February 19, mar 10, 1993
This chapter has some obvious divisions: Vs. 1-6, the people turn from God. Vs. 7-14, the Lord sends Moses back to the people. Vs. 15-18, Moses goes down the mountain, picking up Joshua on his way down. Vs. 19-24, Moses confronts the calf, the people and Aaron. Aaron's excuse. Vs. 25-29, the judgment of God against the offenders. Vs. 30-35, Moses' intercession.
Vs. 1-14. We will cover the first two sections together because they are so closely connected, which should limit the amount of repetition we do of certain important points.
Now we return to the people whom Moses left at the foot of the mountain while, at their request because of their justifiable fear of God, he went up to meet with the Lord for them. Moses remains on the mountain in the presence of the Lord forty days, and after 39 days, some (though not all) of the people think he has deserted them. The discontents move the people to pressure Aaron, who had been left in charge, to provide them with a visible manifestation of their god to lead them further. Aaron instructs them to take off their gold earrings and bring them to him. He takes the earrings, melts them down, builds a wooden frame and covers it with the gold for an image of a calf. He presents the calf to the people telling them that the calf represents the gods [meaning the LORD Jehovah, v. 5] which brought Israel out of Egypt. No doubt they people were well aware of the calf because it had been one of the primary gods of Egypt. The people had seen calf worship all around (and many participated, ie. the mixed multitude) them where the calves represented the Egyptian god; it was not the god itself. Thus, when things got difficult and beyond their understanding, they readily returned to the gods which they had been familiar with.
Aaron made the calf and proclaimed a feast for the next day. They rose early on the next day, offered burnt and peace offerings before the calf, and proceeded to partake in the pagan ritual surrounding calf worship.
The people think that the Lord and Moses have departed from them, but the Lord sees exactly what is going on. The Lord tells Moses what is taking place in his absence, and tells him to get down to his people which he has brought out of Egypt. The Lord mentions how quickly the people departed from Himself, and points out that the people are stiffnecked. The Lord desires to destroy them for their sin and make Moses a great nation in their place. Moses rejects the Lord's offer and pleads with the Lord to spare and forgive the people their sin. The Lord changed His mind and spared the people, but Moses does not know this yet.
1) Moses went alone up on the mount at the Lord's command to receive the word of God. Ministers must also be alone if they expect to receive anything form God. Remember the purpose of the "deacons" of Acts 6?" It was so the ministers could be alone with the Lord in prayer and in the scriptures.
2) I believe that one of the most important points here is the fact that the golden calf was not a denial of the Lord God Who had brought them out of Egypt. Edersheim points out that:
It is quite evident that Israel did not mean ot forsake Jehovah, but only to serve Him under the symbol of Apis. This appears from the statement of the people themselves on seeing the Golden Calf: "This is thy God," [Both here and in v. 1 the rendering should be in the singular ("God"), and not in the plural ("Gods"), as in the AV.] and from the proclamation of Aaron (xxxii. 5): "To-morrow is a feast to Jehovah." Their great sin consisted in not realizing the Presence of an unseen God, which the fears of their unbelief led them back to their former idolatrous practices, unmindful that this involved a breach of the second of those commandments so lately proclaimed in their hearing, and of the whole covenant which had so solemnly been ratified.
The "golden calf" was copied from the Egyptian Apis; but for all that, it was not the image of an Egyptian deity,--it was no symbol of the generative or bearing power of nature, but an image of Jehovah. (Ps 106:19, 20) ...[They celebrated before Jehovah] in the same manner in which the Egyptians celebrated their feast of Apis.
Yet he [Aaron] calls it a feast to Jehovah; for, brutish as they were, they did not imagine that this image was itself a god, nor did they design to terminate their adoration in the image, but they made it for a representation of the true God whom they intended to worship in and through the image; and yet this did not excuse them from gross idolatry...
Consequently, Aaron excused the idolatry by proclaiming a feast unto the Lord Jehovah.
There are three times in Scripture that this sin is mentioned [the others are found in 1 Kings 12:32 & Judges 17:3]: the sin of attempting to worship the true God after the manner of the world. See my Book, Jereboam's sin for details of this sin.
Thus, Israel's sin here was not a denial of the Lord Jehovah Whom had just delivered them from Egypt. It was the sin of attempting to worship and serve the Lord Jehovah after the manner which the Egyptians worshiped and served their false gods.
Today's application is obvious: Paul O works for State Farm. The meetings that his supervisor holds are motivational meetings to get them to sell more insurance. Their meetings sound a great deal like the meetings used to motivate Christians to "sell more Christianity." In fact, some of the motivational speakers used by the insurance industry are the same ones as used in Christian circles, eg. Charles "Tremendous" Jones. I bought a video tape by him several years ago (from Sword of the Lord), and I watched it one time. I was extremely uneasy about using it for our folks, so I did not. Now I know why I was uneasy: it was humanistic to the core.
Godly motivation is presenting the word of God in such a way that the Spirit can use it to stir His people's hearts to action. If the Spirit does not motivate, then the resulting action is not according to 1 Cor 10:31.
Note these passages:
Exodus 20:23, Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.
Deuteronomy 9:16, And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the LORD your God, [and] had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the LORD had commanded you.
Psalms 106:19-21, They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass. They forgat God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt; Note that they changed their glory, the Lord God of Israel was their glory, into the similitude of an ox... They replaced the holy fire which they saw on the mountain with an ox.
Ez 28:8 But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. Ez 23:8 Neither left she her whoredoms [brought] from Egypt: for in her youth they lay with her, and they bruised the breasts of her virginity, and poured their whoredom upon her. (See the context of these two passages.)
Acts 7:38-42 (41, And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.)
1 Kings 12:28, Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves [of] gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
Nehemiah 9:18, Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This [is] thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations;
Romans 1:21-23, Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
In my opinion, this is probably the foremost of sins among God's people today: they attempt to serve the Lord God using the methods of the world with they were delivered from. (Using Greek Philosophy to serve God with is soundly condemned in Scripture. It is as bad as the calf here at the foot of the mount even though it may not include any "physical" bowing before a literal image.
3) A key word in this section is quickly, v. 8. The whole passage revolves around this word as the Lord mentions how quickly the people turned from Himself: they hurriedly showed their ingratitude to Jehovah, their Redeemer. They swore allegiance to the Lord as recently as 39+3 [19:8-14] days ago, and they have already turned from their word.
There are some points here worth mentioning:
A) good things are built slowly, but how quickly the tower which a man spent a lifetime building can be destroyed. It only takes a wrong word or deed to undo a lifetime of good character. Just ask David; he undid a lifetime of godly reputation by one wicked deed. It only takes one action of the hand to destroy a lifetime of work.
B) Every time I read this passage, I am amazed at the shallowness of peoples heart. Even though we have the indwelling Spirit of God today, it seems that people are still basically the same. They can and will swear undying love for the Lord, but as soon as they get the opportunity, they are off on their own. I cannot count the number of people who, in my short time in the ministry, have done just what we see here, especially at Marrywoods Baptist Church. I suppose I learned a lot about human nature through the situation we went through there. Even while the pastor was still there and ruled with a "firm hand," many would nip at his heels every time they had a chance. Many of the men would profess their love at the Saturday night men's prayer meeting, then as soon as they could, the truth would come out.
C) God brought them out with a mighty hand, but they quickly forgot His mighty deeds in their behalf. How quickly man forgets the benefits done for him by the Lord God almighty. Man's gratitude is indeed shallow.
