It was only a few weeks into the Exodus of the Hebrew nation that Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the tablets of the Law, that would bind Israel in covenant to their God. After forty days on the mountain, Moses descended to hear a great celebration. Unfortunately, the celebration was not in exultation of God’s covenant Law coming down to them, but in worship of the the golden calf that was built from the bounty of the plunder of Egypt. Moses' anger boiled at this rebellion and he called for all those who were on the side of God to come to him. The Levites rallied to his command and they went through the camp slaughtering all those who worshipped the golden calf.
Three thousand Israelites were killed on that day.
In Luke 13 Jesus is told about a certain group of Galileans who were killed by Pontius Pilate. The inquiry was intended to find out whether these Galileans were worse sinners than their brothers since they had died in such a tragic way. Jesus answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." He then uses another tragedy to highlight this point. "Or [how about] those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
Seven weeks after Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection from the grave his disciples were gathered together in Jerusalem, celebrating the Feast of Weeks and waiting to receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. As they were assembled together there came a sound from heaven like the blowing of a violent wind and the manifestation of God's presence, in flames, above each of their heads. They were each filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages as the Spirit enabled them. This miracle caused a great stir in Jerusalem and many people gathered around
Three thousand Israelites were saved on that day.
So as we reflect upon the infamy of that day, let's not forget that we survived September 11th, 2001, not because we were better people than those who died that day, but because of the gracious good pleasure of our God. It's by the extension of his mercy toward us, that we are the ones memorializing the day, rather than being remembered for having died that day. Like those Hebrew rebels, we too have worshiped the creations of our own hands rather than the Creator. And like them, we too warrant the wrath of God and his justice against our rebellion. The 3000 that tragically died 8 years ago were not greater sinners than you or me — for there is none that does good and we have all fallen far short of God's glory. We are all deserving of their fate and unless we repent we too will likewise perish.
The good news is this, like those 3000 who turned to Jesus at the behest of Peter's call 2000, if we will turn from our rebellion by turning to Jesus the King, and call upon his name, we too will be saved from death.