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Exodus 32 and the Golden calf
Exodus 32 and the Golden Calf

Last week we considered the plans for the Tabernacle that God gave to Moses while he was on Mount Sinai with God.

One of the neat things about the Tabernacle and all its components is this: Everything about it points to Jesus and his work of salvation.

This morning we are going to consider an ugly event that occurred at the end of Moses time with God on the mountain.

While none of us like waiting- for pretty much anything- having to wait is no excuse for rejecting God, doing our own thing, becoming unfaithful, or dabbling in sin. Yet, this is what the Israelites did.

After not seeing or hearing from Moses for 40 days the Israelites came to Aaron (Moses had left Aaron and Hur in charge while he was gone- Exodus 24:14) abuse Moses and demand that Aaron make them a god to go before them.

As crazy and evil as what the Israelites said to Aaron was, Aaron (instead of being a righteous leader) complied with their demand and set about fashioning a golden calf that was then declared to be a representation of God.

As you might imagine, what the Israelites did angered God. Rejection, rebellion, and idols always anger God.

God was so angry with the Israelites that He tested Moses with a big offer -- Let me destroy them and I'll start over with you-- and make you into a great nation.

Moses, as you will read in a moment, passed this test with flying colours-- instead, Moses, prefiguring the work of Christ, interceded on behalf of the people.

Following this Moses goes down the mountain with 2 very special (one of kind) tablets in hand-- the 10 Commandments.

When Moses gets back down the mountain (accompanied by Joshua-- who eventually became the leader of Israel-- having waited faithfully for Moses at the base of the mountain) Moses--unlike God, who kept his anger in check over the Israelite rebellion-- totally freaks out over what he saw.

Seeing with his own eyes what the Israelites had done against God, Moses, in great anger, threw the 10 commandments down and smashed them (which symbolizes what the Israelites had done). Following this, Moses laid hold of the offensive idol that Aaron had made, ground into powder and threw it upon the waters and made the people drink it.

In the process of cleaning up the mess, Moses confronted Aaron (his own brother) and asked him how he-- who had been left in charge and who knew better- had ended up leading the people into such evil. As we are wont to do when confronted in our sin, Aaron gave the lamest excuse ever.

With this intro in mind, let's read Exodus 32 and then we are going to consider some of its principles and applications for us today.


1. God hates it when people try and depict him by means of an idol or image

The second of the 10 commandments (originally given orally) is "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God...." Exodus 20:4-5a

In fashioning a golden calf to depict the LORD -- which is ridiculous-- the Israelites were attempting to be like the nations around them (having visible images to worship).

God is immortal, invisible, the only true God. As our creator, He wants us to worship Him in Spirit and in truth, calling upon Him in faith and repentance. To depict Him by a carved, cast, painted, etc image is an offense to Him (whether we mean it or not)-- for sometimes people make images as aids-- at least in their minds-- to worship.

2. True, good, and godly leaders are not swayed by public opinion as it regards right and wrong and what pleases God. See v.1ff

While I don't know what happened to Hur- for he was left in charge too- Aaron totally failed as a leader when he gave in to the pressure of the people.

God's laws and rules are for the church and for society as well. Righteous leaders do not throw God's standards "under the bus" because people don't want to live by God's rules. Leading means standing up for what is holy and just even if the whole world seems to be against you.

As Christians we are not to care what the teacher/news caster/ professor/social worker/or politician says is morally right. We are to have a Biblical worldview- not a secular one. Our understanding of is right and wrong is to come from the Word of God. We are to be "transformed by the renewing of our minds that we might know the will of God."

We need to "stand tall" and not compromise, no matter what people around us say and do

Side note: I'm amazed that Aaron wasn't fired/executed for his role in leading the people into sin. Such is a testament to the mercy of God

3. God's threat/offer to destroy all Israel and start over again with Moses reminds us that sin and rebellion against God is a serious thing. v.10

One of the most common excuses we offer when confronted by personal sin is "No one is perfect, we all are sinners". While this is true, the fact is "without holiness no one will see the Lord." "The wages of sin is death." Romans 3:23. The consequence of rebellion against God and disobeying His commands is judgment -- and its deserved.

