October 3, 2016
Exodus 32:1, 2, 4, 6
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Here, in Exodus 32:1, 2, 4, and 6 is the abbreviated record of one of the saddest episodes in Israel’s journey From Egypt to Canaan!
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the
mountain, the people…said…to Aaron…“Come, make us gods, which
shall go before us; for as for this Moses…we do not know what is be-
come of him.” And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden ear-
rings…of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them
to me”….And he received the gold…and…made a molded calf. Then
they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the
land of Egypt!”…Aaron…built an altar before it…Then they rose up
early on the next day, offered burnt…and…peace offerings; and the
people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
Now think of it. Think of all the miracles the children of Israel had witnessed in the previous year:
• The ten plagues directed against the Egyptians and their gods (see Exodus chapters 7-12).
• The presence of the LORD “…in a pillar of a cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light…” (Exodus 13:21).
• The parting of the Red Sea, and the Egyptian army destroyed (see Exodus 14:21-27).
• The provision of quail and manna (see Exodus 16:13-15).
• The water from the rock (see Exodus 17:6).
• The miraculous defeat of the army of the Amalekites (see Exodus 17:8-14).
• The overwhelming appearance of the LORD on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19:16-20).
Now, just forty days after arriving at Mount Sinai, Israel grievously rebelled against God! They blatantly broke the first of the Ten Commandments that was about to be revealed to them!
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out to the land of Egypt, out
of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You
shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything
that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath…you shall not bow
down to them nor serve them. (Exodus 20:2-5).
What outright idolatry! You and I would never do that, right? Wrong! Do you realize the deeper meaning of idolatry? It is putting anything before God in your life! Let’s ‘cut to the chase.’ Jesus prayed to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane the night of His betrayal: “Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42). The cup Jesus faced was the torture of the cross – both physical and spiritual! (See Isaiah 52:14 – Easy-to-Read Version; II Corinthians 5:21). Of course He didn’t want to do it! But He bowed to the Father’s will!
Anything other than ‘bowing to the Father’s will’ is putting something – your own will – before God! And that is idolatry! Unbelievers in Jesus Christ are, by default, idolaters! But how tragic that Christians engage so often in idolatry! Yet God forgives even this grievous sin! It tells us in I John 1:7, ”…if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
I think our featured Scripture warns us of more potential problems:
• When people are separated from godly leadership for an extended time – as the Israelites were from Moses – they tend to backslide. I think this is why God gives us this admonition in Hebrews 10:24 and 25 (Good News Bible):
Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love
and to do good. Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as
some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more,
since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.
We – especially the leadership – need to be concerned with each other that we do not slip away from regular fellowship – and so into idolatry!
• Those whom God calls to leadership positions need to be watchful that they do not backslide into idolatry as did Aaron! Too often we hear of a pastor who has become enamorously involved with someone other than his or her mate. It not only can destroy a family, but disrupts a Christian leader’s life, and does damage to the local church as well as the Church at large! There are many other sins into which leaders can fall also.
• When confronted with his sin, Aaron fudged the truth – he lied! Here is what he told Moses how it all occurred – Exodus 32:24: “And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.” Really! The very word confession in the Hebrew means “to extend…the hands”as if pleading with God. (Strong, Dictionary of the Hebrew Bible). In the Greek, confession means “to say the same thing”…“agree, admit, acknowledge.” (bible.org). In confessing, you are agreeing with God by saying the same thing He does – identifying the sin in your life as God Himself sees it – not fudging the truth into an outright lie like Aaron did!
• The Israelites followed Aaron’s lead into idolatry! Yes, Aaron certainly should have known better. But so should have the people! We need to be more like the Berean Christians, as recorded in Acts 17:11: “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” Do not blindly follow prominent Christian leaders! Make sure they are teaching the truth!
• One sin leads to another! When it says in Exodus 32:6 that, “… the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play…,” it means that following their engaging in idolatry, they then gluttonously feasted and engaged in a sexual orgy! Don’t’ say, “Well, I just skip church this Sunday.” It can become a habit! And that habit can lead to more and more serious sins!