EXODUS 32

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.”But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses' anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.

And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord's side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”

The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”

Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.


Every area of the world has a propensity to worship something other than the living God. John Calvin declared that the heart is an idol factory. Idolatry is the most discussed problem in the BIble - therefore, we must train our eye to detect and destroy the idols that we create. 

What is idolatry? Idolatry is putting something or someone in the place of God. Idols are counterfeit gods. Anything you seek to give you what only Christ can give you (joy, security, peace, meaning, significance, identity, and salvation) becomes an idol. Many do not believe idolatry is a problem because they only associate idolatry with shrines, temples, and carved images. But heart idolatry exists everywhere. Common idols include money, sex, a romantic relationship, peer approval, competence and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, beauty, brains, success and ambition.

While Moses was on the mountain getting instructions for the tabernacle for the proper worship of the living God, the people were back at the camp making a calf for the worship of a false god. Even though the people had gotten out of Egypt, Egypt remained in the people. Moses was absent for about forty days, and Aaron, his older brother, assumed leadership. The people told Aaron how they wanted to worship, and Aaron demonstrated what a leader without conviction looks like. He gave these sinful people exactly what they wanted. 

Paul addressed this failure and declared what we should learn from this story (1 Corinthians 10:6-8 and 11-14). Paul said that we must be careful not to fall. We will be tempted, but we must flee idolatry. In Corinth, they were tempted with the local pagan gods, and in Exodus, the people were tempted with the local Egyptian gods. In each culture, the gods may look different but the principle is the same: we must avoid the idols of our hearts. 

Let’s look at the big themes of this story that are still true today. 

God Is Kind

We have learned much about the kindness of God in the book of Exodus. He is a good God who initiates and moves toward His people. He moves towards His people to save them, deliver them, and give them the one thing their hearts actually need. 

God is generous and He’s gracious. He saves us from bondage and pulls us toward freedom and away from slavery. He pulls us toward life and away from death. His goodness does not mean that we understand His ways. God’s plan is good, but things rarely play out like we think that they should. This is because God is infinite and we are finite. God has always been. He will always be. He is unchanging. He’s going to operate differently than we.

God’s kindness, His mercy, and His initiating love toward us is the beginning of the original story, the story in today’s text, and our story. 

We Rebel Against His kindness

There’s something about rebellion that sounds right to us who grew up in a democratic republic. We see rebellion as fighting against the man. Rebellion is raging against a tyrant. Rebellion is pushing back against forces that would dehumanize and belittle our humanness. Rebellion is a good thing in our culture. It’s shaking our fist at the man and not bending our knee to tyranny. 

What is asinine is that our rebellion is not against a tyrant but against a good, gracious King who is offering us life, and we rebel instead to death. He offers us freedom, and we rebel and choose slavery. What makes the rebellion of man against a holy God so insane is that we’re rebelling against the one thing we were designed for - His presence. We’re rebelling against the one thing our hearts crave and can’t seem to find - His presence. 

God keeps moving towards His people - offering life, compassion, grace, forgiveness, fullness of life, and providing for His people (bread and meat). Despite their grumbling and complaining, He keeps approaching, keeps initiating, and keeps extending kindness. Then, in a moment of stress, they freak out and rebel against the kindness of God and run back to what used to enslave them (verses 1-4). 

Verses 21-24 give great insight to our natural response when confronted with our sin and rebellion. We blame someone else and we justify our sin. We convince ourselves that we are good people and we rewrite history. This is our story.

Anything you seek to give you what only Christ can give you becomes an idol.

Our Rebellion Causes God’s Wrath

God’s response to our rebellion against his kindness is wrath (verses 7-10). The people of God entered into covenant with God and rebelled during the honeymoon stage. This is the wrath of God (verse 10). God hates sin. He’s not indifferent, and if He was indifferent He would not be good. The effects of sin don’t just destroy an individual, it corrupts generations along a bloodline. Giving ourselves over to rebellion against God joins the side of Satan and all that is meant to destroy what is beautiful, right, and good in God’s creation. So God is not “cool with sin”. God does not look past any rebellion. He will destroy it. He will kill it once and for all in time.

He is not indifferent to any sin at any level, anywhere, ever. If He is indifferent to sin, then He is not good and He is no God at all. 

Chasing after other gods in hopes that they will fulfill you will rot you from the inside. 

Atonement

God, once again, in the midst of rebellion against His kindness and His burning wrath, moves toward his people. Only the King of Glory can be this gracious. Moses suggests that he go and make atonement for the people’s sins (verse 30). Atonement simply means to pay the ransom for wrong. Moses goes up and tries to do what Moses will be unable to do: pay for the sins of Israel. God relents, because Moses is a picture of someone who is to come - Jesus. 

God’s Kindness Is Meant To Lead You To Repentance!

 


IN COMMUNITY

This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.

BLESS RHYTHMS

This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.

Bless
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.

Listen
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.

Eat
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.

Speak
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.

Sabbath
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.

 
 

An Examined Life

As we continue to reflect on the sermon, allow these questions to guide your discussion with others concerning the conviction points and what you sensed God’s Spirit was doing in you through the preached Word. Jot notes to help you remember.

What was God doing in you through the message on Sunday?

Describe how you’ve grown in your understanding of the Gospel (good news of Jesus)?

How are you going to respond to God’s Word in your life?