Exodus 32:1-29

03 Mar 2024

Exodus 32:1-29

Passage Exodus 32:1-29

Speaker Neil Hayden

Series Exodus in Lent


Passage: Exodus 32:1-29
Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

The reading is Exodus 32, verses one to 29. Ben just might announce, just be warned if you've not read it before, it's a long one.

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered round Aaron and said, come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses, who brought us out of Egypt, we dont know what has happened to him. Aaron answered them, take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing and bring them to me. So all the people obeyed. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool.

And then they said, these are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of Egypt. When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord. So the next day, the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterwards, they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Then the Lord told Moses, go down, because your people, whom you have brought out of Egypt, have become corrupt.

They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, these are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of Egypt. I have seen these people, the Lord said to Moses, and they are a stiffnecked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them? Then I will make you into a great nation.

But Moses sought the favour of the Lord, his God. O Lord, he said, why should your anger burn against your people that you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say it was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth. Turn from your fierce anger, relent, and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self, I will make you.

I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever. Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people a disaster he had threatened. Moses turned and went down the mountain with two tablets of the testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of the God.

The writing was the writing of God engraved on tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, there is a sound of war in the camp. Moses replied, it is not the sound of victory. It is not the sound of defeat. It is the sound of singing that I hear.

When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his hand got burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf they had made and burned it in a fire. Then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it. He said to Aaron, what did these people do to you that you led him to such great sin? Do not be angry, my lord.

You know how Aaron answered, do not be angry, my lord, Aaron answered, you know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses, who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know. We don't know what has happened to him. So I told them, whoever has any gold jewellery, take it off.

Then they gave me the gold and I threw it into the fire and out came this calf. Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so became a laughing stock to their enemies. So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, whoever is for the Lord, come to me. And all the Levites rally to him. Then he said to them, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says.

Each man strapped side go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbour. The Levites did as Moses said. And that day about 3000 of the people died. Then Moses said, you have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day. This is the word of the Lord.

A prayer before I begin.

Heavenly Father, may the words of my mouth and the thoughts of our hearts be forever acceptable in your sight. Please, Lord, take these words of mine and use them as you will to your glory. Amen.

How good are you at waiting for something? How quickly do you become tired of waiting? Waiting is difficult in a whole host of situations. Ask anyone. Waiting for things to change, waiting for me to finish, waiting for life to get better, waiting for things to be easier.

And they will tell you how hard waiting can be and how they're tired of waiting. But weariness in waiting leaves us open to a great many temptations. It leaves us open to the devil's attacks. And so it was with the Israelites as they waited at the foot of Mount Sinai. God had redeemed them from slavery, rescued them from the pursuing Egyptians, supplied them with food and water on the seven week trek to Mount Sinai.

And there they'd witnessed the awesome spectacle of God descending on the mountain and had indeed heard him speaking to them, his commandments. And they'd repeatedly promised to do everything that the Lord had commanded. But it had been 40 days since Moses set off up the mountain again to speak with God, and the Israelites had been stuck at Mount Sinai for nearly two months. They wanted to get to the promised land. They were impatient.

They were tired of waiting.

But not all of God's plans come to fruition immediately. We don't always know what God is doing elsewhere. To accomplish his plans, following the Lord requires effort in the form of constant cooperation and persistence. Regardless of our personal circumstances, God's blessings come step, step by step with each step of faith that we take. How we handle what we think is a delay in God responding to our particular circumstances is a good measure of our spiritual maturity.

To the frustrations, upsets, and upheavals of life. Help us to know God more clearly and powerfully? Or do they cause us to doubt and drift away from God, not knowing what was happening, frustrated by the delay, moving on, and the seeming unapproachability of Yahweh, the people wanted a God that they could see and easily approach to lead them to the promised land. Despite everything that they'd seen and heard the Lord God do for them, they went back on their promises to him, and they ignored moses warning that God had descended on the mountain in such an awesome way, so that the fear of him might stop them from sinning. Led by popular opinion, they were now willing to trust that a God they could make would be capable of finishing what the Lord had begun.

And they asked Aaron to make them a model of a bull in a style of of the egyptian God APIs.

They had no hesitation in breaking the first two commandments that they had so recently heard from God. Thou shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters below. You shall not bow down and worship them.

Now, it seems incredible that so soon after seeing and hearing such an awesome sign of God's power and authority that Israel could do such a thing.

But really, are we any different? We may not make physical idols, but we still create our own false image of God. As life unfolds, it can be all too easy for us to begin shaping God in Jesus to our liking, moulding God in Jesus to meet our requirements, or the requirements of our friends and neighbours of God.

Trusting our own spirituality makes it easier for us because we can ignore those parts of God's word that we find unpalatable.

Christians can all too easily become willing to trust a God that they construct to complete what the Lord has begun in them.

But the true God cannot work in us when we put anything or anyone above him. The blessings of God are for those who stop relying on their own ideals or standards to gain salvation and come to him trusting in his son, Jesus Christ, following his word and trying to live by his standards.

So what false images of God have I created? What false images of God have you created that might stop God from leading us to the promised land?

