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EXODUS 32:1-35
Series:  Burning Bush Adventures - Part Five

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 27, 2010

Please turn with me to Exodus chapter 32 - starting at verse 1.


We’re going on in our look at manhood.  Given all the confusion in our society about what a man is - or isn’t.  What really makes a man a man?  Is this what it means to be a man?  We’ve been looking at how God - who created men - how God defines manhood.


What we’ve seen is that for a man to be manly he first needs to be Godly.    Let’s say that together:  “For a man to be manly he first needs to be Godly.”


We’ve been looking at Moses as our example of Godly manhood - how God worked in Moses’ life.  How God patiently helped Moses to move forward through life - growing Moses into Godly manhood.


Which should encourage us as well.  God doesn’t give up on us.  God wants us to get this.  God desires for us to be the men He’s created us to be and to use us significantly in our homes and community and in His Church. 


Exodus 32 - starting at verse 1:  Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”  Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”  Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron.  He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”  Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.”  So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.


Verses 1 to 6 focus on The Sin of God’s People.  Let’s try that together, “The sin of God’s people.”


Where did the gold come from?  The ears of their wives, sons, and daughters.  Where did the wives, sons, and daughters get it?  The Egyptians.  Right?  Parting gifts from the Egyptians who were so glad to get rid of the Hebrews that they just kept piling gold and valuables on them.  “Just take it and go.”  Why did the Egyptians give them all that gold?  Because of what God did.  God delivering His people.


What was God going to use all that gold for?  Build the Tabernacle.  Make the stuff for the Tabernacle.  Cover the Ark of the Covenant.  All of which deals with God’s relationship with His people.


Are we together?  Where did the gold come from?  God.  Why?  To be used by God’s people in their relationship with God.


Moses is up on the mountain - God’s mountain.  God has been giving Moses instructions on how to build the Tabernacle and instructions in how God’s people are to worship God.  For 40 days Moses has been up on the mountain hearing from God about how God’s people are to live in relationship with God.  Down below God’s people are waiting. 


In verse 1 the word “delayed” in Hebrew has the idea of being “ashamed.”  Its not stretching things too far to think that the people thought that Moses had gone up the mountain to talk to God and found nothing.  He’d struck out.  The people thought Moses was ashamed to come down off the mountain.  To admit that he wasn’t the great Godly leader that he thought he was.   


They approach Aaron, “We have no clue what happened to that man or what became of him.”  Notice the contempt.  “That man.”  “So make us a god we can visualize.  Not some imaginary god on a mountain.  But a god we can see.  A god like one of the gods back in Egypt.”


Aaron compromises - bends on the whole graven idol thing - makes this calf out of gold.  Gold that came from Who?  God.  Why?  To be used by God’s people in their relationship with God.


Aaron goes along with this - compromises on what he knows is right and wrong - goes along until the people say - verse 4 - They said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”


Then Aaron tries - way too late - to rescue the situation.  He hurriedly builds an altar in front of the golden calf - an altar we assume he builds to honor the true God of Israel.  Aaron proclaims, “Tomorrow will be a feast to the Lord.” 


The word “play” in verse 6 literally means “immoral orgies and sexual play.”  The sacrifice to God - the feast - it all ends up being a drunken orgy. 


What a contrast.  Isn’t it?  The holy God on the mountain with Moses laying out what means to have a relationship with God.  The people below using the very symbols of that relationship to gratify themselves in an idolatrous drunken orgy.


Not that we would ever do that?  Right?  We would never take what God blesses us with - time, talent, and treasure - what He desires to use in deepening our relationship with Him - what He desires to use to bring glory to Himself - we would never use any of that to gratify ourselves?  Right?

Isn’t it amazing how subtilely and easily sin can grab hold of us and takes us where we know we shouldn’t go. 


Going on.  Verses 7 to 14 focus on Moses’ Heart.  Let’s say that together, “Moses’ heart.”


Verse 7:  Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people - who’s people are these?  Suddenly God’s people are Moses’ people.  - your people - whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.  They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them.  They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god; O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’”


“Corrupted” has the idea of intentionally ruining themselves - morally perverting themselves.  “Your people are destroying themselves.”  Sin is self-destructive.


Verse 9:  The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.  Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make you a great nation.”


God goes to epic lengths to deliver His people from Egypt - preserves them in the wilderness - leads them back to Himself.  Loving them.  Protecting them.  Guiding them - nurturing them - to become His  covenant people and to live in the awesome relationship that He’s created them for.  Now they’ve turned their backs - on Him - on what He’s created them for - rejected His love - a relationship with Him.  His people are destroying themselves.


Grab this:  God is ticked - angry - because His precious creation is intent on destroying themselves.


Verse 9 is an amazing offer.  “Leave me alone so I can destroy them.  I’ll do what they desire.  Then I’ll make you a great nation.”  How huge is that? 