Once we grasp the seriousness of sin against God, the person and work of Jesus becomes the most desirable treasure --- for in Christ there is forgiveness of sins, there is the gift of God--- eternal life. In Christ their is peace with God.

How is this possible? Jesus came down from Heaven-- God became a man. Jesus lived a perfect life. He perfectly kept the 10 commandments (which we all have broken). Jesus then died as a sacrifice in our place (taking on himself the wrath of God that we deserve). Jesus' call: Come to me. Turn from your sins. Confess your sins. Put your faith in me as Savior and Lord. Follow me.

While we deserve judgment, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

4. Our anger is something that we need to get under control v.19

I find it quite fascinating that God's anger at Israel was so restrained.

The text tells us that God burned with anger over the idol, false worship, and revelry (which has immoral connotations to it) that the Israelites gave themselves to.

God had every right to wipe Israel out-- but He didn't.

The irony is, Moses, who interceded before God for the Israelites, when he got down the mountain and saw what God saw, he lost it. Moses himself burned with anger- so much that he took the one of kind 10 commandment tablets and threw them on the ground in a fit of rage. The wording of the text, followed up in Exodus 34 as it regards the replacement tablets, indicates that Moses was in the right to do that.

Our anger and our temper can get us into big trouble.

There is righteous anger and unholy anger. God's anger was righteous. Aspects of Moses anger weren't.

If you have a short fuse, are given to cursing and swearing, throwing things, calling names, hand gestures. Confess it as sin. Ask for forgiveness from those your anger has hurt. Begin to pray regularly for patience. Make your anger and growing in patience a spiritual project-- for we are to pursue holiness and righteousness.

Ephesians 4:26-27 says; " "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."

5. When made to wait for a promise or something from God- we need to exercise patience and faith. See v.1

Moses was gone 6 weeks (Note how Joshua waited patiently)

Waiting is a hard thing. When we patiently wait we grow spiritually. When we rush ahead and try to force things or take a short cut, we get hurt, and we miss out on God's best.

We it comes to life, the promises of God, whatever it is: We need to be PATIENT. When things seem to be taking especially long-- especially as it relates to God and our waiting on Him-- we need to stay FAITHFUL.

Psalm 130:5 says "I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope."

6. When the Bible, preaching, or the words of another exposes our sin, rather than offering lame excuses and blaming other people, we need to confess and repent of it v.24

Did you notice what Aaron said when Moses confronted him about his sin; "...they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!"

This is classic us.

In I John 1:8-9 it says; "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Instead of excuses, we ought to turn in repentance and faith to the Lord who has made provision for the forgiveness of our sins and cleansing.

7. While Moses nobly interceded for the people (v.10,32), Jesus is the ultimate intercessor and mediator.

One of the most notable things about the account of Exodus 32 is Moses interceding on behalf of the people.

Making Moses intercession all the more remarkable was that he did so with a big offer from God on the table. This offer (v.10), by God, to destroy the nation and start over with Moses, I'm convinced was a test-- to see if Moses would seek his own gain and honour-- or whether he would intercede on behalf of the people.

Twice in the text Moses intercedes on behalf of the people (first- that God might not destroy them, second - that God might forgive them v.32)

In standing in the gap as a mediator and intercessor for the people, Moses was acting like a type for Christ.

Jesus is the ultimate intercessor and mediator.

In 1 Timothy 2:5 it says; "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" Salvation is found in no one else but the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12)

Jesus is the one through whom we have access to God the Father. He is the way to Heaven. Through Him we can have peace with God because of his sacrifice and standing in our place on the cross.

Jesus is also the ultimate intercessor and mediator in another way.

In 1 John 2:1-2 it says; "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."

When we sin as the followers of Jesus, while Satan may accuse, Jesus speaks in our defense telling the Father that though we have sinned that we are Him and that we belong to Him and He to us. Jesus' intercession (and he is the only intercessor) is effective because Jesus took the penalty that we deserve for our sins and in Christ we are seen as holy by God the Father.

Thank the Lord for Jesus' work.

If you don't have him as your Savior, hear the call of the Scripture. Confess your sin. Put your faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Follow Christ.