Now, Aaron was Moses right hand man. He was appointed by God. He'd been left in charge. But he didn't stand up to the people and guide them in the ways of the Lord. Instead, Aaron, who the Bible depicts as a practical leader, was willing to compromise on the nature of God to appease the people.

They wanted gods who were more accessible than Yahweh. So Aaron fudged it a bit. He gave them what they wanted and allowed them to think what they liked about the idol. And if that wasn't bad enough, he organised the worship of the idol. Now, he did do one thing he did clarify for himself at least, that this was all about Yahweh, because he called a feast to honour Yahweh.

But Aaron was merging the familiar egyptian practises with the worship of the true God. And the Israelites probably thought that they could honour God by means of the idol. And Aaron didn't correct them of their mistake. Maybe he thought, what's the harm if they don't quite get the subtlety of the distinction? They're happy and it gets them off my back.

But things got out of hand and the people rose up to play, which is a euphemism for all sorts of horrible things associated with pagan worship. And when Moses confronted him, Aaron couldn't see the greatness of his sin. Instead, he played down his part and blamed the people. When it comes to acknowledging our sin, are we really any different from Aaron? Aaron is an example of one who leads by following popular opinion instead of the word of God.

This whole incident is an example of where the will of the people directly contradicts the way of God. Sometimes going along with the flow is not an option. The word of God is constant. The will of the people changes like the wind. Church leaders at all levels, from bishops all the way through to home, leaders, need to ensure that their moral and theological compass is the true word of God.

The whole flock is in danger if the shepherds do not remain vigilant. Because in verses nine and ten we read that when God saw that his grace and mercy had been abused, he was so offended and angry that he intended to wipe out the Israelites and begin again building a new nation through Moses. All Moses had to do was to leave God alone. But Moses didn't leave God alone. He stepped in between God and the people and pleaded with God.

And in his great mercy, God relented. Now, thankfully, in Romans chapter eight, verse 34, tells us that like the Israelites, we too have someone pleading for us. It says, who then will condemn us? No one. For Christ, Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us.

And he is sitting in the place of honour at God's right hand, pleading for us when we get it wrong. Because we've chosen to trust in Jesus, he pleads for us. The cross is where God's justice meets his mercy.

On seeing how the people had broken God's covenant, Moses was outraged and in a symbolic act, he threw down the tablets with the commands of God written on them. He then destroyed the idol. And deuteronomy chapter nine tells us he threw it into a stream that flows down the mountain. And because the stream was their only water source, the Israelites were forced to drink the dirty water they literally had to take on board their sin. They couldn't escape it.

How do we escape the things that we do that offend God?

Repentance. That is, rejecting what is wrong and trusting that Christ's death has paid the price for our sin. God is merciful, but requires us to acknowledge the wrong things that we've done and place our trust firmly in his son and follow afresh his teaching. God knows we will stumble, but because he loves us and sent his son to die for us, he will always accept us if we willingly return to him.

But if we choose not to do that, then we stand against the living God. Moses called for those who were on the Lords side to come and stand with him. And he told them to go through the camp and carry out God's judgement on anyone, including their family, friends and neighbours who persisted in worshipping the false God.

Remember also that in Matthew, chapter ten, Jesus tells us that when we choose to trust in him and side with him. We will find ourselves siding against some people and that may include our nearest and dearest who refuse to recognise God's authority. However, in no way are we ever called to pass judgement on them.

And again in Luke chapter eleven, Jesus says, anyone who isn't with me opposes me and anyone who isn't working with me is against me. Jesus was calling people to come and stand on his side. There is no neutral ground. You are either actively for Jesus or you are against him. Being on the Lord's side requires three things.

First, a decision to believe in the reliability, the truth and the ability of the Lord Jesus Christ in every circumstance. Second, having put our trust in Jesus to endeavour not to put anything or anyone above him, the devil attacks our spiritual heart. That's the seat of our emotions, our self worth and our trust. So work hard to keep Christ at the heart of your heart. Nothing should be more important than Jesus.

And thirdly, perhaps the hardest thing, be prepared to be set apart from worldly standards. Remain faithful to the word of God, the word of the Lord, even in the face of conflicting popular cultural opinion. Christians are to live by Christ standards, not the whims of the world.

Remember, the only true hope we have is to be on the side of our creator, the side of our redeemer, the side of our preserver, the side of our advocate and our friend.

So in spite of the fact that I will make mistakes, whatever befalls, I will continue to be a witness for the one true God who does not give up on me, however difficult, with the help of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of Christ's spirit, I will do my utmost to remain standing on the side of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What about you? Are you willing to put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes? So that on the day of temptation you may be able to stand your ground. And having done everything to stand, I'll end in a prayer.

Merciful Lord, grant your people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. Give us insight to discern your will for us to give up what harms us, and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thank you, Neil. Not an easy passage that one, is it? But we're so very good at making idols out of all sorts of other things, so very good at reshaping God into all sorts of other areas. Really? Well listened, you young ones.

We're going to sing a song now, which is about that idea of which side are we on? Lots for us to chew over. It's put to an old hymn tune that I think will be familiar to many of us. So why don't we stand if we're able, and let's sing who is on the Lord's side.