From Exodus 30-32
Moses is up on the mountain receiving the law. Meanwhile the people of Israel have forgotten the LORD and desire to worship a golden calf. A god of their own creation whom they give credit for bringing them out of Egypt.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Moses is up on the mount Sinai receiving the law. Meanwhile, the people below have started to wonder where Moses has gone and have forgotten the LORD who has rescued them from Egypt with so many wonders.
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.”
2 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.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 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!”
5 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.” 6 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. (Ex 32.1-6)
This is a shocking display of apostasy and idolatry. Despite all the LORD has done for them the people rebel. I’ve broken down the sequence of events.
- They create the golden calf
- Aaron proclaims a feast to the LORD
- They offer burnt and peace offerings to the calf
- The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play
There is definite religious significance in everything they do. The golden calf was similar to what the Egyptians would have worshiped. The feast was typical of a religious festival. Likewise the offerings. Sadly they give their idol credit for bringing them out of Egypt, not the LORD.
They engage in fellowship with the false god by sitting down, eating and drinking with it. Then they rise up and ‘play’. Probably have a big orgy.
Aaron is given a prominent role in the rebellion.
7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 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!’ ” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 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.” (Ex 32.7-10)
The LORD is understandably provoked to anger and condemns the people to death. In what follows, Moses will intercede for the people and try to atone for their sin. Noe the less the LORD promises those who sinned against him will not enter the promised land and be blotted out of his book (Ex 32.33).
Story of Israel
To understand the intensity of God’s reaction, we must keep this broad perspective in mind. We must look at the degree to which God has revealed himself in the preceding chapters, not just to Moses but to the people.
In a manner of speaking, God has been pouring his heart out. He hand-picked a man to act as deliverer and mediator. He opened up the powers of heaven against the Egyptians. He brought heaven to earth for them in the form of the law and the tabernacle.
Yet, no sooner does he do these things than the people, not God, become fickle. This is not only a story of the people’s rebellion against God, but of their rejection of something God has been planning and working out since the time of Abraham. It is a rejection of God himself. That is why God is extremely angry with his people, and understandably so. (Enns, P., 2000. Exodus, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.)
Story of Jesus
Israel has a long history of rejecting the LORD. In the gospel Jesus promises to raise up people who will give him the proper fruits.
33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country.
34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them.
37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” (Mt 21.33-41)
In evaluating the significance of the golden calf incident for today we should ask if this what we expect of God’s church today? Some err on the side that Christians remain miserable sinners. I’m not so sure. I expect saints who sin. I’m not denying believers can sin, they do, and more importantly that Jesus death atones for our sins. But at what point should the presence of sin in a person’s life cause us question whether they are believers or not?
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