
First, God’s grace separates us. But then that grace also works powerfully in us so that as the sons of Levi we come out and identify ourselves as members of the company of God. We are called to consecrate ourselves unto our Savior. How do we do that? By consecrating ourselves unto the doctrines of the Holy Scriptures that are the life of the church. We do that in prayer. We do that by serving the Lord from our hearts.
May the Captain of the Lord’s host, Jesus Christ Himself, ever stand before us. And He will. May we ever hear His voice as the mighty conqueror: “Who is on the Lord’s side? To Me, come to Me!”
Now, in whatever position God has placed you in this world—perhaps, tomorrow, as a lawyer in the courts of the land; perhaps, tomorrow, before the board of executives; perhaps in what you think is only a lowly station: home, office, classroom, train station, wherever—the leader of God’s hosts, this risen Savior Jesus Christ, comes and says: “Who is on the Lord’s side? To me.” Be ready. Be ready always to consecrate yourself to Him on whose side you are.