April 18, 25, 1993
Note that next Sunday, May 2, Lord willing, we will deal with the Christian's responsibility in the current "taxing" situation. (Run news release, "What does God say is the Christian's responsibility in the current "taxing" situation, particularly in the North District?)
Probably the major theme of the book of James is that the every
person who claims to have the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ will
have his faith tried and tested. The Lord will not only permit,
but bring circumstances to pass in our lives with will force us
to show our faith by our works. James says it
this way: 2:18, Yea, a man may say, Thou hast
faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy words,
and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
My pastor used to tell me that preaching had to be an overflow of the preacher's own personal research and study. The message today is just that. As I have studied the book of Exodus, there have been many points which struck me in the face and said, "Preach me, Preach me." I have given a few of them to you, but there are many more which I have reserved for the SS lessons. This passage in Exodus is one of the passages which firmly caught my attention.
Exodus 32:1-6, sin and the calf
What I saw here consists of 12 points, but I will not attempt to cover all 12 today. Lord willing, we will finnish the rest of them next Sunday.
The evil of the golden calf is a strange place to get an encouraging word from, but I found great encouragement from this sinful situation in the life of the nation Israel. I believe you will understand as we go through.
You know the story:
While Moses was on the mount before the Lord for 40 days, the people became concerned that Moses had deserted them. They then built a golden calf to represent the presence of 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 hadcorrupted themselves. (James 1:14, But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.). Note that we corrupt ourselves; environment, government, family, friends, parents do not corrupt us.
The point that catches our attention is the fact that although the Lord could have, He did not send Moses down in time to prevent the sin of the calf. 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. Ex 20:18-21, God brought Israel to this point in the nation's life to prove them. [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 at least 5 things: 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) God proved that only His Spirit 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.
We can be assured that 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. God 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. Because The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer 17:9), the list of things which the Lord will prove in endless.
God will prove if we believe what we say we believe enough to live it.
The Lord knows what lies within our heart far better than we do, and His providence will command situations to prove what wickedness lies in our heart that it might be brought into subjection unto Christ, Ph 3:15.
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. Because of the memory of what they did with the calf and the 3000 people who died because of the calf, the people will be unable to protest anything which Moses will give. Moses will give a great many various and sundry, stringent laws concerning the sacrifice. While Moses gives these things, 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. 32:26, the calf proved who was on the Lord's side. The calf proved who really wanted to serve and follow the Lord.
The calf proved who were repentant among the people: 3,000 refused to repentant and were executed. 32:29, 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 [consecrate, fill your hands with the sword]. Thus 3,000 out of the 600,000 who came out of Egypt openly mocked God (Who will not be mocked), God's law and God's man.
IV. 32:28 The calf was the first proof of God's intolerance of sin among His covenant people: 3,000 men were executed for their wickedness.
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 sin of 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 for another god 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, though obviously they partook of the pagan activities. Thus the Lord emphasize the tremendous responsibility placed upon men. Women must be subject to their own husbands because the husbands are the ones accountable before God for the women's actions.
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. 32:21, to me, Aaron holds the most hope for us.
A) Aaron 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 and failures 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, more often than not, 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: Aaron quickly and willingly followed the people into idolatry. Aaron had an extremely week personality, and later he was easily led astray by his sister against Moses, but God chose him and his line anyway to be God's own 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 a great sin, is assurance that God can use anyone, Pro 24:16.
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.
Ro 5:20-21, Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
No matter how great our weaknesses and failures, God's grace is greater.
April 25, 1993
VI. 32:26, Levi was the only tribe to join Moses. Unknown 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 upon themselves to avenge the evil against their sister. Simeon & Levi 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. When their father, Jacob, was upon his deathbed, he placed a grievous curse upon Simeon's and Levi's ungodly zeal, Gen 49:5-8.
Levi had mocked God and godliness because of the blood relationship with his sister, 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 before blood relationship?
When Moses presented Levi 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 command, vs. 27, 29, is quite similar to the one in Deut 13:1-11. Without exception, the Lord required all to be executed who openly served false gods and/or attempted to influence others away from the TRIUNE GOD. Moses tells Levi that blood relationship cannot hinder obedience to the command-word of God. Levi willingly and completely obeys, becomes a sweet savour before the Lord and God bestows a blessing upon Levi.
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 above all blood relationship; he passed the test, was blessed of the Lord and established as the chief godly tribe, v. 29.
Note in passing that God presents absolutely no opportunity to blame one's parents for one's 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. 32:10, Moses was proved (cf. Num 14:12).
Could Moses have succumbed to God's offer? Notice that the Lord gave Moses the choice before Moses saw the people's actions. Would Moses have made the same choice after he saw the evil of the people? The answer to these questions would be abstract theology, which God clearly forbids.
We do know that the Lord takes the unqualified and qualifies them, 2 Cor 3:5, 6 (Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency [is] of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.)
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.
The Lord gives human freedom room enough for self-determination so He may test His servants, but no amount of speculation can explain the conflict between divine providence and human freedom.
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?
Furthermore, God's offer to Moses shows us that God's will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. The Lord will either accomplish His plan and purpose through us or He will find someone else to work through. No person, people, or group of people (church, denomination, race or nation) has a corner on God. Hardness in sin may well cause the Lord to lay aside someone, but God will find another to replace the sinner.
VIII. The calf proved the grace of God in the OT. Moses, as well as later 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.
All the prophets of God would have to do would be 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. God had chosen Israel as His holy nation; He had appointed Aaron and his sons as His head of the nation, and neither Aaron's nor the nation's sin could force God to change His plan. 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 more 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, The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man [shall be satisfied] from himself.)
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: Godless, faithless & powerless Christianity which is unable to influence society? With her opened sodomy, unlimited murder (abortions), breakdown of Godly authority in the home and godly law replaced with psychology?
On the positive 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 even after the Lord pronounced judgement against Sodom.
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 God's predetermined counsel to fulfill His purpose. The Lord is the one who allows the wicked to prosper.
XII. Paul would latter write that the law could not change or make man holy before God, Rom 3:20, Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin.)
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 the life-changing grace of God given through faith in the finished work of Christ can change man's attitude, Rom 3:21ff.
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. It shows us that: 1) If we say that we have the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, it will be proved (James assures us of that) 2) God alone is the One Who allows sin to prosper, and He allows it for His own purpose and praise; 3) God's righteousness justifies His annihilation of sinful man, 4) God's loving mercy provides the grace for man to continue on in his service of the King.