D) Aaron fell quickly in the eyes of the people and in the eyes of God by the one act of heeding the cry of the people. But he was restored just as quickly by his act of obedience. Apparently, Aaron joined with the sons of Levi and Put his sword by his side, vs. 26-29. David also was restored quickly, but he never regained the same stature as he had before. Aaron was restored to a higher stature than he had before his fall; he was made high priest.
We may fall quickly, but contrite prayer, repentance and obedience, will quickly restore the fallen, Pro 14:13, 14.
4) Circumstances do not make us what we are, they reveal what we are. I suppose we cannot expect much more from these people here in Ex 32 than what they did. They had only been out of Egyptian bondage for a very short time. Their hearts were not changed; their circumstances changed, and their hearts remained in bondage to the gods of Egypt. The result was that they perused their heart's desire when circumstances did not go according to their expectations.
The similarity of Exodus 32 to our day is quiet obvious. Folks expect circumstances to change people, so they invest vast amounts of money in changing circumstances. The result is that the heart comes out at the first opportunity. The prison system is a very sharp reminder of the fallacy and foolishness of this kind of thinking. Vast amounts of money are poured into building new prison (and schools), but the people are not being changed in the least. They only wait to get another chance to do what they were doing in the first place. Now though, we get into the problem of the definition of crime. The prisons are being filled with crimes against the state, not with crimes against other citizens.
Ex 32, the people were still Egyptians at heart, and their removal from the location of Egypt did not change the heart desire.
Personal note: Jessica is a good example of this fact. Our move from town did not solve the problem, and we knew that the move would not. The move was only to make the problem more controllable. Salvation though did solve the problem. Now she has new desires. (The other night, 2/18/93, she received a call from a friend of Linda in St. Louis. The boy himself was not using nasty language on the phone, but he does in person, but the background was nasty. She asked us to get her off the phone because she could not stand the nasty noise in the background. This attitude seems to go into every area now with her.)
5) note their willingness to return to their mixture of the
worship of the Lord God and of the false gods of the world which
they had just departed from. It requires strong Christian Character
(and a great work of grace) not to return to the former ways of
the world when things do not go as expected after we turn to the
Furthermore, we see here the tremendous hold which our fathers have on us through tradition, as well as the difficulty of breaking away from old, sinful practices. But the grace of God is sufficient. 1 Pe 1:18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition from your fathers;
I think that we are living in the day of the Lord destroying the traditions of the fathers. My dad's traditional Christianity is not to be involved in social issues at all. Richard and Perry will talk about them, but they will not do anything. Jessica will be caught in the sad results of dad's lack of involvement. But the Lord is judging the non-involvement, and Jessica and Christiana will have to live in the judgment and pick up the pieces.
6) The people wanted gods to go before them, vs. 1 & 4. Their desire to move ahead was commendable, but they lacked the discipline to move as God directed. Israel, and Aaron, lacked the discipline to wait upon the Lord. The Lord did not move in their timetable, so they found other gods to serve.
A) Very few folks have the understanding or patience to "wait upon the Lord." If and when the Lord moves, it will be in His timetable.
B) desire is good, but desire must be harnessed by obedience to God's word. Motives do not make right. The people still wanted to claim God's promise (Canaan), but they did not want to do it God's way.
C) How easy it is to say, "Time is running out, so we must move ahead now or never." I would suppose that patience in waiting upon the Lord is one of the best signs of Christian maturity. But, "Who has the patience that can simply stand still and see the salvation of God?" (J. Parker.) Very few.
For me: "Time is running out" runs through the mind, "so I must move ahead." This is a foolish temptation to run ahead of the Lord. My best bet is to simply say, as did Queen Esther, "If I perish, I perish," I am going to wait upon the Lord. He knows where I am and what I need.
D) the people do not ask for another human leader to lead them; rather, they ask for gods to go before them.
a) the man Moses! Was he their god? In the people's eyes, it would take gods (not a god) to replace him. But here we do see that everyone needs someone. I suppose there is nothing worse than attempting to go through life ALONE. But we cannot depend upon that other individuals to be spiritual for us. Evidently, Israel (and Aaron) depended upon Moses to be their god. We are dependant upon others, but we must not depend upon them for our "spirituality."
Illustration: I am reminded of Bill Crist. I worked with him for a year or two. He was a man who was all alone (by his own choice).
E) People need God! if not the Lord God then any god will do, even a god after his own imagination. Man needs some power outside of himself to lead him. They needed another physical manifestation of the Lord as they had had previously in the cloud and pillar.
I think the context implies that the fiery cloud of God's glory was still visible to the people, but I really don't know. "How could people worship a calf in the very light of the glory of God?" Don't forget, Aaron said that the calf represented their Lord God; he did not say that it was another god. He passed of their idolatry under the guise of serving the Lord God Who had delivered them form Egypt (in spite of the commandments which had been given in their hearing before Moses went up onto the mountain).
Furthermore, when difficulties arise, only by the grace of God will one remain true to the commandments of God.
D) gods... It takes more than one false god to replace the Lord God, and then He is not replaced. People will drop out of Church and godly service and then try to replace them with a great many other activities, with no success. It will take many worldly pleasures, counsellors and much money to replace the Lord God (with no success).
Furthermore, the gods, under the guise of the calf, offered only a false hope. The calf would not lead anyone anywhere. It would have to be carried.
7) we don't know what is become of him... Moses had ascended into the glorious fire of Jehovah, and he had now been gone for 6 weeks (40 days), so they take for granted that they were deserted. Well, why didn't they send a search party after him?
8) Aaron... The authors I have read on this passage excuse Aaron by saying that his request for the earrings shows that he really planed on doing right, but the situation got out of hand. I don't think so. I believe that Aaron was strongly influenced by the people and lost all his good intentions. Although maybe his words, "To morrow is a feast to the Lord" would indicate that he intended to keep the Lord before the people.
The situation here with Aaron shows us some things:
A) Aaron was not yet installed as the high priest, for Moses only just now received instructions concerning Aaron.
B) Aaron still had much Egypt in him; therefore, the Lord (Moses) did not hold him "supper" accountable. Aaron had only met Moses in the wilderness; he had not spent the 40 years in the wilderness as had Moses having Egypt cut out of him. God will hold us accountable to the measure which He has trained us or given us grace.
C) without the purging work of the Spirit of God, each one of us would do just what Aaron did here, and just as quickly.
9) Along with the Spirit's purging, we see also the keeping grace of God. Thus, we remain true to Him by His preserving grace. [We are called by His grace, we desire to serve Him by His grace, and we are kept by His grace. It would seem that everything is of the Lord and man is only an "actor in a play," but man is still accountable. The thought of the sovereign grace of God is more than I, or anyone else, can possibly comprehend.]
10) earrings... in the ears of the women and sons. I would wonder when the earrings were put off the men, or did the men continue to ware them? If the men still had them, why did they not break of theirs?
More often than not, earrings are mentioned in a bad context, eg. Gen 35:4. But in Exo 35:22, earrings were brought given for the Lord's service. Thus, not every one gave their gold earrings here in 32:2. Don't forget, there are about 3 million people here, and they had the wealth of Egypt. If only 3,000 men (out of 600,000, v. 28) gave their family's earrings, that would have been enough to cover a wooden frame with a thin sheet of gold.
Note that it is the use to which an object is put that makes that object bad or good. Nothing is inherently evil, but evil is developed from the object by evil men. Is the object (gold) used for the glory of God or for the glory of man?
This same thought extends into "merry making." Is the merry making rejoicing before the Lord God or before the false gods of this world? People will rejoice in their service to the flesh, but when it comes to serving the Lord, their is great "sadness in the camp."
