February 23rd

Rebellion Starts in the Heart

39"But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40They told Aaron, 'Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt--we don't know what has happened to him!' 41That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made. 42But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets: " 'Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?  Acts 7:39-42 NIV 

Stephen gave the above account of Israel’s rebellion against God in the desert.  An interesting point is that their rebellion first started in their hearts.  Stephen said they turned back to Egypt “in their hearts,” and then later they told Aaron to make gods for them to worship.  

Considering the magnitude of their deliverance from Egypt and the miracle of walking through the Red Sea on dry ground, it’s hard to imagine how these people could turn away from God to idols.  For whatever reason, they did turn from God and worshipped the idols and the starry hosts.  

God responded by turning away from them and “gave them over” to the worship of these hosts.  When they were given over to their sin, it was allowed to run its course, resulting in judgment.  God told Moses that he would blot out the people who had sinned from his “book” (Exodus 32:33). He later struck the people with a plague because of what they had done.  

Romans 1:24-32 describes a similar rebellion against God.  In that passage, people abandoned healthy sexuality and embraced homosexual relationships.  God abandoned them to their sin, and they continued to descend into depravity.  In the end, “they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (Romans 1:27 NIV). 

There is great danger in entertaining evil fantasies in our hearts.  For sex addicts, porn inspires so many possible mental fantasies of sex sin.  Each time we give in to the temptations and let our thoughts “return to Egypt” in a sense, we draw that much closer to going the next step into full-blown idolatry.  That step could be different for each person. It could be meeting someone in a hotel room for sex, or having an affair with the neighbor’s wife, or becoming addicted to porn, or taking a turn down the path of perversion, or many others.   I think it’s ironic how the NIV translation mentions the people’s worship of “heavenly bodies,” since sex addiction is basically the worship of heavenly-looking bodies. 

There is hope of returning to God, no matter how far down the path of sin we have gone.  This hope is based on the blood of Jesus, who surrendered his life willingly to pay for our willing transgressions against God.  His blood is enough to cleanse us and redeem us from the destruction that we justly deserve. 

The important issue is what we do from here.  We must arrest our thoughts from dwelling in sinful fantasies and get rid of any idols we have.  We must back this up with a daily pursuit of God and a daily cleansing from the memories of the past sin we’ve committed.  Please take our Freedom Journey online course for help in doing this.  

Questions for further thought:

Prayer: 

“Heavenly Father, you are God and there is no other.  I confess that I have rebelled against you by __________(list).  Please forgive me for turning away from you in my heart and then in my actions.  Thank you for sending Jesus to pay the price for my rebellion.  Please cleanse me of my sin and strengthen me to live for you each day.  Help me to take my thoughts captive and make them obedient to you.  Thank you, Father.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”