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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 32:1-10; Covenant Treason

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120708_exodus32_1-10.mp3

07/08 Exodus 32:1-10 Covenant Treason

We come now to a terrifying, terrible and tragic portion of Exodus. If it were possible, we could delete chapters 32, 33, and 34 from the book of Exodus, the book would still make perfect sense and flow quite nicely. As we have been studying chapters 25-31, God’s instructions for building a tent where he would dwell in the middle of his people, a central place for worship, we have also looked at chapters 35-39, which mirror the earlier chapters and record quite repetitiously the careful exact obedience of God’s people in following his instructions down to every detail. The structure of God’s commands and the people’s fulfillment of God’s commands are roughly parallel, with the command section concluding and then the fulfillment section beginning with God’s requirement to rest. But if these chapters were missing it would change the whole tone of the book. We could look at God’s instructions and the people’s obedience and think ‘wow, they performed God’s instructions so carefully and precisely, displaying flawless obedience.’ But with these chapters in place, our response is much different. We look God’s command and the people’s obedience and think ‘wow, God is truly merciful and gracious, generous to forgive, patient and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving-kindness, faithful to his promises, able to conquer hard rebellious hearts and use flawed fallen people for his glory.’

You see, chapters 32-34 record the covenant treason of God’s chosen people. God had rescued them from slavery so that they would be a people who would worship him exclusively. He saved them when they had no hope. He conquered their enemies. He provided for their needs. He spoke to them audibly from the mountain and entered into a covenant agreement with them, and they promised ‘everything that the LORD has said we will do’ (19:8). They requested that Moses act as a buffer between them and God, because they were terrified at God’s presence. And for the next 40 days, from 19:21 to the end of chapter 31, Moses is up the mountain, in the presence of God, receiving God’s instructions on what life lived in relationship with a holy God should look like, and instructions for the tent where God would dwell with his covenant people.

Exodus 31:18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

Then chapter 32 switches settings, kind of a ‘meanwhile, back at the ranch…’

Exodus 32:1 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 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.

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.”

A few comments about the text here. When it says that ‘the people gathered together to Aaron’ the language used is not that of a friendly gathering. Maybe we could translate it ‘the people ganged up on Aaron’. This was a hostile gathering. They were threatening, making demands, and not in polite terms. They said ‘up, make us gods who shall go before us’ – not exactly a polite way to address the one who was left in charge. This was not a request; it was a demand. And the way they refer to ‘this Moses’ is less that courteous as well. ‘As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt’ whoa! Moses the man brought you up out of Egypt? If I remember correctly, God takes credit for the exodus. In 3:8 he says ‘I have come down to deliver them’; in 3:17 he said ‘I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt’; in 13:8 they are to teach their children ‘it is because of what the LORD did for me’; in 14:30 it says ‘thus the LORD saved Israel that day’; in 15:1 the people ‘sing to the LORD for he has triumphed gloriously’; at the beginning of God’s ten words, he reiterates ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery’ (20:2). So quickly they forget that not long ago they were groaning and crying out because of their cruel slavery. Now they seem to want to go back. This rings back to Exodus 14, where they were trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea.

Exodus 14:11 They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?

Or chapters 16 and 17, where they were hungry and thirsty.

Exodus 16:3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Exodus 17:3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

Here again their tone is discontent. They are not satisfied with where God has them. We don’t know what has happened to ‘that guy’. Stephen, recounting this event in Acts 7

Acts 7:39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.