How would you respond to that?  After all the times these people have grumbled against Moses - argued with him - even been on the verge of killing him.  How tempting would it be to have God wipe out the whole lot of them.  And what an offer.  “Moses, you get to be the new Abraham.  You get to be a great nation.  You want it.  Its yours.”  Huge.


“Let Me alone” - verse 10 - is really a strange request.  Its almost like God is asking Moses for permission to toast Israel and set up Moses as the new Abraham.  Why does the Almighty God of creation have to ask anyone for permission to do anything?  And yet here is God asking Moses to intervene.  Do you see that?  “Moses, if you say yes to my offer by leaving me alone, I’ll toast ‘em all.  If you stay I won’t.”

Verse 11:  Then Moses entreated the Lord his God, and said - Here’s Moses’ response to God’s offer - “O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people - who’s people are these now?  Now they’re God’s people - why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?  Why should the Egyptians speak, saying ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’?  Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people.  Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself - by yourself - “I swear to Myself” - and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’”


Moses doesn’t consider God’s offer for a nanosecond.  Instead Moses passionately pleads for God’s people.  Three reasons God should spare His people.


First:  God’s love.  For 40 days Moses has been up on the mountain listening to God give instructions about what means to live in a relationship with Him.  40 days of listening to God’s heart for His people.  There’s no question.  These are God’s people that God deeply loves.  “They’re Your people.”


Second:  God’s reputation.  What will the Egyptians think?  If you wipe these people out the Egyptians are going to think you’re a god like one of their gods - capricious - maniacal - too weak to deliver on his promises.  God - Your reputation is on the line here.


Third:  God’s promises.  “Wake up and smell the coffee.  You’re the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all their descendants - today and on down through history.  They - I - we’ve bet our lives on Your name.  Your reputation.  Your character.  Your love for us.  You’ve sworn an oath - based on Who you are - that You will do what You promised.  Punt now and how could we ever trust you again?” 


Verse 14:  So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. 


Does God change His mind?  From our perspective yes.  Do our prayers influence God?  He says they do.  Does the will of God change?  No.  Do His purposes for us change?  No.  Does God play Three-card Monte with His promises?  No.  What God says He will do He will do.


What is going on here - with God’s offer to Moses - what’s being exposed here - in this discussion of just Who’s people these are and what should be done about them - what’s being exposed here is Moses’ heart.  After 40 days on the mountain with God and a whole lot of time in the wilderness is Moses’ heart really in tune with God’s heart?  Does Moses love the people as God loves His people.  The answer is yes.


These are God’s people.  God deeply loves them.  But, they’re Moses’ people too.  Moses loves them as the Lord loves them.


Where do we find that kind of passion for people?  Even for people that grumble against us?  That reject us?  Even when we know that God’s wrath is justifiable reserved for them?  When we’d like to see one strategically placed lightening bolt toast someone.


We find that passion in God’s heart.  In God’s passion for people.  We find it by listening to God - hearing His heart.


40 days on a mountain soaking up God’s word.  That’s an example for us.  Spend time with God and He will open up His heart to you.  Let His heart permeate yours and He will give you the love you need to love where you never thought it was possible to love.


Maybe this morning there’s someone you need to love and you just can bring yourself to that kind of compassion?  “You don’t understand what they’ve done.”  “They ain’t my people.”  God will create that love in you if you let Him.  Spend time with God.  Ask Him.  “God, create in me love for ______.”   


Verses 15 to 29 focus on The Horrors of Sin.  Let’s say that together, “The horrors of sin.”


Verse 15:  Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other.  The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets.  Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.”  But he said, “It is not the sound of the cry of triumph, nor is it the sound of defeat; but the sound of singing I hear.”


Verse 19:  It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing - the drunken orgy - and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.  He took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it.


Moses’ heart is in tune with Who’s heart?  God’s.  What’s coming out of Moses’ heart is an anger that is in tune with God’s anger and His love.  God gets angry when His people choose to destroy themselves in sin.  Why?  Because God loves His people - desires only the best for them.  If God didn’t get angry God wouldn’t be loving.


When Moses’ sees the sin of God’s people - the devastation of sin - Moses permeated by God’s love - Moses shares God’s anger.


On these tablets - written on both back and front by God Himself - on these tablets are the Ten Commandments.  God’s Covenant with His people.  Grab that.


The God of the Bible is a covenant God not a contract God.  His message to us is not, “Do this for Me.  Then I’ll love you.”  That’s a do this and you’ll get paid - contract.  But instead God says, “I love you.  As your Creator and Redeemer this is the kind of relationship that I invite you to be a part of.”


Its important that we understand that.  These commandments are God’s covenant with His people.


So many people are trying to live in a relationship with God as a contract - trying to live rightly - morally - as Christians - as Jews - trying to somehow please God - to earn God’s favor.  The 10 Commandments have become a burdensome list of don’ts that we must fulfill if we’re to avoid the wrath of Almighty God.


But God never intended for these commandments to be a contract.  “If you do all this stuff then I’ll give you a relationship with Me.”  If they were a contract none of us could have a relationship with God.  Except for Jesus every single person who ever lived has failed to keep the 10 Commandments.