Note their singing... It was not to the Lord, but to the false gods. I would suppose that even "gospel singing" would fit within this perimeter. Are the singers singing for the gold, glory and galls, or are they singing for the glory of God? Many times only the singer knows the truth, and maybe they do not know either (only the Lord knows). Is God glorified by "gospel singing" from unsaved people who are singing for money?
earrings... Significantly, Aaron asks for their earrings, not other pieces of jewelry. Thus Aaron uses the vanity of this world to make the calf. The symbolism is good: the vanity of this world has been the fall of many a child of God.
11) notice how people will rise early to serve the false gods of this world. They will make great sacrifices to serve the world's false gods because those gods appeal to the natural, base and fallen nature of man.
13) notice their rush to serve the very gods of Egypt (the calf) which could not deliver the Egyptians from the wrath of the Lord God. People determined to go their own way are blind to reality.
Eagerly people will both serve false gods and offer their gold to them. People eagerly serve the gods of this world with the gold which the Lord has provided them with.
14) I have seen.... in fact, the Lord knew this about them before He brought them out of Egypt: they served Egypt's gods, Josh 24:15. What did the Lord see? He saw that they were stiffnecked... a people with a hard neck that will not bend to the commandment of God. Aaron says the same thing, v. 22, and Moses will many times say the same thing to and about this people. Someone has said, "If Moses and the Lord ever got together in their anger against Israel's hardness, Israel would not have had a chance."
The people have gone their own way. The Lord saw the truth about the people and told Moses. The Lord has a way of letting His men know what is going on, if they need to know.
A) Stephen lays this charge at the feet of the children of the ones who built this calf, and lost his life, Acts 7:51. Isa 48:4 well defines the term, and it means unable or unwilling to repent of sin and submit to the Lord.
B) By their fruits ye shall know them, and their fruits proved their heardness to the word of God. And the charge is the same today. Our actions and attitude toward the word and work of God proves what lies in the heart.
We are reminded that the law could not change the heart; only the Spirit of Grace could make the change. The natural man is very stiffnecked and incapable of turning to the Lord with his heart.
15) for thy people, which thou broughtest out... Indeed, if Moses had brought them out, then Moses would have had no grounds to plead with the Lord. But Moses did not bring them out. How many works are built upon man's wisdom and effort? Is it any wonder that there is such a falling away?
16) have corrupted themselves:... they, not Aaron, have made them a molten calf... This is an extremely significant little statement.
First, people corrupt themselves; neither the environment nor other people corrupt us. We are lead away of our own lusts.
The following is in Mar 93 mailing.
In Exodus 32, the Lord records for us the building of the golden calf while Moses was on the mount receiving the law. A point often overlooked is that Aaron is the civil ruler in Ex 32, not the spiritual; Aaron and Hur were left in charge of the nation while Moses went before the Lord to receive the law (including instructions concerning Aaron, the soon to be high priest), Ex 24:14. With this fact in mind, notice Ex 32:4 & 8: though Aaron built the calf, the Lord said the people built the calf. As we read Ex 32, we see that the people were judged for the calf, not Aaron. Aaron, the high priest, was excluded from the promised land because of what happened at Meribah, not for the sin of the calf when he was the civil ruler, Num 20:12. Aaron, the civil ruler, followed the will of the people, vs. 21, 22. Thus, the congregation is held accountable far more than are the civil officers, vs. 34, 35. (Aaron made the calf; the people are plagued.)
The implication is that the civil ruler, which Aaron was in
Ex 32, has not the grace to stand up to the will of the people.
Whereas, the religious leader has both the grace and the command
to stand up to the ungodly will of the people; in fact, he is
to preach/teach the gospel in such a way as to change the will
of the people godward, Mat 28:19, 20; 1 Cor 1 & 2 &c.
17) let me alone... The Lord spoke, but He did not really mean it. Moses had been called by God to be the mediator between God and Israel. Now the Lord is going to see how faithful Moses is to his calling. The Lord takes for granted that Moses intends to intercede for the people, but can Moses be bought off with the prospect of being the start of a new kingdom? This thought is developed under the benefits of the calf.
18) And Moses besought the Lord... Note the tremendous work which has taken place in Moses: how many men could turn down such an offer? Moses chose God's glory over his own glory. We develop this under The Calf.
A) this is a beautiful type of Christ's intercession for His sinful people, Moses prays; he intercedes for a people who are on the verge of total destruction.
Notice what Moses uses to beseech the Lord with: he reminds Him of two things: 1) what the Egyptians would say and 2) the Lord's promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Now, the Lord would have still kept His promise through Moses, for Moses was in their line. But Moses is reminding the Lord that He would have to start all over again if He destroyed Israel at this point. Moses pleads with the Lord, For thy great name's sake, ie. what will it do to Your name. Moses placed the Lord's name above everything.
Note this breakdown for the 30 (one is a duplicate, so it is removed, leaving 29) use of the Lord's name's sake:
a) All of the OT is pleading for undeserved mercy:
1 Samuel 12:22; 1 Kings 8:41; 2 Chronicles 6:32; Psalms 23:3; Psalms 25:11; Psalms 31:3; Psalms 79:9; Psalms 106:8; Psalms 109:21; Psalms 143:11; Isaiah 48:9; Isaiah 66:5; Jeremiah 14:7, 21; Ezekiel 20:9, 14, 22, 44; Ezekiel 36:22.
b) Its primary NT usage is promise of persecution for Christ's
Matthew 10:22; 19:29; 24:9; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:12;John 15:21; Acts 9:16; Revelation 2:3
c) But included is Sins forgiven for Christ's name sake:
1 John 2:12
d) And sacrifice for His name's sake:
3 John 1:7
The similarities with Paul pleading for the same Hebrew nation many years latter are obvious.
19) The Lord repented, yet the people did not escape the results of their sin. In v. 34, He promised to visit their sin upon them. The people did not get by with their evil; their hardness in sin caused them to fail to claim Canaan.
James warns us that continuing in known sin results in deception with leads to our own destruction. Israel continued in their hardness in their Egyptian ways, and were deceived thereby.
20) one last point: Moses came back and confronted the people about their wickedness.
A) The King will return one day, and He will hold every person accountable. See Matthew 21:33; 25:14; Mk 12:1; Lk 15:13 & 20:9
B) Moses confronts Aaron with, What did this people unto thee... Why did you do this? The people must have threatened you or something. Aaron had no answer. When the King does confront His subjects, there will be no excuse. See Rom 14:12; 2 Cor 5:10. Sin cannot be explained or excused, and Aaron did neither.
I'll tack the positive points concerning the calf here on the end of this section.
God's Glory & the Development of Sin
Exodus 32:1-7, sin and the calf
While Moses was on the mount before the Lord for 40 days, the people below built a calf representing the Lord and to go before them as the Lord had done. In v. 7, the Lord tells Moses to get down to the people who had corrupted themselves (Ja 1:14). Although He could have, the Lord did not send Moses down in time to prevent the sin; in His sovereignty, God had a purpose in allowing the sin to develop to maturity.
Note, the Sovereign God of the Universe, Who can stop sin at any time, is the One allowing sin to develop to maturity, and no one can fault His actions, Rom 9:15ff (19, 20). The world is not out of control today any more than it was when Moses was on the mount and the people were building the calf. The Lord not only can restrain sin as He pleases, but He also makes sin serviceable to the praise of His Own glory. Thus all things move according to God's predetermined counsel to fulfil His perfect will, cf. Acts 2:23; 4:28 & Rev 17:17.