In their hearts they turned to Egypt. They thrust Moses aside. Now let’s think this through. The people cried out because of their slavery and God saved them. He brought them safely to the foot of Mount Sinai and spoke to them audibly there. They had heard God’s ten words to them, words that began this way:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

They responded by saying ‘all that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (Ex.19:8; 24:3, 7). But they were terrified and pleaded that Moses go between and tell them what God said because they couldn’t endure hearing God’s voice directly again. Now, when the people saw that Moses delayed, they said ‘as for this Moses …we do not know what has become of him. From the people’s perspective, Moses was delaying. But we hear God’s perspective in verse 8; ‘they have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them’. From Exodus 24:18, we learn that Moses was on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights. That’s just shy of six weeks. Let’s put that time period in perspective. It was about seven weeks or 50 days from their exodus out of Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai. A lot can happen in six or seven weeks. But think of this; they had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. It had been some 700 years since God had first promised to Abraham that he would bless the world through his descendants. Now God had shown up in power and glory and they had entered into a covenant with God. We are told at the beginning of this narrative:

Exodus 24:16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

So there is a visible manifestation of God’s glory on the mountain during these 40 days of waiting, and still the people turn their backs on God and worship the work of their hands. Consider another time comparison.

Genesis 29:18 Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” …20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Imagine this. Your prince charming comes, sweeps you off your feet, gets down on one knee and asks ‘will you marry me?’ to which you reply ‘yes, I will’. He says ‘wait for me’ and rides off on his white horse to make preparations for the wedding day. Forty days later he returns, only to find you shacked up with the loathsome lug from the other side of town. You broke your promise, you violated your covenant, you couldn’t endure a forty day engagement! God is making preparations to dwell with his people and they eagerly turn and break his first two commands and prostitute themselves with other gods.

This reads like a replay of another event much earlier. God had fashioned and formed the first beautiful place where he intended to enjoy fellowship with his creation. He had communicated clearly his requirements for their obedience. And it seems before you could turn around, they were questioning the goodness of God, doubting the truth of God, impatient and dissatisfied with all the good God had lavishly poured out on them, bowing to the serpent, eating the fruit.

Romans chapter 1 reads like a play by play on the golden calf event.

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

They knew the only invisible God, but they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the image of a bull. The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. We need to take God’s diagnosis seriously. He disowns them.

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.”

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. They had taken an offering, used their skill in working gold, they had made an altar, they proclaimed a feast day, they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. These are all things that God had given them to do in relationship with him. But now they are using all these things to worship an image, the works of their hands. God says ‘they have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside. They have worshiped and sacrificed to a false God. God says they are a stiff-necked people. And he says they deserve death. ‘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’. God sees their response to his kindness and grace, and he is ready to wipe them off the face of the earth. This is not an account of God throwing a divine temper tantrum. They deserve it! They had experienced more direct supernatural revelation of God than any other generation. They watched the ten plagues bring the mighty nation of Egypt to its knees. They walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. They ate bread from heaven. They were overshadowed by the pillar of cloud and fire. They drank the living water that poured out of a rock. They heard the voice of God thunder his truth from the mountain. They felt the earth shake at his words. They had promised that everything he had said they would do. And now, a mere 40 days later, they are out of control in worship of an idol that they have made. God would be more than just to wipe them out and start over. In the days of Noah, God regretted making man because of their wickedness and rebellion against him (Gen.6:5-7), and he chose to blot them off the face of the land that he made and start over with Noah. He was right to do so, and he would be justified to do it again here with the exodus generation. The amazing thing, the stunning thing in this story, the astounding shocking staggering unexpected surprise ending to this event is that it is followed by five chapters that describe in detail the careful obedience of the people to build what God had commanded and then God himself comes in his glory to live in the midst of this people! These people shouldn’t exist! They don’t deserve to live! What great mercy is this, what long-suffering, what patience and overwhelming undeserved love extended to the most ungrateful unworthy wretches that have ever tainted this planet. And we can see so much of ourselves in these people. We are impatient, dissatisfied, ungrateful, unfaithful, quick to turn aside from following our great God. We have received great grace. We have been shown much light. And we deserve his wrath.

This is the good news – that this is the kind of God we worship; a God who is just to punish us because we deserve it, yet a God who so loves wretches like us, that he gave his only Son Jesus to bear in his body the wrath that I deserve, so that I can now walk in Spirit empowered obedience, transformed to live a life pleasing to him, and enjoy his presence forever!

Ephesians 2:3 …and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 … made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–

Amazing love, how can it be! 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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July 8, 2012 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , ,

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