Read Exodus 32:1-2
On the thirty-ninth day of Moses’ forty days on the mountain, rebellion broke out. The people’s impatience was their undoing. Things weren’t working out the way they wanted it to work out. Their lack of faith had turned their hearts against God.
This is nothing new.
We have known many who have had their hearts tried with disappointment and delay but they have failed the test saying,
“I did everything right but the Lord didn’t bless me.”
Such as these turn their backs upon the Lord and are quick to chase other so-called gods. They are angry with the Lord that He didn’t do things their way and in their timing.
We must remember that God is not our servant but we His!
Habakkuk set the faithful tone for each of us to trust the Lord when all has not turned out as we had hoped or when God did not answer in our time frame.
“Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will have joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17–18, NKJV)
Trouble awaits us when God seems not to answer or to come immediately to our rescue and we will not wait, trust or even die, if we must, rather than to turn our backs upon God. God is faithful. As Job said, when all was not well and God seemed absent, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him...” (Job 13:15, NKJV)
See Christ here: He battled prayerfully through Gethsemane. He went to the cross without rescue yet He fully trusted His Father. God’s delay in timing revealed His plan of deliverance that rescued us all from death through His only begotten Son’s resurrection.
Read Exodus 32:3-7
Some of the silliest comments in the Bible are found in Exodus 32. “Come, make us gods who will go before us.”
Put your palm to your forehead now.
What gods could they make with their hands that could compare to the Lord who had led them by His hand of miracle and deliverance? He alone gave them victory over their ancient enemies and provisioned them in the wilderness. Had he not proven Himself? What god could they make with their own hands that could compare to the pillar and fire that warmed them, cooled them and protected them? And why make gods? Wasn’t the only one God enough? How quickly man runs to rot. Stephen said that when they asked for other gods they had turned in their hearts back to Egypt. Acts 7:39 Egypt was filled with idol worship. They made images to look like birds, jackals and grass-eating beasts. And what did that get them? Do the Ten Plagues ring a bell?
It is no wonder that the whole enterprise ends in depravity. The New Testament warns us:
“And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”” (1 Corinthians 10:7)
There was no solemnity, no seriousness, no inspiration, no righteousness, and no warmth of a true divine glow. There was only flesh. They played at a religion. They played with their god and they played the fool. It has been said of some who carry the Christian faith by name:
“They worship at work. They work at play. They play at worship.”
Let this not be said of us.
A.W. Tozer spoke to the truth that we become what we worship.
“History will demonstrate that a people will never rise above what their idea of God is. If your idea of God is a low one, your worship will be vile.”
See Christ here: Those who worship Him rise up to be like him in kindness, mercy and living in contrast to the world around them. Though we are imperfect and in progress still, there is a day coming when we will be exactly like the One we worship.
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2, NKJV)
Read Exodus 32:7-14
God would be justified to destroy them. His own people, the object of his affection, had rejected Him. Given the ugly sight that was taking place around the golden calf, it only made sense to make Moses into a blessed people instead of Abraham’s stubborn descendants. All Moses had to do at that point was to walk away (vs. 10) and all of the benefits of Abraham would be his.
But something greater is happening here.
It is an ambition test and Moses passes it wonderfully.
The promises made to Abraham were God’s to fulfill not Abraham’s nor the people’s. Moses reminds God of His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Israel.
Friends, God doesn’t need reminding as though He forgets.
Moses is acting as the intercessor. We, by faith, may remind God of the promises that He has made to us. We do this, not because He is forgetful but because we are faithful. He loves to see us use the muscle of faith when the answers are no.
Remember the Canannite woman of Jesus’ Day: Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” (Matthew 15:21–28)
Moses stood in the gap, like Christ, between a righteous judgment and a guilty people. And his intercession, like Christ, was potent to save.
The Lord relented.
Moses always seemed to be in continuous intercession for the children of promise, Abraham’s children. He was in intercession for them before Pharaoh. He was in intercession for them now. He saved Aaron’s life through intercession.
