Exodus 32 -- 34
Moses was on Mount Sinai when God gave him two tables of Testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God (Exodus 31:18). At the same time, something tragic was taking place at the base of the mountain. When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him (32:1). And it didn't take Aaron long to make a golden calf. He sinfully submitted to their demand and he built an altar before it . . . and said, To morrow shall be a feast to the Lord. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings (32:2-6).
A true burnt offering was a delight to the Lord since it symbolized full surrender to Him; but these idolatrous sacrifices were hypocrisy.
When Moses returned to the camp, he saw how quickly the Israelites had corrupted themselves (32:7) and turned from the One True God. Did they think that a golden calf, which they could see, was a better reminder of whom they worshiped than the invisible, yet ever-present God? Or had they turned to Apis, an Egyptian god in the form of a bull? Only six weeks before, the whole congregation had sworn: All that the Lord has spoken we will do (19: 8). Invariably, the symbol becomes the object of worship, as the brazen serpent later did for the Israelites: The brazen serpent that Moses had made . . . to those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it (II Kings 18:4).
It seems strange that there was no voice of protest from the elders or even from Moses and Aaron's sister Miriam. Perhaps, they were like some of us who do not protest, even when it seems that the misguided majority are loudly proclaiming what we know to be against the will of God.
Whenever anyone or anything takes the place that God alone should have in our lives, it is rebellion and idolatry. The natural man loves and seeks anything that gratifies the physical senses.
Israel's faithless apostasy led to immorality: They rose up . . . to play (32:6). The word play implies illicit sexual immorality as practiced by pagan idol worshipers. Insincere worship leads to irresponsible moral conduct. Let us compare the Israelites' sins with our own 20th-century behavior. Most of us would reject man-made idols; but think how easily money, possessions, talents, hobbies, and success become idols for many. The Apostle Paul reminds us that, although they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Romans 1:21). True worship takes place only when we allow Jesus to be in control as Lord of our lives.
The golden calf stands as a symbol of human intellect which devises its own system of worship apart from the Word of God. The world admires the independent person who is determined to be in control. They too are satisfied to worship the works of their own hands (Acts 7:41).
32:12 mischief = evil intent; 32:20 strawed = scattered; 32:25 made them naked = let them get out of control; 34:10 terrible = marvelous, awesome.
Government Officials: Rep. Brian Bilbray (CA), Rep. Thomas Bliley (VA), Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (NH), and Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS) · Pray for Restoration of the Family Ministries and Judith Brumbaugh · Pray for the Bible Pathway International Radio Broadcast in honor of Pam and Jerry Pendergrast · Country: Swaziland (859,000) in southern Africa · Major languages: English and siSwati · Religious freedom · 67% Protestant; 19% animism, spirit-possession cults, and divination; 11% Roman Catholic; 3% Baha'i · Prayer Suggestion: Pray to the Lord with sincere lips (Psalms 17:1).
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