On these tablets is the wonder - the awesomeness - the uniqueness of what the loving God offers His people in this covenant relationship - written by the very hand of God Himself.


Moses throws these tablets from his hand - shattering them at the foot of the mountain - symbolizing that sin has broken the relationship.  The people have chosen another god.  Moses grinds up their god - the golden calf - forcing them to drink the water - which symbolizes their spiritual adultery (Numbers 5:11-31). 


Verse 21:  Then Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?”  Some kind of hideous torture?  Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil.  For they said to me, ‘Make a god for us who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’  I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let the tear it off.’  So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” 


What kind of spineless excuses are these?  “You know what kind of people these are.”  “They told me to do it.”  “We weren’t sure if you were coming back.”  Then this wimpy excuse.  “I threw in the gold and out came this calf!  Its a God story!  A miracle or something.”


Verse 25:  Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control - for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies - then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to Me!”  And all the sons of Levi gathered together with him.  He said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’”


This gets a little PG-13 here so if you’re bothered by simulated Lego blood you might want to look away. 


Verses 28:  So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day - brothers, friends, and neighbors - Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the Lord - for every man has been against his son and against his brother - in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.”


What are the horrors of sin?  To God’s people - their relationship with God - Aaron’s reputation - brother killing brother - friends killing friends - neighbors killing neighbors - thousands dead - cauterizing the sin - cleansing the sin from the people - that the people would be restored in their relationship with God - to purity before Him?


What are the horrors of sin?  A little compromise?  A little rejecting of God’s will for our lives?  A little disobedience to God’s commands?  God’s commands are really kind of like guidelines actually.  Is a little sin really such a big deal?


If only we had a clearer picture of the horror.  Poverty and heartbreak and disease and psychosis and pain and murder and abortion and child abuse and war and oppression and broken homes - broken lives - people living in bondage - in darkness - knowing no hope.  Sin always damages our relationship with God.  Our sin always effects others.  Sin always is self-destructive.  Sin is suicide.


Verse 30:  On the next day Moses said to the people, “You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the Lord, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”  Then Moses returned to the Lord, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves.  But now, if You will forgive their sin - and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!”


Verses 30 to 35 are Moses’ Offer.  Let’s say that together.  “Moses’ offer.”


Can you imagine this?  “Take my life instead.  Erase me out of your book.” 


In the Old Testament that book is God’s list of the righteous - the people that God blesses with life.  In the New Testament the Book of Life is the list of those God has destined for eternal life - forever with Him.  (Psalm 69:28; Revelation 20:11-15)


Paul - expressing his love for his people - Paul wrote - Romans 9:3:  “I would be willing to be forever cursed - cut off from Christ! - if that would save them.”  (Romans 9:3 NLT)  Would any of us say that?


What a contrast.  Moses going from being the new Abraham and all that that implied to offering himself for his people - being cut off from God on their behalf.  That’s love that’s coming from the heart of God.


Verse 33:  The Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.  But go now, lead the people where I told you.  Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.”  Then the Lord smote the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made.


The bottom line is that Moses isn’t qualified.  He’s not sinless.  Moses’ heart is in the right place.  He’s so loves God’s people - his people - that he’s willing to set aside everything to make the ultimate sacrifice.  That’s God’s heart.


But Moses isn’t sinless.  The greatness of God’s love - the greatness of God’s anger - the depth of our sin - requires a response that only God can give.

Jesus - speaking of Himself - Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.  You are My friends.”  (John 15:12-14a)


That’s love that’s coming from the heart of God.


In January 1956 - five young missionaries - Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully, and Peter Fleming - were trying to reach the Waodani Tribe in the jungles of Ecuador with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Those five men were speared to death by the Waodani’s they were trying to share God’s love with.


The five men carried guns with them - primarily for protection against animals.  They could have used them to defend themselves.  But they didn’t.  As you watch this clip - listen to the answer Nate Saint gives to his son Steve Saint - as he’s preparing to meet the Waodoni - listen to how these men had vowed together that they would respond if they were attacked.


(Video:  The End of the Spear - 31:50 to 35:45)


Did you hear the answer?  “If the Waodani attack will you defend yourself?  Will you use your guns?”  “Son, we can’t shoot the Waodani.  They’re not ready for heaven.  We are.”


That’s Moses.  That’s the heart of God.

Let me ask a tough question - of all of us.  Are there people that you’d die for that they might know Jesus?  Or that their relationship with Jesus would be restored?  Your wife?  Your children?  Siblings?  People sitting next to you this morning?  Even people that have hurt you deeply? 


As a man of God - a Godly man - are you in tune with the heart of God - His love for the people that He’s entrusted to your care?  Do you get angry when they stumble in the horrors of sin?  Are you passionate that they might be restored?


To be a man means that we first must be Godly.  That means getting the heart of God - being willing to lay down our lives for the people God loves.  Who has God called you to love sacrificially?


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright© 1960,1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.