“And the Lordwas very angry with Aaron and would have destroyed him; so I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.” (Deuteronomy 9:20, NKJV)
Moses’ intercession showed that he shared the heart of God. In humility, Moses cared about the Lord’s Name, not his own. He cared about what the Egyptians and other peoples would say about God if the Israelites fell in the wilderness. He seemed to live to intercede for them continually. See Christ here and His disposition toward us:
“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
Read Exodus 32:15-21
Some of us identify with Joshua as we are always the optimist. “And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.”” (Exodus 32:17) He thought the commotion and celebration was from a war victory. Moses’ turned the optimist into the realist,
“It is not the sound of victory, it is the sound of defeat.” (13)
What does spiritual defeat sound like? It sounds like people “having a good time.”
What is missing from the western church of today is the kind of worship where the believer walks out of church with a sense of wonder and awe saying, “The Lord was with us today.” Many go to church looking to be entertained. It was Leonard Ravenhill who wisely said,
“Entertainment is the devil’s
substitute for joy.”
Fun is a cheap replacement for joy. We shouldn’t have a problem with good clean fun. Enjoyment from the Lord is a blessing.
1 Timothy 6:17 When the Bible speaks of joy it speaks of a deep happiness that life’s situations and sorrows cannot affect. Remember, Stephen had a beaming face and great joy when they threw stones at his head until he was dead. These worshippers at the foot of Sinai had turned aside from the Lord to feed the flesh. They lost their sense of awe. Would we really rather have “fun” in worship, or would we rather be inspired, deeply moved and even taken aback that we should have an encounter with the almighty God? These experiences are life changing!
See Christ here: When Peter witnessed the miraculous catch of fish after a night of nothing, He was broken before the Savior. “Go away from me, Lord. I am a sinful man.” That encounter changed him.
Take note: It wasn’t too long ago that the Israelites trembled in awe before Sinai. Isaiah saw the Lord in the temple and he was shaken. Job saw Him in a storm and despised himself. John saw him glorified and fell down like a dead man.
We want Christian comedians.
Read Exodus 32:22-25
As we said before, some of the silliest comments are found in Exodus 32. Aaron tops the charts when he is called to answer for letting the people get out of control. “And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”” (Exodus 32:24, NKJV) Sounds like something a caught child would say.
Moses was angry and rightfully so.
Some may think that anger is a sin. It is not. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry, and sin not. “ There is a place for righteous anger. The same Ephesians were famous for patience, but they did not put up with those who were evil.
““I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;” (Revelation 2:2, NKJV)
When Moses broke the tablets he did not sin. The greatest sign of God’s displeasure against any people is by taking His law from them. It leaves them un-churched and undone. He reduced the Golden Calf to powder and made the people drink it signifying the curse they had brought upon themselves. Aaron trembled, as he should have, and begged mercy. Yes, Moses was angry and we should be angry too when God’s Name has been offended.
See Christ here: He had zeal for the Lord and His house when He turned over the tables and whipped the beasts from the temple. The low-living had turned the place of worship into a swapmeet and a money making enterprise. When God’s laws are being broken and rebels have taken over in the church house, there is a time to be angry and a time to act.
Read Exodus 32:25-35
There is a bloody consequence in the aftermath of the people’s great sin. The Lord commands Moses to gather those who "are on the Lord’s side" to himself. The Levites rally to him. He commands them to strap a sword upon their side and to turn upon their brothers who have committed this rebellion. Three thousand people fell that day. And it would have been more had Moses not entered into an extraordinary intercession that is Christ-like in its essence:
“Then Moses returned to the Lordand said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”” (Exodus 32:31–32, NKJV)
This was not light request. He would, like Christ, give his own life for the atonement of his people. Paul, in Christ-like zeal prayed similarly for his Jewish brethren:
“For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,” (Romans 9:3, NKJV)
These extraordinary men sound like the extraordinary Christ, willing to trade their lives for sinners. The only difference is that Christ actually gave His life.
A footnote to us on a different topic:
Are you willing to take a stand with the Lord’s name and turn from fellowship with one who is called by the name of Christ yet lives contrary to His testimony?
The Levites distinguished themselves by siding with the Lord and against their brothers:
“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.”” (Exodus 32:29, ESV)
Some verses for consideration on this topic: