Serving Christ and sharing the Gospel

The Golden Calf (Exodus 31:18-32:14)

Firstly thank you for having me here today to open God’s word.
It’s a joy to support you as a fellow church in our PIMMS network.
I bring warm greetings from the folks at St. Peter’s.

Let me pray as we begin

Dear heavenly father please would you still our hearts now as we come before your precious word.
Please would you be the one that speaks today, please convict and change us that we’d become more like our precious saviour Jesus, in his holy name, Amen.

You’ve been working your through the book of exodus, for a series that stretches 40 years you’ve done well to fit it into two terms.

Now out of Egypt the people of Israel arrived at Mount Sinai in ch19.
Inv5 The Lord spoke through Moses to tell the people of Israel
‘if you will indeed you obey my voice and keep my covenant you shall be my treasured possession among all people’

Three times the people agreed to obey all the Lord had spoken,
First in Ch19 v8
‘all the people answered together, all that the Lord has spoken we will do’

The Moses went to speak with the Lord who gave him the 10 commandments and laws which he told the people and in ch 24 v3
‘and they responded all the words the Lord has spoken we will do’

Moses wrote down all the laws given by God.
And we see a third time in v7
‘all the Lord has spoken we will do and we will be obedient’

Three times the people declared their commitment to obey the Lord their God.
Then from chapter 25 to 31 the Lord instructs Moses regarding the tabernacle and priests, this is what it will mean for the Lord to dwell with his people.

Today we’re looking at Exodus chapter 32 and we’ll see that Sin deserves the wrath of God but he faithfully provides a mediator to deal with sin.
There’s plenty to look at in the passage so please do keep you bibles open at page
The first thing we see is that Sin deserves the wrath of God.
That’s in verse 1 to 6 -  Sin deserves the wrath of God
Look with me at v1, we see a group of people are impatient; they think Moses is delayed or he’s not coming back.

It’s not clear if the people described is the entire nation of Israel or just a group of them
We’re told later about the sons of Levi and Israel as a whole so I’ve understood these people to be a group within the nation.

This group go to Aaron, Moses had put him in charge whilst he was away.
They’re question isn’t ‘do you think Moses will be much longer?
That’s the kind of question we’d ask when waiting for the GP.

No, they make a demand, they say ‘Up! Make us gods who shall go before us’.
Their request suggests a belief in polytheism, the worship of multiple Gods.
They say in v4  ‘these are your gods O Israel who brought you up out of Egypt’
They proclaim to all Israel that this idol is the one that saved them from Egypt and so declaring it should receive their worship.

They wanted god on their terms, to see face to face and to touch.
They sinned; they did exactly what the Lord prohibited.
In Ch20 v22 the Lord says,
‘you have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make yourselves gods of gold’.

The Lord is perfect, no image or object can represent his majesty or an idol compare to his glory.

Then we see Aaron’s response in v2, the leader put in charge by Moses.
He doesn’t defend Moses, or reassure the people, but does what they ask.

He is guilty of sin because he gave in to their request; he chose to please the people over the Lord and by leading others in to sin as he builds an altar and declares ‘tomorrow will be a feast to the Lord’.

Amongst it all we’re to ask what the sons of Levi and the rest of Israel are doing?
They know what the Lord said and yet they stand by and say nothing.
They sinned because they ignored the situation and allowed their community to reject the Lord.

Imagine your walking on main road and you see on the other side by The Harvester someone being mugged.  I’m sure your first thought would be to raise the alarm and call the police if not physically help the victim.
It’s good when we see something wrong to do something about it.

But Israel didn’t, they turned a blind eye to the problem.
All of them decided to reject the Lord’s way thinking he wouldn’t notice.

But He did, he knew exactly what was going on.
We see that in v7, and notice how the Lord distances himself from them.
He says ‘go down for your people, whom you brought up our of the land of Egypt’
He puts responsibility for the people on Moses.
He is holy and so separates himself from those who’ve corrupted themselves.

In v10 the Lord gives his judgement ‘Now therefore let me alone that my wrath may burn hot against them and I my consume them, that I may make a nation out of you’.

God’s judgement is against everyone, not just the idol worshippers and Aaron.
We know this because he wants to make a nation out of Moses.
Like playdo, he’ll destroy all Israel to make a new nation from Moses.

Sin is the decision to do what we want and not what the Lord wants.
And it’s deserves Gods wrath, that is ..his righteous anger.
And that’s good, you don’t a God who is happy to ignore evil, you want one that will judge and punish it.

Because we sin …we are the ones that deserve his wrath just as all Israel did,
We’ve acted just the same whether to please ourselves, others or turning a blind eye, not challenging our Christian family about on their lifestyle.