[Romans 11:36; 2 Corinthians 4:15; Revelation 4:11; 1 Pe 2:9; 1 Pe 4:11; Rev 4:10, 11; Rev 19:6, And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.]
The good from the calf
There were several things accomplished for God's glory when He permitted the golden calf:
I. God brought Israel here to prove them: Exo 20:18-21, And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw [it], they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God [was].
Here at the foot of the mount, the Lord proved their heart. He proved that:
A) their words did not reflect what was in their heart.
B) the law could not change the heart.
C) their confidence in the man Moses, God's servant, was very superficial.
D) His people were still Egyptian at heart: "Circumstances do not make us what we are, they reveal what we are."
E) He can take hardened sinners filled with Egypt, and make of them a people that will serve Him and bring glory to His name. Israel was thus an unmistakable picture of the Church, Eph 3:8-12, Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all [men] see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly [places] might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
The Lord, by His sovereign grace, takes who He will and makes of them what He will, and no one will say to Him, What doest thou? Daniel 4:35 And all the inhabitants of the earth [are] reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and [among] the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? Cf. Ro 11:33, 36; 1 Co 2:16.
Assuredly, the Lord will prove what His people are made of, the proof will be before the whole world and the test will come at the most unexpected time. He will prove: to whom is our loyalty, man or God; our attitude toward His law and toward men He has raised up to places of authority. The list of things which the Lord will prove in endless, for The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jer 17:9. The Lord knows the heart and He will providentially command situations to prove what wickedness lies therein that it might be brought into subjection unto Christ, Jer 17:9; Ph 3:15.
And as pastors, the Lord will bring to pass things in the lives of our people so we will know what areas need strengthened, Eph 4:12.
II. The calf proved to the people their corruption and distance from the Lord's demands upon them. Moses is going to come back and give a great many ordinances concerning the tabernacle and sacrifices. The people will be unable to protest about anything of the law, for the memory of the calf and the 3000 people who died will be heavy upon them. As Moses gives the very stringent and sundry laws, the people will have on their conscience the guilt of their sin here in the shadow of the mount and under the glorious cloud of God's presence.
III. The calf proved who was on the Lord's side, 32:26. The Lord had prepared the hearts of the men of Levi to stand with Moses, for they were going to be the priestly tribe. Furthermore, the calf proved who were repentant among the people. 3,000 refused to repentant and were executed. (Evidently, the 3,000 continued in their "pagan festivity" after Moses appeared & called Levi to take up the sword of God's vengeance against the sin, v. 29 [consecrate, fill your hands with the sword]. Thus 3,000 out of the 600,000 who came out of Egypt openly mocked God (Whom will not be mocked), God's law and God's man.)
IV. The calf was the first proof of God's intolerance of sin among His covenant people: 3,000 men were executed for their wickedness. Note: 1) it was not the former Egyptians who desired to mix the worship of Jehovah with paganism, it was the men of Israel. The mixed multitude, the Egyptians whom came out of Egypt with Israel, fell to lusting in Num. 11, but that was after the calf. We can justly condemn the mixed multitude for leading in lust for the good things of the world in Num 11, but the men of Israel led the way to lust in Exo 32. We can safely assume that the mixed multitude was involved with the calf, but the blame was not placed upon them. 2) men... there is no mention of women slain, 32:28; thus, the Lord emphasize the tremendous responsibility placed upon men. 3) the people see that their God is not after their own imagination. Up to this time, the Lord had "winked" at their sin. No more! The people had sinned at the waters of Marah (Ex 15), the giving of the manna (16:18) and the waters of Massah and Meribah (17:7), but no one had yet lost his life over sin. Only a few weeks previous to the calf, the law had been given in the hearing of all the people, and with the law entered death (cf. Ex 20 & Romans [7:7]). With the calf, the Lord starts to slay those who presumptuously disregard His law, Num 11; Heb 12, &c. Now the people start to see that, unlike Egypt's gods, their God is a jealous God and One to be feared. Those who mock God and His law now face certain death.
V. Undoubtedly, out of the whole situation, Aaron holds the most hope for us.
A) he would be very humbled by this experience. Consider what was going through Aaron's mind as Moses dressed him in the high priest's garments after the affair with the calf. How well we "remember" past sins which are now embarrassing, and stand amazed in the presence of the Lord that He could use us in His service. Massive failures like Aaron's with the calf tend to keep one humble. Our major problems develop when we forget from where the Lord delivered us, Isa 51:1 Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock [whence] ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit [whence] ye are digged. Did Aaron ever forget from where the Lord brought him? The Lord can use the godly memory of ungodly activity.
B) Aaron shows us that God uses people in spite of themselves, not because they are good. God's choice of Aaron was not based upon his good, firm character or because he was such a good man, for Aaron quickly and willingly followed the people into idolatry. Aaron had an extremely week personality, and he was easily led astray by his sister against Moses latter, yet God chose him and his line for His high priest.
Aaron proves that God is not restricted by man's weakness and frailties. God's grace is sufficient to forgive sin and "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." What the Lord did through Aaron, though he sinned with the calf, is assurance that God can use anyone, Pro 24:14, 15.
God reminds us throughout His word that He, by His sovereign will alone, chooses people, and no person is set apart by the Lord because of anything special in themselves.
VI. Levi was the only tribe to join Moses. Unbeknown to Israel and Levi, this tribe was going to be the priestly tribe. The story of their father Levi would have been well known in Israel. Dinah, the only daughter of Israel named by Holy Scriptures, had been violated. Simeon and Levi, in their wicked, uncontrolled anger, took it upon themselves to avenge the evil. They turned their back upon godliness, chose blood over God, lied, digged down a wall, slew Hamor, Shechem and all the male inhabitance of the city of Shechem, took the spoil unto themselves and caused Israel to stink before the surrounding nations, Gen 34:30. In Gen 49:5-8, Simeon's and Levi's ungodly zeal is cursed by their father, Israel.
Levi mocked God and godliness because of a blood relationship, so before Levi's sons could be established as God's representatives to the nation of Israel, Levi had to show proof of "conversion." Will the sons of Levi be willing to place God's glory over blood? When presented with the choice in Ex 32:26, all the sons of Levi sided with Moses and the Lord against all the rest of the nation. Levi's commend, vs. 27, 29, is quite similar to the one in Deut 13:1-11. Without exception, the Lord required all who openly served false gods and/or attempted to influence others away from the true God to be executed. Moses tells Levi that blood relationship cannot hinder obedience to the command-word of God. Levi willingly and completely obeys and thus becomes a sweet savour before the Lord.
Before the Levites could be established in the people's eyes as priests, their love for the Lord had to be tested and proved. The calf proved that Levi now loved and honoured God; he passed the test, was blessed of the Lord and established as the chief godly tribe.
Note in passing that God presents absolutely no opportunity to blame one's parents for his own sin. If the tribe of Levi had not stood with Moses ("I am a sinner because of my dad's sin"), God would have raised up another tribe and Levi would have been slain just as were the others, cf. 1 Pet 1:18. Every man is drawn away of his own lust...
VII. Moses was proved, 32:10 (cf. Num 14:12).
God puts the fate of the nation into the hand of Moses, that he may remember his mediatorial office, and show himself worthy of his calling... [W]ould [Moses] be willing to give up his own people, laden as they were with guilt, as the price of his own exaltation[?] ...The preservation of Israel was dearer to him than the honour of becoming the head and founder of a new kingdom of God... Keil.
