This week is going to look a little different. Our next Bible study post will not be until Friday. Your homework that will prepare you for that lesson will be to read Exodus 33: 7 -23. Thanks for being flexible with us! Now let’s look at today’s lesson…
The Golden Calf: Exodus 32 –33:6
This was quite a section of scripture, was it not? As I sit and review all that took place in these 41 verses, I’m kind of thinking that there is enough “material” here to warrant us studying nothing more than these verses for the next year! They contain a pivotal act of disobedience by the Israelites, and one of great insult to their Father in heaven. Let’s recap a few of these events that will eventually prove to be the beginning of a downward spiral for this generation of Israelites.
- God’s people “gathered around Aaron” (Those words say so much about the scene!) and requested that Aaron make them gods to worship. They had grown impatient waiting for Moses to come down from Mt Sinai.
- Aaron took all the gold earrings from the people and cast it into an idol in the shape of a calf (probably reminiscent of the Egyptian gods).
- The people sacrificed burnt offerings to the calf.
- God tells Moses what the people are doing at the base of the mountain.
- God tells Moses that these people are a “stiff-necked people” and He plans to destroy them and make a great nation from the line of Moses.
- Moses “sought the favor of the Lord his God” and pleaded for the Israelites to be spared.
- The Lord relented.
- Moses took the stone tablets of the Testimony with him down the mountain.
- When Moses saw the people worshiping the calf, he became so angry that he threw down the tablets (arguably the single most precious possession any human has ever held) and they broke into pieces.
- Aaron lies to Moses about how the calf came into existence.
- Moses draws a line in the sand and forces the people to show allegiance to the true God or the other false gods.
- The Levites rally to Moses.
- Moses tells the Levites that God has commanded that they kill all those that oppose Him.
- 3,000 are killed
- Moses pleads with God and tries to make atonement for their sins.
- The Lord struck the people with a plague for what they had done.
- The Lord says that He will send an angel before them to go to the Promise Land, but He will not go with them because He might destroy them along the way if He does.
- When the people heard this, they mourned.
Considering all of that, where do we begin?!? We could talk forever on the fact that the people (to use modern day language) ganged up on Aaron. There is a lesson there for us today! Or we could talk about how Aaron caved under peer pressure, there is lesson there too! Or how about God telling Moses that He would not travel with the people to the Promise Land, because He might destroy them along the way if He did. That is the equivalence of us as parents telling our badly behaving children that they better get upstairs into their bedroom and lock the door; because if we are able to reach them, it’s not going to turn out well for them! Oh, tell me there is not a lesson there! But through all of these tragic and sad verses, a beautiful picture arises from scripture. And I think it might just be Moses’ finest hour.
Let’s re-read verses 30 – 32 together:
The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”
Now that is love, offering up your own life for that of your brother. We will later see this same picture again in the New Testament when Paul prays similar words in Romans 9:3:
“For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people.”
Such prayers speak volumes of the heart of the one praying it. Their words show a deep faith, love and understanding of God; because to offer oneself up for another is actually to take on the characteristics of Jesus Himself. For this reason, I am so impressed with Moses at this juncture in history. Moses doesn’t know the future sacrifice that God would make on the cross at Calvary. He was not privileged to know the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus would make…a sacrifice that Paul did know to be true when he prayed his prayer of sacrifice. I often pray with my girls that God will show us ways that we can become more like Him. What Moses does here in these verses, when he offers himself up for his people, that is the kind of character copying that I pray for. Moses was acting in character with God, even though he had not yet seen it “modeled” by God Himself.
And so God paints another vibrant stroke of color through His own self portrait. This picture He is painting for us is becoming clearer with each verse. It is all a foreshadowing of Jesus, a foreshadowing of the One True Shepherd that would one day come to offer Himself up for His children. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
No wonder God chose Moses to lead His people out of slavery, he reminded Him a lot of His Son.
Your homework for next time is to read Exodus 33: 7-23. And on a side note, Mary and family are all alive and well in Paris. Mary took all four children through The Louvre yesterday (she is insane). She said that after they left she was asking each of her kids what their favorite part of the museum had been. Kami (the 3 year old) said “the one of the guy with no head”. FYI: she was referring to a painting of John the Baptist. I’m pretty sure that is somehow a form of blasphemy, and I think we should all start praying that perhaps Kami gain a few more Christ like characteristics herself !
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