But thankfully that is not the end for Israel or us as we’ll see the Lord God relented from his destruction because he is faithful, that’s my second point in v11-15 God is faithful to his Name.

Now Moses turns the responsibility for the people back to God.
He says in v11, ‘O Lord why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?.

And he gives two reasons why the Lord should not consume His people.

Firstly because the Lords name is great
In V12 Moses make the point that the Lords name was great among the Egyptians because of the exodus and that destroying his people now would give them reason to speak ill of His Name.

Secondly because the Lord is faithful to his word
In V13 Moses asks the Lord to remember the promise he made to Abraham, Isaac and Israel
He says ‘whom you swore by your own self’ drawing on the Lords faithfulness to his own great name and the promises he made.
We’re told the Lord relented from the disaster of wiping destroying Israel.

But that doesn’t mean he ignored the problem of Sin.
That would now be dealt with as Moses leaves the Lords presence.

As he came near the camp in v19n he saw the calf and the dancing of the people.
His anger burned hot, … he mirrors the reaction of God against sin.
He throws the tablets of testimony at the foot of the mountain, in breaking them he illustrates the people’s rejection of the Lord and breaking of his covenant.

Now Moses will complete his role as the Lord’s mediator who deals with sin.
That’s my third point God provides a mediator to deal with sin, v15 - 35

First Moses addresses the nation of Israel.
We see in v20 Moses destroys the calf, scattering the powder in a stream which he made the people of Israel drink from.
He wants to show them how worthless and weak the idol is.
He wants them to be ashamed, that they worshipped, led and allowed others to reject the Lord and his commands.

Secondly Moses confronts Aaron in v21.
Moses says ‘What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon then?’.
Aarons response is to blame the people, he says, ‘come on Moses, you know what their like, you know their every thought is evil, I just gave them what they wanted’.
He even suggests the calf was formed by magic, ‘they gave me the gold and I threw into the fire and wow, out popped this calf’

It’s almost laughable how pathetic his excuse is, but you can’t because this is serious, he should be able to tell by Moses anger, but he makes excuses, he lies.
And yet it looks like, He gets away with it, but we find out from Deuteronomy ch9v20 that he didn’t as Moses recounts this period.
‘And the Lord was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him. And I prayed for Aaron also at the same time’
Aaron was only spared because Moses prayed for his life, and the Lord graciously spared him.

Thirdly Moses punishes the people who demanded the calf. In v25 to 29
In v26 Moses calls for those who are on the Lords, and the sons of Levi gathered.
Moses speaks the word of the Lord, that’s his role as mediator.
That was a right response to the sin of the people, that was the Lords response.

But that wasn’t the end of the matter because all Israel had sinned.
Moses says in v30 ‘you’ve sinned and great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord: perhaps I can make atonement for your sin’.
In v31 Moses makes a heartfelt plea before the Lord to forgive his people, and offers himself to be blotted out of the Lords book in their place.

The identity of the book in question has been debated by commentators.
But whatever the book was the key thing is that Moses doesn’t get to decide whose names are written or blotted out. The Lord does.

Moses was a good mediator; he responded to sin like the Lord and punished the guilty.
But he didn’t get decide whose sin would be forgiven, he could only plead.

There were more prophets, judges and kings but none could deal with the people’s problem of sin once and for all.
That was, until a child born in Nazareth, in a lowly cow shed.
Whose birth we’ll celebrate in just over a months’ time.

Jesus was punished for sin in our place,
He dealt with it fully at the cross and in his death he’s given us life.
And now we can call the Lord God our Father, with certain hope of eternity in his presence free of sin, sickness and death.

So as we close how should we respond to the teaching in this passage as we look forward to the day when we meet Jesus face to face?

As I’ve thought about this sermon I think there are two strong applications.
The first, we should hate sin. That’s how God responds to sin, his anger burns against it.

And secondly that we should love Jesus, the two opposites.
We see in this passage the responsibility of the whole congregation of Christ.
There it was Israel.

Individually we need to recognise our own sin and ask if it grieves us like it does God.
And as a church family there are appropriate ways that we can support each other to do this.

This might be In our home groups or meeting one to one to read the bible and confess sin to each other.

I meet with two friends every week who I trust and we talk about our struggles with sin and look at how much better Jesus is in the bible and pray that we’d each grow in our love for him.
We don’t point fingers at each other, but point each other to Jesus and how great his sacrifice was to forgive us.

The challenge for each of us today is to think about how we as the community of God, as Christians in this church, in St Peters and elsewhere, how we can help each other to hate sin, to flee it, fight it, recognise our own sin and call out in others.
Making Jesus our focus,
When he is our joy…then the glamour of sin will be no more.