Could Moses have succumbed to God's offer? Notice that the Lord gave to Moses the choice before Moses saw the people's actions. Would he have made the same choice after he saw the evil of the people? The answer to these questions would be God-forbidden abstract theology. We do know that the Lord takes the unqualified and qualifies them, 2 Cor 3:5, 6; we know that the Lord will not suffer His people to be tempted above that which they are able to endure, and will with the temptation also make a way of escape. He will not place upon them more than they are able to bear, 1 Co 10:13. In other words, the Lord called Moses and qualified him for God's calling, part of which was faithfulness on Moses' part.
He gives to human freedom room enough for self-determination, that He may test the fidelity of His servants. No human speculation, however, can fully explain the conflict between divine providence and human freedom. Keil.
How many leaders, both religious and civil, have sacrificed their people for the prospect of self-exaltation? How many Christians have sacrificed their "Christianity" on the altar of self?
Moses stood the test! He chose God's glory over his own glory. Would we?
VIII. The calf proved the grace of God in the OT. Moses, as well as latter men of God, would tell the people that it was not for any good on their part that the Lord called them unto Himself, but He called them because of His promise to their fathers. The calf would sharply remind them that Moses was not stretching the point; if anything, he was understating the fact of their inherent evil.
Deuteronomy 9:5, Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Deuteronomy 7:7, 8 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye [were] the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Ezekiel 36:22, Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not [this] for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.
Ezekiel 36:32, Not for your sakes do I [this], saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.
All the succeeding prophets of God had to do was point back to the calf to prove that the Lord delivered Israel by His loving grace alone.
IX. The Lord is not restricted by man's sin, for neither Aaron's nor the people's sin could change God's plan. He had chosen Israel as His holy nation; He had appointed Aaron and his sons as His head of the nation; Aaron's sin did not force God to reconsider His choice. Moreover, God chose Aaron (and Israel) knowing his weakness. No doubt we restrict God far to much. Sin neither has nor ever will thwart God's plan, for abundant sin only means abundant grace, Ro 5:20, Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound...
X. The calf proved the power of prayer and God's willingness to show mercy. Moses prayed and the Lord showed mercy to Aaron and to a people hardened in sin. Note: A) even though the Lord showed mercy, the people did not avoid the results of their sin. The people had to drink of their sin (v. 20, cf. Pro 14:14). B) there is a "point of no return," Jer 15:1, Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, [yet] my mind [could] not [be] toward this people: cast [them] out of my sight, and let them go forth. Israel's hardness in sin resulted in their refusal to enter Canaan and their death in the wilderness. Has America reached that "point" with her faithless Chritianity which has no power to influence society, opened sodomy, unlimited murder (abortions), berakdown of Godly authority in the home and godly law replaced with pshchology?
Yet on the postitive side, we see a glorious promise of the Lord doing for and through the children what the parents were unable to do because of their "Egyptianization." This is our hope today! Our present generation is so "paganized" that there is little hope for them, but the children can be raised up with a godly, "Christianized" worldview.
My! how we need men today to stand in the gap and pray for a people hardened in sin, for who knows the mind of the Lord or the limits He has placed upon sin? Cf. Gen 18:22, but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
XI. The calf and the NT grace of God.
Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then [is it] no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if [it be] of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
1 Corinthians 4:7, For who maketh thee to differ [from another]? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive [it], why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received [it]?
2 Timothy 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
Titus 3:3-5 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, [and] hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Observe: the calf proved that,
1) OT Israel's deliverance was totally by the grace of God.
2) the Lord, not the people, is the One Who made Israel different from the Egyptians.
3) Israel's call unto the Lord was an holy calling, not according to their works, but according to the Lord's own good pleasure, purpose and grace.
4) God, not man, controls history, and all history moves according to the God's predetermined counsel to fulfill His purpose.
XII. Paul would latter write that the law could not change or make man holy before God, Rom 3:20. Remembering the calf built after the giving of the Commandments, any argument against Paul's words would be groundless. Certainly, the law points out sin, but the law cannot change man's attitude toward sin; only by the life-changing grace of God given through faith in the finished work of Christ can man's attitude be changed, Rom 3:21ff.
If we say that we have the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, James assures us that it will be "proved."
Strangely enough, the sin of the calf at the foot of the mountain in the shadow of the glorious cloud of the Lord's presence holds as much hope for redeemed, though fallen, man as does any situation in the Scripture. God's righteousness justifies His annihilation of sinful man, but His loving mercy provides the grace for man to continue on in service of the King.
We need to remember that the people had been in Egypt for generations, and all the live so those present here at the mount. They had only been out for a few short months. They knew about the Lord, v. 5, but they had been greatly influenced by the gods of Egypt, v. 4, and they mixed the two. God knew of the difficulty they would have of separating from Egypt's gods, and he was patient with them. He did not place them under the death sentence here as he did when they refused to go into Canaan. The difference? Though they had seen the glorious acts of God in the plagues, they had not really had time to have it all "sink in." However, by the time they came to Canaan, they had seen many more things, and had had time to consider them all.
For us: We need to be patient with new Christians, and maybe even expect them to "mix" the gods of this world they used to serve with the new Lord God who drew them to himself. But patience cannot last forever. There comes a time when they must be expected to mature. If they do not, then they must be dealt with properly, maybe even by Matthew 28.
Although I do not want to replough the ground, Matthew Henry makes some excellent points worth mentioning and developing a little:
1. "the ill effects of Moses' absence from them." If Moses had not God's command to leave the people on their own, he could be charged with neglect of his duty. People need a leader, "lest Satan get advantage thereby."
2. "the fury and violence of a multitude when they are influenced and corrupted by such as lie in wait to deceive... Behold how great a matter a little fire kindles!" It doesn't take much to stir up the whole. I believe we have seen in our generation professional "stirrers" who intentionally prompted the multitudes to turn from the word of God as given to Moses.
3. "they were weary of waiting for the promised land." They were safe, easy, well fed and well taught, yet impatient for "land flowing with milk and honey." Isa 28:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner [stone], a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
"When he went up into the mount, he had not told them (for God had not told him) how long he must stay; and therefore, when he had outstaid their time, some bad people advanced I know not what surmises concerning his delay." What has happened to faith? Faith is no more than obeying the word of God, believing His promises and patiently waiting upon Him. Be not weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not. Notice that impatient people are easily influenced. We live in an extremely impatient generation; every one wants what they want now; thus, they are easily influenced to do evil.
"Those that are resolved to think ill, when they have every so much reason to think well," will think ill at their first opportunity.
Moses delay on the mount, at God's command, "occasioned
a great deal of wickedness." Lu 12:45 But and if that servant
say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin
to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and
to be drunken;
2 Peter 3:4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of the creation.
We could also add that because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, the wicked prosper.
"Weariness in waiting betrays us to a great many temptations."
Note their strange motive for building a false god: Moses delayed his return. If they had thought him lost, would they not much better spend their time mourning for him? "but see how soon so great a benefactor is forgotten." Their ingratitude toward Moses is astounding.
4. "Moses is lost, make us a god... Was Moses their god?" They cared nothing about anything except themselves.
I have heard a very common mention that people only serve the Lord as long as their strong leader serves the Lord. After John Weaver left his church, their new pastor took them back into the Corp. The same thing happened with John Lewis' church. Do people only serve God as long as their pastor serves God?
5. Note Aaron's fall: Aaron did not raise one word of protest against their desire for another god. He was a "spineless leader." No wonder Moses was placed in charge of the people and not Aaron. Maybe the people threatened him, but who knows?
A. This situation with Aaron shows us that at best men are sinners. The best of men, 1) must be followed with great fear and caution and 2) are not above falling. 1 Co 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
B. Unknown to him, Aaron is going to be installed as high priest. His fall with the calf will continually be on his mind as he serves the Lord in this most powerful position. Furthermore, his sons will also serve in this office, yet their father led the worship of the golden calf. Thus, Aaron would always have a messenger of satan to buffet him, lest he should be exalted above measure, and his sons would always have this "blotch" upon their name.
1 Ti 3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall
into the condemnation of the devil.
1 Ti 3:7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
I think this is why the Lord uses so many men who have come from "the other side of life." They are then continually reminded of where the Lord brought them from and of the grace of God in placing them where they are.
Heb 7:27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
6. the Lord had already given the law, yet they went ahead, and with no conscience, made the graven image. "It is a plain indication that the law was no more able to sanctify than it was to justify; by it is the knowledge of sin, but not the cure of it." The Lord makes a special point of the fact that the calf is build right on the spot where they heard the law, Psalms 106:19 They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image.
Note the effect of the gospel, 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, [even] Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
To me, the sum of this section is: 1) primarily the Sovereign grace of God which will work to accomplish His will, 2) His choosing and use of a nation so bent toward evil and 3) His use of Aaron who was so easily influenced into evil.
Moses departs from the presence of the Lord with no assurance that the Lord would spare the people. He prayed, but did the Lord hear is prayer? Moses takes with him the two tables of the law which the Lord had graven and given to Moses. One table was for the people and one table for the Lord, both identical. It is a covenant-law; therefore, both parties must keep a copy. Moses meets Joshua, who evidently had gone as far as he could with Moses up the mount, and the two descend the mount. They approach the camp, and, upon hearing the noise, Joshua assumes there is a battle going on. Moses assures him that it is not; rather, it is the noise of merrymaking.
1) the Lord knew what was going to happen, yet He permitted Moses to take the tables with him anyway. Evidently, the Lord intended to impress upon the people the seriousness of their actions with the tables.
2) the tables of stone were made and graven by the hand of God. The first passage that comes to my mind is 2 Cor 3:1-3, Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some [others], epistles of commendation to you, or [letters] of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: [Forasmuch as ye are] manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
A general statement is, "The law in the OT was graven in stone; the law in the NT is graven in the heart." Furthermore, the promise of the new covenant is of the hearts of stone replaced with hearts of flesh,
Eze 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:
Eze 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
As I said, this is a general statement because there are several records in the OT of the heart loving the law of God. Ps 119 particularly is replete with these kinds of statements.
3) one of the most impressive men in Scriptures to me is Joshua. We read and talk a lot about Moses being on the mount with the Lord 40 days and 40 nights, but here is Joshua: he has been by himself the same 40 days and nights. His only motivation for remaining here was his locality to God's man. What did he eat? Maybe he fasted as did Moses, or maybe he was fed with the manna as was Israel. We can only speculate. Joshua shows his superiority by not growing weary of waiting for Moses as the people grew weary. Although, I must admit, many times it is far easier to stand firm for the Lord when alone as Joshua was, than it is to stand firm surrounded with people.
4) I have mentioned this elsewhere, but Joshua is the OT type of Christ, not Moses. Moses sets an OT standard which no person could obtain to: he spoke to God face to face. But Joshua! He was a servant who was faithful to his calling. Anyone can be faithful to their calling in the Lord.
5) And when Joshua heard... Moses told Joshua nothing about what the Lord had told him concerning the sin of the people. Joshua would find out soon enough.
6) notice Moses attitude toward Joshua compared with his attitude toward the people. Certainly, Moses was justifiable angry against the people and their sin, but he did not take it out on Joshua.
Vs. 19-24, Moses' anger toward the sinners.
The picture I get here is of Moses and Joshua descending toward the camp. They hear the noise and speculate about what is going on. Then they round a bend and the whole situation comes into full view and the truth is revealed. In his anger, Moses cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. He proceeds to the calf, burns it with fire and grinds it to powder. He scatters it upon the drinking water and makes the people drink the water. He confronts Aaron, whom he had left in charge, and asks him what the people did to force him to permit the great sin of the calf. Aaron, typical of most who are confronted with sin, blames the people. Aaron sort of tells the truth, cf. v. 1 & v. 23, but in doing so, places the blame upon the people. Then in v. 24, Aaron distances himself even further from the sin by saying that all he did was cast the gold into the melting pot and the calf popped out (walked out?). Aaron's excuse sure sounds to me like the one Saul made to Samuel when Samuel confronted him with the sin concerning sparing Amalek, 1 Sam 15:21.
1) Moses' anger waxed hot when he saw the calf and the actions of the people. But he was not surprised at what he saw. The Lord had already told him what was going on.
There are times for anger. Moses did not sin in breaking the tables in the sight of the people; rather, he broke them "as a sign that Israel had broken the covenant (Keil)" law. Then in chapter 34, God instructs Moses on receiving the commandments again, yet the Lord does not condemn Moses for breaking the first. Furthermore, Moses was bared from the promised land for what he did at Meribah, not for what he did at the foot of the mount, Num 20:10-12. When the two accounts, Ex 32 & Num 20, are compared, the difference is quit evident. In Num 20, Moses lost control of his emotions, railed on the people and acted contrary to the word of God; whereas, in Ex 32, he intentionally broke the tables, took godly action against the sin and called the ones responsible into account. Thus we see that Moses exhibited both types of anger: just anger which led to godly action against sin, and unjust anger which caused him to lose control and violate the word of God. (See my MO on anger.)
2) I think it is important to note the steps which Moses took. He first dealt with the sin, then he called Aaron into account. The most important thing in the Lord's eyes is to get the sin out and not worry yet about who is responsible. After the sin is dealt with, then deal with those responsible.
3) Moses burned the golden calf, ground it to powder and caused the people to drink the mixture, clearly a reference to the adulterous wife, Num 5:24. Israel had shamelessly committed adultery under the very "nose" of her Husband, Jehovah God, and in clear view of the pagans, v. 26. They must drink the dust-water mixture.
4) Moses now turns to the one he had left in charge, Aaron, "What did the people do to you to cause you to allow this sin?" Typical of sinners of all ages, Aaron pointed outside of himself for the blame as he sought to transfer the guilt to someone else. "Don't blame me, Moses. You know how determined the people are to sin; they made me do it. I only followed the will of the people." And this has been the excuse of civil leaders and individuals every since.
Vs. 25-29, Moses' response to sin
I believe that this section deals primarily with Levi. The Lord is preparing the people for the selection of His priests (the tribe of Levi), and all of what takes place in this section fits right into His plan.
The blame is placed squarely upon Aaron, a Levite, for allowing the people to carry on in such an ungodly manner. Moses sees the shame of the people, then goes to the gate of the camp and tells the people to make a choice. (Joshua latter gave the same choice, Josh 24:15.) The tribe of Levi only joined with Moses on the Lord's side. Moses charged them to consecrate themselves. The margin reading in probably better, "fill your hands." Check my note in ON LINE Bible for the number corresponding to this word. Levi was evidently to fill his hands with the sword of vengeance against the idolaters. Moses then sends them throughout the nation of Israel to avenge the holiness of the Lord. Levi did according to the word of Moses, and 3000 men fell that day. (I like what MH says here: "Other nations boasted that they were true to their false gods; well may Israel blush for being false to the true God.")
1) V. 25, Moses saw that the people were naked. Strangely enough, neither Aaron nor the people were credited with seeing their nakedness.
I am constantly amazed at how blind people are to obvious sin. I just do not see how they can miss such obvious truths, but sin blinds to reality. James 1:22 clearly tells us that those who do not do what they know to do according to the word of God, are blinded.
2) Moses made no effort to cover their sin before God or before the sinners; rather, he called attention to its seriousness by separating himself from the sinners and giving everyone a choice: if anyone was on the Lord's side, separate with him. Moses draws a firm line and challenges those who desire to follow the Lord to join him, on the Lord's side.
A) it is important to see that the call was not to join with Moses (if you agree, join with me!); rather, the call was to join with the Lord (Who is on the Lord's side, let him come unto me). The choice which Moses presented the people was between the false god and the Lord God, not between him and the sinners. Let us be careful about the choice we give people.
B) I think that many times, we as leaders, fail to give God's people a clear choice. In order to influence more people to "join with us," we make things a dirty shade of gray instead of black and white.
3) Levi... only the tribe of Levi joined Moses. Moses was a Levite, so did they join with him for that reason? I don't think so. I believe that they joined because the Lord placed it in their heart to repent, confess their sin and stand with God's man. Levi had not yet been openly selected as the priestly tribe, but he had been in the mind of God. Therefore, the Lord had to prepare the ground first.
A) God's grace is at work in their lives. All the sons of levi... would have included Aaron. Where sin abounded, grace more abounded.
B) in Gen 49:5-8, Levi's ungodly zeal is condemned. By a work of God's grace, Levi's zeal is "converted" to now serve a godly purpose. The grace of God is amazing; it can turn the strongest "weakness (Levi's ungodly zeal)" into the strongest "strength" for the Lord. The Lord uses people! He takes people's strength and turns it for His glory. Notice Levi's "converted" zeal for the Lord is applauded in Deut 33:9.
C) The command of v. 29 is quite similar to the one in Deut 13:1-11. Without exception, the Lord required all who openly served false gods and/or attempt to influence others away from the true God, to be executed. Moses instructs here in Ex 32:29 and in Deut 13, that blood relation cannot hinder the execution of the command-word of God. The man Levi placed blood over obedience to God (his sister was violated, so he lied and destroyed a city). The sons of Levi are now willing to place the Lord over blood as they are told to go execute the vengeance of the Lord against even their blood relatives, upon his son, and upon his brother. God's work of grace is evident in the son's of Levi, but it took hundreds of years to accomplish that work.
D) although unknown to him, Levi was going to be the priestly tribe; he was going to lead the people in their worship and service of their God. Levi's willingness to join with Moses on the Lord's side against all the rest of the nation shows us that the Lord did the choosing and preparing of Levi to serve Himself. The Lord called and prepared Levi for his service.
E) Levi's, the son of Israel, evil deed and the curse he received from his father would be well known in the nation. But now the tribe of Levi is going to be the leader in serving the very God the tribe's father, Levi, had mocked in his anger (when he digged down the wall and killed the male inhabitance). So before Levi could be established in the people's eyes as priests, their love for the Lord had to be tested and proved. It was and Levi passed the test and established in the eyes of the people as a godhonouring tribe.
Personal: My "joy" is like the rest of my families, dad, Perry and Richard. It is to take something and make it work. It doesn't matter what it is, I enjoy making it work. Pop many times said that this joy is what caused him to go into construction. Perry has said the same thing. I enjoined very much taking any kind of equipment or whatever (Honeywell, controls) and making it do the very best that it was designed to do. This enjoyment has been "converted" to computers, programs and printing.
4) V. 29 is kind of out of order. V. 28 is a result of v. 29, because v. 29 starts with the word, For. In other words, v. 29 tells the reason for the command in v. 28. Consecrate, fill your hands, Moses tells Levi. Levi filled his hands with the sword. Moses promises that if they will execute (we could say, "Put into force") the Lord's word, they will be blessed.
5) Levi obeyed (evidently Aaron included) and 3000 fell that day, v. 28. Who were these 3000? The question is difficult, but the best explanation I have is that the 3000 were men who continued in their pagan festivities even though Moses was present and Levi was going through the nation with the sword. 3000 out of 600,000 is 2%, but the percentage is higher when we subtract the Levites from the 600,000. Did Levi just go through and haphazardly kill men? I don't think so. I believe they killed the specific men who were the "ringleaders" in the idolatry, no matter who they were.
6) bestow .. a blessing... Anyone who will place obedience to the Lord over personal feelings and attachments can inherit the blessings of the Lord.
V. 26 says that all the sons of Levi joined with Moses; therefore, the command to kill their sons and brothers in vs. 27 & 29 would be superfluous, but Levi was willing to do just that. All the males had forsaken their sin and joined with Moses.
Only the Lord knows the details of this passage. All we know is what we are clearly told.
7) the NT application is obvious, 1 Cor 5. There the command is to cut off from the new nation of God, the Church, all who would persist in their sin.
A) when we compare Ex 32 and 1 Cor 5, we see the indication is that the 3000 were those who continued in the evil even though Moses had called for repentance.
B) it is primarily the responsibility of the NT levite, the pastor/teacher, to enforce 1 Cor 5.
C) we cannot allow personal feelings and/or blood to hinder the obedience to 1 Cor 5.
Moses tells the people that they had sinned greatly, and that now he must go before the Lord to make an atonement for their sin. Moses goes back before the Lord and pleads for the Lord to forgive the people. His prayer is that if the Lord will not forgive them, then remove his life from him. Rather than remove Moses out of the book which thou hast written, He promises to remove the people out of that book. Then the Lord tells Moses to go back and lead the people on to Canaan, and that the Lord's Angel would continue to go before them. The Angel led them on, but the Lord plagued the people over because of the calf.
The order of events and Moses' fasting appears a little confusing.
Deut 9:16-21, gives this order of events: Moses saw their sin and cast the tables out of his hands, breaking them; Moses fell down before the Lord, fasted and prayed for 40 days; Moses intersession for Aaron prevented the Lord from destroying him; Moses then took the calf, burned it, stamped it and case it upon the brook and made them drink it; v. 25, Moses fell down before the Lord 40 days and nights as he did at the first. When was this falling down? According to the context of Deut 9, Moses seems to have fasted 3 times for 40 days and nights. First, the first time he went up the mountain; second, when he confronted the sin; third, when he went back up the mountain to receive the law the second time.
But in Exo 32, the order seems to be thus: Moses returned to the Lord in 32:31 after he ground the calf to powder, but there is no record of his 40 days before the Lord. It probably took place at v. 30-32. The order appears to be thus: Moses goes before the Lord to plead for the people (for 40 days and nights?); Moses goes back to the people with the word of the Lord; Moses takes the tabernacle (probably his personal tent or residence) outside the camp; then chapter 34, the Lord calls Moses back up into the mountain for a second time of giving the commandments, and stayed 40 days, 34:28. The call in ch 34, would be some time after the intercession of 32: 31.
1) Moses says, calls it a great sin. Moses said this to the ones who remained after the vengence of the Lord, and he said this to the Lord, vs. 30, 31.
A) the great sin was making a god of gold, a false god. The false gods, the god of gold, around us are so prevalent that we fail to realize how great a sin it is to serve them. Then we get offended when others point out our false love and service. Probably the most prevalent false gods today are the #1) the state (ie. looking to the state to do what the Lord alone is to do), and #2) money. We fail to realize the great sin of having other gods before the Lord God.
B) Moses, the consistent type of the law, is the one who points out sin.
C) the primary responsibility of the minister of God is to point out sin, and not just sin, but sin must be made exceeding sinful: a great sin. (Rom 7:3)
2) but there is more involved than just pointing out sin: there must be a remedy provided. The day after the 3000 died, Moses told the people that he would go back before the Lord and seek atonement for their sin. The word is peradventure. Moses did not know if the Lord would forgive them or not, but he is going to intercede for them anyway.
A) We have no assurance of anything: if thou wilt.. Therefore, the just walk by faith, not by sight. We do what is pleasing in His sight, then depend upon His faithfulness and mercy to intercede. We must not give up on others, and our personal feelings must not interfere with our responsibility before God for and to them.
B) sin makes more work for others. Moses was now going to have to redo what he had already done. He would spend 40 days in prayer for the people then he would have to go back up the mount to receive the law again.
3) atonement... Moses, the mediator of the old covenant, now mediates for the people. It is evident from the context that this word is not referring to Moses making an animal sacrifice for the sin of the people. Rather, atonement here was Moses praying for the people and offering himself: and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book....
Here we are shown the importance of intercession and the influence a spiritual leader of a people must have before God for his people. I believe this influence can include a father for his family.
4) Moses' intercession. According to Deut 9, this period of intercession lasted 40 days and nights. I would assume that Moses stayed before the Lord until the Lord assured him that the people would be forgiven and spared. (The chronology appears to be confused.)
5) Keil quotes this passage as a god of gold. In other words, one god instead of many gods as the AV reads. Either way, the people clearly and directly violated the command of the Lord, Ex 20:23, Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.
Probably one of the most prevalent sins of God's people is making for themselves gods of gold. Likely one of the most condemned sins of a child of God is their pursuit of gold over their pursuit of the glory of God. Mat 6:33, and many other NT passages soundly renounce modern gods of gold.
6) Moses takes a report of the idolatry of the people back to the Lord. The Lord already knew about the sin of the people, for the Lord is the one who told Moses, v. 8.
Note that even though the Lord indeed knows exactly is going on, we are still to present it before Him. Yes! He does know what we need even before we ask, but He still expects us to let our requests be made known to him with prayer and thanksgiving.
7) Moses is at loss for words: Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--;
This request of Moses reminds us of a couple of things:
A) his love and concern for the people whom God has placed under his watchful care.
B) there are times we do not know how to pray, Rom 8:26, 27.
8) blot me out... the work of the Spirit is very evident in Moses' life. The Spirit has changed him into a man who is willing to give himself for the stiffnecked and rebellious people whom have resisted him from the first time he met them, Deut 9:24, Ye have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you. Paul had the same love for Israel, Rom 6:3.
Only the grace of God can give this kind of love to a person for a people who have rejected him from the very first. Israel did not deserve the kind of love both Moses and Paul had for them, nor the kind of love the Lord had for them through these men. Thus, Moses is a type of Christ, and so was Paul.
A) with special grace from God comes special love. Both Moses and Paul had a special calling from God, so the Lord with that special calling gave special grace. The grace was a totally self-sacrificing grace beyond human comprehension. No one can understand this kind of grace who has not had it.
B) How easily do we become discouraged with rebellious people? Moses love for these people was based upon neither their performance nor his personal feelings for them. His love was based upon God's work in his heart and his responsibility before God to the calling the Lord had given to him. I have no doubt that Moses did now have a strong personal attachment for these people who had resisted him so strongly. I think the reason Moses was able to love them like he did was because he had laid aside his personal feelings back at the bush when he submitted to the Lord's call. And thus the Lord was able to build in him what was needed for this kind of love for a rebellious people.
C) Our personal feeling toward people cannot determine our actions toward them. Our personal feelings must be laid aside for obedience to the Lord? How quickly are we discouraged by folk's rebellion against the Lord?
9) book... the record of both physical life and eternal life. Moses asked the Lord to cut him off from the physical kingdom of God: to deliver him over to death.
I would suppose that Moses' feeling would be something this: he had spent everything he had to bring the people safely out of Egypt, so if the Lord is now going to destroy them, Moses does not want to see that destruction.
10) Moses' plea. Keil says here:
God, who is holy love, cannot sacrifice the righteous and good for the unrighteous and guilty, nor can He refuse the mediatorial intercession of Is faithful servant, so long as the sinful nation has not filled up the measure of its guilt, in which case even the intercession of a Moses and a Samuel would not be able to avert the judgment (Jer. xv. 1, cf. Ezek. xiv. 16).
This brings up this question: has America's sinfulness been "filled up to the measure of its guilt?" We do not know, nor did Moses know if Israel's sinfulness had been filled up.
11) The Lord hears and answers. Two points:
A) The Lord hears; He tells Moses to resume leading the people and promises to send His Angel before Moses to lead the people unto the place that had been promised.
Notice that the Lord said He would send His Angel before Moses; He did not say He would send His Angel before the people. In Ex 13:18, the Lord led the people; in 14:19, the angel of God went before the camp of Israel; in 15:13, thou [the Lord] hast guided, but here the Lord says that He will go before Moses to guide Moses, and that He will visit the sin of the people upon the people. I think that it is significant that the Lord leads Moses who then led the people. The Lord did not lead the people who then led Moses.
How many people have been spared the just due for their sin by the godliness of their spiritual leader? How many people have been led in the right path by their leader; whereas, without that leader, they would have wondered on their own in the wilderness to their own destruction.
The responsibility of the leader is great.
B) We should note that even though the Lord agrees to forgive and spare the nation, He still holds the guilty accountable. "Though grace may modify and soften wrath, it cannot mar the justice of the holy God." The Lord's visitation against Israel's sin had only been postponed until in the Lord's good time, He would visit their sin upon them, v. 34.
Note the two areas this idea goes into: individual and national. We hear of many groups praying, both for individuals and for America, that God would spare the sinner(s). The Lord might indeed spare, but sin will be visited upon the guilty unless there is a genuine repentance and turning with the whole heart to godliness.
12) And the Lord plagued the people... They were held responsible for the evil of Aaron's calf because they pressured him to make the calf. Yes, I know that Moses interceded for Aaron (Deut 9:20), but he also interceded for the people. The Lord plagued the people but not Aaron. We dealt with the difference between the people and Aaron above (and in mailing, Responsibility, Mar 93).
The following is set aside for a short bul &/or mo note. March 10, 1993
Exo 32:35, the Lord plagued the people. Plagued is a general term: the Lord smote or plagued Egypt with the frogs and death. Plagued does not necessarily mean death, but can refer to any kind of "bad luck:" i.e. Divine Providence is against the one(s) plagued by God. Plagued means that things just do not work out: the enemy has superiority, children are lost at birth, crops do not grow properly, money just doesn't stretch far enough, &c. Thus, even though the god of gold (v. 31) did not bring death to the whole nation, it brought the hand of Divine Providence against Israel.
I am afraid that many times we feel that if we do not maybe lose our life, lose a child, or perhaps our house burn down, that the Lord hasn't really noticed the other gods which we serve. But we see here that such service does not necessarily result in obvious devastation. Mal 3:11 best describes the situation: no matter how hard one tries, it is not enough: the devourer is permitted to devour the increase that one would have had otherwise. Divine Providence is against him.
The gods of gold, the other gods carry with them plagues.
Note this strange statement by Stephen given under the inspiration of the Spirit:
Acts 7:37-43 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and [with] our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust [him] from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for [as for] this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices [by the space of] forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.
According to Stephen, Israel returned to the god of their hearts when they built the calf. They outwardly turned from worshiping Moloch and offered the required sacrifices unto the Lord, but they still worshiped Molech. They were so determined to carry Moloch with them that the Lord finally gave them over to his worship, then He carried them away beyond Babylon for their false worship.